Destination:Freedom Newsletter
Destination:Freedom
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 3 No. 38, September 16, 2002
Copyright © 2002, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - James Furlong
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update


Texas Gulfliner

Two photos: Texas ARP: Donald E. Harper, Jr. Used with permission

The prototype Texas Gulfliner, with Amtrak equipment, rides Union Pacific iron between Galveston Island and Houston on August 31. The train is crossing Galveston Causeway separating the island and Virginia Point.
Galveston makes moves for Houston commuter trains
By Leo King
Editor

Look for commuter rail service to make a comeback between Houston and Galveston – maybe. On September 1, some 250 people climbed aboard an Amtrak passenger extra which, the train’s riders hoped, would reinvigorate commuter rail service between both cities.

The last time a scheduled passenger train left the Galveston Island station there were only 13 passengers aboard, and it was on April 11, 1967, according to the Texas Assn. of Railroad Passengers’ web site.

The Amtrak special was named the Texas Gulfliner.

“It’s taken three years to get to this point, but I think it has been worth the wait,” said Tedd Okowski, executive director of the Galveston County Economic Development Alliance. His organization has been at the forefront of pushing for a new rail line that would provide regular commuter rail service along the I-45 corridor, the Galveston County Daily News reported. The train ride is about 20 miles, one way.

The first run of the Texas Gulfliner symbolized something bigger than a simple tourist layout on the island, viewed by some people as a way to generate more revenues.

“Traffic congestion is one of the biggest problems we face and if there is a way to establish a better way to move people from one location to another without overcrowding our highways, we need to explore those options,” said League City Councilman Tommy Cones. “Any mode of transportation is better than being stuck in traffic.”

Crossing the Intracoastal waterway

Union Pacific’s bridge tender has the span down and locked so the Texas Gulfliner can cross the Intracoastal Waterway between Galveston Bay and West Bay.

TxARP member Don Harper said the special train ran “on the old Galveston, Houston & Henderson… alongside Texas Highway 3. The train ran from Galveston to League City on September 1 and returned on September 2.

The goal of the demonstration is to offer rail passenger service between Galveston and the mainland during holiday weekends for the next year, said U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson. The environment, battling traffic snarls and finding a way to attract the public to mass public transportation are the reasons behind the pilot Galveston Intelligent Transportation System according to Lampson.

The Texas ARP is online at http://www.railspot.com/txarp. – Ed.


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House passes bill to ease ome transit growing pains
The U.S. House of Representatives has unanimously approved legislation to temporarily prolong flexibility in use of federal transit funds for some smaller urban areas across the nation.

The Transit Operating Flexibility Act (H.R. 5157) was passed by a 350 to 0 vote. It now goes to the Senate. The unanimous House approval might seem to indicate it has clear sailing in the Senate, however, it is subject to the normal dangers such as “holds” and to time constraints, so that passage isn’t assured.

Fifty-two communities nationwide were affected when the 2000 census found their populations had risen above 200,000. Under federal transit law, areas of more than 200,000 cannot use federal formula grant funds to pay for transit operating expenses.

For communities that were not anticipating such a change, the loss of operating flexibility could have caused some transit agencies to shut their doors, eliminating public transportation services in those areas. This bill is designed to give the communities a chance to adjust to their new status—without interrupting transportation—and plan how to handle their transit services in future years without using federal funds for operations.

The bill would permit transit systems in the 52 communities that crossed the 200,000 line to retain their operating flexibility to the same extent they had in the current fiscal year, for Fiscal 2003 only. The measure doesn’t change the amount of transit formula funding these communities (or any others) will receive under TEA 21 in Fiscal 2003.

Here are the communities affected:

Huntsville, Ala.; Antioch; Indio-Cathedral City-Palm Springs; Hesperia-Apple Valley Lancaster-Palmdale; Santa Rosa; Temecula-Murrieta; and Victorville, Calif.

Fort Collins, Colo.; Bristol, New Britain; Norwalk and Stamford, Conn.

Bonita Springs-Naples; Port Saint Lucie, Fla.

Savannah, Ga.; Boise, Idaho; Aurora, Crystal Lake, Elgin, Joliet, Ill.; Round Lake Beach-McHenry-Grayslake, Ill and Wis.; Evansville, Ind.; Annapolis, Md.

Barnstable Town; Brockton; Fall River; Lowell; Taunton, Mass.

Springfield, Mo.; Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss.; Lincoln, Neb.; Atlantic City, N.J.

Poughkeepsie-Newburgh, N.Y.; Asheville; Greensboro; Winston-Salem, N.C.; Sharon, Lancaster, Reading, Penna; Hamilton, Ohio; Eugene, Salem Ore.

Aguadilla-Isabella-San Sebastian; Caguas; Cayey; Humacao; Vega Baja-Manati, Puerto Rico.

Newport, R.I.; Denton, Lewisville; Lubbock; Tex; Petersburg, Va.


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Senate questions Amtrak, STB nominees
Bush Administration nominees to the Amtrak board of directors and the Surface Transportation Board (STB) responded to questions September 5 before the Senate Commerce Committee, which will determine whether to recommend their confirmation to the entire Senate. Positive recommendations are expected shortly and the entire Senate likely will vote on the nominations before Congress adjourns in October for elections.

Republican David Laney, 53, is the Bush Administration choice to fill a vacant seat on the seven-member Amtrak board, while Republican Roger Nober, 38, would become chairman of the three-member STB if confirmed.

The United Transportation Union, in a press release, said “Rail mergers and line sales must pass STB muster, making that agency important to the UTU.”

The labor organization pointed out Nober would succeed Democrat Linda Morgan as STB chairman, but Morgan would remain a member of the three-person STB. Laney would fill the seat left vacant by former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, who is now a Bush’s secretary of Health and Human Services, a cabinet position.

Laney is a Dallas attorney and former chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission. He helped raise more than $100,000 for Bush’s presidential campaign.

Nober, also an attorney, has a background mostly in highways. He has been advising Deputy Transportation Secretary Michael Jackson, but formerly was an aide to Republican Rep. Bud Shuster of Pennsylvania, who chaired the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee until his retirement in 2001.

Nober’s supervisor in that job was Shuster’s chief of staff, Jack Schenendorf, now a lobbyist for Union Pacific.

Lobbyists from the UTU, Brotherhood of Railway Signalmen and Transportation-Communications Union were the only union representatives present at the confirmation hearing for Laney and Nober.


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Amtrak, airlines report low traffic on September 11
Airports and passenger rail stations around the country were much quieter than usual on September 11, with many Americans jittery about flying on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

The USDOT said that there was no specific threat within the United States. A spokesman said, “this is all being done out of an abundance of caution.”

Amtrak said ridership was virtually unchanged, wrote The AP, and the American Bus Assn. said the numbers of passengers riding intercity and charter vehicles were down about 5 percent.

Amtrak officials in Philadelphia said that business was slow and that several trains running between New York and Washington had been delayed or canceled.

At Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, Amtrak officials conducted a memorial service in which a bell was rung four times to represent each of the planes hijacked and crashed one year earlier.

George Haarmann, 69, of Mesa, Ariz., boarded Amtrak’s Crescent in New Orleans to visit the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.

“I’m just doing the tourist thing,” said Haarmann, adding that his decision to go by train had nothing to do with last year’s terrorist attacks.

“To me, things happen. I’m not going to change my lifestyle because something happens.”

Amtrak put extra police officers on patrol in train stations and on platforms after the government’s warning.

“It’s not a normal Wednesday,” said Kevin O’Connor, Amtrak’s general manager in Philadelphia.

Airline flight schedules were down about 25 percent Wednesday compared with the same day last year, according to OAG Worldwide, a company that provides flight information. Many airlines cut back on their Sept. 11 schedules because they realized many people would be too nervous to fly.

Karen Briggs, who flew American Airlines from Boston to Long Beach, Calif., on business, said flying on September 11 “brings it all back, the vulnerability that we felt that day, that it could happen to anyone, anytime.”

Air travelers said there were many empty seats, reminiscent of what it was like in the weeks immediately after the attacks.

“I think there was something like 20, 25 people,” said 60-year-old Kati Cathro, who flew an American Airlines jet from Toronto to New York, en route to a vacation in Finland.

A spokeswoman at Atlanta’s Hartsfield International, one of the country’s busiest airports, estimated that passenger traffic was down by more than half. Hartsfield usually serves about 230,000 travelers a day.

Some car rental agencies reported higher demand for their vehicles this week as customers chose to drive rather than fly. A spokesman for Enterprise Rent-A-Car said reservations were up “double digits” compared with the same week a year ago.

The latest data showed demand for commercial air travel fell 9 percent in August compared with a year ago.

Spirit Airlines of Miramar, Fla., encouraged air travel this September 11 by giving away 13,400 tickets as a promotion.


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$10 billion high-speed rail proposal finds Davis’s desk
A bill to place a $10 billion bond issue for rail on the ballot in the November 2004 elections is on its way to the desk of Gov. Gray Davis.

The bill, approved by strong bipartisan votes in both the state Senate and Assembly in the closing days of August, would allow voters to approve $9 billion for building a high-speed train linking San Francisco to Los Angeles via the Central Valley. An additional $950 million would be allotted to local railroad systems, The Stockton Record reported.

Davis must act on the bill by September 30. He has said he favors high-speed rail but hasn’t specifically said he favors the bond issue.

The Los Angeles-San Francisco link is part of a California High-Speed Rail Authority plan eventually to build a 700-mile bullet-train system connecting Sacramento in the north to San Diego in the south. Total cost of the project is estimated at $25 billion, according to the authority.

The bond issue bill was sponsored by state Sen. Jim Costa (D-Fresno). His office said, in a press release, the train would travel at 200 mph and would carry passengers between downtown Los Angeles and San Francisco in about 2 1/2 hours.

“By the year 2020,” it quoted Costa, “these trains will serve the people of San Diego, the Inland Empire and Sacramento as well as those in the Bay Area, the Central Valley and Los Angeles.”

It also quoted State Treasurer Phil Angelides as comparing high-speed rail to investments in the state water project and university system. “With our state projected to grow by over 12 million residents in the next 20 years, we must once again commit ourselves to investing in the infrastructure required to maintain our quality of life and our economic strength,” he said. “Building a high-speed train system is fiscally responsible and economically sensible.”

The legislature also passed and sent on to the governor a bill to eliminate the high-speed rail authority’s Dec. 31, 2003, sunset date.

Support in Sacramento for high-speed rail jumped after September 11, 2001.

It also has received backing from several environmental groups and mass transit advocacy organizations. Bay Area rail advocates have planned a meeting on the proposal Sept. 25 in San Jose.


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Albuquerque mayor says Amtrak,
Greyhound close to signing up
The two major tenants foreseen for the second phase of the Alvarado Transit Center are close to agreeing to move in, according to Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez.

Chavez has met with Greyhound officials in Dallas and was expected to talk with Amtrak in Washington sometime in September, according to The Albuquerque Tribune.

Only a few months ago, Greyhound’s commitment looked uncertain, and Amtrak appeared to be a possible non-starter for the center. The new downtown facility is considered an anchor for redevelopment and is the intended hub for local buses and taxis, as well as interstate buses and trains.

“It was dead in the water,” Chavez said. “Now it’s definitely on the front burner.”

Chavez and other members of his administration also are also working on plans for some Mexican bus companies currently located on Central Avenue between Downtown and Old Town to move into a depot planned on the south side of the new center.

The $13 million Phase One of the center opened in June with SunTran buses and city Transit Department offices as tenants. Ground could be broken for Phase Two – a $6 million to $8 million depot – within a year. Completion of the federally funded project would come about two years after the start, Chavez said. Design and soil testing for the second phase currently are underway.

Albuquerque has worked out details of Greyhound’s location in the depot, Chavez said. “Now we just need to reduce it to writing.”

The financially struggling Amtrak had said it wouldn’t be able to move into the depot, after saying it would.

“They’ve had a change of heart, and now we’re working out the details,” Chavez said.

One former difficulty in the talks with Amtrak is that the railroad didn’t want to pay for refueling stations at the depot, the mayor said. Chavez said he now intends to use federal funds to finance the stations.

“We’re 90 percent there, but the devil is in the details,” he said. “We need to look at what their wish list is and what their must-have list is.”


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Oregon may cut rail funding
Smaller revenues reaching Oregon’s coffers may mean small funds for its passenger rail program.

Claudia L. Howells, Oregon DOT’s Rail Division manager, said recently

“In response to the anticipated revenue shortfall in the state’s General Fund, ODOT is required to submit an additional 10 percent reduction plan of about $922,000.”

She said the state DOT “has only two programs funded by General Funds,” the passenger rail program, and the senior and disabled transportation program.

“Both programs have taken reductions over the last several months, and we are at the point where there are no good or easy choices left,” she added.

She said if trains are to continue running, the legislature will have to find some cash.

“Any reduction at all will force the elimination of one train before the end of the 2001-03 biennium. Unless additional revenue is approved, this cut would eliminate one train effective January 2003.Unfortunately, restoration of service could take many years and require additional capital investment to secure another operating slot on the Union Pacific.

She noted the state budget “for next biennium is even more uncertain. In the current economic environment, we could well see further cuts in the passenger rail program.”

According to Washington State numbers, 52,000 passengers rode between Eugene and Portland, Ore., last year, out of the 693,427 riders in the corridor.


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Indiana line gets $1 million safety-work grant
The Hoosier Heritage Port Authority has received a $1 million federal grant to preserve the safety of a rail line connecting 10th Street in Indianapolis and Tipton, 30 miles to the north.

The Port Authority, which has owned the line since 1995, will use the money primarily for work on three bridges, outdated signals and crossing surfaces, and additional ties to strengthen the track, said Larry Good, chief of the Multi-Modal Division of the state DOT.

Good was quoted in the Indianapolis Star as saying the work is required for continued safe operation and would neither achieve a “high-class operation” nor constitute a preparation for commuter service between Marion County (Indianapolis) and Hamilton County, immediately to the north. (The community of Tipton is located in Tipton County, north of Hamilton County.)

Terms of the grant require state and local officials to find an additional $200,000 for the project.

Port authority director Rhonda Klopfenstein said the work, which should begin next year, won’t affect the many popular, special-event train runs on the line that are organized by the Indiana Transportation Museum. These include special trains to the Tipton Pizza Shack and Fletcher’s Restaurant in Atlanta, Indiana – along the Hamilton-Tipton county line – and a new four-hour dinner train, called “Dinner on the Diner,” catered by Kahn’s market.

The line also is used to haul coal to the Cinergy plant in Noblesville, Hamilton County, by Indiana Railroad Co.

“We’re trying to market more freight service,” said Klopfenstein.


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Commuter lines...

First delivery leaves container

Sound Transit: Lee Somerstein

The first Skoda-built Tacoma Link trainset leaves the vessel Star Indiana.
Sound Transit takes delivery
of Tacoma Link light rail trains

Calling it one of the most exciting days in their agency’s brief history, Sound Transit officials watched and cheered today as three light rail trains were offloaded from a ship at the Port of Tacoma.

The three trains will go into service when Sound Transit’s one-point-six mile Tacoma Link light rail line opens next September, strengthening Tacoma’s connection to the entire regional transit system.

Skoda manufactured the three 66 foot long, double articulated trains in the Czech Republic. In July, the trains were trucked from the factory to the Port of Antwerp, Belgium and loaded aboard the Star Indiana.

“Tacoma Link shows that Sound Transit knows how to build a light rail system,” said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair Dave Earling.

“It also shows that Pierce County is at the leading edge of the Sound Transit pipeline; this is the first part of our transit district to receive all three services: Link light rail, Sounder commuter rail and Regional Express bus.”

“The delivery of these Tacoma Link trains has tremendous economic significance for our city,” added Tacoma City Councilman (and Sound Transit Board member) Kevin Phelps.

After a southward Atlantic Ocean leg, the ship passed through the Panama Canal and began its way north, making seven ports-of-call along the west coast of the United States before docking at the Port of Tacoma over the Labor Day weekend.

The trains will go through an extensive testing period at the Sound Transit Maintenance Base near Tacoma Dome Station before system-wide testing begins next year.


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FTA okays Sound Transit project
The Federal Transit Administration gave permission to Sound Transit in Seattle to complete final design of the revised portions of the Central Link light rail alignment, and released $50 million in federal funding for construction of the initial segment of the system.

Sound Transit Board Chair Ron Sims called the FTA’s action “a crystal clear signal from the federal government that Sound Transit is on track for building Central Link light rail. It means we’re ready to put our federal tax dollars to work on transportation solutions here at home.”

The appropriation originally was approved for Fiscal Year 2001, but was placed on hold after U.S. DOT’s Inspector General recommended that it be held pending answers to questions about the project’s viability. The $50 million appropriation, which requires no further authorizing actions, was released following Sound Transit’s work with the FTA to demonstrate that it has met federal requirements.

Meanwhile, less gridlock and more gridiron on game day is the plan for savvy NFL fans. New for this season is a special pass program and new rail service to several stadiums.

For the first time, Sound Transit’s Sounder commuter rail line will offer service to all regular season Sunday afternoon Seahawks home games. The special train serving the game day crowd will be visually unmistakable. A partnership between the NFL team and Sound Transit has produced what is believed to be the first-ever locomotive wrap, or an engine decked out with the Seahawks logo. The logo-adorned locomotive will be used exclusively on the “Sounder Seahawks Special.”

Elsewhere, in other NFL-related railroad news, in Atlanta, the Metropolitan Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) and the Atlanta Falcons have teamed up to offer the debut of the Falcons Flyer pass.

A first-ever for Atlanta, the pass program offers Falcons season ticket holders a Flyer pass package for each season ticket in their account. The pass is not limited to travel to the Georgia Dome. It may also be used for any MARTA travel during the Falcons’ regular season.

The Falcons, by the way, lost their season opener to the Green Bay Packers, 37-34, in Wisconsin.

In the West, for three decades, the Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) has provided special bus service for Denver Broncos football games. This year, for the first time, Broncos fans can take light rail directly to the game. The new “C Line,” which opened in April, offers service to the INVESCO Field at Mile High station. The RTD reports that during the first two pre-season home games, approximately 7,000 fans rode the new light rail line, along with 12,000 fans aboard buses. That represents a market share of more than 25 percent of all Denver fans going to the games.

Playing at home on the season opening game, the Denver Broncos beat the St. Louis Rams, 23-16.


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Several New York subway stations
reopening after last year’s debacle
Subway service on lines to and from Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan’s West Side is returning to normal after being curtailed on Sept. 11, 2001, The New York Times reports.

On the 1, 2, 3 and 9 lines, where three closed lower Manhattan stations have caused service to be partly suspended or rerouted since the attack on the World Trade Center towers, nearly all subway service is being brought back to pre-attack levels. The scheduled date of reopening was Sept. 15.

The 1 and 9 trains will bypass the Cortlandt Street station but will once again stop at Rector Street and South Ferry. In addition, No. 3 trains will again run between New Lots Avenue in Brooklyn and 148th Street in Manhattan, and No. 2 trains will run on express tracks through Manhattan.

On the N and R lines, the Cortlandt Street station also will reopen. It has been out of service since the attack.

Plans to restore service were announced at a City Hall news conference on the rebuilding of lower Manhattan. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Gov. George E. Pataki also used the conference to announce a new Web site for lower Manhattan, www.lowermanhattan.info, where features including transit schedules, rebuilding plans and recreational offerings will be posted and regularly updated.


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New M-7 commuter cars near mass production
The new M-7 commuter train car is approaching the end of its testing phase and the start of mass production for New York City-area patrons.

Officials of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) currently are testing and demonstrating the cars, which have on-board pay phones, ergonomic seats, more leg room, picture windows with tinted panes, smoother suspension, back-up air-conditioners, automated station announcements, no-flicker lighting, flip-out coat-hooks and curved corners that discourage the accumulation of dirt, The New York Times reported.

“Microprocessors control everything right down to the toilet,” said David J. Elliott, LIRR general manager, at a recent demonstration for the press.

When the first train made up of the cars passes inspection in October, railroad officials hope it will go into regular service. At that point, assembly lines in Plattsburgh, N.Y., will start building cars at a rate of 20 a month for the next few years. By 2006, the M-7 is expected to comprise about three-quarters of the LIRR fleet. Metro-North, which serves commuters in the area north and east of New York City, is scheduled to get 180 cars in 2004. That would constitute nearly half of its electric trains.

“It really looks like a train of the future,” said Barbara Josepher, chairman of the LIRR Commuter’s Council.

The prime contractor for the cars is Bombardier of Montreal, Canada, with the trucks made in Germany, the bathrooms in Spain and the motors in Japan. M-7s cost $2.3 million per car in early purchases and $1.7 million each for later ones. They have a life expectancy of about 30 years.


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Critics to fight on despite state environmental
okay of Boston-to-New Bedford commuter line
Critics of a planned Boston-New Bedford commuter rail service say they’ll continue their opposition, although the project has won state environmental approval with a number of stipulations designed to mitigate its impact on surrounding areas, including the Hockomock Swamp.

The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) service would connect Boston with New Bedford, in south coastal Massachusetts, and surrounding and intervening points such as North Easton, Raynham, Taunton, East Taunton, Freetown and Fall River.

Robert Durand, state secretary of environmental affairs, approved the project last month though it still requires a number of state and federal permits, The Boston Globe reported.

One of the opponents, Easton Assistant Town Manager Martha White, said: “It’s a classic case of why people distrust government. They shouldn’t be permitted to get away with this. It’s…not a NIMBY thing. All we want is an honest and fair evaluation of the proposal.” Critics have charged that the MBTA plan doesn’t comply with environmental regulations, overstates estimated ridership and falsifies information about another possible route, known as the Attleboro Alternative.

The plan that was approved is known as the Stoughton Alternative.

The new service is projected to carry 8,650 riders a day. Transportation officials have put the investment cost at $669 million and estimated that it would be completed in 2007. The MBTA has said the project would promote economic growth in New Bedford and Fall River while reducing air pollution and traffic.

Durand’s approval had important conditions. To protect the Hockomock Swamp, he ordered that the MBTA construct a two-mile raised trestle through the heart of the swamp. The single-track trestle, supported by concrete columns spaced about 30 feet apart, would allow “animals as large as deer to move freely below the tracks,” Durand wrote.

He also required the MBTA to reduce air pollution by installing electric heaters at layover stations, allowing engineers to turn off engines on cold nights. The MBTA also would have to retrofit existing locomotives and construction equipment to accept low-sulphur fuel and to filter particulate matter.

Durand said a task force from the Department of Environmental Protection, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Department of Environmental Management will finalize design details and mitigation measures.

A group known as CARE, or Citizens Against Rail Expansion, said it is looking forward to the federal permitting process. Steve Keohane, an Easton resident and CARE member, said: “We’ve got it out of [Durand’s] hands. We don’t have to wait any longer for something that we knew was going to happen anyway.”


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Legislator seeks again to ban
walkers from fast-train tracks
Prompted by a nearly fatal accident on a railroad trestle, a New Hampshire legislator has reintroduced a bill designed to keep walkers off high-speed train tracks.

Representative Jim Splaine, a Democrat, said, “First, it (my bill) requires the railroad to place and maintain clear signs every 300 yards on a railroad informing the public of trespassing dangers; and, second, it provides for fair penalties for trespassing of $100 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense and $1,000 for the third offense.”

Splaine was moved try again when Samantha Leclaire, 17, of Seabrook, narrowly missed serious injury last month when struck by the Amtrak Downeaster on a trestle in Durham over the Lamprey River, a popular swimming spot. Onlookers reported that the girl was saved only because the engineer had dropped his speed, in accordance with company policy, to 40 mph from 60 mph, as it neared the bridge.

Samantha, accompanied by six other local teen-agers, apparently had not heard the quiet train’s approach, The Portsmouth Herald reported.

A bill Splaine introduced last session was sent back to committee after being opposed by sportsmen’s groups, whose members often use rail tracks to reach backwoods areas. However, Splaine’s bill limits the restrictions and fines to rail lines where trains normally travel 45 mph or higher.

Splaine said, “If we are ever going to attract higher-speed trains, and encourage rail lines to be built to accommodate them, which in turn will draw more passengers to take advantage of train travel, then we will have to protect both the train operator and the walking public by having this bill passed.”


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Metrolink expansion begins to ‘San Berdoo’
A $24.8 million expansion of the San Bernardino-Los Angeles Metrolink has begun. Project officials recently broke ground on the project, which will double-track 5.3 miles of the route to enable more trains to be added to the line, The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported.

The additional commuter track would run between White Avenue in Pomona and the Montclair Metrolink station, with enhancements to the Claremont and Pomona stations. The project should encourage more commuters to use the trains, potentially decreasing freeway traffic by 1,800 vehicles per day, Metrolink officials said. The 56.2 mile San Bernardino line, nicknamed, “San Berdoo,” carries the highest passenger load of the seven Southern California Metrolink routes, with an average daily ridership of more than 10,000 commuters.


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Chicago Bears’ temporary move to
Urbana-Champaign means business
The Chicago Bears are taking a one-year leave from the Windy City this year to allow their Soldier Field home stadium to be rebuilt, and this is creating opportunities for rail and for at least one community located along the tracks.

The community is the village of Homewood, located near Chicago Heights. Businesses there hope to score a financial victory when a train shuttling fans to the games downstate in Urbana-Champaign stops in town, The Chicago Tribune reports. The Bears’ home games are being played this year in the Univ. of Illinois stadium (and the Bears won their home opener against the Minnesota Vikings, 27-23).

The CHAMPtrain (not to be confused with the Champagne train) picks up passengers in Homewood as it travels from Chicago’s Union Station to Champaign.

Village Manager David Niemeyer said Homewood will welcome its share of the sales tax on food and beverages purchased by fans. With property and sales tax revenue down this year, Niemeyer said, the infusion of cash from fans buying baked goods, coffee and packaged liquor for the two-hour train ride will bring some relief.

The round-trip fare is $46, plus a service charge.

A Bears’ website entry on how to get to Urbana-Champaign didn’t, as of this writing, mention the train. The omission, perhaps tracing to the lateness of the planning for rail access, has been pointed out to the Bears by D:F.

Niemeyer said, “We had hoped Amtrak was going to run a train on their own to Champaign.” When the village learned Amtrak couldn’t commit because of financial reasons, investor Larry Conrath Sr. of Linlar Enterprises in Countryside offered to help.

Final approval came around the beginning of the month with help from Homewood and the Illini Rail Corridor Committee. Under the arrangement, Conrath will pay Amtrak $12,000 for the use of a train for each round trip. In exchange, he claims any profits.

“I saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime experience to watch the Bears in Champaign,” said Conrath, a Homer Glen resident and a 25-year Bears season ticket holder.

Conrath started a word-of-mouth advertising campaign to fill the 400 seats on the CHAMPtrain for each of the Bears’ eight games in Champaign. He is also using a Web site, www.champtrain.com. Conrath said he wanted to maintain a fan-friendly atmosphere on the train and allow passengers to bring food and drink aboard, but he also wanted to hold down costs, so riders aren’t offered snacks and beverages.

“This is a blue-collar train with reclining coach seats, as opposed to the elite train,” Conrath said, referring to the $875-per-person luxury Champagne Train, which use the same tracks about a half-hour after the CHAMPtrain.

To maintain order, two Amtrak police officers will be aboard, said Howard Riefs, an Amtrak spokesman. Homewood also will have police on duty when fans return to the village and prepare to drive home. Authorities are warning fans to make sure they’re not under the influence when they get behind the wheel.

”We will be very mindful of that,” said Homewood Police Chief Larry Burnson.

The Bears began a major renovation, officially called an “adaptive reuse,” of the classic Soldier Field within an hour of the final game last season, on January 17, and plan to reopen the stadium Sept. 28, 2003, with initial 2003 games probably being played away.


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Readville shuttle at Readville Sta.

NCI: Leo King

An MBTA “Readville Shuttle” commuter train arrives at the end of its line at the southern tip of Boston. In ten minutes, its crew will have changed ends and be on their way back to South Station, nearly ten miles northward (east, on the railroad).
More trains and stations planned for
MBTA’s Fairmount commuter rail line
Michael Mulhern, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, says the “T” plans to build four new stations and add more trains on the Fairmount commuter rail line, which serves minority areas.

The upgrade would significantly boost transit service to Dorchester, Mattapan and Hyde Park – among Boston’s poorer and least-served communities, The Boston Globe reports.

Improvements for the 9.6-mile line, which links Hyde Park to South Station, will require as much as $70 million, half of which Mulhern said he would find in the agency’s budget, if the rest can be obtained as federal or state grants or found elsewhere.

The T would add stations at Colombia Road, Four Corners, Talbot Avenue, and Blue Hill Avenue - Cummings Highway, improve the lagging line’s four existing stations and add weekend service. Mulhern said that would lighten the load on Mattapan, Dorchester, and West Roxbury’s overburdened bus services.

“I am ecstatic,” said City Councilor Charles Yancey.

“I’ve long thought that it’s the height of insensitivity to have the commuter line go right through the heart of that community, but I think this is a great move. The new general manager is really moving, and I will be proud to stand right next to him when we open these stations up.”

In the past, T administrators worried that improving the parallel Fairmount line would cause problems for the more congested Attleboro line by taking up valuable garage space at South Station. But a consultant’s report recently presented to Mulhern erased those fears.

Currently, to get downtown quickly from that section of the city, commuters have to catch a bus to the Red or Orange lines or transfer to another bus at Dudley Station. But bus services in those neighborhoods, from crowding to breakdowns to delays, are among the worst in the system.

The Fairmount line serves an area that is home to more than 163,000 people, according to the Central Transportation Planning Staff, part of the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Of those residents, 63 percent are minority and half that number is African-American. Between the stations at Uphams Corner and Morton Street, the minority population rises to 91 percent, with 74 percent African-American.


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Virginia maglev opening delayed
The date for the operational debut and dedication of a magnetic levitation transportation system at Old Dominion University has been moved to November 15, at 10 a.m. It was slated to open on September 30.

According to Old Dominion President Roseann Runte, the change was at the request of Tony Morris, president of American Maglev Technology, to allow for more time to complete the 167 tests required under the federal National People Mover Code of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

“Certification involves a rigorous testing and inspection process, and while this is underway, it is anticipated that the process will not be completed in time for a September 30 ‘liftoff’ ceremony,” Runte said.

“One needs only to look at the university’s full-scale wind tunnel, where testing and work is being done on the re-creation of the Wright Brothers’ 1903 Flyer, to understand the capricious and protracted process of developing new technology,” said Runte.

She added, “The famous brothers undertook their quest for flight in 1899, but it took fully five years of creating, testing, deconstructing, retooling and re-creating prior to their history-making flight from the beaches of Kitty Hawk, N.C.”

American Maglev’s system features a train-like vehicle that rides on an electromagnetic cushion of air atop an elevated guideway. The cars will be able to move quietly at high speeds, producing no air pollution. Systems can be built on existing rights-of-way.


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Chicago motormen cited for accidents;
both ran signals
Two motormen (engineers) were blamed for two separate Chicago Transit Authority collisions last year involving two rapid transit trains. Management was also cited for failure to provide adequate instructions.

The National Transportation Safety Board September 4 determined that both accidents occurred after the train operators failed to comply with CTA rules designed to prevent collisions.

“Two dangerous collisions in a brief period of time that appeared to have some common elements, naturally caught our interest,” said NTSB Chairman Marion C. Blakey.

“We initiated this special investigation to see if there might be a systemic problem behind these accidents that we could help resolve.”

The CTA experienced the two rear-end collisions within a two-months. The first occurred late morning on June 17 when CTA train No. 104, en route from downtown Chicago to O’Hare International Airport on the Blue Line, collided with a standing train (No. 207) near the Addison Street Station. About 75 passengers were on train No. 104, while train No. 207 was carrying about 40 passengers. Eighteen passengers, an off-duty CTA employee, and both motormen received minor injuries. CTA estimated equipment damage at $30,000.

The second accident occurred on August 3, during the morning rush hour, when CTA Brown Line train No. 416, en route from Kimball Station to downtown Chicago, collided with a standing Purple line train (No. 505) on elevated tracks near Hill Street. Each train, made up of six passenger cars, was carrying a load of about 90 passengers per car. Police logs indicate 18 people were taken to area hospitals with minor injuries.

Damages in this accident were estimated at about $136,000.

In the first accident, trains in the area were operating under a single-track detour due to maintenance work on a parallel track. The board concluded that had the operator of train No. 104 stopped and contacted the control center when the signals on the train did not activate, as required by CTA operating rules, and had the control center followed existing procedures, the accident could have been prevented.

Similarly, the board found that had the operator of train No. 416 in the August 3 accident complied with CTA rules and waited for a stop signal to clear before proceeding, this accident also could have been avoided.

Looking into these rule violations, NTSB investigators found that CTA’s program for enforcement of operating rules was “inadequate” and that, “consequently, rules violations, such as those related to these two accidents were not uncommon.” The board recommended that CTA develop new procedures “to ensure that all operating personnel are complying with CTA operating rules, including speed restrictions and signal rules.”

Investigators also determined that the operators in both accidents had ample time to see the train ahead and come to a safe stop but, for ”unexplained reasons,” failed to do so.

The Board stated that “because the transit cars involved in these accidents did not have event recorders, or had recorders with only limited capabilities, insufficient information was available to provide the basis for a thorough analysis of the actions of the two operators or the performance of the trains prior to the collisions.”

The NTSB recommended that event recorders be required on new or rehabilitated trains funded by Federal Transit Administration grants.

The board also noted that inspection manuals produced by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) provide transit agencies with little specific guidance on programs for ensuring compliance with operating rules. The board recommended that APTA manuals be modified to include information on auditing the effectiveness of such programs.

The NTSB is online at http://www.ntsb.gov/.


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Here are some other transit headlines, from the pages of Passenger Transport, the weekly newspaper of the public transportation industry published by the non-profit American Public Transportation Assn. For more news from Passenger Transport and subscription information, visit the APTA web site at http://www.apta.com/news/pt.

 

Vancouver’s SkyTrain starts service
on balance of Millennium Line

The second and final portion of the SkyTrain Millennium Line entered revenue service on August. 31, connecting Commercial Station in Vancouver, B.C., to New Westminster and Burnaby. Nine new stations are included on the route, along with 15.8 kilometers of dual-track guideway.

The first five km segment of the Millennium Line has been in service since January 7, connecting the Columbia Station on the older SkyTrain Expo Line to new stations at Sapperton and Braid. Future branches of the line will include a link to Coquitlam Centre and an extension west of Commercial Station.

BC Rapid Transit Company Ltd., a TransLink subsidiary company, will operate and maintain the new line along with the Expo Line. Rapid Transit Project 2000, a British Columbia-owned company, constructed the Millennium Line. The province created the firm solely for the light rail purpose. RTP 2000 turned over the section to TransLink to operate when it was ready for operation.

The 21-km Millennium Line is designed to complement the Expo Line, which opened in 1986 and was extended in 1990 and 1994. According to TransLink, the new line passes within a short bus ride of 300 businesses with 50 or more employees, as well as a university, office parks, and the high-tech core of Burnaby. Also, businesses have expressed interest in locating near SkyTrain stations.

 

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Transit operators launch ‘Regional
EZPass’ for Los Angeles riders

A dozen transit systems in the Los Angeles County region are joining together this month to introduce the monthly Regional EZpass.

The pass provides for unlimited travel on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (LACMTA) Metro Bus and Rail systems, including the Metro Red, Blue, and Green lines, and on the fixed route systems of 11 municipal bus operators. It is priced at $58 for regular riders, $29 for seniors and persons with disabilities. Individual transit operator passes also will continue to be available.

The September Regional EZpasses went on sale August 25 at locations throughout Los Angeles County.

In addition to the LACMTA, participating transit operators include Culver City Municipal Bus Lines, Foothill Transit in West Covina, Montebello Bus Lines, Gardena Municipal Bus Lines, Commerce Municipal Bus Lines, Long Beach Transit, Norwalk Transit, Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus, Torrance Transit, Santa Clarita Transit, and Los Angeles DOT. The 12 transit systems operate a total of 386 bus lines and serve nearly 31,000 bus stops.

 

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‘SORTA’ looks for half-cent sales tax

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) in Cincinnati, which operates Metro, will be seeking a one-half cent sales tax this November in Hamilton County to fund the Hamilton County-only portion of the MetroMoves regional transit plan.

The MetroMoves final plan was released by SORTA in June after three years of community involvement and refinement. The plan redesigns Metro from a city-based bus system to a truly regional transit system that includes both bus and rail service. SORTA reports that it is the only major transit authority in Ohio that does not have at least countywide funding.

Federal and state funding also would be sought to pay the majority of the cost to build the system. The Hamilton County sales tax would fund the local portion (25 percent of cost for rail and 10 percent of cost for bus) needed to build and operate the light rail and streetcar system in Hamilton County and the expanded bus service.

The transit plan includes five light rail lines; streetcar lines on the Ohio riverfront and downtown-uptown; 30 bus transit hubs; 11 new cross-town and cross-regional bus routes; 13 neighborhood shuttles; six new bus routes to the Univ. of Cincinnati and hospital district; three new downtown express bus routes; “JobBus” service for second and third shift workers; 22 enhanced Metro routes; and simpler fares and transfers.


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States look for federal rail dollars
The possibility of catching a train ride across Georgia depends on the lobbying savvy of a new group that’s trying to blast a tunnel through a mountain of fiscal granite.

For a moment last spring, long-sought funding looked like it might come to fruition when legislators supportive of a passenger rail inserted $12 million into the state budget. But when they removed the money a few days later, citing the economic downturn, it was obvious the rail had just been used as a political football.

The state simply didn’t have the money, budget writers said.

High-speed corridors

A bill sponsored by Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, D-S.C., would significantly increase federal funding for Amtrak and expand the current network of federally designated high-speed rail service to the following corridors.

Southeast – Washington, D.C. to Richmond, Va., Raleigh, N.C., Columbia, S.C., Savannah, Jesup, Ga., Jacksonville

Florida – Miami-Orlando-Tampa

Chicago Hub – links Chicago to Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis

Pacific Northwest – Eugene-Portland, Ore.-Seattle-Vancouver, B.C.

California – San Diego-Los Angeles-San Francisco-Sacramento

Empire Region – New York City-Albany-Buffalo

Keystone Region – Philadelphia-Harrisburg-Pittsburgh

Gulf Coast – Houston-New Orleans-Birmingham-Atlanta

New England – Boston to Portland Me., Montreal

South Central – San Antonio-Dallas-Tulsa

Northeast – Washington-New York City-Boston

Southwest – Los Angeles-Las Vegas

Writing in the Jacksonville, Fla., Times-Union for September 1, reporter Dave Williams told his readers with state tax revenues on the decline across the nation, state transportation officials are looking to the federal government as the only funding source with pockets deep enough to launch America into a new age of passenger rail.

Georgia has its share of naysayers when it comes to the viability of passenger rails, including the state’s top transportation official.

“Georgia is the largest state east of the Mississippi. That’s a detriment to train service,” said Transportation Commissioner Tom Coleman, a former longtime state senator from Savannah.

“We just don’t have the population density to support it in most of the state” – but a coalition of chambers of commerce from six Southeastern states, including Georgia, begs to differ.

Georgia is not alone.

“Many states are experiencing budget shortfalls,” said Lyndo Tippett, North Carolina transportation secretary.

North Carolina remains one of the few states that is making a significant investment in passenger rail with a $25 million upgrade of a line connecting Charlotte and Raleigh, but Tippett notes even that is limited.

“We are not in a position to finance a network of railroads. Like when we built the interstates, we need a federal partner to set standards, resolve interstate issues and coordinate the program,” he said.

The Southeastern Economic Alliance, which includes the chambers from Atlanta, Savannah and Macon, is asking Congress to join those states in funding a high-speed rail line connecting Birmingham, Ala., to Washington, D.C. via Atlanta. Branch routes would link Savannah and Jacksonville to Atlanta and to Washington via Columbia, S.C., and Raleigh, N.C.

The coalition’s leaders argue that the Southeast’s rapid growth is outpacing air and highway capacity, even with a fifth runway planned at the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield Atlanta International.

U.S. Rep. Jack Quinn, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Rail, said the importance of passenger rail was heightened by last September’s terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, which shut down airports nationwide for three days.

“After 9/11, we need a rail mode of transportation as a backup,” Quinn said, and added, “If something happens to our air system, we need rail to transport people, medical supplies, troops, who knows?”

The Southeastern rail line’s supporters also believe passenger rail can be cost-effective. At an estimated $5.3 billion, the rail project compares favorably to the $5 billion cost of adding a runway to Hartsfield airport in Atlanta.

Historically, passenger rail has struggled for federal funding in comparison with either airports or highways.

Congress spends $10 billion to $12 billion a year on the nation’s air system and nearly $40 billion on roads and bridges. Amtrak, the nationwide passenger-rail carrier created during the 1970s, is forced to get by most years on a relatively paltry $500 million to $600 million.

The push for a stronger federal commitment to passenger rail is further complicated by the sense of uncertainty surrounding Amtrak, which is perennially saddled by operating deficits.

A host of Amtrak-funding bills are pending in the House and Senate, including efforts to substantially boost the level of federal funding.


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Altamont, bus line get nearly $1 million
The Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) commuter rail service and San Joaquin Regional Transit District bus system are getting nearly $1 million in federal grants for a new joint maintenance facility.

Both lack enough space to work on, store and repair trains and buses. The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission has not been allowed to add a fourth ACE train until it builds a new maintenance facility, according to the Stockton Record.

The $981,070 grant from the Federal Transit Administration will help the transit district build additional bus storage, a dispatch center and a natural-gas fueling station.

Both agencies agreed to joint efforts in building new facilities at the request of federal policy makers, who pointed out that partnership projects are more likely to be funded.

The cash is the first in about $6.2 million both agencies have to spend on the project. That amount will cover environmental and engineering studies, and perhaps part of the construction.


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‘Rhody’ depot to be restored
The Rhode Island DOT joined a group of local, state and federal leaders for a groundbreaking ceremony at the former Providence & Worcester Woonsocket Depot on August . The event served to officially kickoff a $1.8 million renovation project to help save this historic landmark that, over the years, has shown significant signs of deterioration.

Recognizing the need to save this valuable addition to the historic Blackstone River Valley region, RIDOT Director William D. Ankner said, “It is our goal through this enhancement project to help bring the Woonsocket Depot back to life by preserving its rich cultural heritage for the City of Woonsocket and the State of Rhode Island.”

Ankner then applauded the Congressional delegation for their support.

Ankner credited Rep. Patrick Kennedy for getting “$650,000 of public lands highways funds.”

The Woonsocket Depot is a historic Victorian-style train station built in 1882 by the P&W Railroad Co. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and currently serves as a visitor center and headquarters for the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission. The Commission promotes tourism, recreational, and educational programs, with a goal of preserving the Blackstone River Corridor encompassing 400,000 acres of land extending from Worcester County in Massachusetts to Providence County in Rhode Island.


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BART turns 30; gets okay
to expand to San Jose
California’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system turned 30 years old on September 13 – last Friday – and last week got the okay to

Since the first leg of the line opened on Sept. 11, 1972, the system has carried almost 2 billion passengers more than 22 billion miles. Today, BART carries almost 50 percent of the total peak commute trips between the East Bay and San Francisco, equivalent to another deck on the Bay Bridge.

BART was the first all-new rail rapid transit system to be built in this country in about 60 years, and became the nation’s laboratory for advancing the technology for ground transportation systems with many of its innovations.

BART has grown from a 71.5-mile system with 33 stations in 1972 to a 95-mile system with 39 stations now. When the new line into the San Francisco International Airport opens, now targeted for January, the system will grow to 103 miles and 43 stations. BART will have thus grown by 44 percent since 1972.

The light rail system maintains 95 miles of right-of-way, support facilities, a fleet of 669 cars and has more than 500 of them ready daily by 4 a.m. for service

Meanwhile, BART’s extension to San Jose has gotten one step closer to becoming a reality after receiving federal approval last week, according to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.

U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, (D) and San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales said the Federal Transit Administration has given the Silicon Valley Rapid Transit Corridor BART expansion project a rating of “recommended” and approved the project to enter into preliminary engineering, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The approval will pave the way for more detailed engineering design work.


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BART makes schedule changes ahead of January
extension to San Francisco airport
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) has announced changes in all train departure and arrival times on the Richmond-Fremont line. The alterations are being made to prepare for the extension of service to San Francisco International Airport in January. Nearly all departure and arrival times will change by no more than three minutes except on the Dublin-Pleasanton line, where the difference will be as much as six minutes, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The new schedule will increase the number of trains that go to Colma.


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Political, legal lines...  Political, legal lines...

Lipinski proposes rail upgrade fund, but industry is not aboard

In the first sign of federal movement to reduce rail traffic congestion in Chicago and elsewhere, U.S. Rep. William Lipinski is proposing a federal fund for railroad infrastructure improvements.

Lipinski said he plans to offer legislation early next year for a national railroad trust fund that would provide money to alleviate the worsening railroad bottlenecks that delay trains, block streets and throw commuter railroads and Amtrak off schedule, according to Crain’s Chicago Business News of September 2.

“All this is trying to do is eliminate the inefficiency that exists in the railroad industry at this time,” Lipinski said. A Chicago native, he is the ranking Democrat on the House railroads subcommittee.

Lipinski lacks support from a key constituency: a rail industry that objects to his proposal to fund the improvements with taxes railroads pay on the fuel they use.

”The railroads have traditionally funded their own capital improvement projects,” said Jack Burke, assistant vice-president for U.S. public affairs at Montreal-based Canadian National Ry. Co.

“We don’t need to take money out of the industry to have government make those decisions for us.”

Railroad lobbyists are pushing for repeal of those fuel taxes. They argue that the government should use gasoline tax receipts earmarked for federal highways to cover the cost of rail-crossing improvements they say benefit motorists more than railroads.

In an era of ballooning federal deficits, the railroads’ quest for tax relief smacks of wishful thinking, and Lipinski’s measure faces tough sledding without the industry’s clout.

Observers predict both sides will forge an alliance of necessity, with the railroads getting behind the Lipinski bill after some sweeteners are added to make the measure more appealing to the industry.

”It certainly needs the support of the railroads,” says Greg Cohen, vice-president of the American Highway Users Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group for motorists.

“They have to decide: Are we going to be successful in repealing (the fuel) tax? If it’s not going to happen, the Lipinski plan might be the second-best option.”

The problem for both sides is that the railroad fuel taxes that would stock Lipinski’s infrastructure fund generate only a fraction of the estimated cost of improvements needed in the Chicago area, let alone the rest of the country. To generate more money for improvements, Lipinski is proposing taxes on railcars and other measures the industry is almost certain to oppose.

Without an infusion of federal funding for freight railroads, Lipinski believes area residents are destined for even longer delays at grade crossings and more congested highways, as shippers turn to the trucking industry for delivery services that slow-moving railroads can’t provide.

Railroad executives, for their part, acknowledge that the projected doubling of freight rail traffic nationwide in the next 20 years would make an already-crowded rail system even more congested and overwhelm their ability to pay for more tracks, equipment and rail facilities.

Still, the industry is pressing for repeal of the 4.3-cent-a-gallon tax it pays – which generates $170 million a year – on diesel fuel used by locomotives. Noting that previous attempts at repeal have failed, Lipinski predicts the federal government’s budget deficit makes it unlikely the railroads will prevail this fall.

By diverting the fuel tax to a trust fund for track upgrades, he argues that railroads would be able to benefit from it, instead of seeing the money used for general federal expenditures, as it is now.


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New lawsuits filed for slaves’
descendants reparations
About 200 Louisiana residents identifying themselves as descendants of slaves filed a federal lawsuit on September 3 seeking reparations from companies that allegedly profited from slave labor.

The lawsuit, filed in New Orleans, was one of several that plaintiffs said were being filed around the country, extending an effort that began with a lawsuit filed March 26 in New York. That lawsuit seeks reparations from CSX Railroad, Aetna Insurance and FleetBoston Financial Services, according to The AP.

The latest suits name new defendants, including three railroads, Canadian National, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific. Also named were Lloyds of London, Brown Brothers, Harriman & Co., Brown and Williamson, R.J. Reynolds and Liggett Group.

The suit was filed shortly before the close of business and only Canadian National immediately responded to phone messages seeking comment.

“Any reparations suit against CN is wholly without merit and CN will defend itself vigorously,” spokesman Jack Burke said.

“Neither CN nor Illinois Central,” which was CN acquired in 1999, “ever employed slave labor.”

In addition to Louisiana, new lawsuits were to be filed in federal courts in Illinois, Texas, New York and California, according to attorney Roger Wareham, one of a group of lawyers who prepared the suits.

The plaintiffs say slave descendants deserve compensation, even if only in the form of trust funds to improve health care, education and housing opportunities, because slaves were prevented from accumulating wealth to bequeath to future generations. The money slaves should have earned for their work instead went to companies that directly or indirectly profited from slave labor, they say, while slaves and their descendants lagged behind the rest of America in terms of education and opportunity.


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Laborlines...  Labor lines...

Transportation workers urge spending

As Congress and the President consider the Fiscal Year 2003 transportation spending bill, transportation workers from across the country will be calling upon their leaders in Washington to rally around a strong 2003 transportation spending bill that boosts the ailing economy and puts Americans back to work.

Sonny Hall, President of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Dept. (TTD), recently said he will be urging transportation workers to contact Congress and the White House in support of a transportation appropriations bill that secures adequate and stable funding for Amtrak, restores multi-billion dollar cuts proposed by the Bush administration to the highway program, fully funds the nation’s mass transit, airport and air traffic control needs, imposes the highest safety requirements on Mexican motor carriers entering the United States at our border, and helps modernize and secure the entire transportation system.

Speaking electronically to thousands of activists nationwide, Hall said, “The decisions made in Washington affect not only every transportation worker, but every American. Your voice is needed more than ever to make sure our nation’s leaders make the spending decisions that affect our economy and the quality of life in our communities.”

Hall said that the transportation spending bill (S. 2808) recently approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee is a “major step in the right direction,” thanks to the strong leadership of Sens Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) The bill now moves to the full Senate, and the House version will be considered later this month. Hall urged the House to “follow the good lead” of the Senate appropriations panel.

According to Hall, the Senate committee’s $1.2 billion appropriation for Amtrak,” makes a bold statement that our nation needs Amtrak and that we should make the long over-due investments to finally give it a chance to succeed. By more than doubling the Bush administration’s budget request, the Senate appropriators sought to put an end to Amtrak’s sad legacy of anemic and uncertain funding.”

The transportation labor leader praised the Senate panel for restoring the Bush administration’s proposed $8.6 billion cut in highway spending.

“The misguided White House plan would jeopardize over 350,000 jobs and stall key highway projects,” Hall said, urging Congress to unite against these cuts.

Hall also commended the Committee for extending the bipartisan truck and bus safety measures passed last fall, which ensure that motor carriers based in Mexico comply with all U.S. safety laws and are subject to rigorous inspections before entering the United States.

“The safety of all who use our roads is riding on these rigid cross-border safety and inspection provisions,” Hall said.

Also included in the Senate committee’s bill is $7.08 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration to modernize air traffic control and our airports. The bill also provides an additional $1.5 billion over the President’s request for the Transportation Security Administration to strengthen our efforts against security threats.

Regarding bus security, Hall said, “I laud the Senate committee for recognizing that there can be no weak link in transportation security and voting $15 million for inter-city bus security. Over 774 million passengers travel this way each year, and for the men and women who drive these buses, this is their workplace. Like all workers, they have a right to a workplace free of fear, violence and the threat of terrorism.

The Senate panel exceeded the White House’s request for the Federal Transit Administration, helping ensure that the U.S. mass transit system operates safely and efficiently, and can grow to better serve mobile Americans.

TTD is online at http://www.ttd.org.


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Who’s on first

Rail fuel tax bills get confusing

A fortnight ago, D:F reader D.M. Stewart wrote us asking what the bill number is for the fuel tax bill that would repeal the railroads’ financial burden.

It took some work, but here's as complete an answer as we can find.

Tom White, spokesman for the Assn. of American Railroads, tells us “The number of the energy bill is a little confusing. Both the House and Senate have passed H.R. 4, but the language is totally different.”

White explained, “The Senate took up H.R. 4 and then voted to substitute the language of S. 517 (the Democrat’s energy bill) for the House language. They did this because it slightly simplifies final passage – assuming the conferees reach agreement – if both the Senate and House bill have the same number.”

There’s more, though… and it’s a little like the Abbott and Costello sketch, “Who’s on first.”

White said, “The energy bill that was passed by the House last year includes a nine-year phase out of the diesel fuel tax. The energy bill passed by the Senate this year does not, so your reader is correct in that the measure is now tied up in a House-Senate conference.”

He said the AAR “remains hopeful that repeal will be included in whatever is finally passed.”

White and an associate, Jennifer Macdonald, also did some research for us while they were at it.

Current law regarding the rail fuel tax is found in 26 USC Section 4041.

“The tax was initially implemented at 2.5 cents per gallon in 1991 and applied to both railroads and highway users. Eventually it was increased to 6.8 cents per gallon and coverage was extended to aviation and water carriers. The tax was later reduced to 5.55 cents and then to 4.3 cents per gallon, with all of the money raised from highway users and aviation redirected to their respective trust funds. Thus, railroads and water carriers are the only ones still paying the funds into the general fund.”

This story was generated not only by the letter we received, but also Wes Vernon’s article “Freight rail makes drive for rush-hour business” in September 3 D:F. – Ed.


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STB to simplify challenges
The Surface Transportation Board is starting a proceeding to amend its regulations “to further expedite the resolution of large railroad rate challenges that come before it.”

Chair Linda Morgan said last week the proposed new regulations would expedite the “discovery” phase of an action (a procedure by which parties seek information from each other) “and would require parties to engage in mediation before the filing of a rate complaint.”

Morgan said, in a press release, large rail rate cases are those that are reviewed under what is known as the “stand-alone cost” (SAC) methodology. Smaller rate cases are those for which a full SAC analysis would be too burdensome, given the amounts of money in dispute. In recent years, she said, “The board has focused much of its energy on streamlining and simplifying the rate-complaint process.”

For smaller cases, the board recently compiled a public record in another proceeding on the appropriateness of legislation providing for mandatory, binding arbitration; for larger cases, in recent years the board has taken various steps to expedite the decisional process, “including simplifying the market dominance procedures, standardizing the SAC evidentiary procedures, and imposing various processing deadlines.”

The STB is online at http://www.stb.dot.gov.


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BNSF expands intermodal network
The Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry. Co. (BNSF) reported it expanded its guaranteed intermodal service on September 9 to include two additional lanes between Northern California and Texas.

The guarantee is for service between Stockton and Dallas-Fort Worth, and between Richmond, and Dallas-Fort Worth. The lanes were added in time for the intermodal peak-shipping season.

With these additional lanes, BNSF now offers guaranteed intermodal service in 18 lanes connecting major U.S. markets.

BNSF began offering guaranteed intermodal service in May 2000. Since then, the railroad states, “ it has moved more than 8,000 guaranteed loads.”


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BNSF leases 100-mile line
BNSF reports it is leasing about 100 miles of track between Kirbyville and Tenaha, Texas, to the Timber Rock Railroad Co. (TIBR). Timber Rock Railroad is owned by Watco Companies, Inc., which is headquartered in Pittsburg, Kans.

The 10-year lease includes all connecting sidings, spurs, and sidetracks; and yard, industrial, team and switching tracks. TIBR also will receive trackage rights of about 2.5 miles over BNSF to interchange traffic at Tenaha.

Under the terms of the lease, TIBR assumed rail operations over the line at 12:01 a.m. CDT on September 3. TIBR will also interchange traffic with BNSF at Kirbyville. Major commodities moving over the line include minerals, forest products and agricultural products.

BNSF sold its line between Kirbyville and DeRidder, La., to TIBR in 1998. That sale, along with the lease of the Kirbyville-Tenaha trackage, is part of a BNSF initiative to provide more efficient rail service to its customers.

“We will continue to invest in growth and seek the maximum use of capital to support that growth,” says Pete Rickershauser, BNSF’s vice-president for network development.

“Shortline operators can provide valuable and efficient service that can support our growth plans by feeding us traffic through service offerings closely tailored to their shippers’ needs. We have found the Watco organization to be nimble and competent service providers when dealing both with us and with our mutual customers, and we look forward to their successful operation of this BNSF property.”

“Rick Webb, Watco President and CEO, said “We have been working on this project for several months and are confident of a seamless transition. By working together, I know that the partnership between the BNSF and Watco will bring added value to our Customers in east Texas.”

BNSF operates one of the largest railroad networks in North America, with 33,000 route miles.

Watco Co acquired the Timber Rock Railroad in 1998. TIBR’s Kirbyville-DeRidder main line also interchanges with the Kansas City Southern Railway at DeRidder. Across its original 40-plus miles of main line, the TIBR carries 15,000 carloads annually, mostly lumber and coal.


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AAR terms truck report ‘flawed;
safety is ignored, group argues
A Univ. Minnesota economics professor has criticized as flawed and limited a recent Transportation Research Board (TRB) report that recommended allowing longer and heavier trucks on the nation’s highways.

The TRB report focuses on minimizing truck costs while ignoring other critical factors, said Gerard J. McCullough, associate professor of applied economics at the Minnesota university and senior consultant at Charles River Associates of Boston.

The narrow scope of the report significantly limits its usefulness to national transportation policy, McCullough said in a published analysis. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) supported McCullough’s work. The Transportation Research Bureau gets support from state and federal governments, industry associations and individuals.

Edward R. Hamberger, the AAR’s chief executive, said McCullough’s analysis “should disqualify the TRB study from serving as the basis for changes in existing truck sizes and weights.”

For example, although the TRB report admits that serious questions exist regarding the safety of increasing truck size and weight, McCullough points out that the TRB’s proposed solution – the immediate introduction of larger trucks and follow-on pilot programs – would force highway users to become unknowing participants in an experiment to test those safety implications.

The TRB report also fails to recognize that the goal of truck size and weight.

Regulation – after safety – “should not be solely on lowering the private costs of trucking firms or some freight shippers, but on minimizing the public costs (infrastructure, safety, pollution, energy consumption, congestion) of truck transportation and ensuring the overall efficiency of the national freight market,” McCullough said. “An efficient market is one in which the users absorb the full marginal costs that they impose.”

McCullough’s analysis is entitled Evaluation of Transportation Research Board Report 267: Regulation of Weights, Lengths and Widths of Commercial Motor Vehicles.


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Drought affects Canadian grain, CN
Canadian National lowered its earnings expectations for 2002, saying year-over-year earnings per share growth for the year ending December 31, 2002, “is currently expected to be at the low end of the five- to 10-per-cent growth range previously announced by the company. CN’s 2001 adjusted diluted earnings per share were $4.92. Its reported diluted earnings per share for 2001 under U.S. general accepted accounting principals (GAAP) were $5.23.

CN published its earnings expectations on September 4.

Its earnings update “is largely attributable to significantly reduced bulk commodity revenues, principally Canadian grain revenues, as a result of severe drought conditions in western Canada,” the carrier stated in a press release.

Paul M. Tellier, CN’s president and chief executive officer, said, “Although CN’s merchandise and intermodal businesses remain strong, the outlook for the 2002-2003 Canadian grain crop is much worse than anticipated.”

He added, “Recent reports suggest this year’s crop could be less than 50 per cent of the five-year average. We are faced with two bad crop years in a row, which has significantly reduced the amount of product we can move. “This crop crisis is clearly beyond our control.”

He said managers, are looking for other ways to grow the business “to mitigate the impact of lower grain revenues on our results this year and next.”

Adjusted diluted earnings per share for 2001 under U.S. GAAP exclude the company’s gain from the sale of its 50 per cent interest in the Detroit River Tunnel Co.; a special charge for a workforce adjustment program; a charge to write down the company’s net investment in 360networks Inc., and a deferred income tax recovery resulting from the enactment of lower corporate tax rates in Canada.


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Ferroequus loses rail bid
A maverick Prairie railway lost its bid on September 10 to have its trains run on tracks owned by Canada’s largest railroad, Canadian National Railway Co., to haul grain to the Pacific coast.

The Canadian Transportation Agency, in a split decision, said Ferroequus Railroad Co. failed to show a public need to gain access to CN’s tracks and had an “overly optimistic business plan” that might cause service disruptions, according to Reuters.

Ferroequus was seeking “running rights” over 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) of CN track to haul about 800,000 tons of grain annually from Camrose, Alberta, to the port of Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

The Edmonton, Alberta-based company, which would collect the grain from lines operated by Canadian Pacific Railway, argued its plan would offer farmers lower costs and generate about C$22 million ($14 million) in annual revenues.

Both CN and CP had strongly opposed the request, which some analysts said was akin to efforts by small telecommunications companies to lease lines from major phone companies in order to sell competing long distance services.

The transportation regulators said they had the authority to force railways to grant running rights to competitors, but could only do so if there was a clear public need for increased competition.

“Ferroequus has not established the existence of a rate or service problem in the relevant markets, nor has it established that the granting of running rights would eliminate or alleviate any lack of adequate and effective competition,” the agency wrote.

Ferroequus’s plan had the backing of the Canadian Wheat Board, the massive grain-marketing agency that has a government granted monopoly on all western Canadian wheat, barley and durum destined for export.

CN had dismissed Ferroequus’s plan as unrealistic, and complained the small company was a “virtual” railroad that lacked any engines or rolling stock to haul grain. CP also opposed the application.

“Why should other railroads be given the right to use our track? They did not build it. They do not maintain it. They are not responsible for the service it provides,” CN chief executive Paul Tellier told a speech in Calgary last week.

One member of the agency panel voted in favor of Ferroequus’s plan, saying the benefits of increased competition for the wheat board outweighed any disruptions the small firm’s trains might cause CN.


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Island rail group, CPR, close to deal
Negotiations between the Vancouver Island Railway Initiative (VIRI) and Canadian Pacific Ry. over a potential purchase of shortline are nearing completion.

”We’re very close,” said Lake Cowichan Mayor Jack Peake, who could not discuss details because of a confidentiality agreement, writes the Nanaimo Daily News.

The CPR is including the 17 track miles from North Cowichan to Cowichan Lake in the deal, at no extra cost to VIRI, he said.

”During the last set of negotiations they included it in the deal without any other changes. I thought it was quite a nice way to open negotiations.”

The CPR line to Lake Cowichan was abandoned years ago. It has been suggested that it be made part of the Trans-Canada Trail.

Peake is optimistic that negotiations with CPR will end favorably, but he has his doubts about the initiative’s ability to acquire the section of track between Nanaimo and Parksville owned by Rail America.

”Those negotiations aren’t going so well and CPR has been much more amicable.

“There’s been much more of a meeting of the minds there,” he said. “With Rail America, we’re about $8 million apart.”

The CPR sold the Nanaimo-Parksville portion of the E&N to RailAmerica when the U.S. firm took over the operation of passenger and freight service between Victoria and Courtenay on the E&N.

RailAmerica, which leases the rest of the track from CPR, cited a dramatic decrease in freight customers that made it uneconomical to run the money-losing passenger service when it announced last year it would continue both services. VIRI, a consortium of businesses, First Nations and private individuals, was then formed with the intent of saving the E&N.

Peake said VIRI will meet with representatives of every municipality along the E&N right of way next Friday in the hope that they will partner with the initiative and help to purchase the railway.


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KCS appoints Poulsen vice president
Kansas City Southern (KCS) has appointed Ronald F. Poulsen as vice president and chief engineer, replacing Jerry W. Heavin, who was recently promoted to senior vice president operations, the carrier announced September 4.

Poulsen joined KCS from Amtrak in Los Angeles, where he most recently served as senior director engineering, the railroad said.


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Rail freight traffic up during holiday week
Freight traffic on U.S. railroads was up sharply during the week ended September 7 in comparison with the corresponding week last year, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on Thursday.

Intermodal volume totaled 170,183 trailers and containers, up 7.6 percent from the comparable week last year. Carload freight, which doesn’t include the intermodal data, totaled 319,520 cars, up 4.3 percent from last year. Carload volume was up 4.4 percent in the East and 4.2 percent in the West. Total volume was estimated at 27.4 billion ton-miles, up 5.0 percent from the 36th week of 2001. Both the current week and the comparison week from last year included the Labor Day holiday.

Among the 15 commodities showing increases from last year were metallic ores, up 22.2 percent; nonmetallic minerals, gaining 16.6 percent; waste and scrap materials rising 10.9 percent; and coal, increasing 4.5 percent. Declines were registered among four commodities, with coke down 17.9 percent and primary forest products declining 15.3 percent from the comparable week last year.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 36 weeks of 2002:

11,791,522 carloads, down 1.1 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 6,423,980 trailers and containers, up 5.2 percent; and total volume of an estimated 1.01 trillion ton-miles, down 0.3 percent from last year’s first 36 weeks.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 90 percent of U.S. carload freight and 97 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 96 percent and 99 percent. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of the nation’s intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.

Intermodal traffic was up sharply, but carload freight was down on Canadian railroads during the week ended September 7. Intermodal traffic totaled 37,896 trailers and containers, up 26.1 percent from last year. Carload volume of 53,066 cars was down 4.5 percent from the comparable week last year. Both weeks included Canada’s Labour Day holiday.

Cumulative originations for the first 36 weeks of 2002 on the Canadian railroads totaled 2,134,608 carloads, down 3.1 percent from last year, and 1,360,264 trailers and containers, up 9.5 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 36 weeks of 2002 on 16 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 13,926,130 carloads, down 1.4 percent from last year and 7,784,244 trailers and containers, up 5.9 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended September 7 totaled 11,127 cars originated or received from connecting lines, up 65.4 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 3,771 trailers or containers, down 5.0 percent from the 36th week of 2001. For the first 36 weeks of 2002, TFM reported cumulative volume of 376,069 cars, up 1.3 percent from last year, and 131,599 trailers or containers, up 5.8 percent.

The AAR is online at www.aar.org.


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Across the pond...

Nearly 120 die in India rail disaster

The death toll from a train wreck in eastern India climbed to 118 by Thursday as rescuers pulled more bodies from mangled coaches.

“There are 118 dead so far, and there is a coach that still has to be opened,” said senior divisional operations manager Om Prakash.

“It’s suspected the bodies of two or three more people may be found,” he said.

More than 200 people were injured late Monday when the high-speed Rajdhani Express, on its way from Calcutta to New Delhi, jumped the tracks crossing an old bridge near Rafiganj, a remote village 130 miles south of Patna, Bihar’s state capital, according to Reuters.

The crash of the deluxe train – carrying 605 people – was one of the biggest in India in recent years.

Officials said they had ruled out chances of finding anyone still alive, partly because heavy rains and poor light hampered efforts to recover bodies.

“There are just two floodlights in the entire area. It’s difficult to search for bodies inside the coaches at night,” an army official leading the rescue operation said.

Railway officials said they suspected sabotage. Local Maoist rebels, who are fighting to redistribute land to peasants, could be to blame for the crash, but Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani said the information he had suggested the crash that left the train a jumbled mass of twisted carriages was an accident.

Most of India’s one billion people depend on the antiquated rail network of more than 40,000 miles, the second largest in the world, as their main form of transport.

Indian Railways, which celebrated its 150th anniversary earlier this year, runs nearly 14,000 trains carrying more than 13 million passengers daily and has some 300 accidents a year.

In 1999, at least 285 people died when two trains collided head-on north of Calcutta.


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Floods raise havoc in Germany
Deutsche Bahn AG (DB) executives report that flood damage estimates to rail lines in the areas of eastern and southern Germany are about $900 million, in U.S. dollars.

Numerous railroad bridges were destroyed and rights-of-way washed out in the mid-August floods in the eastern part of the state of Bavaria and the states of Saxony, Brandenburg and Thueringen (in the former East Germany), reports Frankfurt’s Allgemeine Zeitung.

Many routes will require repairs and reconstruction lasting into mid or late 2003 before being again operational. A few bridges and rights-of-way will be out of service well into 2004 for reconstruction.

The labor union Transnet, which represents the majority of the DB’s labor force, has warned that DB may use the flood damage as an excuse to permanently close a number of local and regional rail lines in the area, and said it will closely monitor railroad management during the reconstruction phase to prevent route closures.


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Aussies start major line rehab
The Victoria state government in Australia and its agricultural producers say they are starting a $100 million project (in Australian dollars) to convert and upgrade an existing passenger rail line to a freight link with the interstate rail network, especially for providing a direct connection with the new Alice Springs-Darwin rail line currently under construction.

Melbourne’s The Advertiser reported recently the project will connect the port at Stanvac via newly built right-of-way and 25 km of existing rail line which runs through parts of the Melbourne suburbs to an existing freight mainline towards Adelaide and onwards to Alice Springs and Darwin. The existing 25 km of rail will be rebuilt from broad gauge to standard gauge and upgraded with concrete ties and new welded rail, which will require regauging the trucks on all its passenger rolling stock.

The project will be privately funded, and when it is finished, it will be able to move grain and other bulk shipments for export via rail to and from Port Stanvac to other parts of Australia and the port city of Darwin 3,000 kilometers away on Australia’s northern coast.


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Both Koreas to reopen rail line
North and South Korea agreed on August 30 to start rebuilding an abandoned rail link between both countries.

Construction is planned to begin on September 18.

South Korea is already nearing completion of the rail line on its side of the DMZ. North Korea is only now just starting preliminary construction work on its side.

South Korea will provide materials and other assistance to North Korea to complete the rail link. The rail line will connect South Korea with mainland Asia and Europe via rail and will permit South Korea to ship its exports and imports overland via North Korea to and from China, Russia and even far away Europe and Central Asia via direct rail connections.

Thanks to Dave Beale


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RailPAC opens new web site
The Rail Passenger Association of California (RailPAC) has a new web page, at www.railpac.org. Its “Issues” page explains the rail goals the organization is pursuing, with a map showing California rail corridors. A press release stated the web page “will be devoted to research items and statements pertaining to California issues, not national nor Amtrak issues unless they are related.”

The late Dr. Adrian Herzog wrote the first two items in the web page archives.

His landmark 1986 design concept for the “future” western commuter car, the bi-level, used by Toronto’s GO Transit, which was subsequently adopted for use by Metrolink, The Coaster, ACE, Tri-Rail and Seattle Sounder, and are the future Caltrain “Baby Bullet” trains now being built.

Herzog wrote the other article in 1999 outlining how RailPAC could support the California High Speed Rail Authority, taking the organization’s successful position opposing maglev.

The organization expects to post new articles monthly.


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Opinion...

The highway lobby

This opinion article, written by one of America’s foremost thinkers, is republished with permission. It was originally one of his weekly columns, “In the Public Interest.” – Ed.

By Ralph Nader

Ever since the first public transit – a ferryboat near Boston in 1630 – got underway, a broad variety of carriers have emerged—buses, trolleybuses, vanpools, jitneys, heavy and light rail, cable cars, monorails, tramways and automated guideway transit. Rarely did these transports ever attract private investment – that was reserved for The Car on publicly funded and maintained highways.

In the year 2000 Americans took 9.4 billion trips on public transportation, an increase of 3.5 percent from 1999, but in 1946 Americans recorded 23.4 billion trips, which is still unsurpassed even though the population was only half of what it is today. What happened to account for the decline of public transit, which is safer, more efficient, less polluting, and reduces highway congestion, while stimulating nearby economic development?

The major answer to this question is the long-standing opposition of The Highway Lobby – the auto, oil, tire and cement industries. You don’t hear much these days about “The Highway Lobby” as such. The reason is that it has done its destructive job, which is to make America an occasion for ribbons of crowded highways carrying millions of motor vehicles as the only “practical and direct” way to get around on the ground.

At times the lobby has to resort to crime to achieve its assaults on public transit, while at other periods, it just used its money, muscle and propaganda with state and Washington lawmakers. Twenty-eight crimes were committed by General Motors and its oil and tire company co-conspirators in the Thirties and Forties leading to their convictions in federal district court in Chicago during the late Forties. The U.S. Justice Department’s charge, upheld in court, was that these large companies, in order to eliminate their major rivals – the trolley industry – bought up these firms, tore up the tracks in and around 28 major cities in the U.S., including the biggest one in Los Angeles, and lobbied legislators to build more and more highways to sell more and more vehicles, gasoline and tires.

Earlier, GM tried to pressure banks to reduce credit to these trolley companies and when that did not succeed sufficiently, the conspiracy to buy out their competitors and shut them down was hatched.

This is more than corporate crime history. Everyday, today, tomorrow and the next day, millions of Americans find themselves on clogged, bumper-to-bumper commutes because there is no convenient mass transit or no mass transit at all where they live and work.

Lots of people have little or no idea of all the flexible and super-modern modes of public transit that reach all the way toward something called “personal public transit” which would allow you and fellow passengers to call up a monorail car to take you to your destination in some future resurgence of public transit technology.

First, change must replace the dominant highway lobby imagery with sleek public transit imagery. For example, have you ever seen a television advertisement for a new car stuck in congested traffic? By contrast, have you ever seen an ad for public transit showing people zooming to work in a modern transit train, while they were snoozing, chatting or reading the newspaper, and racing ahead of a parallel highway clogged with trucks, vans and cars moving in slow motion? Fifty years of this bias and it is not surprising how low are the public’s expectations.

Second, the bias has translated into the reality of residential, shopping and other developments geared to the car and inimical to public transit in a vicious circle of reinforcement for the highway lobby’s designs for America.

Still, there are the public transit optimists. Every other month I receive and read a magazine called Transit California, published by the California Transit Assn.

The current issue is full of news regarding innovative advances and expansions in public transit from Santa Monica to Santa Clarity Valley to Contra Costa County and all the stages before various kinds of public transportation delivered to residents.

The association will be having its 37th annual fall conference in Ontario, Calif. (online at info@caltransit.org) and would be pleased to hear from interested communities writing to the CTA, 1414 K Street, Suite 320, Sacramento, CA 95814

Keep up the good work,
Your friends at Citizen Works

Citizen Works is online at http://www.citizenworks.org.


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Letters...
Dear Editor:

With all due respect to your informative (and generally correct) publication, your story is in error concerning the August 20 voter rejection of the zoning amendment in Manchester, “New Hampshire” as reported in D:F,” Volume 3, Number 35, August 26.

I say this as the owner of a second home in Manchester, Vermont, the actual location of the story you reported, and as a subscriber to the Manchester Journal, the town’s weekly newspaper.

Ben Hauben sought to obtain a zoning variance for a station that would have included space for uses other than rail passenger usage. The Town of Manchester is very particular about its land use patterns, and while many support and encourage the extension of Amtrak service from Albany, N.Y. to Manchester, the size of the station was deemed inappropriate for the potential service under consideration, which was to be one train per day in each direction, at least at the outset.

Vermont State Routes 11 and 30 pass through town and are contiguous to the proposed station’s location, then head uphill and eastward toward the Bromley ski resort.

When service is started (the state, after all, has already paid for track and ballast restoration over the past three years), this location would be an excellent one for the revival of winter ski trains with bus shuttles not only to Bromley, but also to Stratton Mountain and other surrounding resorts that feature downhill and cross-country facilities.

Plans have been discussed by the State of Vermont to extend service northward from Manchester (after it has begun, and I remain optimistic it will be) through Rutland (now served by Amtrak’s Ethan Allen) to Burlington; however, state fiscal austerity has temporarily shelved both these initiatives.

Thanks again for your excellent publication!

Albert L. Papp, Jr.
Millington, N.J.
NARP Director-at-Large
New Jersey ARP Director

Thank you for correcting our error, which we regret. – Ed.


Dear Editor:

In the September 9 D:F, you write, “In Providence, R. I., an apparently Hindu man, wearing a green turban and sporting a long beard, was removed from westbound Amtrak train No. 173, enroute from Boston to New York and Washington. After questioning, Providence police and others determined he was not a suspect either, but held him on a weapons charge for having an illegally long knife. The man said it was used as part of his religious practices.”

The said man was indeed of Indian descent, but practiced the religion of Sikhism, not Hinduism. Unfortunately, many Sikhs became victims of hate crimes after September 11 due to mistaken identity as Muslims.

Sikhism is a religion of peace, compassion, love, humility, and servitude to God. Sikh men are often mistaken for Muslims, as they maintain the image given to them by God by not shaving their beards or cutting their hair (which is kept in turbans). I have quite a few Sikh friends, and they are as good-natured and American as members of any other ethnic group striving for a better life in this nation.

Matthew J. Melzer
Director, Rail Passenger Association of California
Santa Cruz, California

Thank you for setting the record straight. – Ed.


Dear Editor:

As I have stated before to you and many railfan friends and (non-railfan friends too), Destination Freedom is the best rail oriented newsletter on the web.

It should be sent to every Congressman and U.S. senator including Sen. [John] McCain [(R-Ariz.]).

Every issue is great but you have really been more than outstanding with the past few issues.

Incidentally, I was present along with many other railfans and other interested parties for the first unloading of Gold Line Car No. 238 (P-2000 from the Green Line) in South Pasadena the early morning hours of August 17.

Thanks again for a job well done.

Ken Ruben
Member, Board of Directors (Director)
RailPAC (Rail Passenger Association of California)

We blushed upon reading Mr. Ruben’s letter. – Ed.


Dear Editor:

The “hours of service” is federal law, not a “union rule.”

Dan Picton


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September 21 & 22, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

B&O Railroad Museum family event weekend
901 West Pratt Street, Baltimore

Learn about cutting-edge railroad technology, high-speed lines, and the future of transport by rail. The weekend includes special displays, exhibits, and free train rides. Special temporary exhibit – the T-16, the FRA’s high-tech, research car featuring lasers, computer modeling, and a Differential Global Positioning System. The car has surveyed more than 25,000 miles of Amtrak routes. CSX and SunTrust Bank underwrite the special weekend


September 22-25

American Public Transportation Assn. annual meeting and expo

Las Vegas Hilton Hotel and Las Vegas Convention Center, Nev.
Contact pboswell@apta.com


September 22-25

AREMA conference and exposition
Washington Hilton & Towers, Washington, D.C.

Contact Shane Boyle, AREMA Director of Marketing, sboyle@arema.org;
(301) 459-3200 ext. 705; Fax. (301) 459-8077;website www.arema.org


September 22-25

RSA Global Railway Tech 2002
Convention and Coordinated Mechanical Associations Technical Conference

Hilton Chicago & Towers Hotel, Chicago
Contact Howard Tonn, (630) 393-0106 or fax (630) 393-0108.


October 6-22

European railway technology and infrastructure study trip

Co-sponsored by AREMA. This study trip leads up to EurailSpeed 2002 in Madrid. Trip itinerary will include visits to the UK, Germany, Switzerland, France, and Spain. For information, visit www.arema.org or contact Desiree Knight at (301) 459-3200, ext. 703. sboyle@arema.org


October 15, 16

Ninth Annual Passenger Trains on Freight Railroads Conference

Washington Marriott Hotel
Washington, D.C.

Passenger train operations on freight railroads, including high-speed, offer excellent opportunities to develop new commuter and intercity rail services, but while they offer attractive sources of revenue to freight carriers, they also pose perplexing problems-compensation, liability, grade crossing safety, signaling and train control requirements, right-of-way capacity constraints, and maintaining freight service integrity. The conference will offer a thorough, candid airing of these topics, and an in-depth look at some of the important projects being undertaken in this area. This two-day event will feature recognized experts from both the passenger and freight sides of railroading.

Register On-Line at http://www.railwayage.com/conference/register.html


November 17-20

Surface Transportation and Sprawl:
A Free Four-day Seminar for Journalists in the Center of Washington, D.C.

Seminar is designed to help reporters and editors get beyond the clichés and enrich that work, even as Congress begins to debate the next big highway bill.

Topics will include “Building a highway with asphalt and influence,” “Are cities designed for humans any more?” Also, “transportation and the environment; the politics of transportation; the ups and downs of passenger rail; the social costs of a commuting life.”

The 15 expenses-paid fellowships are available to qualified journalists. Fellowships include airfare, hotel and most meals.

There is no application form. You can apply by mail, e-mail or fax. To apply, send a letter making your case for attending, a letter of support from your supervisor, a brief bio, and a clip (not a web site reference) or VHS or audio tape (if you’re an editor send a sample of work you’ve edited). Applications will not be returned. Applications must be received by 5 p.m., October 11. Send applications to National Press Foundation, Transportation 2002, 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 310, Washington, D.C. 20036. E-mail is npf@nationalpress.org. Fax is 202-530-2855. Call for information at 202-663-7280, ext. 106. Check out http://www.nationalpress.org for more information.

Underwritten by the Kiplinger Foundation, with support from the NPF Program Fund (Times Mirror Foundation, ABC Inc., and others).

The National Press Foundation is a non-profit educational foundation.


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The way we were...
California Zephyr memorabelia California Zephyr memorabelia

NCI: Leo King collection – D&RGW    

Our colleague, Wes Vernon, took a trip last month to the American West, and rode Amtrak’s California Zephyr. That reminded us of a photo that has lain in the collection for decades. The Denver & Rio Grande Western operated the original California Zephyr. At left, two CZs meet in Glenwood Canyon, Colo., and at right, a Zephyr strolls through the Royal Gorge along the Arkansas River, near Canon City, Colo.

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" .jpg images average 1.7MB each, and are 300 dots-per-inch for print publishers.

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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