Vol. 5 No. 40
October 11, 2004

Copyright © 2004
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Destination:Freedom
The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - Jim RePass      Editor - Leo King
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

A weekly North American rail and transit update

For railroad professionals
Political leaders at all levels of government
Journalists from all media

* Now in our Fifth Year *

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IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition...


MetroLink Trainset

For NCI: Chris Fussell

Amtrak won’t be rebidding on the Metrorail contract. Officials say it was ‘disqualified.’ A Metrolink trains pauses at the Amtrak and Metrolink depot in Irvine, Calif. on March 9 as Amtrak passes on the other track.

 

Amtrak ‘disqualified’ from Metrolink contract

Amtrak won’t be among the bidders for the Metrolink contract in California – it was “disqualified.” Metrolink is the simplified name for Southern California Commuter Rail Authority (SCCRA).

In a September 28 letter from Amtrak to its Metrolink employees, two managers explained why Amtrak was disqualified from bidding on the Metrolink operating contract.

In a jointly signed letter, Richard H. Phelps, General Superintendent, and Tommy McDonald, Superintendent, Commuter Services, stated, “Amtrak, Transit America LLC and Connex Railroad LLC were the three contractors eligible” to bid on the upcoming Metrolink Operations contract.

The new contract would begin next July 1.

At the final stage of the “best and final offer” portion, “Amtrak took exception to broadly defined liability provisions contained in the proposed contract.”

The pair explained, “Given the economics of the Metrolink contract ($16 to $18 million per year that included a modest profit) signing up for such provisions would place unlimited risk to Amtrak’s real assets ($8 billion) and real insurance program ($452 million).”

The authors stated Amtrak received the highest score in corporate pre-qualification, and noted, “Amtrak is the original and only operator of Metrolink operations, and has been successfully running Metrolink trains for almost 12 years.”

They explained, “It is reasonable to assume that a major Metrolink commuter rail incident could result in a $50 million claim. If SCRRA was successful in arguing that the incident was caused by Amtrak’s ‘willful misconduct’ as that term is loosely defined in the proposed contract, Amtrak would have to pay the first $20 million out of cash reserved”

They said it would “place at risk the insurance program that covers all its intercity operations and other commuter contracts.”

For example, if an insurer had to pay out $30 million above Amtrak’s $20 million cash reserve payment, “out” insurance premiums would likely increase, or, possibly, Amtrak’s insurance coverage would be cancelled.

“As a corporation with $8 billion in assets and a $452 million insurance program covering all of Amtrak’s operations, it would be irresponsible to place those assets at risk, as they support out core business, as well as other commuter contracts,” Phelps and McDonald wrote.

By taking their stand on what they viewed as “loosely written liability language,” the SCRRA staff found Amtrak to be “non-compliant,” and at its September 24 meeting, the SCRRA directors “voted to concur with staff that the National Railroad Passenger Corp. ‘be disqualified’ from the request for proposal process.”

Both managers said “Amtrak did not lose the contract; we were disqualified because we could not put the entire company at risk over an ill-defined contract.”

Metrolink’s directors were expected to name the new operator on Friday October 8.

Nearly two years ago Amtrak declined to rebid on its Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority contract citing onerous requirements.


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P-32 in the new Oakland service pit

Amtrak

P-32BWH locomotive 507 occupies the service pit at the new Oakland, Calif. maintenance facility on September 9. The service and inspection tracks can house up to four trainsets at any given time.

 

Amtrak’s new Oakland S&I facility opens November 1

The much anticipated 22-acre, $71 million Oakland, Calif., Kirkham Street Locomotive and Car Repair Shop opens its doors for business on November 1 following an October 12 ribbon-cutting ceremony.

A joint project with the state of California (Caltrans), the service and inspection (S&I) facility is located adjacent to the Union Pacific mainline, and was modeled after the Los Angeles locomotive and car repair shops.

An article in the October edition of Amtrak Ink, an employed-oriented company newspaper, stated before opening the new facility, Amtrak paid UP a fee plus the cost of fuel to service locomotives at the old West Oakland facility.

“Units will return to service much faster than before because they will be serviced in-house,” said Stephen Greene, superintendent of Mechanical.

“They will not need to be sent to Los Angeles for preventive maintenance.”

Amtrak will also service and repair the Coast Starlight and California Zephyr equipment, which serve Oakland as part of their route, at the new facility.

Train departs the shop at Oakland

Amtrak

A test train runs through the Kirkham Street Locomotive and Car Repair Shop on September 15.

 

“We’re proud of all of the hard work that went into the construction of the facility, which was completed on schedule and within budget,” said Chief Mechanical Officer Vince Nesci.

He added, “The facility will be utilized to increase the fleet reliability of our locomotives and keep the West Coast fleet in a state of good repair.”

The Oakland shops have 13 tracks. Five tracks serve the maintenance building, and two S&I tracks can accommodate four complete train sets at any given time. Four staging tracks – used to build consists – can hold eight trains undergoing service and inspection simultaneously. An additional track is used for storage, and a wye track is used to turn trains.

The wye is useful for the California Zephyr, as it needs to be cut and wyed before returning to service each day.

The new facility has the capacity for all preventive maintenance and mechanical repair work, including drop table and wheel machine work, on the entire fleet of locomotives and cars.

Taking advantage of modern technology to adhere to strict environmental requirements, the new facility features a wastewater treatment system that uses a “dissolved air flotation” (DAF) system, which, Amtrak says, is the most efficient type of treatment for oily waste water generated during train washing, fueling and locomotive maintenance activities. Oil and grease, metal particulates and other solids are removed from the wastewater before it is discharged to the sewer system.

The carwash system, though similar to other train wash systems in Amtrak maintenance yards across the country, also cleans the top of the cars as they go through the washer. A new product called “SparkleSeal Plus,” acts as a rinse aid, to decrease spotting on the train windows.

Material control efficiency is greatly improved by the modern stockroom that contains a storage system that maximizes storage density and minimizes vertical storage usage. In addition, a digital monitoring system is in place to monitor the stock. The issue room, where parts are distributed, is open year-round, 24-hours a day for mechanical staff material requirements.

Another improvement over the previous facility is the new loading dock that vastly enhances the receiving process and includes 3,000 square feet of storage capacity.

Of the approximate 375 employees who begin calling the facility their home base on November 1, mechanical employees number150. The remaining employees belong to the Train and Engine, On-board Service and Administration departments. For a more efficient operation, all employees will work from a consolidated crew base, which will be housed in an extensive temporary trailer complex.

While the facility is fully equipped to handle its workload, the last phase of the construction, scheduled to take place during 2005, will include more space for administration, the relocation of the Oakland commissary, and the new combined crew base.

Kiewit Construction served as the main contractor on the project and DMJM/Harris Companies led the construction management, along with Amtrak’s engineering team of Tom Crowell, division engineer, Wayne Pusey, director of Engineering Services, and Project Manager Harry Schneider.


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Amtrak Time Table

 

Where’s my train?!

Big changes in fall Amtrak timetable

The arrival of Amtrak’s fall and winter timetable, which becomes effective November 1, not only publicizes new schedules and service improvements, but also introduces several policy changes that will affect passengers.

Some of the most significant schedule changes outlined in the timetable are the direct result of the railroad’s exit of the mail hauling business. “This decision offers an opportunity to adjust schedules that were previously driven or constricted by the mail contract, some of which are reflected in this timetable. More will be realized in the spring schedule change,” according to Amtrak.

Palmetto service began as a New York-Savannah train, and was extended to Jacksonville to accommodate a mail-hauling contract in 1988. In 2002, the service began operating as a coach-only train New York to Miami, via Tampa, the carrier explained, in the October edition of Amtrak Ink, the carrier’s monthly employee newspaper.

As a result of the closure of the mail business, Palmetto trains 89 and 90 no longer serve Florida, operating between New York and Savannah only as of November 1.

Reverting to a schedule that was in place in the 1980s, the train offers more convenient daylight service to the Southeast. Cities that will no longer have rail service – Waldo, Ocala, Wildwood and Dade City – will connect by buses with the Silver Star at Lakeland and Jacksonville.

While the Silver Stars, trains 91 and 92, continue their New York-Miami run via Orlando, they also begin serving Tampa and Lakeland (previously served by the Palmetto) on November 1. This route change also restores sleeping car accommodations and dining car service to those cities.

The schedule of the New York-Pittsburgh-Chicago Three Rivers was designed to meet the needs of the mail business when it was extended to Chicago in 1996. Without that business, the service changes significantly.

Now, a single train through Pittsburgh – the Three Rivers – will depart daily from New York at 1:15 p.m. and Chicago at 10:00 p.m. Next-day arrivals are 7:45 a.m. in Chicago and 7:28 p.m. in New York.

The second phase of this transition takes place in March, when service on this train west of Pittsburgh will be eliminated, following the legally required notice to the communities that will no longer be served by Amtrak – Youngstown, Akron and Fostoria in Ohio, and Nappanee, Ind.

“This move minimizes any confusion over what passengers may expect when booking a reservation,” Amtrak stated.

Beginning November 1, sleeping accommodations equipped with showers, toilets and a vanity will simply be called “bedrooms.” The smaller rooms that rely on shared restroom facilities, a bed-and breakfast on steel wheels, will again be known as “roomettes.”

On Viewliner equipment, roomettes include their own toilets.

“Long-time Amtrak riders may remember the name “roomette” from the past as a room that included a single bed,” noted Marketing and Sales Vice-President Barbara Richardson.

“While the current Roomettes accommodate up to two people, some of our passengers have found them most comfortable when traveling by themselves.”

The larger rooms designed for families will continue to be called Family Bedrooms and the designation of the wheelchair-accessible sleeping rooms, known as “accessible bedrooms,” will also remain unchanged.


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CSX, Virginia reach agreement
to upgrade principal route

Virginia transportation officials and CSX Corp. stated on October 6 they have reached an agreement on how to use $65.7 million in state funds for rail improvements between Richmond and Washington.

The deal was announced about a week after Gov. Mark R. Warner and other state officials publicly expressed frustration at what they considered CSX’s reluctance to make the upgrades a priority. The General Assembly authorized the funding in July 2000.

The AP reported the agreement is “good for the taxpayer and fair for CSX,” said Karen Rae, director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

“I want to stress that despite the frustration about the length of time it has taken to complete the many steps needed to get to this point, we have negotiated in good faith throughout this process,” CSX chief executive Michael J. Ward wrote in a letter to Warner, dated October 6.

The infrastructure upgrades would help ease rail traffic in the heavily traveled and often congested Richmond-Washington corridor. The projects would primarily involve improving signals, building additional tracks and adding crossovers, or intersections where trains can move from one track to another.

Work on the first project is expected to start in two months, Rae said.

The improvements mostly will take place in northern Virginia, where the Virginia Railway Express commuter rail, Amtrak and CSX freight trains all use the tracks, which CSX maintains and operates, said Rob Shinn, a spokesman for the Jacksonville, Fla.-based railroad.

Rae said that once the work is done, VRE can add four more trains per day, and Amtrak can add one. CSX also can add up to 15 more trains, she said.

Before the deal could be reached, Virginia and CSX officials had to agree on several terms and conditions, including the additional insurance liability coverage the railroad wanted the state to assume.

Even before that, it took about a year to agree on “what were the best projects that were the best use of the money,” followed by environmental testing and engineering work, Shinn said.

Many of the agreement terms will serve as precedents for future dealings with the state, CSX officials said.

“Now that we have the template in place, we think we can add new projects in a relatively streamlined way,” Shinn said.


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Schumer want tunnel repairs now

Citing the electrical fire that shut down Penn Station a fortnight ago as a wake-up call to modernize tunnels, New York Sen. Charles Schumer (D) is calling on President Bush and the House to help make New York’s railway tunnels safer.

A Schumer-backed plan for $570 million in federal funding for security improvements in New York’s tunnels passed the Senate unanimously October 1, Newsday informed its readers on October 2. The funds are part of a $1.2-billion rail security bill that Schumer co-authored with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

Amtrak reported last year it had begun upgrading its tunnels between New York City and Baltimore.

“The Senate took the first step to send New York $570 million to upgrade our tunnels this week in case the unthinkable happens again and terrorists strike,” Schumer said at an October 1 news conference in his office on Manhattan’s East Side.

“Now it’s time for the House and for the President to do the same.”

Schumer said the President, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, in particular, need to act quickly so the money dedicated to ventilation, electrical and fire safety upgrades, emergency communication and lighting systems can be put to use.

Amtrak officials said the September 27 fire apparently began when a signal line came into contact with a power line used to power Amtrak trains. The resulting power surge blew out circuit breakers and at least one transformer, and knocked down another power line, sparking a fire.

Smoke from the fire filled one of four East River tunnels owned by Amtrak, hampering visibility for firefighters trying to get to the blaze on a 98-foot spiral staircase, which is nearly 100 years old. The archaic ventilation system allowed the tunnel to fill with so much smoke that flashlights were useless. The fire stranded and delayed thousands of commuters and travelers on the Long Island Rail Road, NJ Transit and Amtrak.

“A single cable falling shouldn’t shut down an entire city,” Schumer said, adding that the incident highlighted how vulnerable tunnels are to a biological or chemical attack.

He said he does not blame Amtrak because it simply does not have the funds to modernize the tunnels. To put the cost on the LIRR or NJT systems is not fair, he said, because it inevitably would be passed on to commuters.

“The bottom line is, if we won’t give Amtrak the funds to do this themselves, the only other option is to pay for the tunnel upgrades directly,” Schumer said.

On the same day, the Senate approved the Public Transportation Terrorism Prevention Act, which authorizes spending $3.5 billion next year on subway and transit systems’ capital security improvements, training for transit employees, public awareness and canine patrols.


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Amtrak partners with ‘Namwolf’

The National Assn. of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF) said last week Amtrak has joined its corporate and public entities partnering program. The agreement calls for Amtrak to set a goal of eventually expending a minimum of 5 percent of their outside counsel budget with minority and women-owned law firms.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Ex-Virginia Rail Express Mafersa-built single-level coaches

For NCI: Phillip Burnside

Ex-Virginia Rail Express Mafersa-built single-level coaches contain two-by-two and two-three seating. The cars will soon be plying Connecticut tracks – but on August 20, 2003, a few toiled in Alexandria, Va. The story is below.

 

Mass transit ridership slips
despite high gas prices

Record-high U.S. gasoline prices have failed to sharply boost use of mass transit, with ridership actually dropping in some of the nation’s highest-cost markets.

Commuter train and bus ridership is down slightly in Chicago and Los Angeles this year and little changed in New York, despite gas prices near or above $2 a gallon in those metropolitan areas, CBS Marketwatch reported on October 5.

The slack demand is prompting transit officials to question how high gas prices must go to break the bond between U.S. commuters and their cars. A Chicago Transit Authority spokesman put the breaking point at $3 a gallon, while a Los Angeles County transit official put the figure at $10 for his auto-addicted area.

“We wanted to believe rising gas prices would force people onto public transportation,” said Jake Satin-Jacobs, a performance manager for the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “It seems, at times, as though retaining personal, individual transport has a higher priority than what the kids have to eat.”

Los Angeles commuters, while warming to mass transit in recent years, have clung faithfully to their steering wheels, opting to stew in their storied gridlock rather than use a much-improved rail system.

The Red Line, which helped fuel a downtown renaissance, served 106,426 average daily riders in August, up only marginally from a month and year earlier – but this year through August, the Red Line carried 5.8 million passengers, down from 6 million in the year-ago period. The Blue, Green and Gold lines logged similar declines.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, which endures some of the nation’s highest gas prices, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) ridership rose to 91 million in the 12 months ended June 30, from 87.4 million the prior year, yet much of that growth owes to an improving job market. BART carried 97.3 million passengers in the year ended June 30, 2001.

Daily ridership on Chicago’s bus routes averaged 936,848 in June, slightly lower than last year and down 3 percent from 2002, according to the Chicago Transit Authority. The CTA determined that gas prices are still “not nearly high enough to have a quantifiable effect on ridership.”

Evidence from the city’s rail system also supports that conclusion.

Through June, 72.8 million Chicagoans paid to ride a train compared to 73.1 million in the same period of 2003, the first year in more than five that ridership declined.

New York State similarly saw the number of mass-transit riders fall to 2.52 billion in 2003 from 2.58 billion a year earlier, according to the New York State DOT. Ridership through the first half of this year is little changed at 1.27 billion passengers, the vast majority in the New York City area.

The lack of increased demand for mass transit hasn’t stopped advocates from advancing a surge in ballot initiatives.

An estimated 55 transit referendums will be voted on in the U.S. this year, up from 16 in 2003 and 14 in 2002, according to the Center for Transportation Excellence. They include a proposal seeking $10 billion in bonds for a high-speed rail system linking Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Voters could decide the fate of a proposed $12 billion regional transportation plan in Washington State, including a light rail system for the Seattle metro area. Denver, Phoenix and San Diego are all asking for more than $5 billion to fund increased transportation choices.

Analysts point to other factors than the price of gas for sparking the jump in ballot initiatives, including burgeoning interest in light rail.

Regardless of mass transit improvements and rising gas prices, committed drivers won’t be quick to vacate their car seat, one said. “The addiction to individual transport is so strong that people will not... transfer to mass transit as long as the freeways continue to move at all.”


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Rell vows to get coaches rolling

Connecticut is working more aggressively to get some used coaches onto Connecticut tracks before the start of winter, the Stamford Advocate reported on September 30.

Connecticut is buying 26 used cars from the Virginia Railway Express, and most could be running by the end of next month, Gov. M. Jodi Rell said on September 29 at the annual meeting of the Stamford Chamber of Commerce.

“My motto is do the right thing, and do it quickly,” Rell said in a speech that focused on transportation. “We stepped in and I hope we’re making a difference.”

Harry Harris, chief of the state DOT’s Bureau of Public Transportation, said two weeks ago that the railcars wouldn’t be available until February because of repair work.

To speed things up, the railcars will be put on the rails immediately without cosmetic changes, Rell said. They will be reconfigured to run on the state’s systems, but the insides will be not be refurbished and the “VRE” logos will remain on the outside.

“The governor of Virginia may have wanted them to say ‘Virginia Railway Express’ on them, but we didn’t,” she said, “but we also wanted them done quickly.”

It’s unclear how many cars will be ready for the end of October, but “it’s still a far better cry than March,” Rell said. The rest of the fleet that needs repairs will be in the state by early spring, she said.

The change of plans puts the state back on its original schedule. State officials who announced the acquisition in the summer estimated the cars would be on the rails by late fall. The goal was to avoid a repeat of last winter, when cold weather decimated Metro-North Railroad’s aging fleet, causing delays and cancellations.

There’s no reason to celebrate, said state Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford.

“I’m please the governor was able to turn this effort back to the original timetable and get it redirected,” McDonald said, “but this is telling of the erratic planning within the DOT. Things only become a focus when the governor takes personal involvement in the issues.”

Rell said it is an example of “everyone taking a back seat” once a delivery date was set and not pushing harder to get the cars in service in the Nutmeg state.

“We had to have them for the winter,” she said. “It would be unacceptable not to have at least some ready.”

The state’s goal was to add at least 2,000 seats to Metro-North. The Virginia cars, which have diesel engines, will run on the Shore Line East commuter railroad, and Shore Line cars will be transplanted to Metro-North.

The state initially planned to purchase 38 cars, but Virginia is keeping some. Seven more cars will be added to Connecticut’s fleet in 2006.

The 26 cars the state will receive provide the 2,000 additional seats that are needed, DOT spokesman Chris Cooper said.

Rell also noted a long-term $1 billion plan to replace the Metro-North fleet with state-of-the-art cars, which she said will be at the top of her priority list when the legislature convenes in January.

Observers said her survey of the long-term replacement plan lacked details.

“She said some things that were good for the business culture but we still don’t know how to pay for the cars,” said Garry Feldman, chairman of the board of the Stamford Chamber of Commerce. “I think some were looking to get concrete answers.”

Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy, a candidate for governor in 2006, said the speech left him with questions.

“In lower Fairfield County, transportation is the issue… and there wasn’t a whole lot of detail,” he said. “There’s still no plan today how they are going to replace or fund these cars… what about the plan to reduce bottlenecking on I-95 from 20 years ago?”


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‘T’ still finds rocks in planned route

As a Bay State task force plans for its first meeting at 7:00 p.m. on October 20 in Raynham, Mass., it finds some cities and towns embracing the idea, others participating reluctantly – and at least one town boycotting it completely, writes the Brockton Enterprise.

A breath of life was received by the New Bedford-Fall River commuter rail project this summer when the state transportation secretary awarded $200,000 to revive the Southeastern Massachusetts Commuter Rail Task Force.

“Participating in this task force is not endorsing the (commuter rail) project,” said Roland J. Hebert, transportation planning manager for the Southeast Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD).

“It’s learning about the growth implications (the project) could have and how to maximize the positive benefits if you had a (train) station,” Hebert said. “If it’s going to happen, how do we prepare for it in the best way possible?”

For most of the past 20 months, it seemed that the extension of commuter rail from Stoughton through Taunton to New Bedford and Fall River might not happen at all.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R) put the project off on a siding in February 2003 when he said the state could not afford it. The rail extension is now estimated to cost $850 million, including $50 million for an elevated trestle through the Hockomock Swamp in Easton and Raynham, but the efforts of New Bedford area legislators this summer got the project back on track. They threatened to hold up land-takings for the Sagamore Rotary reconstruction project unless $425 million for commuter rail was included in a transportation bond bill.

While Romney did not veto the bill, he did say he would not advance any project that was not financed in part by federal money. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority cannot afford to take on the project on its own, Romney said.

The next day, Transportation Secretary Daniel A. Grabauskas visited rail supporters in New Bedford and assured them Romney supports the rail extension.

In fact, Grabauskas said, the MBTA is already negotiating rights-of-way with CSX, which still owns 33 miles of track to the southeast.

[Short history lesson: The New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad became part of Penn Central, which later became Conrail, which eventually became CSX. – Ed.]

Grabauskas said the governor approved $6.6 million to continue the environmental permitting process for the rail project. He also gave the economic development district $200,000 to revive the rail task force that had been dormant since summer 2002.

Under its contract with the MBTA, the task force is supposed to analyze growth and development impacts of the rail project, develop economic development strategies for affected communities and analyze financial options to offset project costs.

Mostly, Hebert said, it will help communities figure out how to develop the areas around proposed train stations, where land values are expected to increase.

“It is not the role of the task force to evaluate or analyze whether this project should be built,” the contract reads.

Raynham selectmen, who oppose the rail extension, decided last month not to send a representative to the task force because the delegate would only be “the devil’s advocate or a thorn in their side,” in the words of Selectman Donald L. McKinnon.

Hebert said the district wrote to the Raynham selectmen asking them to reconsider.

“They’re not endorsing the project by being a part of this committee,” Hebert said.

Easton, which has also opposed the rail extension, will send Town Administrator Martha L. White to the task force as a delegate.

“The Easton Board of Selectmen asked that I express the town of Easton’s strong and continuing disapproval of this proposed project,” White wrote in a letter to SRPEDD.

White called the project “economically and environmentally disastrous” and said its benefits to the region remain unproven.

“That being said, however, the town of Easton recognizes that it is in our best interests to remain informed as to the project’s progress and ensure that, in the unlikely event that the project should ever come to fruition, we have ensured for our residents the best mitigation and land use decisions available,” White said.

Taunton Mayor Robert Nunes has appointed the city engineer, Jon C. Connell, to be the city’s representative on the task force.

Connell attended task force meetings two years ago when Taunton was concerned the MBTA might extend the rail line south from Attleboro rather than Stoughton.

That would have involved 16 grade crossings in Taunton, Connell said. The Stoughton route will mean only about five or six grade crossings, he said.

“I don’t think it’s a bad route,” Connell said. “It’s certainly better for Taunton than the Attleboro route.”

Previous Taunton municipal councils have endorsed the rail extension. Connell said he sees his mission as “to listen and to report back to the mayor.”

“Taunton is kind of stuck in the middle” between New Bedford and Fall River, avid rail supporters to the south, and Raynham and Easton, opponents to the north, Connell said.

Many residents are eager to ride the train, and some do already, taking advantage of the station in Lakeville, Connell said.

In all, said Hebert, nine communities have responded to the task force’s invitation to join, and nine have not. Eight organizations have responded positively, and six have not.

Berkley will send the selectmen’s secretary, Paul Modlowski, as the town’s delegate, and Lakeville will send Selectman Chawner Hurd.

No word has come from Stoughton, which did not participate in previous task force meetings, Hebert said. Calls to the town manager’s office seeking comment were not returned Thursday.

The commuter rail extension would involve the relocation of one train station in Stoughton and upgrades to both stations.

“It would make sense for them to come,” Hebert said. “Areas around the Stoughton stations could use some help.”


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Triangle recommends UTS to supply DMUs

United Transit Systems (UTS) has been recommended to supply up to 32 diesel multiple unit (DMU) rail cars for Triangle Transit Authority’s Regional Rail Transit System. The TTA Board of Trustees this month will be asked to award a contract up to $90.1 million dollars to UTS.

In recommending the contract award, TTA General Manager John Claflin told the TTA Operations and Finance Committee, “TTA was impressed by United Transit System’s experience and expertise in designing, engineering and producing rail cars for major cities throughout the world.”

The contract award to UTS is contingent upon a federal “Letter Of No Prejudice” which would allow the transit authority to draw on local and state funds for this part of the $631 million regional rail project.

United Transit Systems is a consortium of Sojitz Corp. of America and Rotem Co. Sojitz is headquartered in Tokyo, and Rotem is headquartered in Seoul. Since 1964, Rotem has manufactured more than 32,000 railroad vehicles, including both passenger and freight vehicles for U.S. clients.

UTS will manufacture the rail car body shells at Rotem’s rolling stock plants in Korea. Final assembly of the planned TTA rail cars will take place at Rotem’s Philadelphia 101,052 square-foot facility. American suppliers will be part of the contract with UTS, ensuring that the vehicle meets the FTA’s 60 percent “Buy America” requirement. Colorado Railcar will supply the propulsion system for TTA’s DMUs. Colorado Railcar currently has a DMU in operation in South Florida.

FRA compliant DMU’s were selected for the Regional Rail Transit System because they have several unique advantages.

UTS said, “DMUs can operate in existing rail corridors next to freight service and Amtrak passenger service. They are self-propelled, eliminating the need for locomotives or electrification of the rail corridor with catenary. The technology is cost-effective and powered independently.” The DMUs can be coupled together quickly to build trains of varying lengths to efficiently respond to ridership demand.

TTA issued a request for proposals in March 2004 for diesel-powered passenger rail vehicles. The vehicles will be used to serve the 12-station, 28-mile Regional Rail Transit System from Durham, N.C. to the Research Triangle Park, Cary and Raleigh, scheduled to begin operation in 2008.

32 railcars configured as 16 married pairs can carry 160-seated passengers. At its meeting on October 7, the TTA Operations and Finance Committee voted to recommend to the Board of Trustees that it authorize the TTA General Manager to negotiate a contract with UTS up to $90.1 million dollars for the DMUs, engineering, design, project management, spare parts, special tools, training, manuals and sales tax. The Board will consider the recommendation at its monthly meeting on October 27.

TTA Chairman Carter Worthy said she hopes the board will vote to move ahead with the contract later this month.

She said, “We are excited that we will be the first transit system in the country to use this new rail technology. Our extensive evaluation of all the proposals received convinced TTA that UTS will provide our riders a safe, comfortable, reliable vehicle at a reasonable cost.”

Regional public transportation provider TTA offers a wide variety of transit and vanpool services to North Carolina's greater Triangle Region and outlying counties – which includes buses to Apex, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Garner, RDU International Airport, RTP and Raleigh. TTA also provides commuter resources and hosts http://gotriangle.org, the online resource for the public transportation information in the Triangle. TTA plans to implement a rail transit system with stations connecting Durham, RTP, Cary and Raleigh, with shuttles linking RDU International Airport and RTP. The rail transit system is expected to be operational in 2008.


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APTA HIGHLIGHTS...  APTA Highlights...

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


Los Angeles’ Urban Transformation Around Rail in Spotlight at Rail-Volution

Los Angeles, long known for its auto congeston, web of intersecting freeways, and sprawling suburbs, provided a compelling venue for this year’s national Rail-Volution urban livability and transit conference.

More than 1,000 attendees from around the country convened in Hollywood September 18 to 22 to see first-hand how the Los Angeles region is reshaping its urban landscape around a rapidly growing rail transit and bus system as part of the tenth annual conference, which visits a different city every year.


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Florida Transit Systems Well-Versed on Hurricane Response

As Hurricane Jeanne followed in the wake of Hurricanes Frances and Charley, Florida transit authorities shifted into gear again with a sense of déjà vu.

Jeanne appeared to be heading north, out in the Atlantic, but looped back toward Florida on September 23, hitting the southeast coast of Florida in the early evening hours of September 25 as a category two storm with winds exceeding 100 mph.

The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (Tri-Rail) in Pompano Beach suspended service around noon on September 25 as the storm came ashore. By the next day, the system reported 26 crossings, 13 interlockings, and five stations without power. Limited service resumed on September 27 and 28. According to Bonnie Arnold, director of marketing and customer service, Tri-Rail borrowed 16 generators from Florida DOT to maintain its operations.

The Broward County Division of Mass Transit, also in Pompano Beach, stopped its bus service on September 25 and 26, first diverting 20 buses to evacuate residents to county shelters, the next day returning the residents to their homes. Regular service resumed on September 27.


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Hiawatha Light Rail Extends to Airport, Mall on December 4

The Metropolitan Council in Minneapolis-St. Paul says the Hiawatha Line light rail service will extend to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and Mall of America four weeks ahead of schedule, beginning December 4. Metro Transit is planning grand opening activities for that Saturday morning, and expects to offer free rides on its buses and trains throughout the weekend.

The light rail extension spans four miles and five stations, providing service to both the Lindbergh and Humphrey terminals of the airport and to the Mall of America transit station. Trains also will serve a 600-car park-and-ride lot at 28th Avenue Station, just east of Mall of America, and Bloomington Central Station, the centerpiece of a 43-acre mixed-use development planned by McGough Construction and the city of Bloomington.


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Report: Demand Grows for Housing Near Transit

By 2025, 14.6 million home buyers could be looking for homes within one-half mile of a fixed-guideway transit station in the U.S., changing the face of home construction and the suburban landscape.

That is one supposition of the Hidden in Plain Sight, Capturing the Demand for Housing Near Transit report conducted for the Federal Transit Administration by Reconnecting America’s Center for Transit-Oriented Development.

According to the report, six million households are currently within a half-mile of transit stations, with the demand for homes within these “transit zones” more than doubling, indicating that TOD could be the framework of future growth and increased transit ridership.

The report examines real estate trends near TOD; demographics and travel behavior of residents living near transit; the potential demand for housing within walking distance to transit station; and the ability of transit-served regions to accommodate this market. The center based the report on its TOD database that contains information about the country’s existing 3,341 fixed-guideway transit system stations, and the 630 new stations that will be built by 2025.

The report was released in September at the Rail-Volution conference in Los Angeles, where FTA Administrator Jennifer L. Dorn’s keynote speech was followed by a panel discussion, titled “The New Market for Transit-Oriented Housing Development.”


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House T&I Panel Passes Transit Security Legislation

The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved legislation September 29 that authorizes $3.5 billion over three years for public transportation security grants. The Highways, Transit and Pipelines Subcommittee marked up the legislation a day earlier.

Under the Public Transportation Terrorism Prevention and Response Act of 2004, grants would be based on assessments of risk and vulnerability consistent with the recommendations of the federal 9/11 Commission. These assessments would form the basis of security guidelines, threat minimizing strategies, and damage mitigation strategies for public transportation agencies.

During the three years of the bill, grants would be awarded directly from the general fund to transit agencies for allowable capital security improvements, such as system protection; explosive and chemical detection; surveillance, communications, emergency response equipment; and evacuation improvements. Capital funds would increase each year, with $775 million available in 2005, $825 million in 2006, and $880 million in 2007. Federal grants would cover 80 percent of the net project cost.


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BUILDERS LINES...  Builders’ lines...

Bank okays loan for GE; locomotives for Kazakhstan

The Export-Import Bank of the U.S. – nickname is “Ex-Im Bank,” on Thursday approved a $121.7 million long-term loan guarantee to support General Electric’s plan to export 200 locomotive kits to Kazakhstan’s state-owned national railway, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ).

The export sale will maintain or create approximately 575 jobs at GE’s manufacturing facilities in Erie and Grove City, Penn., and at GE sub-suppliers in Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

“This transaction supports high quality U.S. jobs as well as Kazakhstan’s infrastructure development,” said Ex-Im Bank Chairman Philip Merrill. “We are pleased to continue support for KTZ’s modernization of its locomotive fleet.”

KTZ will use the kits to refurbish 100 of its 18-year-old model 2TE10 locomotives, extending their useful lives for another 15-20 years. The railway is undertaking the modernization to meet the increased demand for freight and passenger traffic created by economic development.

The financing transaction is Ex-Im Bank’s second with KTZ. A $33.1 million Ex-Im Bank guarantee backed the sale of 54 GE kits to KTZ in December 2003.

The transaction is structured as an asset-based financing, with the locomotives serving as collateral. KTZ is the first non-bank government-owned company in Kazakhstan to receive Ex-Im Bank-supported financing without a sovereign guarantee.

The guaranteed lender on the transaction is Chicago’s ABN Amro Bank N.V.


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Faiveley buys ‘Sab Wabco’

Remember the Westinghouse Air Brake Co.? Remember how an American from Pennsylvania named George Westinghouse patented it around 1868? He would be astonished at what happened to it.

In a press release dated October 6 from New York and Paris, the Faiveley Group, Sagard and Vestar Capital Partners reported on October 6 that Faiveley Transport signed a share purchase agreement to acquire the entire share capital of Sab Wabco, a European railway brake systems manufacturer.

Faiveley said the transaction is worth $381million is U.S. dollars, or €310 million. That’s the value before deduction of net debt.

The company said acquiring Sab Wabco and refinancing its existing bank debt will be financed by bank debt of up to €230 million underwritten by a pool of financial institutions “led by Societe Generale and BNP Paribas, and by a capital increase amounting to €100.4 million reserved for Sagard and the management teams of Faiveley Transport and Sab Wabco.”

The newly formed entity, controlled by Faiveley S.A., will broaden its product line, including heating, ventilation and air conditioning lines, electro-mechanics and electronics to brake systems, couplers and wheels.


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

Richard F. Timmons and Edward R. Hamberger

AAR: Thomas Palmer

Richard F. Timmons at left, president of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Assn. and AAR president Edward R. Hamberger sign the expanded Rail Industry Agreement.

 

AAR, short lines expand agreement

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Assn. (ASLRRA) said on October 7 that they have agreed to expand the Rail Industry Agreement (RIA) that has been in effect since 1998.

The agreement, announced at the Washington, D.C. STB offices, was established in 1998 following STB proceedings to provide a means of dealing with issues between large and small railroads that were identified in those proceedings, including car supply, service quality, rate and route principles, and contract interchange requirements or so-called “paper barriers.”

Among those barriers is finding ways to clarify circumstances under which a short line that has purchased a line from a large railroad may interchange traffic with a third railroad.

A Rail Industry Working Group will become a formal part of the new agreement, and provisions describing what constitutes “paper barriers” will be clarified.

“The RIA has proven very effective in improving relations between large and smaller railroads,” said AAR president and CEO Edward R. Hamberger.

“It has provided a useful forum for discussing and resolving outstanding issues and promoting the use of rail transportation by substituting facts for anecdotes in addressing problems between carriers.”

ASLRRA President Rich Timmons said, “The agreed upon changes to the RIA and the work of the RIWG can help us reach the next level of cooperation between large and small railroads. As cooperation continues to improve and we resolve issues quickly and fairly, our mutual customers will benefit. This really is a win-win-win situation.”

STB Chairman Roger Nober said, “I have a strong preference for private sector solutions instead of regulatory action whenever possible. This amendment should go a long way toward improving operations between large and small carriers so they can all better serve their customers.”

The working group was created shortly after the RIA became effective, but was not formally part of it.

The RWIG will consist of seven members from the Class I railroads subscribing to the agreement, and seven members from the smaller railroads that subscribe to it. In addition, there will be a non-voting representative from both the AAR and ASLRRA.

As with the original RIA, the amendment will cover all of the railroads that subscribe to it.


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Beginner UP brakeman dies in Illinois

A southeastern Illinois Union Pacific beginner brakeman –on the job for only a few weeks –was crushed to death early Thursday morning when a freight car passing through Springfield’s north end fell on him.

The State Journal Register of Springfield, Ill., reported authorities were still investigating what caused eight cars of a northbound UP freight train to derail as it was switching at about 1:15 a.m., leaving two cars hanging off the overpass that carries rail traffic over Sangamon Avenue near 16th Street.

The accident did tie up the rail line normally used by the six Amtrak commuter trains that stop in Springfield daily.

Amtrak service was delayed an extra 15 to 30 minutes as conductors used other sets of tracks to navigate through the city, said Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesman.

The accident tied up the rail line normally used by six daily Amtrak trains that stop in Springfield. Amtrak service was delayed 15 to 30 minutes as train crews used other tracks to navigate through the city, said Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesman in Chicago.

The derailment killed Shawn Young, 31, of Waterloo, Iowa. He had worked as a brakeman for the railroad since August, said Mark Davis, a UP spokesman.

Young died of massive brain injuries when the car tipped over as he walked beside it, trapping him between the tracks and a fence, said Sangamon County Coroner Susan Boone.

“When the train derailed and the car fell on him, he just had no place to go,” Boone said. “He was right there between the fence and the car.”

The derailment of the three-locomotive, 122-car train, which was traveling from East St. Louis to Chicago, led to a 15-hour highway closure. Crews had to right the overturned cars, pull them out and scoop up the tons of oats that spilled from the cars.

Seven of the derailed cars contained the grain, Davis said, and another was empty. The unaffected cars were uncoupled and dragged out of the area by about 7:30 a.m., helping to free up rail crossings for the morning commute.


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CSX, union to face off next week

CSX and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes – the union representing its local track-maintenance employees – will square off Wednesday for oral arguments over plans to lease tracks through Staunton and Waynesboro, Va., to a small short-line operator from Dillwyn, the Shenandoah Valley News Leader reported on Friday.

The STB, an arm of the USDOT, last week accepted a union request to hear oral arguments, according to an order posted at its web site. The hearing will take place in Washington, D.C.

The BMWE considers the lease a sham. It has argued in filings that CSX will continue to use the route from Richmond to Clifton Forge while the lease shifts maintenance to a small, inexperienced railroad that now operates just 17 miles of track.

Amtrak, which operates six trains across much of the route each week, expressed similar concerns, saying that maintaining the line to passenger train standards would be a “formidable task” for the tiny operator. The Shenandoah Valley Railroad expressed concerns about how the deal would affect its short-line operation, which interchanges with the CSX line at Staunton.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, family-owned Buckingham Branch Railroad would maintain the tracks while operating local freight trains to generate more traffic and revenue on the route. CSX would continue to operate empty westbound coal trains daily and Amtrak would continue to operate the Cardinal across 125 miles of the route.

While 14 CSX employees currently maintain the stretch, Buckingham Branch plans to use eight of its own employees and supplement them with contractors as needed.

CSX maintained that oral arguments are not necessary and has said it wants the lease to become effective by year’s end. It said the effort is the result of a nationwide review of its 23,000-mile rail system.


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A hard look at UP, rail business

Time magazine writer David Thigpen takes a different view of Union Pacific Railroad and its late trains woes in its October 11 issue. He takes a hard look at the business of the business.

When Union Pacific Railroad executive vice president John Koraleski faces his customers these days, he prefers to stay on his feet rather than sit in one place, he says, “because it‘s harder to hit a moving target.” It has been that kind of year for UP, the nation‘s No. 1 freight carrier, which moves millions of tons of coal, lumber, automobiles, corn – you name it – each day.

Customers from Dow Chemical, UPS and Amtrak to a small New Orleans molasses shipper and a Houston creosote supplier have watched in frustration as delays on UP’s rails caused their products to pile up in yards and ports, arrive hours or days late and sometimes never get to the destination at all. UP has been paying a hefty price too: as its trains began stalling, the company’s profits took a hit, falling to $323 million in the first half of 2004 from $717 million in that period a year ago.

“When trains run slowly, sit in terminals and don’t get where they should be on time, productivity is lower,” says railroad analyst Donald Broughton of AG Edwards, “but labor costs, maintenance and equipment expenses rise, and that cuts into profits.”

There‘s more at stake than the fate of one railroad company or getting a carload of molasses to the supermarket on time. The nation‘s four largest railroads, UP, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, CSX and Norfolk Southern, are a linkpin of the U.S. economy; when they don‘t run smoothly, it’s tough for the economy to grow.

Lately, for companies whose bottom line depends on moving goods on schedule, the situation has become dire. United Parcel Service was recently forced to shift some shipments to trucks. Dow Chemical, which supplies, among other things, chlorine for water utilities, suspended operations at a Michigan plant until the distribution logjam clears.

Passenger trains are affected too. Amtrak’s Sunset Limited, which makes a thrice-weekly run from Orlando, Fla., to Los Angeles, has yet to arrive on time this year, rolling in as much as 40 hours late. Amtrak had to fly one near mutinous trainload of passengers to their destination when the Limited fell behind, leaving customers and Amtrak fuming. “There are other freight tracks we operate over that are busy,“ says Amtrak spokesman Mark Magliari, “but none are as bad as UP.”

The entire article can be found online at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101041011-709056,00.html


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Virginia Tech to host new rail research lab; AAR underwrites

The AAR last week named Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering of Blacksburg, Va. to host an affiliated laboratory for research in critical technical areas. It includes an annual grant of $200,000 that the engineering college will use to establish the Railway Technologies Laboratory.

Railroad traffic– both freight and passenger – has increased to record levels in the U.S. during the past few years, and the railroad industry is in need of new technologies to help ensure the future of railway infrastructure and operations, the industry trade group said last week in a press release.

The AAR, whose members include Amtrak and the major freight railroads in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, is the world’s leading railroad policy, research and technology organization focusing on the safety and productivity of rail carriers.

“This relationship will forge closer ties and research collaborations between the university and the railroad industry, opening up new funding opportunities from private and government sources,” said Mehdi Ahmadian, professor of mechanical engineering and the new laboratory’s director.

Ahmadian said one project he hopes to work on is developing improved technologies for real-time monitoring of railway health, such as new methods for finding track damage and damage to rolling stock.

The association also supports affiliated labs at Texas A&M and the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. To secure the third lab, Ahmadian said, Virginia Tech competed against a group of schools that included Pennsylvania State Univ. and the Univ. of California-Berkeley.

Virginia Tech engineering faculty conduct research in a broad spectrum of technological areas important to the railroad industry, including wireless communications, sensor technology, railroad vehicle dynamics simulation and modeling, smart materials, and technologies for improving railroad operational efficiency, safety and security.

“Our selection as the host for the Railway Technologies Laboratory is the result of AAR representatives being impressed by the research capabilities at Virginia Tech,” said Ahmadian.

Research conducted as part of the agreement with AAR will be selected and monitored by the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI), located in Pueblo, Colo. The TTCI is the research and development arm for the industry members of AAR, said Ed Henneke, associate dean for research and graduate studies in Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering.

The TTCI committee that reviews and scores research proposals will soon begin selecting the first set of proposals from Virginia Tech.

Ahmadian is also director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Vehicles Systems and Safety.


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KCS, TMM get Mexican feds okay

Mexico’s Foreign Investment Commission (FIC) has okayed Kansas City Southern’s plan to acquire Grupo TMM, S.A’s interest in TFM, S.A. de C.V. TFM is a major freight rail carrier in Mexico. KCS stated in a press release The FIC’s approval is required “for a foreign company to become a majority owner of a Mexican railway company and will remain valid until October 5, 2005.”

On September 16, 2004, KCS and TMM agreed to extend the previous deadline under the April 20, 2003, acquisition agreement until June 15, 2005, to provide additional time to complete a transaction.

KCS is a transportation holding company that has railroad investments in the U.S., Mexico and Panama. Its primary holding in the U.S. is The Kansas City Southern Ry. Co., headquartered in Kansas City, Mo.

Grupo TMM is Latin America’s largest multimodal transportation company and is headquartered in Mexico City.


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BNSF takes non-cash charge

Burlington Northern Santa Fe said after the closing bell on Wall Street Thursday that it will take a $288 million non-cash charge for asbestos and environmental liabilities. On a per-share basis, the charge is equivalent to 76 cents a share.

Excluding the charge, the company’s third-quarter earnings are now expected to be in a range of 75 cents to 77 cents a share. That is ahead of the company’s own outlook and analysts’ expected per-share profit of 70 cents a share, according to Thomson First Call.

BNSF attributed the earnings range to cost-cutting and strong revenue.

The Fort Worth based railroad said it recorded a “non-cash charge of approximately $288 million after-tax, or $0.76 per share, in the third quarter of 2004, to reflect changes in the way BNSF estimates asbestos and environmental remediation liabilities. Excluding the charge, the company anticipates third-quarter earnings per share will exceed prior guidance and be in the range of $0.75 to $0.77, reflecting strong revenue growth and expense control.”

Some two thirds of the total charge represents BNSF’s estimated cost of “incurred but not reported liabilities associated with asbestos-related exposures.” The firm stated previously, BNSF “accrued for these items on an as-reported basis. The remainder of the charge relates to BNSF’s refinement of estimated environmental liabilities through the use of an actuary to estimate the remediation costs at known sites. Most of the contamination at these sites occurred decades ago.”

“We recently completed a review of our approach for estimating asbestos and environmental liabilities. This review was undertaken as a result of recently reported quarterly expenses for past asbestos and environmental issues. Working with third-party experts, we developed actuarial approaches for these liabilities that reflect better estimates and are consistent with the current actuarial technique we utilize to estimate the total liability for personal injury claims from past incidents,” said Thomas N. Hund, BNSF’s CFO and an executive vice-president.

BNSF said it now anticipates an ongoing decrease in operating expenses beginning in the fourth quarter, “favorably impacting earnings by about two cents per share. This amount could vary based on actual experience. The charge is not expected to have any impact on the timing of claim payments.”


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Illinois Railnet gets two BNSF short lines

Illinois RailNet said on Friday it acquired two BNSF lines consisting of nearly 25 miles of track in northern Illinois. Both lines are between Oregon and Mt. Morris, and between Zearing and La Salle. Illinois RailNet took control of operations on both lines on Saturday. Terms were not disclosed.


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NS’s ‘first responders’ train is traveling

A special Norfolk Southern train will visit five cities between October 11-15 to promote “Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response” (TRANSCAER), a nationwide program to increase community understanding of the safe transportation of hazardous materials and the importance of emergency planning.

The train will be open at NS facilities from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on October 11 in Decatur, Ill., 1735 E. Condit St.; October 12 in St. Louis, East Carrie Ave., J Entrance off Hall St.; October 13 in Princeton, Ind., 220 E. Garfield St.; October 14 in Louisville, 450 Hardin St.; and October 15 in Danville, Ky., 464 Fryes Lane.

At each location, state and local emergency planning committees, emergency responders and government officials can participate in hands-on drills and training sessions. Railroad training tank cars, specialized emergency response vehicles and over-the-road tank trucks will be on display.

NS started the training program in 1994.


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SWRR leases BNSF line

Southwestern Railroad (SWRR) said last week it is now “serving rail customers on 263 miles of track between Loving Junction and Clovis, N.M.” SWRR began operations over the leased line on October 3. It’s the former BNSF Carlsbad Subdivision. Terms of the lease were not disclosed.


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Banner quarter for September, year

U.S. rail intermodal traffic soared 9.5 percent (94,775 units) in September and 9.3 percent (238,698 trailers and containers) in the third quarter, while U.S. rail carload traffic rose 0.8 percent (13,381 carloads) in September and 1.1 percent (48,823 carloads) in the third quarter, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported Thursday.

In September, U.S. freight railroads reporting to the AAR originated 1,694,436 carloads (up from 1,681,055 in September 2003) and 1,096,488 intermodal units (up from 1,001,713 in September 2003). For the third quarter, U.S. rail carloadings totaled 4,362,719, up from 4,313,896 carloads in 2003, and intermodal traffic totaled 2,809,861 trailers and containers, up from 2,571,163 in 2003.

For the first nine months of 2004, U.S. railroads originated 13,084,728 carloads (up 3.0 percent, or 384,581 carloads) from 2003, and 8,144,940 intermodal units (up 9.5 percent, or 707,713 units) from one year earlier. Total volume was estimated at 1.18 trillion ton-miles, up 4.1 percent from 2003.

“We’re running out of superlatives to describe rail intermodal growth,” said AAR Vice President Craig F. Rockey.

“The top three highest volume intermodal weeks in history occurred in September 2004,” he added, “and the top 18 weeks in history have all occurred in the past six months. Everyone benefits from this growth – shippers and consumers (who gain from intermodal’s efficiency and cost-effectiveness), motorists (who gain from reduced highway congestion and reduced emissions), and, of course, railroads themselves.”

U.S. rail carload traffic in September was paced by coal (up 2.6 percent, or 17,191 carloads, to 678,259 carloads); metallic ores (up 17.5 percent, or 11,428 carloads, to 76,837 carloads); and primary metal products (up 13.2 percent, or 8,424 carloads, to 72,069 carloads). Carloads of chemicals in September rose 3.5 percent (4,963 carloads) to 148,211 carloads. On the down side, carloads of motor vehicles and equipment fell 7.2 percent (9,146 carloads) to 118,413 carloads, while carloads of nonmetallic minerals were down 21.3 percent (8,583 carloads) to 31,740 carloads. All told, 9 of the 19 major commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw carload gains in September 2004.

“U.S. rail traffic in September was negatively impacted in the south and mid-Atlantic by the series of hurricanes, and the railroads affected have done a tremendous job restoring their operational capability,” Rockey noted.

Although intermodal now accounts for more revenue than coal for major U.S. railroads, coal remains the largest single commodity carried by rail. In the third quarter of 2004, coal traffic was up 2.8 percent (48,053 carloads). For the year to date, coal traffic is up 3.0 percent (151,958 carloads).

Canadian railroads originated 335,484 carloads in September 2004, up 3.1 percent (10,110 carloads) over September 2003. Canadian carload gains in September were paced by chemicals (up 9.0 percent, or 6,126 carloads, to 74,530 carloads) and metallic ores (up 47.9 percent, or 4,084 carloads, to 12,616 carloads). Grain carloads were down 14.9 percent (6,122 carloads) in September to 35,071 carloads.

In the third quarter of 2004, Canadian railroads originated 852,369 carloads (up 6.5 percent, or 52,147 carloads. For the first nine months of 2004, Canadian carload traffic of 2,604,565 carloads was up a dramatic 8.1 percent (194,395 carloads) over the same period in 2003.

Canadian intermodal traffic of 215,893 units in September 2004 was up 1.9 percent (4,127 units) from September 2003, while third quarter intermodal traffic of 552,503 units was fractionally higher (611 units, or 0.1 percent) than last year. For 2004 to date, Canadian intermodal traffic was up 0.2 percent (2,567 units) to 1,627,086 trailers and containers.

Carloads originated on Transportación Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM), a major Mexican railroad, were up 15.2 percent (6,091 carloads) in September, up 10.4 percent (10,709 carloads) in the third quarter, and up 2.3 percent (7,514 carloads) for the year to date. Intermodal originations on TFM were up 21.9 percent (3,633 units) in September, up 15.9 percent (6,795 units) in the third quarter, and up 4.6 percent (6,345 units) for the year to date.

For just the week ended October 2, the AAR reported the following totals for U.S. railroads: 344,442 carloads, up 0.9 percent from the corresponding week in 2003, with loadings down 5.4 percent in the East and up 6.0 percent in the West; intermodal volume of 228,152 trailers and containers, up 8.8 percent and the third highest week ever; and total volume of an estimated 31.2 billion ton-miles, up 1.3 percent from the equivalent week last year.

For Canadian railroads during the week ended October 2, the AAR reported volume of 73,944 carloads, up 8.5 percent from last year; and 45,496 trailers and containers, up 1.1 percent from the corresponding week in 2003.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 39 weeks of 2004 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 15,689,293 carloads, up 3.8 percent (578,976 carloads) from last year; and 9,772,026 trailers and containers, up 7.8 percent (710,280 trailers and containers) from 2003’s first 39 weeks.

The AAR is online at www.aar.org.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: CBSMarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)40.0338.66
Canadian National (CNI)49.8249.15
Canadian Pacific (CP) 26.4025.91
CSX (CSX)35.3133.80
Florida East Coast (FLA)38.2138.81
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)25.1225.39
Kansas City Southern (KSU)16.1415.45
Norfolk Southern (NSC)30.7030.27
Providence & Worcester (PWX)11.0211.02
Union Pacific (UNP)61.8159.49


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At Ft. Weatherill in Jamestown, R.I.

For NCI: Richard Dreyer

We would hazard a guess that it has been at least 50 years since a freight car – never mind a passenger car – rolled over these tracks. Photographer Dreyer, who lives in Rhode Island, visited Ft. Weatherill in Jamestown, R.I. a couple of weeks ago. He says the tracks were used in World Wars I and II “to move mines from storage warehouses to ships.” They appear to be narrow gauge.


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End Notes...

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we’d like to hear from you. Please e-mail the crew at leoking@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write.

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

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

In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other rail travel sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives – state DOTs, legislators, governor’s offices, and transportation professionals – as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists.

If you have a favorite rail link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) to the webmaster in care of this web site. An e-mail link appears at the bottom of the NCI web site pages to get in touch with D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster in Boston.


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