Vol. 1 No. 24, September 25, 2000
Copyright © 2000, NCI, Inc.
James P. RePass, President
Leo King, Editor
Editor's note - In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we are planning a page where we will feature 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 Site Webmaster in Boston.
|Roth adds amendment to aid Amtrak
U.S. Sen. William Roth (R-Del), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, last week attached a $10 billion rail bond authorization to the Community Renewal and New Markets Act of 2000.
The High Speed Rail Investment Act, contained in Senate bill 1900 and House Resolution 3700, are sponsored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Reps. Amo Houghton (R-NY) and James Oberstar (D-MN). The bi-partisan effort "would help ensure a more balanced and efficient national transportation system and help spur economic development and jobs in urban centers and smaller cities across the country," said an Amtrak spokesman. By week's end, none had been acted upon.
"I want to commend Senator Roth for his vision and leadership in recognizing the development of high-speed rail corridors as an investment for our nation's future," said Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson, who is also Amtrak's board chairman. "With congestion increasing on our highways and airways, American travelers are demanding another option to get where they're going, and high-speed rail is the surest way to deliver it," he added.
Meanwhile, in response to an inquiry from the Associated Press, Presidential candidates Gov. George Bush and Vice President Al Gore both issued statements of strong support for Amtrak and passenger rail development, echoing their parties' platform positions adopted this summer at their national conventions.
The legislation is also cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 54 senators and more than 155 House members, and endorsed by a dozen regional newspapers and numerous organizations including the National Governors' Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, American Public Transit Association, the AFL-CIO, and the Sierra Club. Even the American Road and Transportation Builders Association supports the measure.
The legislation would enable Amtrak to sell $10 billion in high-speed rail bonds over the next 10 years. The funds would be used to build new high-speed tracks, upgrade existing routes and purchase new locomotives and passenger coaches. The federal government would provide tax credits to bondholders in lieu of interest payments, in an innovative financing mechanism favored by many investors, according to Amtrak. The bill also would require state matching grants and partnership agreements to ensure state and regional support for the most vital improvements.
Several months ago, Lautenberg created a web site to expound the virtues of the bill.
In a press release, Amtrak stated, "The modernization of rail infrastructure and creation of more high-speed rail corridors would relieve congestion on the nation's highways and airports, improve safety, create jobs and promote smart growth, especially in urban centers served by rail," and if the bill is enacted, the law "would also help Amtrak achieve its goal of becoming a commercially viable business free of federal operating support by fiscal year 2003. Already, Amtrak has cut federal operating assistance from $484 million in fiscal 1999 to $362 million in fiscal 2000. And with only a few weeks left in the current fiscal year, Amtrak is on course to set new records for ticket revenues and ridership for the fourth consecutive year."
Within two days of Roth's amendment to H.R.4923 (the Community Renewal Act), Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) introduced another amendment that would create a point of order stating that any effort to pass a "flexibility" provision in the next ten years would require a "supermajority" of 60 senators instead of 51. That flexibility means a provision that would let states spend their federal gasoline-tax dollars on intercity passenger rail.
National Association of Railroad Passengers executive director Ross Capon urged his organization's members to urge legislators from their state who are Finance Committee members to vote against the Baucus amendment.
"Since senators who lean towards a pro-Baucus vote likely would do so out of concern about the 'sanctity' of the Highway Trust Fund, it is important to tell them that - contrary to what some highway lobbyists have implied - the HSRIA always has steered clear of the Highway Trust Fund, to avoid precisely the kind of fight that Baucus has just started."
Capon explained, "The HSRIA does not let states use Highway Trust Fund money for the 20 percent contribution required under HSRIA. Indeed, Chairman Rothapots bill specifically prohibits the use of any federal funds for that 20 percent."
Capon termed the Baucus amendment as bad public policy, and said it was "an attempt to tie the hands of future Congresses. As such, it looks to us like bad policy."
On the same day Roth introduced his amendment, two Amtrak foes told the finance committee chairman they were not happy at all.
"We are strongly opposed to inclusion of yet another bailout for Amtrak" without further congressional hearings, wrote Republican Senators Phil Gramm of Texas and John McCain of Arizona.
Supporters of the legislation say high-speed trains will be necessary whether or not Amtrak survives as the nation's provider of long-distance passenger rail service.
Where the Senate version of the bill refers to "Amtrak," the House version uses the generic phrase, "qualified intercity passenger rail carrier."
Fifty-four senators and 155 representatives have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation.
Back home in Texas, some of Gramm's constituents were appalled at his action. Grassroots supporters of improved rail passenger service in East Texas were mounting a last-minute gambit to attempt to sway the senator from casting a vote in committee that could kill efforts to bring high-speed rail service to the state, reported the Longview News-Journal.
Natalie Rabicoff, longtime volunteer supporter of Amtrak and its Texas Eagle line through East Texas, said midweek there may have been miscommunication between Gramm's office and the state's effort to seek a federal designation of the Texas Eagle route from Texarkana to San Antonio. The line is proposed as one of a handful of routes to receive the "high-speed corridor" designation. Funding for upgrading track and crossings along the route would come from the proposed sale of $10 billion in bonds over ten years.
Rabicoff said she was busy getting other supporters of Amtrak and the Texas Eagle line to contact Gramm's office to encourage him to change his mind and support the bill allowing funding to be sought for the Texas Eagle High Speed Corridor and up to 10 other similar high-speed rail passenger corridors.
"We desperately need everyone concerned about the future of Amtrak to let him know how you feel," Rabicoff said. The Senate Finance Committee was originally scheduled to consider the proposal on Wednesday, but a Gramm aide said the matter was rescheduled for later.
"People who have worked diligently in the past to not only save Amtrak, but who continue to support it, need to help in this effort to make Amtrak self-sufficient," Rabicoff said.
The AP asked a simple question
Amtrak President George Warrington attributes a hefty increase in train ridership, in part, to "better service."
And what is the customer's verdict on that? Amtrak announced that during the first month of its widely ballyhooed "Satisfaction Guaranteed" program, 5,562 persons applied for the plan's promised new trip voucher.
That amounted to three tenths of one percent of the total rail customers for the month. However, it is said to be more than Amtrak expected.
To recap: If an Amtrak customer has a bad trip and an employee fails to make it right, that customer can apply for a free trip voucher. Amtrak officials have indicated that one purpose of this program is to weed out the "bad apples" among its employees. If that works, then the numbers of passengers claiming vouchers should steadily decline in the coming months.
As it happens, this writer has made extensive use of the Amtrak rail network in recent weeks. These included a long distance round trip from Washington to Syracuse, N.Y., several day trips, D.C. to Philadelphia, one day trip, D.C. to New York City, and a long distance round trip, Washington to Salt Lake City. No, I have not claimed any vouchers. For the most part, the trips went well. But some room for "tightening" was evident. Although perhaps one or two of what follows may go under the heading of "pet peeves," all are offered in the spirit of being constructive.
If any one train comes under the heading of schedule punctuality akin to setting one's watch by the train's arrival, it is the Metroliner. This Washington-New York extra fare service, soon to be replaced by the even faster, even additional "extra fare" Acela Express, commands priority status with Amtrak's operations people. With this train, supposedly, nothing short of an "act of God" merits as an excuse for anything going wrong.
Imagine the frustration, then, when on August 7, the noon Metroliner barely crawled out of Washington's Union Station before coming to a creaky halt. We were told motive power was the problem that forced us back to the station to seek a remedy to get us going forty minutes late. Some of the time was made up, but not much. Is it reasonable to ask why any train so prominently showcased would be supplied with motive power that had not first been checked and double-checked? Maybe the maintenance staff at Ivy City yards is spread too thin. I don't know. I just hope that, under the glare of the national media, this doesn't happen with the first Acela Express train out of Union Station. Once this stuff gets to Leno and Letterman, it's over, folks.
I own a cell phone. I use it frequently in public. But because I became irritated with other cell phone users who somehow could not or would not keep their cell conversations private, I've tried to keep my own conversations barely audible to the person on the other end of the line.
Not so with a woman in the Metroliner car I was riding. One of those "Oh reah-lly, dahling!" types, everyone in the car could hear her.
The on-board staff informed me that Amtrak has no policy vis-a-vis cell phones. Obviously not wanting to offend either the Metroliner's cell-phone-appendaged business clientele or the other passengers, Amtrak has chosen to do - nothing. Not even a polite and discreet sign requesting cell-phone users to be considerate of others.
Coming back from Syracuse, the Lake Shore Limited (No. 49) was more than two hours late, which means I missed the connection to the 4:00 p.m. Metroliner. No big deal in and of itself, but if an on-board person could have facilitated the reservation change, I could at least have connected with the 6:00 p.m. Metroliner which was sold out by the time I got to New York, forcing me onto an even later train.
The roundtrip to and from Salt Lake City spotlighted some longstanding minor problems:
These may seem to be relatively minor problems. And I'm happy to report that there was much that was positive.
Amtrak is improving. It can improve even more.
New York commuters
A fire in a tunnel under New York City's East River sent smoke billowing into Pennsylvania Station, stranding some 30,000 commuters during the height of evening rush hour on September 19.
A Manhattan fire department spokesman said, "The fire began at 5:40 p.m. in some railroad ties in the tunnel." He said firefighters were able to douse the fire about an hour later, but it wasn't quick enough to avoid disrupting the evening commute. The Long Island Rail Road suspended service into and out of the tunnel, and authorities barred people from entering the station until the smoke began to dissipate.
"It was very smoky, people were walking around with their ties over their faces," said one commuter who was stranded in the station for more than an hour.
Officials said full service was restored by 7:45 p.m., but the system was experiencing 30-minute delays into the evening.
Amtrak workers spent Tuesday night repairing the damage to one of their four East River tunnels, shared with LIRR trains. They replaced some ties before 6 a.m., when Long Island trains would reach the tunnel from Queens to Manhattan.
Rider Michael Ringbauer said he tried to catch the 5:59 Babylon train. He said he got to Penn Station around 5:50, "but the Great Neck train that departs from Track 19 had been switched to another track."
He noted that, "No mention was made of a fire...only that there were delays, and people should not descend to the platforms because of track changes. The platforms were actually the best place to be because the mezzanines were mobbed with people."
Ringbauer observed that, "Some trains were departing prior to 6:20 p.m. when the announcement was made that service was suspended due to a smoke condition. An Amtrak AEM-7 (926) running light proceeded eastbound down Track 19 just before the suspension announcement was made."
Ringbauer said he made his way up to the 8th Avenue mezzanine, "and through the mob of people within Penn Station. Wall-to-wall people. If anyone had fallen down, they would have been trampled. I went over to the 7th Avenue side to catch the '2/3' to Flatbush Avenue."
The train pulled in "after I reached the platform, and most of the crowd got off, apparently unaware of their impending situation. The No. 3 ran fine to Atlantic Avenue and was relatively uncrowded compared to its normal morning crush."
At Atlantic, he got on the Long Island Rail Road platform, and passed up one train figuring it was crowded, and went to another train on Track 3.
"Only half of the eight-car set had its doors open, and people were squeezing onto the last cars and walking forward. At least two of the remaining four could have been opened," in his view. "The others had a large gap to contend with."
The rest of the doors opened after he was aboard, he said.
"The crew was trying to do a brake test and started to hear a lot of 'Go to 4' [radio channel] chatter, and it didn't sound good. They finally kicked us off saying they had equipment problems and to get on the next arriving train on Track 4, which pulled in less than a minute later."
He got on, the crew did their air brake tests and they departed, "crawling along the tunnel to stops at Nostrand Avenue, speeding up after that, stopping at East New York and finally Jamaica. This was the Far Rockaway train so I'd have to change at Jamaica and hope for the best...."
Ringbauer eventually got to his destination, "but the end result was walking in the house at 9:00 p.m."
|Monorail goes up from Amtrak
station to Newark airport
"During the past decade," stated a press release from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, "passenger growth at Newark International Airport (EWR) has risen over 60 percent, to nearly 34 million air passengers." In response, the authority began an ambitious redevelopment program to provide more parking, easier access to and around the airport, better terminal facilities, and fewer delays."
Not only that, they are building a one-mile monorail route extension to the Amtrak and New Jersey Transit station stop on the Northeast Corridor, as well.
All six new monorail trains have been delivered, and the system vendor, Adtranz, started train testing and commissioning. Construction of the monorail station began in late 1998. The pedestrian concourse, which connects the monorail station with the NEC train platforms, was "launched" across the NEC tracks in late July 1999. Concrete decking was placed across the concourse, and structural steel was erected on both Amtrak-NJT platforms and at the monorail station.
At the end of April 1999, all foundations for the monorail guideway were placed along the alignment, and guideway columns were up by December 1999. Guideway girders were erected from Station E to the NEC Station. Meanwhile, structures for both electrical substations were completed and equipment was installed.
The extended system will begin carrying passengers in 2001. Passenger ticketing, check-in, baggage handling and other amenities will be added later.
Continental Airlines is also deep into the project, as is the FAA, which is building a new control tower and terminal improvements. Terminals are also being improved.
"The monorail extension, and many other terminal improvements, will be completed by the end of 2001, with the balance of work phased through 2003," the press release stated. The extension will continue operating a bi-directional, dual guideway.
Newark International is 72 years old, and was built by the City of Newark in 1928 on 68 acres in the northeast section of the current airport.
The redevelopment programs is costing taxpayers $780 million, the monorail and NEC extension will cost $769 million, and Continental is investing $800 million. When the projects are completed, about $3.8 billion will have been spent.
Monorail service began on May 31, 1996, and extension planning began one month later. The estimated completion date is the third quarter of 2001. The expanded guideway will feature fully automated, computer-controlled trains operating on a two-mile, dual-lane, bi-directional guideway providing transportation among three terminals, two parking lots and car rental facilities.
"The $415 million monorail-NEC connection program will provide a critical link, allowing convenient rail access to the airport for passengers throughout the region while reducing airport road frontage congestion," the press release stated.
The project contains four major components, including acquiring rights-of-way to accommodate the guideway extension and the new monorail-NEC station, and building the mile-long guideway between the on-airport monorail from Station E to a new station on the Northeast Corridor.
A joint monorail-NEC station complex is being built, and Amtrak is realigning tracks, catenary poles, and signals as required.
The new station will be one facility with three major elements - the Amtrak and NJ Transit platforms, a connecting concourse, and the monorail station.
Two railroad platforms will be 32 feet wide and 1,050 feet long. The eastbound platform will be built between an existing NEC track and a new electrified track on the east side. The westbound platform was built between an existing NEC track and a new electrified track on the west side. Both platforms will have air-conditioned waiting areas and restrooms facilities.
Several modifications to the Amtrak and NJT route are required.
Six electrified tracks will be installed, adding two tracks, to maintain current service levels while accommodating transferring passengers. Widening the route required relocation and reconfiguration of existing freight train tracks (CSX/NS/Conrail), replacing one of the existing freight tracks on the west side of the NEC with a new electrified track, and installing a new eastbound electrified track. The additional tracks will allow train stops at the new station without delaying other trains. Modifications and additions to the existing signal and catenary systems, utility relocation, and additional interlocking switches are also required.
Three million air passengers are expected to use the NEC intermodal connection in its first full year of operation.
About 1,300 construction jobs were expected to be generated, and is expected to stimulate the regional economy by generating an estimated $100 million in wages and $540 million in sales. Rail construction began in May 1997.
Relics from 1950s are still in service on Amtrak
Destination: Freedom editor
Amtrak Yardmaster Bill O'Brien instructed one of his yard crews to move a couple of engines from one part of Southampton Street Yard in Boston to an engine service and inspection track on Sept. 17, 2000, so conductor Ed Finn and engineer Doug Kydd hopped onto F-40PH 310, performing switcher duties on this late summer day.
They received permission from the operator at South Bay Tower to take the 310 from yard track 10 to track 11, where they would tie onto FL-9 486. It seems the former New York, New Haven & Hartford diesel locomotive No. 2013, now about 45 years old, arrived overnight from Albany-Rensselaer, N.Y., but its engine was unable to operate continuously - it kept shutting down, so the Boston mechanical forces were going to take a look at it.
It lost its ability to operate from catenary power years ago, and the unique two-axle front truck and three-axle trailing truck has been downgraded to work train service. It doesn't haul high-steppers any more.
Meanwhile, train No. 172 entered the yard after going through a scrubber on the loop track, and was just about cleared up when conductor Finn called the op again for permission to move the two engines from track 11 to No. 1 track, which leads to the Service and Inspection building.
Finn was the "eyes" for Kydd, and was in the 486's cab. Kydd poked the short train along at the prescribed 5 mph from the F40. Shortly after 4:30 p.m., both engines were tied down, and the two-person crew went on to do other chores at the YM's beckoning, like take No. 169 over to South Station about a half-hour before its scheduled departure at 6:15 p.m.
Three days later, the 486 left the shop with another F-40, and became one of a pair of engines stationed at New London as "protect engines" to chase any electric trains that might falter en route.
The latest problems with Amtrak's new 8,000 horsepower electric locomotives may have been resolved.
An observer of the railroad scene at South Station in Boston wrote on the World-Wide Web, "At mid-day on September 19, Amtrak Acela Regional train 130 arrived with HHP-8 No. 654 on the point." He then asked, "Does this mean that the problem with voltage switching that knocked out Metro North wires a couple of weeks ago has been found and fixed?"
"The rest of the consist was a normal eight coaches - six coaches, one business, and a caf» car, which had been renovated with 'Express-style,' curving stand-up tables and new interior decor."
Another writer on the New England Rail list, who is also a Metro-North locomotive engineer, suggested that "There was no problem at Metro-North or on Hell Gate Branch as there is no voltage switching there, [but] there is a phase gap on the Hell Gate line."
He wrote, "The only switching is from 12,000 volts, 60 Hertz to 11KV and 25 Hz, a difference the locomotive does not really see. The engineer probably powered through the gap, blowing the power."
Electrifying the Boston-New York section of the Northeast Corridor has brought other problems, perhaps unforeseen. CSX Transportation last week filed notice with the Surface Transportation Board they were suspending service to some communities south of Boston because the catenary was so close to high cars and over-dimension shipments.
As of September 19, CSX stated, "All traffic in rail cars in excess of 15-feet, 9-inches consigned or reconsigned to or intended for Canton Junction, Hebronville, Stoughton and West Stoughton" were embargoed because of "Height restriction created due to lower clearance of new catenary wire line installed by Amtrak between Readville and Attleboro," and was amended to add "Norwood, Readville and Westwood." There were no exceptions.
The first embargo notice was published February 22.
Thanks to Samuel Schwartz, Jaap van Dorp and email@example.com.
|Bay State governor: 'Don't settle'|
Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci last week forbade the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) from settling a federal lawsuit, which is intended to force the agency to accept pro-marijuana advertising on its trains and buses.
Some administration officials, at a staff meeting on September 18, suggested settling out of court with the Greenfield, Mass., based Change The Climate, Inc., a nonprofit group charged with ending the "war on marijuana."
Cellucci said on September 21, "I'm not going to settle any case. I want them to fight," and added, "Why should a government entity be forced to put up a message that may be harmful to children? That's ridiculous."
Change The Climate sued the MBTA in U.S. District Court last May after the agency refused to accept its $30,000 ad campaign. One ad depicted a mother saying, "Let's be honest... marijuana is not cocaine or heroin," reported the Boston Herald.
Sarah Wunsch of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Change The Climate in court, said the rules are different for government agencies than in the private sector when it comes to accepting advertising.
"The T can't pick and choose the kinds of views that go on display," she said, and noted, "They already have ads about drugs on (buses and trains). Along comes a group urging public debate about drug policy, and the T decides, 'Oh, no. You can't express those views.' The government can't be making those decisions."
Cellucci's press secretary, John Birtwell, said the governor thinks the ads are clearly an attempt to promote the use of marijuana, rather than just a move to promote public debate of drug policies.
The governor said he would take it to the U.S. Supreme Court if need be. "I'm not going to go along with this."
|Bombardier buys Adtranz for $721 million|
As D:F reported last week, Bombardier, Inc. of Montreal signed a sale and purchase agreement with DaimlerChrysler AG of Stuttgart, Germany to buy its subsidiary, DaimlerChrysler Rail Systems GmbH - Adtranz - based in Berlin.
The transaction is subject to the approval of regulatory authorities, but Bombardier explained to Destination: Freedom, "Bombardier will file necessary papers with the "European Commission, which covers Germany. There is no filing required in Canada."
The sale and purchase agreement "is for a cash consideration of $725 million in U.S. dollars, or $1.1 billion Canadian."
The proceeds from the "planned disposal of some of Adtranz's businesses, namely Fixed Installations and Signaling, currently in the process of being sold to other parties, would reduce the net purchase price for Bombardier," a spokesperson said.
"The combination of Bombardier Transportation and Adtranz will position the new entity among the industry leaders in all activities related to the production of rail vehicles in world markets," stated Bombardier President and CEO Robert E. Brown.
Bombardier manufactures things from jet airplanes to recreational products, and is into financial services as well.
Jürgen Schrempp, Daimler Chrysler's management board chairman, said, "Having progressively increased Adtranz's performance to a breakeven point, it is now an appropriate time to place Adtranz with a company which values rail activities as one of its core businesses. We feel Bombardier is the company best equipped to take Adtranz into the future."
Adtranz has 22,000 employees, including 3,600 at Fixed Installations and Signaling, and facilities in 19 countries on four continents.
The firm last year produced $3.4 billion in U.S. dollars ($5 billion Canadian) in revenues. Bombardier revenues for the fiscal year ended January 31, 2000 reached $2.3 billion U.S., or $3.4 billion Canadian.
|Boys electrocuted; survive|
Two Readville, Mass., youths have become the first "civilians" to be electrocuted after they apparently climbed a signal ladder and came in near contact with the 25,000-volt catenary in Readville after poking a bicycle handlebar toward it. Both managed to survive.
The youths had fished metal bicycle handlebars out of some trash, and then climbed 20 feet up a locked and protected Amtrak signal mast. One of the boys draped the new find over a live cable used to power Amtrak's Acela Regional trains, and the electricity arced.
The second boy, who had followed behind his friend, saw him start to shake and pulled him free. One fell from the tower, but police couldn't confirm which one or elaborate on additional injuries.
"They're just kids. They said they wanted to see what would happen," said MBTA police Sgt. Paul MacMillan, who was investigating the accident, according to the Boston Herald.
The boys' names were being withheld at their families' request. Both suffered serious burns, but managed walk 500 feet back along the railroad near Readville station. Both were taken by ambulance to Children's Hospital and later to Shriner's Hospital.
The power surge fed back to an Amtrak substation, which blew several circuit breakers and fuses, causing nearly $10,000 in damage. Some intercity and commuter trains were delayed for a time.
|Coach buy causes problems|
The speedy procurement of $16.4 million worth of ten passenger coaches by the Connecticut DOT has some state officials wondering if there was any wrongdoing.
The DOT's Bureau of Public Transportation (BPT) did not publish a request for proposals when seeking the coaches, and instead sent bid packages directly to manufacturers on August 21. The DOT gave barely more than a week for companies to examine hundreds of pages of specifications before submitting bids.
After just two of the dozen or so railcar makers worldwide responded, the contract went to the manufacturer whose eventual price was $2 million higher, the Connecticut Post reported last Sunday.
Rather than going with France-based Alstom Transportation, which offered to produce 10 cars for $14,462,336, the BPT chose Canada-based Bombardier Transportation, which bid $15,780,000 but later increased the price by $633,000.
Bombardier built many of the push-pull coaches already in service on branches of the New Haven Line in Connecticut, and in New York. Alstom has many cars in service in New Jersey.
The non-electrified cars, which will make two trainsets, are to be delivered to New Haven coach yard and in service by Sept. 9, 2002. The cars are similar to those already in service on Shoreline East, which also were made by Bombardier.
Four locomotives to pull them were also ordered from General Electric for about $17 million.
DOT officials said the fast-track procurement was necessary to avoid delays from impending federal regulations on railcar safety, and not outside the powers granted the department under state statutes. But Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said advice from his staff might have been disregarded, and a state auditor said a closer look is planned.
Harry P. Harris, BPT's chief, said the high-speed procurement was necessary to avoid a new set of federal standards for passenger car production applicable to purchase orders signed after Sept. 8.
Bombardier was chosen, he said, because low-bidder Alstom did not meet some specifications.
"There was a series of technical operational problems that Metro-North and others looked at and said was not compatible with our equipment," Harris said. Among them, he said, were couplers, the signal system and toilets.
Harris said the new federal regulations would require manufacturers to redraw plans and retool production lines.
"The contracts had to be signed by September 8 or there would be a whole new set of standards. That could delay it a year."
Passenger rail link opens to Dallas-Fort Worth Airport
Standing-room-only trains and overflowing commuter parking lots kicked off the expansion one week ago of commuter rail service between downtown Dallas and Tarrant County, according to the Dallas Morning News.
The Trinity Railway Express first pulled out of the CentrePort station last Monday near the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport at 5:46 a.m., launching train service that had been years in the making.
About 1,700 people had ridden the trains by 9:30 a.m., many of them traveling east toward Dallas. The Trinity Railway Express usually attracted about 2,400 riders in an entire day before the new segment opened.
The Express, owned jointly by Dallas Area Rapid Transit and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, started in December 1996 with a 10-mile segment between Union Station and south Irving.
The new line formally opened two days earlier. With the 17-mile extension, trains now travel between Union Station in Dallas and Richland Hills, just east of downtown Fort Worth, where it will terminate in a few years.
|TTC, FRA, AAR ink 10-year pact|
The Transportation Technology Center, Inc. of Pueblo, Colo., signed an agreement on September 15 with the USDOT's Federal Railroad Administration for a 10-year "care, custody, and control" contract for the technology center. Miles of test tracks test new railroad rolling stock, from engines to coaches to box cars.
Terms were not disclosed.
Association of American Railroads president Ed Hamberger and TTC president Roy Allen joined FRA administrator Jolene M. Molitoris.
"The FRA is very pleased to make an already strong working relationship even stronger through this contract," Molitoris said. The TTCI is a profit-making subsidiary of the AAR. The contract runs from 2002 to 2012.
AAR first took over care, custody, and control of the test center in 1982.
Since then, the railroad industry's train accident rate has declined by more than half; employee casualty rates have fallen more than 60 percent; and railroad productivity has more than tripled, the FRA said.
|German transport boss coming to U.S.|
Germany's transport minister will travel to Washington in October at the invitation of U.S. Transportation secretary Rodney Slater to discuss a high-speed maglev, CNN reported on September 1.
The U.S. government has earmarked $950 million for one maglev line, and the Baltimore-Washington area is one of seven regions vying for the money.
The Maryland Mass Transit Administration this month concluded a feasibility study with the German designs, which found the trains could cut the 40-mile commute from Baltimore to Washington in half to about 17 minutes and cost passengers $26 each way.
Thanks to Friends of Amtrak
|Maybe not, at Maricopa|
The Maricopa, Ariz. Amtrak rail station has been put on hold until further notice and construction has been halted for now. The halt in construction is due to the Union Pacific Railroad considering installing a second main track between Yuma and Tucson.
Thanks to Dave Bowe
|Mayors support Amtrak, fast tracks|
The National Conference of Mayors, meeting last week in Boise, Idaho, urged support for Amtrak and high-speed rail. They want to make sure that their "voices will be heard in this year's Presidential election," reports KTVB-TV.
Boise Mayor Brent Coles said, "The mayors of America are joining with Amtrak, Union Pacific Railroad, and other railroad providers across this nation to bring back the rails... . We want the candidates talking about a rail system for America on into the future. We want to know what the two candidates think, we want them to have this a part of their administration. We're taking that message to Washington."
|Amtrak names new ad agency|
Amtrak had named the Chisholm-Mingo Group, Inc. of New York City as its new multicultural marketing communications agency. The carrier said it is expanding its marketing efforts to minority communities nationwide.
Chisholm-Mingo has a strong background in minority advertising and promotion, an Amtrak press release stated, and its goal "is to develop targeted messages that speak to the diverse marketplace using media outlets that will more effectively reach those audiences."
The national passenger railroad "selected Chisholm-Mingo based on its solid understanding of our business and the positive results of campaigns developed for other clients," said Amtrak executive vice president Barbara J. Richardson.
Terms were not disclosed.
The ad agency was formed in 1977 in New York, and turns $100 million annually in billing. It has 70 employees.
A national system for passenger rail?
Editor's note - Ray Dunbar is a list member of Allfirstname.lastname@example.org, and wrote this piece for them. We have Mr. Dunbar's permission to republish it here.
The last few days have been very important ones in the passenger rail community. The article in Trains by Andy Selden, the death of NARP's Jack Martin, and even our little excitement over the URPA post of Scott Leonard of NARP have left this old passenger rail advocate a little dazed.
Just where are we going as advocates? Have we all decided to run our own railroad? Do we care or not care to be united? If one group wants to bust up Amtrak, are they all wrong? If one group says not to, are they all wrong? Do we have a middle ground, or have personalities and egos just gotten to be the most important thing for passenger rail advocates?
I do not know the answer.
Why can't passenger rail advocates get along better?
I wonder, is it because we have to many agendas of our own? Count me as an "agenda person" when it comes to the Texas Eagle. The bitterness still remains in Texas after the prior Amtrak CEO [Thomas N. Downs] tried his best to kill the train.
Perhaps that is why I can certainly show some understanding toward Phoenix advocates like Bill Lindley. What I have more trouble with is the personality thing. Are advocates so divided now that they would fight any new train?
I'm just asking.
Will there ever be a solid group of passenger rail advocates 100 percent in their efforts for passenger rail improvement and expansion, or will we always be divided, "My way or no way." Fire away.
I do not have the answers to these questions.
What about you?
I'm sure many of our highway and non-rail advocates are clapping their hands with joy at this division of our few rail advocates.
There's a name that still rings true, especially in the Pacific Northwest these days, but on July 6, 1954, the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad was trying out something new, a train that might get them from Boston to New York City a lot faster than they already were. On this test day along the Shore Line, the highest speed attained was 102.8 mph on tangent track, and 90 mph on curves. The specifics came from an MGM newsreel of the period.
This Tren Articulato Ligero Goicoechea Oriel - light articulated train - was designed by a fellow named Goicoechea, financed by the Oriel family, and was built in the U.S. by American Car & Foundry. On this hot summer day, it pauses for a moment on track 2 in Providence, R.I. Union Station. Later, the New Haven would buy a copy and call it Roger Williams, named after the first settler and founder of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in 1632, which remains the state's complete name even to this day.
An end note...
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