In this edition...
APTA Watching Rita
APTA is carefully monitoring Hurricane Rita. As we went to press, the forecast said Rita would have only a minimal effect on Dallas.
Every event at the Annual Meeting & EXPO 2005 was scheduled to proceed as planned.
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Fatal crash of Chicago commuter train
September 20 --- Last weekends deadly crash of a Metra commuter train which was traveling 70 mph in a 10 mph zone is being investigated by Metra and the National Transportation Safety Board.
The double-decked commuter train carrying 185 passengers and four crew members was headed to Chicago from Joliet when its locomotive and five rail cars jumped the tracks about five miles south of downtown.
Two passengers were killed and sixty-five injured.
The engineer stated he had seen no signal indicating he should switch tracks.
Traveling the same route on a test train, investigators are trying to see exactly what the engineer behind the controls saw on that day, said Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet.
The investigators have said the signals appeared to be working properly at the time of the crash and a control tower relayed the appropriate radio signal to the engineer, which should have given him enough time to slow the train before the switch, NTSB acting chairman Mark Rosenker said.
In a related story, it is reported that the Metra Rock Island line involved in Saturdays deadly crash doesnt have a costly safety mechanism designed to automatically stop a train before it disobeys a switching signal.
NTSB officials have not concluded that human error caused the derailment. Investigators will take a deeper look at the evidence, such as data from three electronic recording devices and equipment inspections, NTSB spokeswoman Lauren Peduzzi said. The full investigation is expected to take up to two years.
The engineer and three other crew members are on paid leave awaiting results of toxicology tests. Much of the engineers six-month training had been done along that same route. Also, he had worked for five years as a CSX Corp. freight train engineer.
September 20 --- Milwaukee residents may soon have a renovated Amtrak train station which will also accommodate Greyhound buses and possibly Chicagos Metra commuter trains. Ridership on Amtraks Hiawatha Line has increased, specifically between Milwaukee and Chicago, which gives impetus to the station improvements and enhancements to the area.
The $15 million facelift is part of a greater Milwaukee Renaissance to make the downtown a more inviting place.
We want to encourage people to take mass transit, not punish them, said Andrea Rowe Richards, spokeswoman for the Department of City Development.
Photo by Greg LongThis is the current Amtrak depot at 433 W. St. Paul Ave. The depot, which is frequently used by students going to and from home, has fallen into disrepair.
The current depot, built in 1964 and now in disrepair, has become an embarrassment to some city officials. Years of grime and little maintenance have taken their toll on the concrete façade and the large, uninviting ticket/waiting area.
Keeley Kerrins, a sophomore in the College of Communication, thinks the money could be better spent on dealing with social problems Milwaukee faces or finishing the Marquette Interchange.
Patrick Wallace, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration, thinks Amtrak service is great but does not like the Milwaukee station and is happy with renovation plans.
Illustration courtesy of Eppstein Uhen ArchitectsThis artists rendering shows what Eppstein Uhen Architects envisions for the depots $15 million renovation.
Architectural improvements to the station will include a 7,500 square foot addition to house restaurants and small businesses and a glass atrium to accommodate a larger, more appealing passenger lobby. The station renovations and also streetscape improvements in the surrounding area will provide a dramatic improvement that our citizens can be proud of, said Alderman Robert Bauman, who represents the citys 4th District that includes Marquette.
More Progress for Trans-Hudson Tunnel
September 22 --- A preferred alternative for additional NJ Transit tunnels to Manhattan has been approved by both the NJ Transit board and the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority. The step is part of finalizing the projects environmental impact statement.
Suburban growth in the region, including growth in suburban commuting to Manhattan, is heavily focused in New Jersey. NJ Transit track and train capacity under the Hudson is approaching its limit, while the Lincoln Tunnel exclusive bus lane is completely full.
The plan, backed by the New Jersey agencies, would build a new two-track tunnel from Secaucus to Manhattan, develop a new station under 34th Street and a track loop in Secaucus to allow trains on tracks coming from Bergen County to enter the tunnel and reach Manhattan directly. Its main benefit is that it could double NJ Transit train capacity to Manhattan. That in turn could lead to new services in northern NJ presently constrained by the Hudson tunnel crunch. In June, for instance, NJ Transit approved a project to implement diesel-powered commuter rail service on the Northern Branch, a little-used freight line in Bergen County, which would eventually link to the new tunnel. Although directly across the river from NYC, Bergen County has been poorly integrated into the regional rail system.
Transit hopes to wrap up the EIS and move into project design by mid-2006, with construction perhaps starting late in the decade. Major funding decisions still await, but the project enjoys broad backing in New Jersey and support by NYC business leaders.
September 22 --- Plans to close Seattles 1.3 mile downtown bus tunnel for two years to make room for light rail threaten to wreak havoc in the citys ground transportation system. Twenty-one bus routes will be shifted from the tunnel to downtown streets, doubling the number of buses on some streets. Dozens of other routes will change, too, affecting more than 100,000 bus riders.
Dixie Sciacqua, special events coordinator for Pierce Transit, warns citizens to plan on a 10 to 15-minute delay in reaching jobs and other destinations in downtown Seattle.
During the project, crews will lower the roadbed in the stations to enable passengers to walk or wheel themselves directly from the platform onto rail cars and low-floor buses.
If all goes as planned, buses will return to the tunnel in 2007 and share it with trains when light rail launches in 2009.
Sound Transit is paying for the $26 million bus tunnel project as part of its $2.6 billion effort to run a 16-mile light-rail line from downtown Seattle to Sea-Tac Airport.
In June, 2002, despite insistence by backers that light rail will make the tunnel more efficient, the King County Council approved the project by a 7 to 6 vote.
Efficiency is the key advantage. The light-rail system can be more than doubled by running four-car trains instead of two-car trains and increasing train frequencies from six minutes, the initial peak-period frequency, to as little as every two or three minutes, said Geoff Patrick, a spokesman for Sound Transit.
This will be the first time in the United States that buses and trains will share a tunnel that includes passenger stations.
On Saturday, September 24. Seattles bus tunnel closes for up to two years.
Even if a bus doesnt use the tunnel, daily commute times ould see changes, including what streets buses travels on in downtown Seattle, how it enters or leaves downtown or where it stops downtown.
Bus riders can find more information by using the Guide to Downtown Seattle Bus Service on the Web at transit.metrokc.gov. Additional information is available at www.seattletunnel.org.
Transit riders in Pierce and King counties can visit the regional online trip planner at http://tripplanner.metrokc.go and enter a travel date of Sept. 24 or later to receive new routing and stop information for specific routes.
Also, King County Metro and Sound Transit employees will visit downtown Seattle bus stops to offer assistance, the agency said.
MBTA Planning $669 Million Commuter
Rail Extension in Massachusetts
September 16 --- The MBTA is in the planning stage and seeking a design-build firm for the proposed $669 million New Bedford & Fall River commuter rail extension project.
The Greenbush Project will restore commuter rail service on the 18-mile long Greenbush rail line through the towns of Braintree, Weymouth, Hingham, Cohasset, and Scituate, Massachusetts. The Greenbush Line will provide needed additional transportation capacity and an attractive new commuting option between Boston and the South Shore.
More positive effects:
The Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) on the project thoroughly addresses these issues and was approved by the Secretary of Environmental Affairs in August 2001. The MBTA says it is aware that a project as large as Greenbush comes with impacts, but it states we are committed to working with communities and residents along the corridor to avoid, minimize, or mitigate these impacts to the greatest extent possible.
The environmental review determined that diesel commuter rail on the Greenbush Line was the most effective and most cost-effective solution to the transportation problem on the South Shore, the MBTA said. For example, the so-called Super-boat alternative (a combination of improved boats with buses and other improvements) was found to cost 50% more to build and 400% more to operate than commuter rail, the MBTA said.
The Quincy and Hingham boats were included in the analysis of existing services to the Greenbush corridor included in the FEIR. The FEIR also analyzed the potential of feeder bus services to the existing boat terminals and determined that they would be ineffective as most boat riders would continue to drive to the boat rather than drive to take a bus to get to the boat.
Each of these areas flourished and grew during the century that the Greenbush Line operated before passenger service ended in 1959, said the MBTA. The MBTA has conducted an exhaustive review of the nature of these resources and the potential impacts to them from the project, the agency claims. Substantial mitigation will be provided in the form of underpasses, plantings and other aesthetic treatments, and funding of historic preservation projects, they said.
Impacts on water supply sources:
The MBTA has evaluated the potential for impacts from the project on the various water sources near the line and determined that there will be no adverse impacts, they said. Railroads run along and near water supply reservoirs and wells in numerous locations throughout Massachusetts without problems.
Air quality impacts:
The MBTA said in its report that the proposed diesel commuter rail service will improve regional air quality by diverting automobile commuters to trains and thus significantly reducing the number of automobile miles traveled.
The project will result in substantial net reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons. While the project will result in net increases of certain other emissions (particulates and nitrogen oxides) these increases are comparable to or smaller than the net increases for the boat alternatives and are not significant on either a local or regional scale, they said.
Sprawl and downtown revitalization:
The MBTA says it has documented that commuter rail projects do not encourage sprawl, rather they discourage sprawl by reinforcing the economic vitality of downtown Boston, the employment hub of the region. Commuter rail further encourages transit-oriented development patterns by decreasing automobile dependency, they said The South Shore/Old Colony region of Massachusetts was growing rapidly long before the commuter rail lines started operation - commuter rail is a response to this development, not the cause of it, the MBTA claims.
Report of PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility):
In March, 2005, PEER issued a report that sharply criticized the expansion, saying that this is an unfunded project that MBTA cannot afford to build given their $2.7 billion backlog of deferred maintenance, repair and replacement projects. PEER also expressed concern about the environmental impacts of building the line through the Hockomock Swamp, an important freshwater wetland.
(Editors note: D:F notes that MBTAs high debt burden is a result of the highway-skewed American transportation policies of the last 80 years, which forces transit agencies to borrow when highway projects are simply given Federal grants.)
Hundreds of MBTA buses to get
bike racks in pilot program
An announcement Friday by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority offers a plan to equip more than 250 buses operating inside and north of Boston with bicycle racks. At present none of the fleet is so equipped and cyclists traveling the subway system are limited to specific non-peak hours.
The buses to be equipped will operate out of the Ts Charlestown garage, the MBTAs largest. No plans were announced to add racks to the Ts bus fleet at other garage facilities at this time.
The announcement comes after months of planning and funding coordination with the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and bike advocates.
Welcome, bike owners, to the MBTA, said MBTA General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas. By giving people yet another reason to choose public transportation, we continue our efforts to attract more customers by making the system easier to use and a lot more convenient. This is what quality customer service is all about.
The newly equipped buses will be serving dozens of routes in Cambridge, Somerville, Chelsea, Everett, Medford, Malden, Revere, Charlestown, Burlington, Lexington, Bedford, Belmont, Arlington, Waltham, Watertown, Allston, Brighton, Woburn, and Winchester.
We are extremely pleased that General Manager Grabauskas and the MBTA have taken this important step toward making transit accessible for all users, said MassBike Executive Director Dorie Clark. Bicycle access on buses has long been a priority for MassBike and the tens of thousands of bicyclists in Greater Boston, and we look forward to working with the T to build on this success.
The MBTA plans to purchase close to 300 bike racks (some as spares) at an estimated cost of $255,000. Federal grant monies distributed by the Boston MPO are funding the program. Installation is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2006. MBTA staff will closely monitor the bike rack program, and then make recommendations on whether to expand the program to other bus garages and routes.
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
ratifies contract with Canadian Pacific Railway
Agreements now in place with all unions in Canada
Calgary - Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX/NYSE: CP) announced a five-year collective agreement has been ratified by employees who maintain their railway signal systems. The agreement with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) extends through to Dec. 31, 2009.
The agreement with the IBEW provides for wage and benefit improvements as well as work rule flexibility that will generate increased productivity. CPR employs approximately 450 signal maintainers.
CPR now has collective agreements in place with all of its unionized employees in Canada. CPR has achieved a stable, progressive labor environment that enables all stakeholders to benefit from growing demand for rail service, Rob Ritchie, CPR President and CEO, said.
Canadian Pacific Railway is a transcontinental carrier operating in Canada and the U.S. Its 14,000-mile rail network serves the principal centers of Canada, from Montreal to Vancouver, and the U.S. Northeast and Midwest regions. CPR feeds directly into Americas heartland from the East and West coasts. Alliances with other carriers extend its market reach throughout the U.S. and into Mexico. Canadian Pacific Logistics Solutions provides logistics and supply chain expertise worldwide.
For more information, visit CPRs website at http://www.cpr.ca.
Hail to the rail!
September 21 ---All aboard!
A conductor might have hollered while hanging from a railroad car on the old Boston & Maine railroad line that ran through Marlborough and Hudson.
On Saturday, cyclists, walkers, joggers, parents with strollers, skateboarders and in-line skaters are invited aboard for the grand opening of the new Assabet River Rail Trail.
The celebration culminates 13 years of work by volunteers and the transformation of 5.8 miles of former railroad beds into pedestrian paths through Marlborough and Hudson. Eventually, the 12-foot wide trail will wind through Stow and Maynard, ending at the South Acton MBTA commuter rail stop.
Despite a last-minute attempt by Marlborough city councilors to postpone the opening, Mayor Dennis Hunt yesterday gave the green light.
This trail has been in the works for years, he said.
Councilors were concerned about the line of sight at the trails intersection with Ash and Fitchburg Streets, which will eventually be resolved with the removal of trees from that area.
I dont want there be any confusion, said Michelle Ciccolo, who coordinated much of the project as Hudsons assistant administrator. The event was never in jeopardy of being canceled...Theres tremendous excitement about this trail.
The celebration includes a parade, multiple musical performances, a ribbon cutting by state and local officials, an art exhibit, a discussion of the rails to trails movement and more.
Small portions of the trail in Marlborough have been used for years and the entire trail has attracted thousands of walkers and cyclists this summer.
Not every piece is in place yet, however. There is the work yet to be done at the Ash and Fitchburg streets intersections in Marlborough, which involves the taking of private land to remove the trees.
And in Hudson, a refurbished wrought iron railroad trestle over Main Street was not completed as of yesterday. Also, rail trail planners intend on putting a pedestrian light or a traffic light where the trail crosses busy Washington Street at Brooks Pharmacy. The signal will be added when MassHighway widens all of Washington Street, an upcoming construction project.
(Editors note: While NCI applauds the development of safe walking and bicycle paths, it is our position that the right-of-way for future rail use must be preserved. If an abandoned rail corridor is too narrow for both rail and trail, it should be widened to accommodate future restoration of rail service.)
|Burlington Northern & Santa Fe||(BNI)||57.88||55.72|
|Florida East Coast||(FLA)||43.22||41.67|
|Genessee & Wyoming||(GWR)||30.37||31.00|
|Kansas City Southern||(KSU)||22.36||23.06|
|Providence & Worcester||(PWX)||14.40||13.77|
MBTA pension hedge fund takes a loss
A portion of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authoritys (MBTA) pension fund is reported to have taken a dip according to a press report by the Boston Herald.
The MBTAs Retirement Fund was apparently among the investors in a Stamford, Connecticut-based Bayou Hedge Fund, which is currently under federal investigation after the disappearance of hundreds of millions of dollars of investors money.
A hedge fund is a private, unregulated investment fund for investors with minimum investments typically beginning at US $1 million, and specializing in high risk, short term speculation on bonds, currencies, stock options and derivatives. When operating correctly, these types of funds are often used to balance out shortfalls in other forms of investment.
Unfortunately, within our hedge fund program we had exposure to the Bayou Fund as part of a larger investment, said Karl E. White, the MBTA plans executive director. As a result, we were a victim of alleged fraud committed by the Bayou group management.
The fund scandal erupted in August of 2005 when one of the firms principals, Daniel Marino, allegedly confessed to swindling investors for several years in a draft suicide note. As a result, other managers of the fund are now under investigation as well.
White added, In aggregate, our hedge fund performance remains extremely positive. He also noted that the loss was less than 1/10 of 1 percent of fund assets, or under $2 million.
The MBTA Retirement Funds assets were estimated at $1.7 billion four years ago and did not give an updated figure for the present story.
September 22 --- The Bank of New York, a global leader in securities servicing, has been appointed by CSX Corporation to provide stock transfer services.
Gary Nazare, managing director and Head of The Bank of New Yorks Stock Transfer Division, said, The Bank of New York provides reliable and responsive shareholder services to many of the worlds leading companies. This appointment, which builds on our long-standing relationship with CSX, will enable their shareholders to benefit from our focus on delivering a high quality service experience through the smart use of technology and professional expertise.
CSX Corporation, through its subsidiaries, operates the largest railroad network in the eastern United States and provides intermodal transportation services across the U.S. and into key markets in Canada and Mexico.
The Bank of New York (NYSE: BK) is among the worlds leading transfer agents, providing shareholder services to more than 1,900 U.S. and non-U.S. corporations worldwide. The Bank provides record keeping, dividend paying and reinvestment, proxy tabulation, employee investment plan, and corporate reorganization services for corporate issuers of equity securities.
Additional information is available at www.bankofny.com.
Rebuilding New Orleans and
the Transportation Budget
This week and in the days to come, as the nation attempts to understand what went wrong and right with the response to the Katrina catastrophe, one element of that debate will be the question, How do we pay for this?
And one answer already surfacing is, Lets revisit the transportation bill.
And one place where that visitation ought to set down is the massive highway spending that continues the nations over-dependency on asphalt and petroleum.
One of the angriest charges hurled at the Federal, state, and city response to Katrina was that there was no provision made for those who could not drive their way out of harms way, some 150,000 people either too old, too young, too infirm or too poor to use an automobile.
And indeed, a plan to use city school buses was thwarted when, for reasons that are yet to be understood, scores of those buses were allowed to flood out in a low-lying are of New Orleans instead of being delivered to the Superdome where they were needed.
But the chief reason for the abandonment of so many to the hands of nature was that New Orleans, one of Americas largest cities and certainly one of the worlds most important ones, has next to no intercity passenger rail access.
Amtrak has been so harmed by Federal indifference and, in recent years, outright hostility, that it has been cut back to a skeleton of its original route system, even as hundreds of billions of dollars have been poured into highways and the money-losing, heavily subsidized airline system. As a direct consequence, cities like New Orleans have only a handful of intercity trains, and people without cars or airline fare are allowed to just go whistle and in this case, drown.
In New Orleans case, the long-distance Crescent runs only once a day from New Orleans to Atlanta to DC to New York, and not even daily from Florida through New Orleans to Los Angeles. How many lives might have been saved if New Orleans were the hub of serous intercity rail system? The region has been studying such a system for more than a decade. Wheres the plan? Whats the budget? Whos the operator going to be? Even these most basic questions cant legitimately be raised yet, because the issue of ground transportation is so far from the main agenda.
And so, people die. And yes, this time, that was a direct consequence of Federal (and state) ineptitude.
True, there are some people who just wont ever heed a warning, and you cant help them. But many people would like to at least have had some kind of hope of getting out before the storm, but doubted --- correctly, as it turned out --- the governments ability to coordinate and execute an evacuation for any New Orleanians but the possessors of automobiles. The one train that Amtrak, God bless them, offered to the city before the blow struck 600 or so could have used it was inexplicably turned down by them, and trundled off to Lafayette (on the way to Houston) with but a handful of people.
So, lets look at the transportation bill to find a way to pay for the post-Katrina (and now post-Rita) rebuilding effort. But dont even think about cutting Amtraks tiny allotment. That appropriation needs to go in the other direction --- big time, this year and every year --- until we have a ground transportation system that actually works.
September 20 --- Treehugger reminds us that this Thursday, September 22, (was) World Carfree Day. Weve been inundated with troubling transportation talk these past few weeks airline bankruptcies, skyrocketing fuel costs, Amtrak fare hikes. It is dizzying and worrisome for travelers, commuters, businesses and consumers.
But I somehow got lucky. I probably made one of the best decisions of my adult life (thus far) when I chose to sell my car a few months ago. I did it for a number of reasons I was already walking to work daily, so the car/insurance payments were just not worth it (I simply kept it for convenience); plus, Im planning some long-term travel overseas in the future, so selling it for the extra cash was a no-brainer; and of course, one less car polluting our planet is something I knew I should do if I could. So I did.
A few months into it and I couldnt be happier. Yesterday, a trip to my doctors office took an hour longer than it would have if Id driven. But two buses, some energetic walking and a free university shuttle got me there and back for $3.20. And in that extra hour I got more money in my pocket, a quick morning workout, time to snap some photos and say hello to a lot more folks. If you live in an urban area and can at all consider selling up for the sake of our world and your wallet I urge you to think about becoming carfree.
A Britisher who responded is amused at North Americans complaints about high gas prices. . to UK eyes youre getting a bargain. Its the equivalent of $7 a gallon here!
(Editors note: Although an environmental activist, I do not consider myself a treehugger; I own a car and I drive a lot. The above entry might make us all think about how much money we could save, exercise we could incorporate into daily life, and pollution we would not be spewing into the atmosphere if we use transit more and cars less - Molly McKay).
For NCI: Mike BrotzmanThe Susquehanna River bridge at Perryville gets much-needed repairs.
Second National Transportation Security Summit
At APTA national conference in Dallas
September 29, 2005 (unless delayed by Hurricane Rita)
A note from: Rod Diridon
To all National Rail Systems Managers and Designers:
How do you get rail transportation systems back in business after a terrorist attack or a natural disaster?
Recent events drive home the need for the type of planning and training that are the subjects of the Second National Transportation Security Summit in Dallas next Thursday, September 29, 2005. An outstanding line-up of speakers and panelists are in place to address how to achieve business continuity in the wake of cataclysmic disruption of rail transportation systems.
You are each invited. This might be especially attractive to any of you who might be attending or have liaisons who will attend the APTA Conference which precedes the Summit. The program depicts a no-nonsense hard-hitting presentation of all aspects of the surface transportation security and response
There is no cost for attending this federally funded program. Please forward this invitation and program to any of your associates who may be appropriate to attend this unique session. Contact Jim Swofford (CC or 408-924-7569) for more information or assistance. MTI is looking forward to working with you. - Rod.
2ND National Transportation Security Summit
Rail Security: A Symposium on Terrorism and Business Continuity
Dallas Convention Center - Dallas, Texas USA
8:30 am 4:00 pm
American Association of Railroads (AAR)
This Summit is Presented By: THE MINETA TRANSPORTATION INSTITUTE
Created by Congress in 1991
SJSU Research Center
SEPTEMBER 22-25 - Dallas, Texas - International Bus Roadeo
SEPTEMBER 25-28 - Dallas, Texas - Annual Meeting & Expo
SEPTEMBER 28-30 - Dallas, Texas - Bus Technical, Maintenance & Procurement Workshop
SEPTEMBER 29 - Dallas, Texas - FTA / APTA New Starts Workshop
Copyright © 2003 American Public Transportation Association 1666 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20006
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