In this edition...
Flooding causes Amtrak trains to be cancelled
Flooding has disrupted Amtrak service in the Northeast Corridor.
Amtrak canceled Shoreline East service [Saturday] from New Haven to Providence and Boston because of water on the tracks near Providence.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says service between New Haven and Springfield, Mass., was also canceled because of high water north of New Haven.
Officials attempted to find charter buses to shuttle passengers between the cities, but they were unable to do so because of a large gathering elsewhere in the region.
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Amtrak Board approves creating subsidiary
WASHINGTON - Amtraks chairman says splitting off the Northeast Corridor - the most heavily traveled portion of the system - under federal-state management is the only way to revitalize U.S. passenger rail service, according to Associated Press reports.
The railroads board of directors approved a resolution authorizing joint management over service from Washington, D.C., to Boston. It would share maintenance costs while Amtrak operated the trains.
We are ultimately headed toward an environment in which states will end up covering some portion of state (rail) operations, David M. Laney said Thursday in a telephone interview from his Dallas law office.
The resolution, passed on September 22 but not made public, was first reported last Wednesday in the newsletter of the United Rail Passenger Alliance of Jacksonville, Fla., which has been critical of Amtraks management. It came as a surprise to state officials, who were not all pleased by the announcement, reported AP writer Donna de la Cruz.
Tearing Amtrak to pieces wont solve anything, and I hope thats not what theyre doing, said Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat. Americas rail system needs to operate as an integrated whole so it can offer more and better service. Dividing it into smaller and smaller pieces will only take us further from that goal.
For Amtrak to take even an initial step towards breaking up the railroad without consulting with the governors in the Northeast Corridor calls into question their commitment to a partnership for better rail service in the future.
New Jerseys transportation commissioner, Jack Lettiere, said it would be unfair if Amtrak wanted the states to make capital contributions to a system that is in a state of disrepair.
I have grave concerns about this, he said.
But Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert Flanagan acknowledged, the status quo isnt working. When asked if Maryland has the resources to take more responsibility for the rail corridor, Flanagan said, Everybody has a budget, everybody operates up to the limits of that budget, but at the same time, all of us recognize that improving service to our customers is worth something to us.
We dont know what this all means yet. Its too early to panic or be really negative, he added.
Some Amtrak supporters fear it will push the railroad to the brink of collapse. President Bush has said he wants to cut all Amtrak subsidies and eventually create regional rail service managed by states.
This administration has been intent on crippling Amtrak since George Bush was sworn into office, said Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J. shifting the cost burdens to states and communities is just plain wrong.
Ross Capon, Executive Director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, which lobbies for more Amtrak subsidies, questioned the boards decision in light of its statement in April that a subsidiary was not needed.
The secrecy part raises suspicions, Capon said.
Laney denied any secrecy on the boards part, saying the board is not in the habit of announcing board actions.
Congress ultimately would have to agree to transfer control of the Northeast Corridor. Laney said January is the boards targeted deadline to have the federal-state management set up.
Amtrak supporters are pushing for the passage of a Senate bill that would reduce Amtraks operating subsidy by 40 percent but would give the railroad more money for improvements to tracks and equipment.
The Bush administration has called for no subsidies for Amtrak, but the House has approved an appropriation of nearly $1.2 billion for this budget year.
New Haven, CT - Environmentalists, historic preservationists and fiscal conservatives celebrated a significant victory after a New Haven Judge and the co-plaintiffs received agreement from the Connecticut Dept. of Transportation (ConnDOT) to cease all project activities at the Main Avenue & Merritt interchange in Norwalk.
Co-plaintiffs are optimistic about the future ruling and have hope for a better plan than the proposed $98 million, Los Angeles style interchange
The ConnDOT moratorium was issued just prior to the anticipated ruling on a Temporary and Permanent Injunction. Co-plaintiffs consider this agreement to be extremely successful. Later this year, New Havens U.S. District Court Judge Mark Kravitz will rule on whether ConnDOT needed to consider alternate, more appropriate plans for the interchange. According to the Merritt Parkway Conservancy, one of the seven
co-plaintiffs, the project far exceeds what is reasonable and necessary to resolve the traffic issues.
Laurie Heiss, Executive Director of the Merritt Parkway Conservancy said, we are very pleased with the agreement and after the merits of the case are resolved we hope to act as a partner with ConnDOT moving forward to assist in developing an interchange which will fit well into the Merritt without further damage and without costing taxpayers as much money. We understand the need for this project but Connecticut can and should do a better job of planning where there are historic, environmental, traffic and fiscal issues to consider.
This project has been on the table, slowly moving forward, since the 1970s. It was a long fight to get it stopped but I know that in 2005 we can do better than a 1970s plan. We anticipate that the final resolution of the case will drive the design of a more fiscally responsible and suitable alternative, said Peter Malkin, Parkway Conservancy Co-Chairman.
The Merritt Parkway is one of the only roads listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a distinction usually reserved for buildings or battlefields. The Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) organization which celebrates the scenic, cultural and environmental assets of this remarkable Parkway through education, advocacy and in the spirit of partnership. Other co-plaintiffs include The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, The National Trust for Historic Preservation in the U.S., The Norwalk Land Trust, The Norwalk Preservation Trust, The Norwalk River Watershed Alliance and The Sierra Club.
Contact Laurie Heiss at The Merritt Parkway Conservancy, PO Box 183, Westport, CT 06881-0183 or via email at email@example.com.
The Sunset Limited, the Amtrak service from Los Angeles, California to Tallahassee, Florida, will not be seen plying the rails for at least six months according to a report in the Tallahassee Democrat.
Railroad officials estimate it could take at least that much time to repair tracks damaged by Hurricane Katrina. In the meantime, train wont be running the eastern half of its route. Train passengers will have to make other plans.
Its definitely disrupted things, said regular rider Jack Turner, a state worker in Tallahassee. I really miss it right now.
The Sunset Limited normally runs three days a week from Orlando, FL to Los Angeles, CA to complete the 68-hour one-way trip. Stops are made in Jacksonville; Bayou Blue, La.; and Yuma, Ariz., as well as many others.
The stop in Tallahassee was added in 1993 and now accounts for as many as 3,000 passengers a year.
The Sunset Limiteds route has seen problems before, including a short period in 2004 after Hurricane Ivan damaged tracks near Pensacola, FL.
Hurricane Katrina washed out some 30 miles of track and destroyed six bridges, according to Gary Sease, spokesman for CSX Transportation, the company that owns the rails.
The total estimate for repairs and lost revenue could reach as much as $250 million.
Amtraks Sunset Limited line plies the CSX trackage under a lease agreement. After Katrina, the rail company ended the route at San Antonio, TX until repairs can be made.
There are no plans to reroute the train while repairs take place.
AMSTERDAM - Federal authorities said equipment problems may have caused 18 cars from a CSX freight train to derail last Wednesday, partially submerging one in the Mohawk River and effectively shutting down rail lines to western New York throughout the day.
Federal investigators were looking into what caused part of the 84-car freight train to topple off the tracks at 8:20 a.m. There were no injuries as a result of the accident, which caused extensive damage to both east and westbound tracks.
Three regional inspectors were dispatched to the scene to collect data from data recorders located aboard the trains engine and along the rails. We have no definitive cause yet, but were looking at equipment issues, said Steven Kulm, , a spokesman for the rail authority.
The train was traveling about 45 mph when the cars derailed, said Maurice OConnell, a regional spokesman for CSX Transportation. Once data is retrieved off the engines black box, OConnell said investigators from the Florida-based company will look into the train, track and operating procedures, among other possible factors in the crash.
Word of the derailment and initial fears of an environmental disaster kept city firefighters bustling throughout the morning. Initial fears were allayed when a black tanker car lying off to the side of the tracks turned out to be hauling soybean oil, rather than a toxic or flammable substance.
In 32 years of service with the Amsterdam Fire Department, Battalion Chief Walter Martin couldnt recall another railroad accident inside the city that caused the amount of damage that Wednesdays derailment did.
Lying perpendicular across both tracks were seven boxcars and gondolas like a row of fallen dominos, some severed from their dollies and others torn open from the impact. Weighty segments of track were forcibly wrenched from massive railroad ties, left lying haphazardly among twisted wood and steel.
We were really very fortunate. It could have been a lot worse. Martin said, pointing to a pair of tanker cars located a scant distance away, parked near a railroad crossing off Front Street, both filled with sulfuric acid. A third tanker car contained residue from a flammable substance.
In the past decade, only three trains have derailed along the stretch of tracks running through Montgomery County, according to the rail authority. All three instances involved freight trains traveling between 45 and 50 mph.
The Leader reported that train service was restored on Thursday, October 13, after work crews finished repairing sections of track damaged by the derailment.
CSX holds the key
Politicians push rail carrier to open
its tracks to more commuter lines
Photo: Mike SpringerKathy Bartolini, director of planning and economic development in Framingham, stands at the railroad crossing at routes 126 and 135.
BOSTON - Plans to increase Worcester-to-Boston train service rest largely on talks between the state and rail carrier CSX Corporation, lawmakers are pledging to nudge each side and ensure the potentially expanding project is funded.
A project that will double to 20 the number of roundtrips on the Worcester/Framingham commuter rail line every day is not moving forward fast enough for the politicians.
MetroWest lawmakers are joining with Worcester-area lawmakers to pressure MBTA and the Executive Office of Transportation to keep the project on the front burner and provide the legislators with a list of actions to undertake so that, as soon as negotiations are completed, increased service can get started immediately.
State Sen. Edward Augustus, D-Worcester, asked MBTA General Manager Daniel Grabauskas in August to take a get-tough approach to moving the project forward.
Grabauskas, who is not involved in the talks with CSX, said he is fully behind the Worcester train project. I wholeheartedly support 20 trains to Worcester and have been championing this for years, Grabauskas wrote in an e-mail Friday.
MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said a key report the MBTA commissioned on the infrastructure needs of the train line, which was supposed to be released last year and that project supporters eagerly await, should be completed later this month.
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The ultimate Sound Transit vision of light rail running between Everett, Seattle, and Tacoma and some form of fixed-guideway transit connecting Seattle, Bellevue and Redmond emerged Thursday as the No. 1 priority in expanding the regional bus and rail system.
Theres likely not enough money to achieve that vision in Sound Transits second phase, known as ST2, Sound Transit board members acknowledged Thursday.
But transportation officials in three counties proposed that Sound Transits light rail system be extended as far as possible during ST2.
Voters will decide as early as the fall of 2006 whether to pass or reject an increase in the sales tax that will be proposed by the Sound Transit board members.
Already, agency staff members have narrowed 500 possible transit projects to 185 and then to 79 as a result of cost/benefit analyses. More could be cut by December.
The controversial Seattle Monorail Project will most likely be dropped. Several additional commuter rail stations have been proposed in the city and outlying urban areas.
In Seattle, the top ST2 priority is to extend light rail from Husky Stadium to Northgate. Second and third priorities are special bus lanes, a park and ride lot, capital and bus service improvements including a direct access ramp to a high occupancy vehicle lane on Interstate 5.
In East King County, the highest priority is to build a fixed guideway corridor from Seattle across Interstate 90 to Bellevue and to Redmond. Yet to be decided is whether that corridor will be light rail or a bus rapid transit corridor built so that it is convertible to light rail.
The good news is people want more mass transit, said Bellevue Mayor Connie Marshall, a Sound Transit board member.
Hybrid Bus Transit Now Available in Springfield, Mass;
GM delivers hybrid power for bus added to PVTA transit fleet
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - Thanks to the efforts of a Massachustts Congressman and a leading automaker, an important step was taken last week in providing cleaner, more efficient energy for transportation.
On Friday, October 14, the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) announced the addition of a hybrid bus to its mass transit fleet. PVTA and the city of Springfield join the growing ranks of communities investing in transit buses powered by General Motors hybrid technology, which offers greater fuel economy and cleaner emissions than conventional diesel buses.
In a media event at the future site of the Holyoke Multimodal Transportation Center in Holyoke, Mass., the PVTA unveiled the bus. On hand for the festivities were Congressman John W. Olver, who was instrumental in securing the funding for the bus, and representatives from the PVTA and General Motors.
As individuals and as a society we must make a greater effort to promote energy conservation and efficiency, said Congressman Olver. I am glad to have contributed to a first step in this effort and hope to see many more of these vehicles on the road in the near future.
Transit buses with GMs hybrid propulsion system provide a significant fuel economy improvement over conventional diesel buses, with a range of 25 to 55 percent fuel economy improvement depending on the route and driving conditions.
The GM diesel-electric drive system for buses uses the most efficient parallel hybrid architecture available in the world today and is manufactured by GM Allison in Indianapolis, said Tom Stephens, group vice president, GM Powertrain. We think it is an excellent investment for urban transit bus fleets and applaud PVTA for its efforts.
In addition, the hybrid buses provide dramatically lower emissions, including up to 90 percent fewer particulate, hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions. Other benefits include reduced maintenance costs resulting from extended brake, engine oil and transmission oil life; superior torque and better acceleration than conventional diesel buses and operation sound levels equal to passenger cars even in tunnels.
The timing of the introduction of this vehicle to our fleet could not be better, said Gary Shepard, PVTA administrator. With skyrocketing fuel prices impacting our operating budgets, we are the fortunate beneficiaries of Congressman Olvers dedicated effort to bring this new technology to the Pioneer Valley.
The clean hybrid technology is manufactured by GM Allison Transmission, maker of transmissions and hybrid propulsion systems for commercial trucks, buses, off-highway equipment and military vehicles, headquartered in Indianapolis. Gillig Corp. of Hayward, Calif., manufactured the bus.
The technology in these buses has served as the starting point for GMs co-development with DaimlerChrysler and BMW of a two-mode hybrid system that GM will launch first in the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon in 2007.
More information on GM can be found at http://www.gm.com and on GMs corporate responsibility web site http://www.gmability.com.
A Colorado bus manufacturers financial problems could lead to the MBTA missing a clean-air deadline.
The company, Neoplan USA Corporation, is under contract to supply 85 low-polluting diesel buses, but the T says Neoplan has delivered only 18 buses and could soon cease production.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority needs all the buses by July to comply with one of numerous commitments to reduce the impact of Big Dig traffic.
State transportation officials have told the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection that they are likely to miss the July 15 deadline for obtaining the emission-control buses because of circumstances beyond their control. The department, in a recent letter to the Executive Office of Transportation, requested more details and demanded that steps be taken to prevent or minimize any delay.
An environmental advocate expressed concern yesterday that the delay represents another setback to improving air quality and mass transit in Eastern Massachusetts. We need to stay on top of the MBTA and make sure it is holding true to its promises, said Jeremy Marin, associate regional representative for the Sierra Club. All too often in the past the T has not kept its promises.
Jon Carlisle, a spokesman for the Executive Office of Transportation, said that the office and the T will live up to their commitments but that, sometimes, unforeseen delays happen. You cant on a dime turn around and get a new contractor, he said. But this doesnt represent backing away from what we have agreed to do.
The T is working to replace the 395 oldest buses purchased about ten years ago because they pollute more and require more maintenance.
The Globe reported that T officials planned to open bids last week for 155 new buses designed to reduce pollution. Buses purchased under the new contract wont start arriving until fall 2006, MBTA spokesman Pesaturo said, and wont all be delivered until early 2007.
OMAHA, Neb., - Union Pacific Railroad announced on Friday a project to help reduce nitrogen oxide emissions in Texas over the next 10 years by introducing low-emission, fuel-efficient locomotives for yard operations in Houston/Galveston, Dallas/Ft. Worth and San Antonio. With the assistance of an incentive grant from the state of Texas to help improve air quality in the state, Union Pacific said it plans to introduce 111 new technology locomotives in 2006 and 2007. These locomotives are expected to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 80 percent while using as much as 40 percent less fuel.
Our new low-emission yard locomotives are the next chapter in Union Pacifics voluntary efforts to reduce emissions, said Bob Grimaila, Union Pacifics vice president-environment and safety. We have worked hard to build the most environmentally friendly locomotive fleet in North America, and we are committed to preserving our environment by reducing pollution.
Ninety-eight of these low-emission rail yard locomotives, called the Generator-Set, or Gen-Set, switchers, will be built by RailPower Technologies Corporation. The units are powered by two or three state-of-the-art small diesel engines commonly used in over-the-road trucks.
The incentive grant also allowed for the purchase of 13 MP20B-3 low- emission switchers from Motive Power Industries, which are powered by 2,000- horsepower Caterpillar engines.
Union Pacific Corporation owns one of Americas leading transportation companies. Its principal operating company, Union Pacific Railroad, links 23 states in the western two-thirds of the country and serves the fastest-growing U.S. population centers.
For further information, contact Joe Arbona, Union Pacific, 281-350-7771 (w) and 832-257-4363 (c) or Andy Saenz, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, 512-239-5018.
|Burlington Northern & Santa Fe||(BNI)||57.43||58.91|
|Florida East Coast||(FLA)||42.89||43.71|
|Genessee & Wyoming||(GWR)||30.40||31.90|
|Kansas City Southern||(KSU)||21.55||22.50|
|Providence & Worcester||(PWX)||12.53||13.16|
G&W Reports Traffic for
the Third Quarter of 2005
Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (GWI) (NYSE: GWR) today reported September 2005 and the third quarter of 2005 traffic volumes for its North American and 50%-owned Australian operations.
North American carloads in the third quarter of 2005 increased by 37,296 carloads, or 23.1%. Excluding 8,837 carloads from the Tazewell & Peoria Railroad which GWI started operating November 1, 2004, 4,960 carloads from the First Coast Railroad which GWI started operating April 9, 2005, and 25,389 carloads from the former Rail Management Corp. railroads which GWI started operating June 1, 2005, North American traffic in the third quarter of 2005 decreased by 1,890 carloads, or 1.2%. This same-railroad decrease was primarily due to a 1,244 carload decrease in metals traffic and an 841 carload decrease in coal coke & ores traffic. These decreases were partially offset by a 977 carload increase in minerals & stone traffic. All other commodities decreased by a net 782 carloads.
Australian carloads in the third quarter of 2005 decreased by 5,816 carloads, or 2.4%, compared with the third quarter of 2004. The decrease was primarily the result of a 20,657 carload decrease in grain traffic due to last year’s record harvest. This decrease was partially offset by an 8,640 carload increase in iron ores traffic. All other commodities increased by a net 6,201 carloads.
Historically, the Company has found that carload information may be indicative of freight revenues on its railroads, but may not be indicative of total revenues, operating expenses, operating income or net income.
GWI is a leading operator of short line and regional freight railroads in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia and Bolivia, operating over 9,300 miles of owned and leased track and over more than 3,000 additional miles under track access arrangements.
Smoke and Light
There is more smoke than light in the latest Amtrak saga, a vote by the railroads Board of Directors to establish a separate accounting capability and other measures pertaining to the operation of the Northeast Corridor.
While such a move could be the precursor to splitting off the Corridor, it does not necessarily follow that that will be done. In the first place, Congress will have a lot to say about it. Secondly, pushing operational responsibility off to a consortium of states is simply put, a stupid idea.
The states are already faced with increasing costs for health care and other big ticket items due to the Bush Administrations belief that the Federal government should tax and spend less than it does, and they dont want the burden of making up the cumulative $6 billion shortfall in deferred infrastructure replacement that has been incurred since Amtrak was created out of the wreckage of the bankrupt or near-bankrupt railroads.
Also, it should be instructive to note that the single most poorly maintained and operated section of the Northeast Corridor, the stretch from New Haven to the New York State line, is ALREADY owned by a state --- Connecticut --- which has gone out of its way to make the corridor nearly inoperable, despite heavy Connecticut commuter rail demands. They have done this through simple neglect, leaving in place, and fixing only at a snails pace, the century-old overhead wires that power the trains on that segment.
No, Amtrak should not be split apart. Certainly, innovative ideas to re-capitalize the railroad should be pursued. But the Board vote, denounced by all, is not the end of the line, or even the beginning of the end. It is just another bump in the long ride that is Amtrak, a ride which will bounce along fitfully until America once again has political leadership that cares about transportation.
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