Destination:Freedom Newsletter
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 3 No. 43, October 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - James Furlong
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update

Bombardier JetTrain


Canadian builder Bombardier took the wraps off its JetTrain in Washington last week. They will cost about $20 million a set in orders of 10 sets or more, according to Bombardier Transportation COO Pierre Lortier.
JetTrain debuts on time,
within budget parameters
By Jim RePass

Washington, October 14 – More than 400 of America’s transportation leaders were on hand Tuesday afternoon at Union Station to witness the unveiling of Bombardier Transportation’s new JetTrain, a 5,000hp locomotive designed to provide high-speed rail service on railroad lines that are not electrified.

Bombardier Transportation President and COO Pierre Lortier, and Marketing Vice President Lecia Stewart, led the unveiling with a video presentation in Union Station’s private Columbus Club, followed by an on-camera unveiling of the JetTrain and a tour of the actual locomotive, which was parked in Union Station for the event.

Developed in cooperation with the FRA, the JetTrain will be targeted at corridors throughout the U.S. where high-speed regional rail projects are under discussion and development. These include California, the Pacific Northwest, the nine-state Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, the Gulf Coast Corridor from Texas to Florida, Florida High-Speed Rail, the Southeastern High Speed Rail Coalition from Georgia to Washington, and New York State.

The jet aircraft engine turns a generator that supplies electricity to traction motors on the axles.

The vehicle, based on the same chassis and body as the electrified Acela Express and fully compliant with FRA safety standards, and a jet aircraft engine that is remarkably quiet (65 decibels at full throttle), would be used in tandem with cars similar to those of the Acela Express now running on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. Trainsets would cost around $20 million each in 10-order quantities.

The JetTrain is the first 150-mile per hour non-electric high-speed rail locomotive designed for the North American market, the firm stated in a press release.

Bombardier explained, “The state-of-the-art Bombardier JetTrain locomotive is powered by a jet engine derived from a Pratt & Whitney PW 150, which replaces the traditional diesel engine found in most current rail equipment.” Remarkably, it burns ordinary diesel fuel, the company said.

JetTrain technology was designed to offer the speed and acceleration of electric trains without the cost of building electrified rail lines, and meets all North American standards for high-speed rail,” Bombardier stated. The initiative was launched in 1998 as a public-private development partnership between Bombardier Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

FRA’s Warren Flateau told D:F last week via an e-mail interview the train was produced within budget parameters.

He said, “The public-private partnership began during Fiscal Year 1998. FRA and Bombardier have invested $13 million each into the locomotive’s development,” so $26 million produced the JetTrain.

Flateau added, “We are, of course, still intimately involved in the continued development of the power equipment and associated technologies. Bombardier and Amtrak are also expected to announce in the future a demonstration touring schedule.”

No one from Amtrak was officially present at the unveiling. A spokeswoman said the company’s fiscal future is uncertain, so for now, it cannot consider new equipment.

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Bombardier JetTrain


The JetTrain operated and tested near the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
‘Moving the goal posts,’ Lorite says
“Bombardier has moved the goal posts,” said Pierre Lortie, Bombardier Transportation president and COO.

JetTrain high-speed rail is game-changing technology that breaks open the high-speed market throughout North America.”

Among its performance features, the locomotive is 20 per cent lighter than a conventional diesel unit with twice the acceleration. It has already undergone extensive low and high-speed dynamic testing as part of a Bombardier and FRA research and development program.

JetTrain is significantly more environmentally friendly than other forms of mass transportation, said Bombardier.

“Under operating conditions, JetTrain greenhouse gas emissions will be at least 30 per cent lower than from a conventional diesel. The JetTrain locomotive is quieter than FRA noise standards at all operating speeds.”

The builder also stated, “JetTrain is the only non-electric high-speed rail technology designed to meet Tier II Passenger Equipment Safety Standards established by the FRA. Tier II standards specify minimum safety requirements related to crash energy management, rollover strength, and the ability to withstand compressive forces at speeds greater than 125 mph.”

Market experience in Europe and now in the Northeast Corridor “has consistently demonstrated that high-speed rail is an attractive and competitive alternative to both air and automobile travel for trips of 150 to 400 miles,” the builder asserted.

The company makes 20 different intercity and high-speed products, including seven different high-speed locomotives. The firm states it has participated in the development of many of the world’s high-speed rail systems, including four different TGVs, the ICE trains used in Germany and the Netherlands, Italy’s ETR 500, China’s Xinshisu, Spain’s Talgo and America’s Acela Express.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Washington correspondent, Edward Epstein, took a different view of the train. He observed that rail equipment manufacturers worldwide are eyeing California, where notions of a $25 billion high-speed passenger train service are moving nearer to reality.

He wrote that the JetTrain “is perfect for aspects of the California system that planners envision will whisk people from San Diego and Los Angeles in the south to San Francisco and Sacramento in the north,” citing Bombardier officials.

California’s high-speed rail plan is one of about a dozen across the country that are moving forward. Florida issued a request for proposals for its rail project two weeks ago, and Californians will vote on a $9.95 billion high-speed rail bond issue in November 2004 to get construction started.

The “New California Gold Rush” is how the state’s High-Speed Rail Authority bills its ambitious plan. It envisions creating hundreds of thousands of jobs building railroad track and cars. A high-speed rail system would relieve congestion in the air and on the state’s major north-south freeways by someday carrying 32 million passengers annually and making the downtown San Francisco-Los Angeles trip in 2.5 hours.

The main line of the California bullet train, which is designed to enter downtown San Francisco from the Peninsula, will feature electric trains “powered by fuels that result in zero emissions” and go faster than 200 mph. Companies that make high-speed engines and passenger cars will line up to supply the electric trains, many of which will get their power from catenary – but the 2004 bond issue also calls for spending $950 million on rail feeder lines for the high-speed system, such as on the coastal route from San Diego to Los Angeles’ Union Station. The authority already admits that coastal communities in Orange County are unlikely to accept the unsightly overhead wire, so it is searching for other options.

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5,000 hp is a part of JetTrain’s specs
JetTrain produces some impressive specifications, according to documents online at Bombardier’s website. The train can operate at sustained speed of 150 mph (240 kmh). Its jet engine, a 3,750kw Pratt & Whitney turbine produces 5,000 hp from a computer-based controller that monitors and controls the turbine. What is remarkable is that it burns standard diesel fuel from a 2,200 U.S. gallon fuel tank.

Weighing only 1,200 pounds, the JetTrain’s power plant is one-tenth the size and 38,000 pounds lighter than a conventional diesel engine. At the axles, propulsion comes from AC traction motors, and water-cooled inverters producing continuous 3,300kw (4,400 hp) for each power car. Dynamic braking is supplemented by friction braking “cheek” discs and a tread brake on each wheel.

The engine carries a Tightlock coupler under its nose with a type H head, and on the rear end is a semi-permanent draw bar.

Each engine is 69 feet, 7 3/8ths inches long, 10 feet, five-inches wide over its side sheets, and 14 feet, 2-inches high, rail to roof. It rolls on 40-inch wheels, and weighs 100 tons (200,000 pounds).

Each coach is similarly built, but also has a tilting system, a computer-controlled and hydraulically activated “Advance Tilting System”, as Bombardier calls it.

Its coaches, regardless of interior configuration, are stainless steel structures with steel ends and underframes. The trucks are high-speed, outboard bearing, fabricated frame design with primary and secondary helicoidal springs with secondary air springs. The couplers are semi-permanent drawbars.

Two self-contained overhead mounted HVAC systems complemented with floor heating cool or heat the interior as required. Its doors are outside sliding plug type, designed for high-platform boarding.

Passenger services are fully Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, Bombardier said. The train has public phone booths and unisex toilets. Audio entertainment (all cars) includes video entertainment. The service car contains controls for the public address system, information display signs, rotating seats, folding tables, and meal service (in the service and business class cars).

Each coach is 87 feet, five-inches long, ten feet, 4 1/2 inches wide over the side sheets and 13 feet, 10 5/8ths inches high, rail to roof. The cars roll on 36-inch wheels, and each weighs 127,000 pounds. The business class car, however, weighs a bit more 129,000 pounds, and the service car, 132,000 pounds.

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Bombardier, FRA join hands in joint project
“The ultimate goal was to develop a commercially feasible, high-speed intercity passenger rail transportation product for the U.S.,” writes Bombardier at its web site.

“The FRA had Research and Development funding earmarked for their ‘Next Generation High Speed Rail’ initiative, but the solution would require matching private funding as well as a series of technological solutions to meet a series of challenges.”

Those challenges included:

  • Reduce trip times
  • Minimize infrastructure improvement costs
  • Address operational constraints
  • Ensure safety in mixed traffic
  • Address funding constraints
  • Minimize environmental impacts

Bombardier accepted the technology challenge and the monetary risk of the FRA public private technology demonstration partnership.

“In addition to our 50 percent share of the total $26 million R&D budget, professionals from throughout the company undertook a unique collaboration to develop robust solutions for each of the requirements. In October 1998 the partnership between the FRA and Bombardier Transportation was finalized.”

By June 2000, “a successful response had been developed for each of the challenges. The prototype locomotive performed at 156 mph at the FRA Pueblo test track in summer 2001, and on October 15, 2002 the Bombardier JetTrain locomotive was unveiled in Union Station in Washington D.C.”

High-speed rail service can operate on existing right of way, Bombardier stresses.

“Train speeds can be increased as track upgrades are completed. The independent jet engine power source and the ability to meet FRA Tier II Passenger Equipment Safety Standards, allows JetTrain services to operate on existing non-electrified rail and in mixed traffic with freight trains,” the company states.

All high-speed trains currently in service worldwide are electric-powered, but less than one percent of track in North America has catenary. The “cat” delivers power to the locomotive and the rest of the train as it travels along the track.


Bombardier Transportation COO, Pierre Lortie, sits at the controls of the JetTrain, a 5,000 horsepower, jet-powered locomotive designed to bring high-speed rail to regions where electrified track is not available. Remarkably, Bombardier says the engine operates on ordinary diesel fuel.
Track Forces Graph


JetTrain track forces compared to an F-40PH
The locomotive’s low unsprung mass permits high-speed travel without producing damaging track forces. Capital costs at start up are significantly reduced from electric trains that require catenary. Upgrades to track and signaling can be approached in an incremental manner.

The builder states, “Joint operation on existing right of way compounds the value of all track upgrade investment – improving effectiveness for freight, passenger and port operations in the same corridor.”

Bombardier JetTrain


Last year, before it was named the JetTrain, the power plant underwent exhaustive testing at the Pueblo, Colo. FRA and AAR test tracks.
DOT’s Slater revisited from 1999
Here's a quick history lesson on how the JetTrain came to be.

Three years ago, former USDOT Secretary Rodney Slater told reporters “an aggressive schedule to begin testing and demonstration of a prototype high-speed non-electric passenger locomotive on high-speed rail passenger corridors” would soon begin.

Slater noted, on October 7, 1999, “High-speed rail helps build the transportation system for the new millennium.”

He explained, “The American people will benefit from safe, comfortable, reliable, high-speed passenger rail service, which provides an attractive option for travel between major urban centers and helps cities manage the increased congestion that is expected.”

So, USDOT, through the FRA “in partnership with Bombardier Transit Corp., is producing a prototype high-speed, non-electric locomotive ultimately capable of speeds up to 150 mph. Testing of this prototype is scheduled to begin in the late spring of 2000. Initial testing will be at the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colo., followed by extensive demonstrations over a wide range of operating conditions.

A notice regarding the tests appeared in the September 3, 1999 Federal Register, and outlined two prototype demonstrations: a concept demonstration and a service demonstration. The concept demonstration involved the prototype locomotive and three cars provided by Bombardier in actual operation for 3 to 14 days on several high-speed rail corridors to gather train performance data.

“The service demonstration will involve a prototype locomotive and 3 cars, in revenue service for an extended period of time, three-to-six months, in one or two high-speed corridors. The service demonstration will collect longer-term performance data, will be managed by Amtrak and will test compatibility with modern passenger rail equipment already in use.”

Jolene Molitoris, who was FRA’s Administrator three years ago, said “We greatly value our partnership with Bombardier Transit Corporation in developing this prototype. High-speed rail will be an important component of the transportation system in the 21st century, and this project will help to make that a reality.”

By August 13, 1999, Slater said DOT awarded $7 million in federal funding to continue the partnership between the FRA and Bombardier to produce the prototype non-electric high-speed locomotive by the year 2000.

Bombardier lived up to its bargain.

Design parameters included the power plant be capable of 5,000hp in a self-propelled locomotive that would permit high-speed rail passenger service without requiring catenary.

The locomotive was expected to have a gas-turbine power plant, but along the way, that notion was dropped in favor of a jet engine. The locomotive was also required to develop advanced electrical propulsion technology. It was required to weigh about 100 tons – about half the weight of some current diesel freight locomotives.

“Passenger trains powered by the 69-foot-long locomotive will be capable of traveling at speeds up to 150 mph. In the future, the prototype locomotive’s acceleration capability will be augmented by integrating a flywheel energy storage system being developed in a FRA-funded project at the Center for Electromechanics at the Univ. of Texas at Austin.

The FRA and Bombardier shared prototype development costs on a 50-50 basis. The $7 million award combined with $3 million in FRA funds awarded in fiscal year 1998 brought the total federal investment to $10 million. Bombardier also has contributed $10 million, but later, both entities agreed to add $3 million each.

The high-speed gas turbine locomotive was then “a principal element of the FRA’s Next Generation High-Speed Rail Technology Development Program” which began in 1995.

The aim of the program, DOT stated, “is to adapt existing technologies to reduce the cost of initiating high-speed rail service on existing rail lines. Central to these efforts are partnerships among the FRA, state transportation agencies, Amtrak, and the private sector. The High-Speed Rail Program also facilitates the use of advanced technologies through the development and demonstration of advanced computerized train control systems and the elimination of hazards at highway-rail grade crossings in designated corridors.”

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Colorado Rail Car-DMU 148

Gary Kazin

Last week, Colorado Railcar’s new “Diesel Multiple Unit,” or DMU, was demonstrating in New Jersey. On October 22 it will be in Orlando, Fla., on the Florida Central through the 26th, then move northward again to be in Raleigh-Durham, Charlotte and Asheville, N.C., between November 3-8. On the 13th and 14th It will visit Chicago’s Metra, then move on to Madison Wis. on the 15th and 16th. It will then travel to the far west to be in Portland, Ore. On November 20, 21, and finish the month and the year in Vancouver, B.C. on the 25th and 26th.

The car is already booked for a good part of 2003 – with visits scheduled for Colorado, California, Texas, Arizona, Virginia, Georgia, New York, New England, Wisconsin again, and Missouri.

A rail trust fund:

Does the idea have legs?

By Wes Vernon
Washington Correspondent

Amtrak President David Gunn has called for a rail trust fund to help put both freight and passenger trains on a level playing field with other transportation modes.

Noting that air and highway transport have their infrastructure costs underwritten through the trust fund mechanisms, the Amtrak boss said it is well past time to implement a similar mechanisms for railroads as well.

Addressing the annual Railway Age conference in Washington, “Passenger Trains on Freight Railroads,” Gunn declined to stipulate a precise method for setting up such a fund. But he did cite the fuel tax now paid by the freight railroads as one and only one possibility.

Acela at Providence, RI

NCI: Leo King

Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor is one of the few railroads where freight carriers are the tenants, rather than the other way around. Here, a westbound Acela Express leaves Providence, R.I., on its way to Washington. Its red markers bring up the rear.
When asked how he would deal with freight railroads’ longstanding opposition to creating a trust fund for fear it would amount to a foot-in-the-door for re-regulation (complete with open access and the like), Amtrak’s seventh CEO said his company and the freight rail carriers are “in the same leaky boat,” and that they both would have much to gain by cooperating in an effort to bolster the rail mode’s place in the transportation mix. He suggested specifically a capital trust fund to upgrade such rail infrastructure as trackage and signal systems.

Putting the fuel tax “back into railroad use” would make more sense than putting the 4.3-cent payment into the general federal treasury, as is done under current law, he argued.

Class I carriers have been campaigning for years to abolish the fuel tax altogether. They have noted the inequity whereby other modes have been relieved of the tax, while the feds continue to extract it from the railroads. Merely changing the tax payment’s ultimate federal destination is no solution at all, as the freight railroads see it.

“The money would largely be collected from freight railroads, but someone else would determine how the money is spent,” Association of American Railroads spokesman Tom White told D:F.

“As for the 4.3 cents, it makes no sense to put that into a trust fund that would largely benefit passenger rail,” he asserted.

“The discipline of private financing prevents railroads from investing in projects that primarily yield public benefit,” AAR President Edward R. Hamberger wrote in Crain’s Chicago Business for October 14

“These benefits, such as reduced congestion, improved air quality and greater passenger mobility, are most appropriately funded by the public.”

In an interview with D:F during the conference, Norfolk Southern’s former general counsel, Wyley Mitchell, said a private railroad would expect to invest any “trust fund” money in such a manner as to benefit its shareholders. Mitchell, who still does some work for NS but is now in private law practice, made big waves at a previous Railway Age conference when he urged the state of Virginia to invest public money in more trackage on the freight rail line along Interstate 81 rather than build another lane on the highway. At the more recent interview with D:F, Mitchell emphasized he was speaking only for himself and not for NS or the industry as a whole.

As Gunn sees it, though, the freight railroads “are in big trouble, too.”

In the 10-year period from 1987 to 1997, the railroad national share of tonnage grew from 37.5 percent to 39.5 percent. That’s “a hell of a lot more freight,” but is counterbalanced by the fact that their national share of the revenue declined from 13 percent to 7 percent.

The Amtrak president used the British analogy of sending the canary into the mine to test the gas. “Well, let me tell you, we’re flopping around at the bottom of the cage.”

Gunn cited poor passenger train on-time performance on tracks owned by freight carriers, not to beat up on the railroads, he said, but to demonstrate the problems of the industry.

One railroad, in July and August “ran 200 trains for us.” About “75 percent of the time, they were more than a half-hour late, “but half of them were hours late.”

The railroads have “all this stuff” over their properties, they have increased volume and no money for capital, and they’re not doing a great job of maintenance, they don’t have the money.” They have “basically more tonnage and less money.”

“Track quality and capacity are big problems,” reflected in Amtrak’s on-time performance on the freight property.

On some trains, you ask the conductor “what time we’ll be in Podunk, and he’ll say Tuesday.” A true story, he said, substituting “Podunk” so as not to reveal the name of the railroad.

Gunn said, however, that the “near death experience” wherein Amtrak came perilously close to missing its payroll, “scared a lot of people,” and that has caused some re-thinking of how to bring stability to the “leaky boat” in which both Amtrak and freight railroads find themselves.

“We’re meeting our cash forecasts basically every day,” he told the Railway Age conference. He outlined his tight budget policies, and with the continuing resolution for about $1.2 billion adopted in the Senate and under negotiation in the House, “We actually can plan for the first time. We have a period of stability in Fiscal Year 2003.” The question again, is the future of the entire industry, passenger and freight, he argued.

Allowing that “stability at Amtrak would be chaos anywhere else,” Gunn believes the most important thing to talk about at this juncture is “what has to happen for the future.”

He outlined, “Clearly on capital, we have to get a rail trust fund set up, similar to what exists in transit.” Transit is 20 percent local and 80 percent federal, and “we have to get out of this constant turmoil around our budget.”

He suggested, “The above-the-rail [or operating] expenses [as opposed to capital] should be paid for by the states benefiting from the service.”

Forget about TGV or Acela-type service all over the country unless “you’re smoking funny cigarettes” because “you’re talking tens of billions of dollars,” and the money just isn’t there. 150-250 mph trains “won’t happen in our lifetime,” but there can be “significant improvements in the utility of rail passenger service…by making incremental improvements using the existing shared track” with improvements in track, capacity, the signal system, and the speed, “getting up to 90, 100, 110 miles an hour.”

This can be done through “a rail improvement fund that can be accessed by states” similar to the agreement worked out in the Portland-Seattle corridor where “you have a willing railroad, BNSF, you have states that will fund it, we have the technology that works [the Talgo trains]…and you can actually end up with a service on that corridor for a relatively small amount of money that [would be] totally competitive with air and highway service between Portland and Seattle.

Amtrak can attract capital, as Gunn sees it, that will benefit both freight and passenger service, in terms of adding “incremental improvements of existing rights of way, adding tracks, adding passing capacity, reverse running and that sort of thing.”

Further, he sees the day when “this industry is going to have ‘positive train stop’ rammed down its throat. Ultimately there’ll be a disaster somewhere, and the result will be” the railroads will be told, “You’ve got to put in a new positive train stop signaling system.”

Gunn asked rhetorically, “Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to do that when you’ve got to do it in order to run passenger trains at higher speeds?”

Hamberger makes the point that whereas the freight railroads would be the primary source of trust fund money, “the pressure to use these funds to finance passenger rail, highway rail-crossing traffic control devices, or short-line railroad infrastructure would be overwhelming. Major freight railroads cannot afford to cross-subsidize these efforts at the expense of their own investment needs.”

Amtrak’s boat is “a leakier than theirs (the Class I railroads),” but both are in a leaky boat, said Gunn, who predicts that the Class I lines will come to this view. He based that on conversations he said he has had with industry leaders who agree “that really we should work together.”

What is also clear is that “working together” will involve a lot of negotiating. If “the devil is in the details,” many details will require many hours of negotiation.

Not everything said at the conference centered on the trust fund idea as the path to cooperation.

Eugene Skoropowski, Capitol Corridor’s managing director in Northern California, and Tom Mulligan, Union Pacific’s passenger operations director, discussed the smooth, amicable and mutually beneficial relationship they enjoy on a line that has both heavy freight and heavy passenger traffic. The thrust of their story is that “it can be done.”

UP, by the way, is taking the lead in the industry opposition to a trust fund.

In a talk titled “Freight and Passenger May be More compatible Than You Think,” Paul Lundberg of Great Western Partners, LLC, said, in answer to a question, that the best way for passenger operators to approach the freight railroads is to go to them with a proposal in hand as to what is contemplated, not just the relatively modest schedule planned for the early months, but what is contemplated for the long run. The freight carrier will then outline what is involved in expenses and what the passenger entity will have to pay.

“If you can agree [after some negotiation] on cost, you’ve got a deal,” he said.

Skoropowski’s Capitol Corridor and METRA commuter operations in Chicago were cited as examples of how “it can be done.”

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Commuter lines...

LIRR DE-3 engines out for repairs

In the latest chapter involving the Long Island Rail Road’s troubled diesels, the first of 46 DE-3 locomotives was recently shipped Norfolk Southern’s Altoona shop to fix mechanical and structural problems with the barely three-year-old fleet.

Repairs were initially scheduled to start more than a year ago, but the Paducah, Ky., repair firm, VMV Paducahbilt, contracted by the diesel’s manufacturer, went bankrupt before the equipment was shipped. Last month, the LIRR sent the first locomotive to Pennsylvania, according to Newsday of October 8.

The locomotives will receive replacement engine skids – the bracing that holds the engines in place - as well as a host of other structural and mechanical fixes, LIRR officials said. All work is under warranty by the manufacturer, Electro-Motive Division of General Motors in LaGrange, Ill.

“The one saving grace is they are still under warranty,” said Beverly Dolinsky, executive director of the Long Island Rail Road Commuters Council, a commuters’ advocacy group. “Everyone would have liked to see them up and running and be perfect, but they have had a lot of problems and the problems need to be corrected and hopefully this is going to be the fix.”

The locomotives that move the railroad’s bi-level coaches will be taken out of service three at a time, said railroad spokesman Brian Dolan. If repairs to the first locomotive pass LIRR tests, it will then take about 18 months to fix all 46 in the fleet, he said.

The LIRR purchased the custom-built fleet for $151 million. Several of the engines have had problems ranging from broken heaters in the cabs to the cracked engine skids. Some of the locomotives also have cracked yaw dampers, a shock-absorbing brace that minimizes locomotive truck hunting, and broken steps leading to the engine cabs.

“It’s unfortunate that the railroad has had to be responsible for something that was a production problem from the outset,” said Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers President Robert M. Evers.

The LIRR does not anticipate any interruptions in service while repairs are under way and emphasized that an independent metallurgical firm found that the diesels are safe to operate, Dolan said.

“The good news is there is a plan to replace the skids entirely and repair any other damage,” Dolan said. “We don’t look at it in terms of a delay. We are looking at it in three factors: One, the locomotives are safe; two, that all work is being paid by the manufacturer; and three, these locomotives will not have an impact on our operation.”

Linda McGill, an EMD spokeswoman, said the company “sees no problem with the repairs and intends to meet the schedules.”

Another commuter group, the LIRR Commuters Campaign, said it is happy the diesels will be fixed, but criticized the delay.

“The problem is everything about this entire project has been a day late and a dollar short,” said Steven Barnes, the group’s recording secretary.

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Commuter railroaders to look for more pay
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority commuter rail workers will be seeking a hefty pay hike from the company that takes over the service from Amtrak next year, which some say could drive fares higher or lead to a shutdown if the two sides can’t hammer out a pact.

According to a letter obtained by the Boston Herald, the Transport Workers Union of America has notified the four potential bidders on the T’s commuter rail contract that its members are angling for a wage increase of at least 15 to 20 percent, putting them on par with other Northeast commuter rail workers and some of the T’s own subway employees.

“The (MBTA Commuter Rail Labor) coalition expects the winning bidder to be prepared to negotiate significant wage compensation increases to bring our members closer to the industry average,” the letter stated. Four bids on the five-to-10 year contract were received on October 11, the day the newspaper reported the story (see last week’s D:F). The T is doing a technical review of the proposals before looking at the financial information in November.

Since the MBTA owns all the commuter rail equipment and the right-of-ways, paying the workforce is the biggest cost of the contract. Amtrak, which has decided to walk away from the $180 million-a-year contract, spends about $64 million annually on labor. A 20 percent wage increase could drive that closer to $80 million a year.

Charlie Moneypenny, chairman of the Commuter Rail Labor Coalition, which represents about 1,300 of the service’s 1,600 workers, said initial talks with two of the three companies bidding on the contract – Transit America and Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. – have been productive.

“They don’t seem troubled by... what we’re seeking,” said Moneypenny; but transportation sources said if the workers wrangle a large wage increase, it could translate into higher fares for riders, a claim that was shot down by T General Manager Mike Mulhern.

“If fares go up, they’re going to go up because of a situation totally unrelated to the commuter rail (contract),” he said, noting the agency’s most recent finance plan maps out possible fare hikes.

Perhaps the bigger threat is a shutdown of the commuter rail next summer, when the new contractor takes over. Commuter rail workers, barred from walking off the job while employed by Amtrak due to federal regulations, will have much more bargaining power with the next commuter rail operator. Moneypenny said the ability to strike isn’t an issue, because workers could choose not to go to work for the company that wins the contract if wage levels aren’t acceptable.

“Nobody wants that,” said Moneypenny. “Our guys want to work. They have to support their families too, but they’ve been put in a position where they have some leverage.”

He noted, “Mulhern dismissed the possibility of labor unrest” leading to a shutdown of the commuter rail.

“I think (that’s) kind of projecting a worst-case scenario,” he said.

“If you’re suggesting to me that the unions are going to hold a new employer hostage, I don’t think you’re going to see that happen.”

Mulhern said he hopes to recommend one bidder to the MBTA board of directors at its meeting in December. After that, the collective bargaining with the unions will begin in earnest.

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Boston is set to run Breda cars again
Italian-made subway trolleys taken off Boston’s Green Line last year after several derailments could be back on Commonwealth Avenue by Christmas after a quick fix that – if it works – could save the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority about $25 million in repairs, officials said yesterday October 15.

The Breda-built cars are intended to run on the B Line along Commonwealth Avenue starting in mid-December, but only after the state Department of Telecommunications and Energy approves the plan, according to the Boston Globe.

A T report detailing the plans for reintroducing the low-floor cars is expected to be delivered by November 1 to the department, which oversees the T.

Older model trolleys are now being used on the B Line, and would continue to be used on other Green lines.

The Breda cars were introduced in March 1999 to offer better access to riders with special needs. They were pulled from service six months later and again in July 2000 after several derailments as well as problems with the cars’ braking system.

After $1 million in trackwork intended to avoid derailments, the Breda cars were put back in service last year, only to experience more derailments. In all, seven derailments have occurred. No one has been injured.

T management mothballed the 27 Bredas in August 2001.

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Seattle monorail finds rough tracks
King County Executive Ron Sims blasted supporters of a proposed Seattle monorail on October 10, accusing them of stifling debate on the $1.75 billion project and of threatening him for asking questions about it.

“It has taken on a religious, cult-like fervor,” Sims said in an interview with the Seattle Times. “You’re not supposed to say anything. You’re not supposed to question it.”

Sims’ anger was spurred, he said, by what he considered a threat delivered this week to Ethan Raup, his deputy chief of staff, by Marco Lowe, an aide to Mayor Greg Nickels who has been volunteering on the monorail campaign.

According to Raup, Lowe said he had “been asked to deliver a message” from “monied interests” behind the monorail: that Sims was risking his political future by asking skeptical questions about the monorail campaign.

Lowe denied making any threats. He said he and Raup, who are friends and are working together on the opposition campaign to Initiative 776 (an effort to cut car-tab fees), did talk recently about Sims’ monorail position.

“I think I said there were people that would like to see Ron Sims get behind it (the monorail),” said Lowe, but he denied threatening Raup or Sims.

Nevertheless, the bizarre flap has spurred Sims to publicly vent his frustrations about the tenor of the monorail debate three weeks before it comes to a vote on November 5.

“This is the most unusual political environment on an issue I’ve ever seen,” Sims said. “If you ask questions (about the monorail) it’s almost like you are a heretic.

“That’s what’s happening in this town, and everybody knows it,” he said.

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Voters League pulls monorail support
The League of Women Voters has taken the rare step of withdrawing its endorsement of a proposed 14-mile Seattle monorail, switching its position to neutral.

Leaders of the 650-member Seattle chapter said they acted prematurely when they first declared support on August 3. That was two days before the Elevated Transportation Co. (ETC) published its monorail plan and six days before an opposition campaign formed.

An initial line connecting West Seattle, downtown and Ballard, at an estimated cost of $1.75 billion, goes to a public vote November 5.

“We have concerns that the monorail will negatively impact ridership on our buses and will create aesthetic issues,” said a letter issued October 9.

Barbara Guptill, the league’s local-action chairwoman, said new car-tab taxes for the monorail, costing $140 annually per $10,000 of vehicle value, “would inspire a lot of antagonism.”

Henry Aronson of Citizens Against the Monorail called the league’s switch significant because its endorsements are the “gold standard” every campaign covets.

Patrick Kylen, manager of the pro-monorail Rise Above It All campaign, said all the key facts were available to the league in August, and members never contacted the ETC about any new concerns.

“To me, it’s odd. It seems to me to be a bad move for the league, not for us,” he said of the switch. Pro-monorail endorsements have come from King County Democrats, the Sierra Club, Washington Conservation Voters, Seattle-King County Building Trades Council, Aerospace Machinists District Lodge 751, Teamsters Local 763, former Govs. Dan Evans and Al Rosellini, U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott and Mayor Greg Nickels.

Prominent foes include architect Jud Marquardt, Univ. of Washington professor Jeffrey Ochsner and Metropolitan King County Councilman Dwight Pelz.

On Election Day, voters again face a vote on $30 car tabs in Seattle.

Tim Eyman said last week that his latest crusade, Initiative 776, or “$30 Tabs for Everyone,” is unabashedly an assault on Sound Transit’s light-rail program.

“The effort behind 776 is to revote light rail before construction begins,” Eyman told members of the Eastside Journal editorial board. Voters approved a 21-mile light-rail line and are getting only 14 miles, he said.

By repealing the voter-approved 0.3 percent motor vehicle excise tax, the I-776 also guts nearly $700 million, or 15 percent, of the agency’s $4.7 billion budget, which includes light-rail, buses and commuter trains.

On the surface, Eyman argues that the $30 tab initiative is an effort to keep that promise with voters.

I-776 is a “do-over,” Eyman said.

In 1999, his Initiative 695 won voter approval for $30 car tabs and voter review of all future tax increases. However, the courts overturned the measure as having too many issues in the ballot title. The legislature later approved $30 car tabs, but retained locally approved car tab hikes.

Most state drivers already pay $30. Four counties, though, collect an additional $15 fee for local roads, expected to raise $18 million next year in King County.

King County Executive Ron Sims, also the board chairman of Sound Transit, has consulted attorneys within and outside county government. While it will be up to courts to decide, the attorneys’ best reading is that the initiative cuts funds and therefore unconstitutionally impairs the bonds Sound Transit has issued. TEXT

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Big Apple wrangles with rail development
At an exuberant news conference in August overlooking the World Trade Center site, federal, state and city officials announced that $4.55 billion had been set aside for transit in Lower Manhattan – one of the biggest single sums ever available for city transportation and enough, officials assured, to remake a crucial part of the system.

Yet only two months later, a pitched battle over the money is already being waged behind the scenes, fueled by a debate that many say could determine the future of downtown: Should the money be spent only to improve the transit lines already there? Or should it also be used to bring in new train service, for the first time making downtown as accessible to suburban commuters as Midtown has always been? The New York Times reported on October 12 that the idea of extending commuter rail service into Lower Manhattan first emerged last winter, championed by a group of powerful downtown landlords, and it was largely viewed as an expensive pipe dream – but the dream has remained very much on the table, gaining political support and becoming a divisive reminder that, in a crowded city with ever-growing transit demands, $4.55 billion does not seem like so much money after all.

Proponents of new rail service, including the state’s senior senator, Charles E. Schumer (D), and Deputy Mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff, say they believe that downtown may recover but that it will not remain one of the world’s financial capitals without better connections to the rest of the region and to Kennedy and Newark Liberty International Airports.

Critics of the plan, including some top state officials and many within the Metropolitan Transportation Authority itself, say that the cost of a new downtown rail line – estimates range from $1.9 billion to more than $5 billion – far outweighs its benefits, especially now, when the city is looking for money for several other huge, long-needed transit projects, like the Second Avenue subway and bringing the Long Island Rail Road into Grand Central Terminal.

So far, the fight has remained largely out of the public view, but there are widespread worries that it is growing and portends the kind of bitter divisions that led to the decade-long fight over Westway, a 1970s plan to submerge a six-lane highway under hundreds of acres of parkland and development along the West Side waterfront. It ultimately failed.

“The danger is that we end up in a traditional New York blood vendetta instead of a rational discussion,” said Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, an independent urban policy group. “We could end up with nothing if we get bogged down in that kind of warfare.”

Ultimately, Gov. George E. Pataki, who controls the authority and is a central figure at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, will play the biggest part in settling the debate. He has avoided the issue, leaving it, for now, in the hands of the transit authority, which has tried to dismiss it but has been unable to make it go away and is now actually involved with landlords in studying the proposal.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Peter J. Kalikow, chairman of the transit agency, “but I don’t know, in terms of dollars and benefits, whether it’s a good thing to do now. When we do a project like that we think about bang for the buck: does it serve enough people to make it something we want to expend scarce capital on?”

Almost immediately after the World Trade Center attack, real estate forces, transit advocates and public officials all understood that a historic moment was at hand to fix many longstanding problems with Lower Manhattan transportation.

Simply rebuilding what had been destroyed, the 1 and 9 subway line, for example, which reopened last month, was relatively easy, because insurance money was available for those projects; but moving beyond that, to untangle and rethink the transit system, quickly began to prove much harder.

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

‘Rail~Volution ’ takes center stage

Nearly 1,300 planning and public transportation specialists, local government officials, developers, financiers, sustainable transportation activists, and others came to Washington October 3-6 to participate in the eighth Rail~Volution conference, which focused on funding to help create livable communities served by transit.

Many presentations at the conference addressed reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, which expires September 30, 2003. Another major topic of discussion was the integration of land use, transportation planning and decision-making efforts, and other issues to help foster real estate development associated with transit centers—a process generally known as transit-oriented and transit-adjacent development.

Participants joined public transportation leaders at Washington’s Union Station October 3 at a press event to publicize the first “Communities in Motion Day,” a nationwide observance initiated by APTA to showcase the positive role of public transportation in creating and enhancing mobility in communities. The news conference was held on a track at the station, aboard Colorado Railcar’s new diesel multiple unit.

The “Communities in Motion” observance was created to build support for public transportation by educating individual communities and decision-makers about public transportation’s role in providing opportunity, access, choice, and freedom. The effort is being promoted in advance of the Sept. 30, 2002, expiration of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, and the need for legislation to reauthorize TEA 21.

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Bush signs into law transit funds measure for new urbanized areas

President Bush signed into law October 1 a bill that continues transit operating assistance to public transportation providers due to lose it because they went above the 200,000 mark in population in the 2000 Census and lost their flexibility to use formula grant funds for operating expenses

The law will benefit 52 communities nationwide by extending the flexibility in the use of federal transit funds to these smaller urbanized areas across the nation.

The 2000 Census urbanized area designation process impacted the communities, crossing from below populations of 200,000 to above 200,000. Some communities simply grew; others were absorbed into nearby major metropolitan areas; and still others were combined with another nearby small city, and the combined population exceeds 200,000. Under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, areas of more than 200,000 cannot use federal formula grant funds to pay for transit operating expenses.

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House hearing focuses on speeding up some bills

Representatives of the transportation industry and environmental interest groups testified before a Congressional panel on October 8 on legislation designed to streamline the review process for transit and highway projects.

The hearing by the U.S. House Highways and Transit Subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was held to examine the Expediting Project Delivery to Improve Transportation and the Environment Act (H.R. 5455).

Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) introduced the bill in September, known as “ExPDITE.”

According to Young, the basic goals of the legislation are to expedite the completion of projects without amending environmental statutes or reducing citizen involvement in the developing transportation projects. The legislation includes provisions that define a process to navigate projects through the National Environmental Policy Act process; set a statutory deadline for filing lawsuits to stop projects that comply with this process; require U.S. DOT to work with other agencies in improving interagency cooperation; require U.S. DOT to analyze causes of and measure progress towards reducing delays; and allow delegation of federal agency responsibilities to the states.

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Two agencies okay ‘Smart Card’ system

Two public transportation agencies in the San Diego, Calif., area, the San Diego Metropolitan Transit Development Board and the North County Transit District, recently approved three contracts totaling $35.6 million for a joint venture to create a regional integrated smart card fare collection system.

The largest contract, $26 million, is with Cubic Transportation Systems, a subsidiary of Cubic Corp., for delivery of a smart card-based automated fare collection system.

GFI Genfare was awarded an $8.5 million contract for delivery of 520 electronic validating fareboxes, and Booz Allen Hamilton was awarded $1.1 million for project implementation including internal customer education and external marketing support.

The new “smart card” fare technology will be created for and used on MTDB’s Metropolitan Transit System buses, NCTD’s “Breeze” buses, the San Diego Trolley, and NCTD’s Coaster commuter rail system. It will unify fare payment for all of San Diego County’s existing and new rail systems, as well as all fixed route and express buses.

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‘Throne speech’ promotes infrastructure

In the annual speech from the throne given September 30 in Ottawa, the Canadian government announced the creation of a fund to improve urban infrastructure, including public transportation.

In the speech, Canada’s Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, reading the speech on behalf of the Canadian government, said the federal government would create a 10-year program to fund urban infrastructure. The “throne speech,” which resembles the State of the Union address in the United States, maps out the government’s agenda until the next elections, and is given in the Senate chamber on Parliament Hill in Ottawa before senators and some members of Parliament

Clarkson outlined the government’s plans for the program.

She said, “Working with provinces and municipalities, the government will put in place a 10-year program for infrastructure to accommodate long-term strategic initiatives essential to competitiveness and sustainable growth.”

Although the speech did not mention public transit specifically, she said “within this framework, [the federal government] would introduce a new strategy for a safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible transportation system that will help reduce congestion in our cities and bottlenecks in our trade corridors.”

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GO Transit opens two stations

GO Transit opened two new stations in the Toronto area in early September. One is named “Centennial” and the other is “York University.”

The Centennial station, which opened September 3, is located between the Unionville and Markham stations on the Stouffville Line. The station facility includes a platform, “kiss-and-ride” passenger drop-off, and 200 parking spaces, all located behind the Markham Centennial Community Centre.

The new station at York Univ. was opened September 6. It is the last stop on GO’s Bradford Line before Toronto’s Union Station, located three blocks east of Keele Street between Steeles and Finch Avenues. The station includes a train platform, automatic ticket vending machines, street access, lighting, and security cameras.

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New ties for Chicago’s transit system
U.S. Plastic Lumber Corp. reported October 16 its Engineered Products group has signed a contract to supply an additional 10,000 recycled composite railroad ties (trademarked DuraTie®), to the Chicago Transit Authority.

CTA has been a long time proponent of composite crossties and has purchased several thousand railroad ties from USPL in the past, the Florida company stated in a press release.

USPL’s COO, Michael McCann, said, “It shows that we have met CTA’s expectations of offering a viable replacement to traditional railroad ties, such as wood, steel or concrete. Our composite railroad ties have a life expectancy of two to three times longer than wood.”

Their ties are made of recycled plastic and fiberglass.

The American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Assn. is developing specifications for plastic composite railroad ties.

Wood ties are replaced in the U.S. at about 10-15 million annually. USPL’s railroad ties are non-conductive, and do not absorb water, like wooden ties, and help eliminate the effects of stray-current corrosion of track hardware in electrified mass transit systems, while significantly extending the life of the railroad ties.

USPL is online at

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Intermodal train in Jacksonville, FL

NCI: Leo King

A Florida East Coast intermodal train heads south from Jacksonville to Miami in mid-September before the 10-day West Coast dock work stoppage. FEC spokesman Husein Cumber said on October 14, “We had a move of empty containers from Evergreen at the Port of Miami” shortly after the container trains began moving again, “destined to West Coast Ports, with the volume to be approximately 1,000 40-foot containers. The first set went to Vancouver routed FEC-JAX-CSXT-CHGO-WC-CN,” but they were held at Chicago for a few days. “All of the containers are moving now and we are hoping to resume the rest of the movement this week.” The truck is a track department inspector making a periodic track check.
Intermodal loadings rise as docks reopen
Rail intermodal volume registered a gain during the week ended October 12 in comparison with the previous week but was still down sharply from the corresponding week last year, as West Coast ports reopened late last week, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on Thursday.

AAR spokesman Tom White stated, “Intermodal volume totaled 151,826 trailers and containers, up 13.0 percent from the previous week, but down 18.5 percent from the comparable week last year. Container volume dropped 25.3 percent from last year, while trailer loadings declined by 1.0 percent.”

He noted “Carload freight, which doesn’t include the intermodal data, was off by 0.4 percent from last year, totaling 345,074 cars.”

Carload volume was up 0.4 percent in the East but down 1.1 percent in the West. Total volume was estimated at 29.8 billion ton-miles, down 0.3 percent from the 41st week of 2001.

Among the nine carload commodity groups registering gains were metallic ores, up 25.8 percent from the comparable week last year; metals and products, up 11.6 percent; and lumber and wood products, up 11.3 percent.

Grain volume, which was affected by the West Coast shutdown, was down 14.0 percent. Also down sharply were loadings of primary forest products, off 18.1 percent, and petroleum products, down 10.3 percent.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 41 weeks of 2002: 13,521,882 carloads, down 1.0 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 7,315,487 trailers and containers, up 3.8 percent; and total volume of an estimated 1.173 trillion ton-miles, up 0.9 percent from last year’s first 41 weeks.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 90 percent of U.S. carload freight and 97 percent of rail intermodal volume.

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

Canadian railroads reported gains in both intermodal and carload freight during the week ended October 12. Intermodal traffic totaled 43,019 trailers and containers, up 26.5 percent from last year. Carload volume of 60,564 cars was up 1.1 percent from the comparable week last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 41 weeks of 2002 on the Canadian railroads totaled 2,443,287 carloads, down 2.7 percent from last year, and 1,574,665 trailers and containers, up 10.3 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 41 weeks of 2002 on 16 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 15,965,169 carloads, down 1.2 percent from last year and 8,890,152 trailers and containers, up 4.9 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended October 12 totaled 11,503 cars originated or received from connecting lines, up 16.9 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 4,043 trailers or containers, up 32.2 percent from the 41st week of 2001. For the first 41 weeks of 2002, TFM reported cumulative volume of 430,840 cars, up 1.9 percent from last year, and 150,967 trailers or containers, up 7.9 percent.

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Chicago auto loading facility


BNSF’s new auto loading facility near Chicago is part of its new “BNSF Logistics Park – Chicago.”
BNSF open Logistics Park in Chicago
The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Ry. last week observed its grand opening of a new national model for freight logistics services, called BNSF Logistics Park – Chicago.

The facility has its own switching yard, which will enable BNSF to build trains faster and to easily combine intermodal and automotive trains to western markets.

The multi-modal facility is designed to integrate direct rail, truck, intermodal and transload services with distribution and warehousing in one location. Located next to BNSF’s rail routes between Chicago and the West Coast and adjacent to an expanded interstate highway system, BNSF shipping center is expected to help relieve both the region’s and the nation’s freight congestion issues by providing a safe and environmentally friendly solution.

“BNSF Logistics Park – Chicago is a unique opportunity for shippers, particularly international customers, to integrate logistics and service improvements at a single location,” said BNSF’s CEO Matthew K. Rose.

“This facility, and the adjacent CenterPoint Intermodal Center development, are establishing a new logistics standard to meet the forecasted growth in intermodal and automotive traffic for the next 20 years,” Rose said.

The Park will enable shippers to take advantage of projected distribution center and warehouse growth southwest of Chicago using part or a combination of the intermodal, automotive or multi-commodity transload facility.

In addition to its 621-acre facility, BNSF has options on more than 200 additional acres as the focal point of CenterPoint Properties’ 2,200-acre intermodal, distribution center and warehouse development in Chicago’s southwest suburbs.

“It has taken over seven years, negotiations with over 50 governmental agencies, and more than $250 million, to make the largest multi-modal industrial park in the Midwest a reality. With BNSF Logistics Park now open, an enterprise zone in place and unsurpassed infrastructure, CenterPoint Intermodal Center is now – by far – the largest, most efficient and ultimately lowest cost distribution location in the Midwest,” said Mike Mullen, COO of CenterPoint Properties.

The intermodal facility is serving initially Maersk Sealand and their container traffic moving from ports in Southern California, Oakland and the Pacific Northwest, and is expected to enable BNSF to consolidate Chicago-area international distribution for shippers at a single location regardless of its West Coast port origination.

With the operation of the intermodal facility at BNSF Logistics Park – Chicago, “There will be a significant reduction in the number of local highway moves now required to reposition container chassis and service multiple international intermodal locations in the Chicago area,” said Fritz Draper, BNSF vice president for business unit operations and support.

The intermodal facility will increase BNSF’s Chicago intermodal lift capacity by 400,000 lifts to nearly 3 million annual lifts, with capacity expansion possible for another 800,000 annual lifts.

The automotive facility at BNSF’s new Logistics Park, which opened in early September, is the first-of-a-kind “Gateway Hub” for BNSF dedicated to building automotive trains destined to all western markets. This “Gateway Hub” allows automotive shippers “to successfully employ fast-to-market strategies,” a press release stated. Among the shippers already using the automotive facility are American Honda Motor Co., American Isuzu Motors; American Suzuki Motor; Ford Motor Co.-UPS Logistics; Hyundai Motor America; KIA Motors America; Mitsubishi Motor Sales; Nissan North America, and Subaru of America.

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CN deals with Ontario for railway
Canadian National railroad disclosed last week the Ontario government has directed the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) to negotiate the sale of its ONRail unit exclusively with CN.

CN said specific terms of CN’s offer are confidential, pending a final agreement.

Keith L. Heller, senior vice-president of CN’s Eastern Canada division, said on October 18 CN’s acquisition plan for the provincially-owned railway “offers the best employment opportunities to ONRail employees, the best promise of improved service for Northeastern Ontario rail shippers and passengers, and the best prospects for future economic growth in the North.”

Claude Mongeau, CN’s executive vice-president and chief financial officer, said CN aims to reach a definitive purchase agreement with the Ontario government by yearend, with the closing expected in the first quarter of 2003.

ONRail is a unit of ONTC, an agency of the Ontario government, and operates rail freight and passenger services over a 700-mile rail network serving Northeastern Ontario and Northwestern Quebec. Its primary connection with CN is at North Bay, Ont., approximately 200 miles north of Toronto.

CN said its offer for ONRail best meets the ONTC’s service improvement plan objectives. CN plans to improve freight and passenger services, including the Little Bear service to Moosonee, and inject new capital into ONRail.

CN said a definitive agreement for its ONRail acquisition is subject to completing negotiations with ONTC, reaching a labor agreement with ONRail’s unionized workers and securing the approval of the Ontario government cabinet.

Heller said: “CN’s size and extensive network in Ontario mean that we can generate solid employment prospects for ONRail workers, offer training opportunities to enhance skill sets, and minimize potential job impacts.”

The employment potential for ONRail workers is evident in CN’s plan for ONRail’s North Bay shops.

“CN is unique in its ability to utilize the North Bay shops,” Heller said. “CN plans to maintain current employment levels at the shops and to invest in new equipment there to increase the shops’ capabilities. The shops will be integrated into the CN system.”

Heller said Northeastern Ontario shippers would benefit from CN’s service-oriented, pro-competitive plan for ONRail.

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BNSF to pay 12-cent dividend on January 3
Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Corp. directors voted on September 19 to pay a regular quarterly dividend of 12 cents per share on outstanding common stock. Dividends on common stock will be paid January 2, 2003, to shareholders of record December 12, 2002. Common shares outstanding on September 30, 2002, totaled approximately 379 million.

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Lines across the pond...

Former transport secretary:

British Rail privatization was flawed

The senior civil servant who pushed through rail privatization admits in a forthcoming television program he knew that the whole idea was flawed from the start, according to the U.K.’s Independent of October 20.

Sir Patrick Brown, the permanent secretary at the Department of Transport in the early 1990s, says in a BBC4 program, “Witness to History: Privatizing the Railways,” that it was the Treasury’s insistence that resulted in the separation of the infrastructure and the operations. This split has not only led to the recent expensive failure of the infrastructure company, Railtrack, but has also been the root cause of several fatal train disasters since privatization.

Brown says that the split had become a “totem” which was being pushed by the Treasury and he was not in a position to change it.

The admission has not stopped him benefiting from the flawed privatization, however. Last week he became part-time, non-executive chairman of the Go Ahead group, which has three rail franchises, at an annual salary of over £60,000.

The structure of the railways for privatization, with a separate Railtrack, had been developed by the Treasury before the 1992 election in order to encourage competition between different train operators.

The idea was that the 25 operators created at privatization would bid against each other to run lucrative services because there would be “open access” to the tracks, but the plan proved to be impracticable from the outset.

Soon after the 1992 general election, John MacGregor, then Secretary of State for Transport, had to abandon the concept of open access when he realized that it would not be possible to franchise out the train operations if rival companies could then “cherry-pick” profitable services.

Yet Brown and his colleagues at the Department of Transport kept pushing through the model, which involved splitting up British Rail, even though they realized that there was no good reason for doing so.

He says in the program: “The fact that to do the franchising successfully would mean that we would have to essentially ditch competition didn’t surprise me at all.

”I don’t think any of us in the Department of Transport thought that open access as described could have any part in the privatization, but you couldn’t say so.”

He adds that it was Treasury, which insisted on the model.

“Because the Treasury were very keen on it, it was impossible to admit openly what later became obvious and you knew to be the truth earlier, which was that open access was impossible.”

John Welsby, chairman of British Rail in its dying days before privatization, says in the program, “All the operational and managerial problems that derived from splitting off the infrastructure from the operations were being incurred for no benefit.”

Brown responds that ministers refused to consider changing the scheme at that late stage.

“At this point you’ve got a Bill in front of Parliament, you’re on the way.”

The lack of coordination in the industry not only resulted in an increase in delays, but also led to soaring costs which have made investment in the network much more expensive than under British Rail.

Railtrack, which made losses of £534 million between 2000 and 2001, was put into administration (similar to a U.S. bankruptcy proceeding) last October after running out of money and was replaced earlier this month with the not-for-profit Network Rail.

“Witness to History: Privatizing the Railways, will be screened in the U.K. on BBC4 at 9:00 p.m. on October 23 (Wednesday).

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The canary in the mine shaft

By Jim RePass

There is a canary in the mineshaft. It is still alive, flopping weakly around the bottom of the cage…but just barely.

That was the theme of new Amtrak President and CEO David Gunn, who this past week keynoted the second day of Railway Age’s annual conference, “Passenger Trains on Freight Railroads,” at Washington, D.C.’s Marriott Hotel.

The canary is Amtrak.

The mineshaft is the freight railroads, some of which treat Amtrak, which runs largely on freight-owned lines, as a nuisance rather than a customer, but all of whom better pay attention to the financial throes of Amtrak, because in many ways the freights could be next.

Amtrak is facing its financial reality – and forcing Congress to face it too – while the freights are still largely in denial of the fact that no railroad is recovering its cost of capital, and has not done so for generations. Indeed, if you dig deeper, you find that no transportation system, because of enormous infrastructure costs, does that. While some do better than others, from time to time, if you look closely you will find someone else providing and paying for infrastructure.

The airline industry has been a boom-or-bust business all through the 20th Century, much as the railroads were in the 19th (and the 20th was almost all “bust” for them). Lately, and especially since deregulation of air carrier prices and route structures in the late 1970s, the airlines have been hemorrhaging money, and many big carriers are on the verge of bankruptcy, despite pledges of even more taxpayer billions to bail them out. They were bleeding before September 11, 2001, but the loss has now become a torrent.

Oddly, this is partly a product of the great largess we have provided to aviation since 1903. Because airports, the air traffic control system, much research and development, and much else, is provided to airlines in direct and hidden taxpayer subsidies, it takes relatively little capital to start an airline: almost everything can be leased and contracted, from planes and fuel to crews and maintenance.

Hence, many bankruptcies, since overcapacity quickly ensues even in good times.

With highways, the problem isn’t over-capacity; it is lack of balance. Trucking companies and intercity bus routes also rise and fall in wide swings triggered by the economy, because they too are highly leveraged, and sensitive to small changes. They, too, are highly subsidized (as are all automobile drivers) by the tremendous sums the taxpayer provides for highway construction and maintenance. For example, in the year 2000, the taxpayer (local, state, federal) provided $130 billion in subsidies to highways. Gasoline taxes recovered less than half of this; the rest of the subsidy comes right from the general fund.

In the same year, the feds spent $521 million on intercity rail. No wonder people try to drive everywhere, and fill up the highways and interchanges no matter how many lanes are added – it’s “free,” isn’t it?

Yet Amtrak, which actually recovers about 80 percent of its costs from revenues – far more than airlines or highways – is viewed as a subsidy hog. Well, that’s what three or four generations of high-volume lying by the highway and aviation lobbies will do, especially when all but specialized trade journalists, with rare exceptions such as The Washington Post’s Don Phillips, just don’t have the time to study and report on the real facts, and often can’t discern the phony malarkey and disinformation that often gets dished out by Amtrak’s highway lobby enemies.

David Gunn, with a richly deserved reputation for straight talk, minces no words and suffers no fools. When he talks about the freight industry’s future, and how Amtrak is really the canary in the mineshaft for the freight industry, it might be a smart idea to listen up. The stock market has already taken a vote on the subject, and the railroads stock prices speak for themselves.

Instead of treating Amtrak as a nuisance, the freight railroads should make common cause with the passenger railroad. As I am fond of saying, the increasing pressure from state legislatures and transit agencies to put more commuter and regional rail in place is an opportunity disguised as a problem.

This pressure, the result of worsening highway congestion and lengthening lines at airport ticket windows, is an opportunity to forge an alliance to build rail capacity, just as we built highway capacity in the 1950s and 1960s. Why not just widen the Interstates yet again? Because the secondary roads in the cities, and the main streets in the smaller towns, have already been widened to feed the last Interstate expansion. The parking spaces on Main Street are already gone. After that, you’ve got to take the buildings themselves, leaving – nothing but roads. That might be a highway engineer’s fantasy, but it is becoming a nightmare for people.

For more than 30 years, Amtrak has served as a convenient whipping boy for a Congress that has consistently and repeatedly failed to address the dire straits of the nation’s surface transportation systems. It took 43 years (with the first [somewhat] transit-boosting highway bill, “ISTEA) for Congress to at least begin to address the wanton destruction of the urban and interurban trolley systems that were purchased and destroyed by the National City Lines bus company in the 1930s and 1940s, until the feds finally stepped in (in 1949, after the damage was done) and stopped the practice, fining the principals of NCL $5,000 each (the maximum at the time for that type of business conspiracy).

It is time for the Congress, and the Administration, to recognize that Amtrak and passenger rail of all kinds are not only not subsidy hogs, but rather the solution to what has become an unbearable problem of mobility. Unless the Congress acts, we are headed to a transportation lock-up of massive proportions, one that is already beginning to show itself on the Interstates so over-crowded with trucks because freight railroads get taxed, while trucks get subsidies.

The freight railroads need to join in this fight to build capacity, because their future is just as much on the line as is Amtrak’s – and in some ways, the stakes are even higher.

Listen to the canary!

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Rethinking long-haul and corridor services

By Ellis B. Simon
Editor, Amtrak Digest

Both passenger rail advocates and critics have long been caught up in the debate over whether the future of passenger trains lies with long-haul or short-haul corridor routes. Of late, Amtrak opponents have called for elimination of long-distance runs while new information suggests that the long distance trains don’t lose as much money as Amtrak claims and high-speed corridor services aren’t truly profitable.

The problem with Amtrak’s network isn’t that it operates both long distance and short-haul or corridor trains. Rather, it is that Amtrak’s network isn’t configured in a way that promotes mobility nor facilitates the feeding of passengers from long distance trains to shorter runs and vice-versa. Long distance trains travel hundreds – even thousands – of miles with few intermediate connecting services. Only at end points are connecting services available.

To address the problem, Amtrak’s network needs to be reconfigured and rethought of along the lines of a telecommunications network. Long distance trains should be thought of as trunk routes that connect with multiple feeder routes at various points along the truck that would serve as hubs or nodes of the network.

A perfect example would be the route of the Sunset Limited, Amtrak’s biggest money loser according to one analysis, between New Orleans and Los Angeles. Besides these end points, there are several large intermediate cities that could be potential hubs, including Houston, San Antonio, El Paso and Tucson. Phoenix, with a population of three million, could be part of the mix, as well, if service is restored in the future. Here are some of the feeder route possibilities that exist along the Sunset’s route:

New Orleans – Baton Rouge, Jackson, Memphis, Birmingham, Mobile

Houston – Galveston, Corpus Christi, Brownsville, Dallas-Fort Worth, Shreveport

San Antonio – Corpus Christi, Laredo, Monterey, Austin, Fort Worth

El Paso – Chihuahua, Albuquerque

Phoenix – Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas

Los Angeles – San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, San Joaquin Valley

As the network grows, its connectivity expands exponentially, giving travelers more destinations to choose from and making train travel more convenient and usable. With more passengers able to use trains to get to where they want to go, ridership would increase. Instead of three trains per week on the Sunset route, there could conceivably by three trains per day or more. In addition, passenger would use the feeder trains to connect with other feeder runs, helping to put even more fannies in the seats; for example, going from Corpus Christi to Shreveport via a connection in Houston.

Amtrak already provides some connectivity along its long distance routes via feeder buses, but there are too many glaring gaps. For example, someone wanting to travel from Houston to Memphis would have to layover for more than 17 hours in New Orleans waiting to connect from the Sunset to the City of New Orleans.

Getting from here to there would, of course, require substantial investment to start up new services: rolling stock, track and signal improvements, station construction. State support may be essential since in many instances the feeder routes would be intrastate runs. Commuter rail lines and buses could become part of the feeder network, as well; better coordination between Amtrak and transit agencies could have a symbiotic effect.

In addition, schedules on existing long-distance runs may have to be adjusted in order to provide connections at convenient hours. For the same reason, long distance routes are likely to require second and third frequencies, so passengers won’t have to be awakened to change trains at 3 a.m.

Further, Amtrak’s fleet may have to be reoriented toward short trains of self-propelled carriages, a.k.a. DMUs or RDCs, to efficiently provide connecting services. The standardization of motive power around 4,000 and 4,200 hp locomotives makes no sense for runs where one or two cars can adequately handle the traffic.

Finally, Amtrak would have to kick up its operating game several notches. The network would fall apart if long distance trains continue to habitually operate from four to ten hours late. Connection windows of one or two hours should be adequate. In fact, a little extra time could benefit weary travelers wanting an opportunity to stretch their legs. A four-hour layover in Chicago passes quickly when you use time to go shopping or visit a museum.

A better integrated rail network, with long distance and short-haul trains exchanging passengers at strategic points along major routes would transform the nature of the long distance trains. Instead of serving solely as end-to-end carriers accessible only along their route, they would feed passengers to and from connecting trains in different regions. Serving as the trunk of a traveling network would promote greater usage for these trains and improve their financial performance.

There seems to be widespread agreement that the role of the long distance train needs to be revisited. If these trains can provide interregional links between regional rail hubs, they can have a bright future.

Mr. Simon’s Amtrak Digest is an e-mail publication independent of Amtrak. Contact him at

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Off the main line...

‘Frankenstein’ gets a needed facelift

We hear from Manchester Union Leader correspondent Lorna Colquhoun, who sometimes hangs her hat in New Hampshire’s Hart’s Location, that Frankenstein is getting a facelift.

No, this is not the monster who was a scary creation, but the steel skeleton with tracks in the White Mountains. The moniker is attached to a stretch of steep cliffs and a railroad trestle in Crawford Notch.

The cliffs are a marvel of nature, and the trestle, built in 1875, was considered an engineering marvel of its day. The name of both refers to Godfrey Frankenstein, a well-known artist of the day who painted pictures of the mountains and a friend to Samuel Bemis, who made his home at Notchland and for whom a ridge and a mountain are named.

The trestle is owned by the state and leased by the Conway Scenic Ry. on its famed Notch tourist train, which returned to service seven years ago. The last time the Frankenstein trestle had any significant repairs made was in the 1930s.

“In 1998, during a bridge inspection, it was determined that there was a problem with the concrete and the question was how deep the deterioration was,” said Brian Lombard, railroad operations engineer for the state Bureau of Rail and Transit. “It was not detrimental, but it did need to be addressed.”

The trestle, which is only visible from the floor of the notch when the leaves are off the trees, stretches more than 500 feet across a chasm about 80 feet below. The tracks are supported by ironwork that stretches up from the bottom of the hillside. About seven miles of track at the northern end of the Notch are actually cut into the mountainside.

A NHDOT history of the trestle notes that the original structure, which was constructed between 1870 and 1875, “remains the wildest section of operating railroad in New Hampshire,” aside from the Cog Railway a few miles away, on Mount Washington – New England’s tallest peak at 6,288 feet above sea level. Frankenstein trestle was originally made of wood, but to handle increasingly heavier freight loads that crossed it, a new wrought iron framework was built in 1892.

“The interior bridge was used while they worked on the exterior bridge,” said Doug Gosling, a senior engineer with the Bureau of Bridge Maintenance.

Work to bring the trestle into the 21st century began April 16 with a seven-man crew from the DOT. Timing was everything for this project, because the work had to be done before the Notch train began its summer run. Steve Canton, superintendent of the project, said the project was completed on July 15.

“We worked eight to 12-hour days, as needed, in all weather conditions — rain, sleet, hail, high winds, horizontal snow and 95 degree weather,” he said.

There was even a day or two of lost time, while biologists determined whether nesting Peregrine falcons would be disturbed by the movement of tools and equipment.

The first plan for repairing the trestle was to jack up one end of it in the spring to make the repairs and return this fall to jack up and repair the other end, but the work went so smoothly and quickly that the whole project was completed in 60 days.

In all, Canton said, the work crew, which included assistance from the Conway Scenic Railroad’s locomotive to bring in supplies, installed over 8,000 feet of reinforcing steel and more than 85 yards of concrete. About 90 percent of the forms had to be custom built. The project cost about $95,000.

Just after noon, as DOT officials were inspecting the finished project, the Notch train came over Frankenstein trestle, on its way to Fabyan station in Bretton Woods. More than 300 people were on board, pointing cameras out the windows, taking shots of the ravine bathed in fall foliage over which they were passing and pictures of Mount Washington, visible on the journey north.

“Some people have to close their eyes when they get to this,” one man said.

The Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad Company built the trestle in 1875 and when the company went bankrupt in 1888, the Maine Central Railroad leased the line until it purchased the line in 1943. There was passenger service through Crawford Notch until the mid-1970s and the last freight was hauled through about 1983.

The track, which winds through some of the most historic and picturesque scenery in New Hampshire with a grade that rises 1,300 feet in just over 14 miles, was purchased by the state in 1994 and a year later, the Conway Scenic Railroad returned the legendary ride through Crawford Notch.

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October 29

Midwest High Speed Rail Coalition
Brown Bag Seminar on Air-Rail Connections

Noon-1:00 p.m.

Hosted by The Chaddick Institute, DePaul Univ.
1 East Jackson, Room 8005, Chicago

Airports around the world are using high-quality commuter and regional rail service to improve their service offerings and strengthen their competitive position.

Find out how high-quality rail service can benefit O’Hare and the region’s other airports

$15 includes boxed lunch, $5 if you bring your own.

RSVP at 312-409-7723, or go to:

November 17-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The way we were...

Erie RR circa 1950s

NCI: Leo King collection –Erie Railroad

Are you old enough to remember the days when there were no ZIP codes from the Post Offices around the country? This Erie Railroad photo, from a 1950s era post card, was published by Colorpicture, Boston 15, Mass. The states were properly abbreviated then, too. The card states on its back, “Erie passenger train overlooking the beautiful Susquehanna River Valley on Erie’s main line between Chicago and New York.”

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 Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write.

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

Journalists and others who wish to receive high quality NCI-originated images that appear in Destination: Freedom may do so at a nominal fee of $10.00 per image. "True color" .jpg images average 1.7MB each, and are 300 dots-per-inch for print publishers.

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

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

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