NCI: Leo KingLEAF-PEEPING - Westward passenger extra 907 zips by Latimer Point Road (MP 133.4) and its brand-new "smart crossing" at around 60 mph 1.5 miles east of Mystic, Conn., on October 16. The leaves are well within the color-changing season as winter approaches.
Awaits House action
Senate okays $1.8 billion for Amtrak
Tunnels need to be repaired and brought up to higher safety standards, as first reported by D:F. Safety and security must be increased on passenger trains. Two Northeast Corridor movable bridges must be replaced, and unrepaired train equipment languishing at Amtrak's Beech Grove shops in Indiana needs to be fixed - and even Sen. John McCain voted to approve $1.77 billion - but with a warning that the cash better not be used for other projects.
The Senate Transportation Committee approved S.1550, titled the Rail Security Act of 2001, on October 19, and sent it on to the full Senate for a vote. If it passes muster, it will then go to the House.
The Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved the bill after members agreed to withhold 19 proposed changes, including restoring service to the Pacific Northwest and adding money to refurbish equipment.
After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Amtrak compiled a $3.2 billion list of steps to improve security, rail safety and ridership capacity. Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.), the committee chairman, and the committee's ranking Republican, Senator McCain, whittled the request to the $1.77 billion package the panel approved.
Nearly $1 billion would address safety concerns in six aging underwater tunnels owned by Amtrak that carry rail passengers to New York's Penn Station. Federal and New York state reports have highlighted problems with ventilation, the emergency water supply, and spiral staircases that fleeing riders and arriving emergency workers would have to share in a tunnel disaster. Those tunnel improvements may not be finished until 2006, some observers noted. $254 million would also be spent improving emergency exits at Penn Station.
The bill specifies $515 million would add officers to Amtrak's 325-person police force, acquire more bomb-sniffing dogs, and add surveillance equipment.
Two Photos: NCI: Leo KingThe lengthy span - a movable bridge over the Thames River, lies between New London and Groton, Conn. Naval submarines pass under the span going to sea from the nation's sub base. The double-track, rolling-lift span was designed by William Schertzer, and was built circa 1918.
The smallest of the five movable bridges between Boston and New Haven, also a Schertzer design, is the span over the Niantic River, between Niantic and Waterford, Conn., built in 1898.
Amtrak would replace two aging rail bridges in Connecticut, over the Thames and Niantic Rivers, that are considered susceptible to sabotage. The language in the bill states specifically "$998,000,000 [is] to be used to complete New York tunnel life safety projects and rehabilitate tunnels in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Md."
The proposal also specifies "$254,000,000 to be used for increasing the accessibility of Penn Station, New York City, for safety and emergency response situations, renovations to the Thames and Niantic Bridges in Connecticut, and improved safety of operations through an advanced civil speed enforcement system radio system in high-speed territory."
The carrier would be required to implement a sophisticated speed-control system in the Northeast Corridor, where Amtrak's high-speed Acela Express trains operate. The "ACSES" system, or Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System, is already in place between Boston and New Haven, Conn., but the law requires the system be added between Washington and New Rochelle, N.Y., where Amtrak runs over the Metro-North Railroad. At New Haven, it returns to its own tracks.
Hollings said he intended to hold a hearing as early as this week on more wide-ranging issues facing Amtrak, including his proposal to drop the federal requirement that Amtrak wean itself from government operating subsidies by 2003.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), still an Amtrak ally, once again said she is determined to spread additional money outside the Boston-New York-Philadelphia-Washington corridor, which gets the bulk of the money in the security measure.
"We can't keep spending money in the Northeast Corridor and call this a national system," she said.
The bill includes no plans to institute aviation-style passengers and baggage screening at the 500 stations Amtrak serves. Sen. John Breaux, D-La., said that's a concern.
"You can walk onto the train, your bag is not inspected, there is no passenger manifest, you can get on and off the train and leave your bag on the train," he said, and added, "There are lots of potential problems."
Elsewhere on the passenger rail safety scene, the New York Daily News reported Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for new security measures to ensure the safety of the nation's rail system.
"Our nation's rail system has to be as secure as our airways. It's that simple," Schumer said at a press conference in Penn Station on October 15.
Noting ridership has increased since September 11, Schumer called on the Congress to support legislation to provide $3 billion in federal funding to strengthen security for Amtrak and passenger rail systems and increase rail capacity.
An airport security bill that passed in the Senate on Thursday initially included $3 billion for rail security, but that provision was later cut and separate legislation was written.
Among the measures he suggested were stringent identification checks for all rail passengers, baggage scans and random luggage inspections, more police officers and K-9 units, surveillance cameras and improved training of security personnel.
He also called for satellite communications on all trains, a state-of-the-art train tracking and locator unit, a hazardous materials and explosives detection and response system, and modernization of rail tunnels in New York, Washington and Baltimore that would include better ventilation and new emergency escape routes.
Half of the proposed $3 billion would be used to increase passenger capacity, repair superliner trains, replace worn tracks, and purchase more high-speed trains.
Meanwhile, Amtrak itself was taking more steps, especially concerning the anthrax threats reported in Florida and the Northeast.
The railroad's E. R. Frazier, who is senior vice-president for system security and safety, told employees, "The safety and security of all Amtrak employees and guests is our top priority as we continue to review and adjust security measures."
He stated, "The exposed individuals appear to have handled or come in contact with mail that was contaminated. This should be a reminder to us all to exercise caution when handling letters and packages from unfamiliar addresses," and he listed some precautions mail handlers should observe.
"Be aware of suspect letter and package indicators, such as no return address, excessive or no postage, address misspelled, poorly written, a title with no name, or wrong title with name."
He also advised to be aware of lopsided packages, any "strange odor, oily stains or powder on a wrapper, or protruding wires." He said to look for a rigid or bulky envelope, perhaps mailed from a foreign country, and "any unexpected mail, at home or office."
NCI: Leo KingAmtrak trains will finally run between Boston and Portland, Maine starting December 15. Whether they are at North Station, en route on MBTA or Guilford iron, or at Sewell Street Station, green over red means "clear track ahead" to the engineer - no other trains ahead in that block of track. Here, a crew training train rumbles through the Maine woods in September.
|Maine trains get high green for December 15 - finally|
It took more than ten years, but Amtrak finally has a starting date for its Downeaster service between Boston and Portland, Maine. The passenger railroad will begin operating its trains on December 15. They will be the first scheduled passenger trains to travel between the city pairs in 36 years, when the former Boston & Maine gave it up.
Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority Executive Director Michael J. Murray sent a formal notification to Amtrak's New England Division General Manager, Steven J. Alleman, on October 16 stating that "December 15 would be the date that regular scheduled service between Portland and Boston would begin. The inaugural run of the Downeaster, commemorating the reinstitution of passenger rail service to the citizens of Maine, will occur on December 14." The press and political figures are expected to be on that ten-car inaugural train.
That first run, which will depart from North Station, will make whistle stops in each of the nine Downeaster station communities along the 114-mile route, and local committees are planning public activities to mark the train's arrival. The day will culminate with an inaugural gala at the Portland Exposition building that evening.
Meanwhile, the Portland Press Herald reported on October 19 Maine Gov. Angus King described restoring passenger train service between the two cities as "A great event in the history of Maine." In the Augusta State House, he acknowledged that the project's ride has been long and bumpy.
"This has been a day that has been some time in coming," King said at press conference that had a celebratory tone, with frequent bursts of applause and whoops of joy from the crowd of rail enthusiasts, the Maine newspaper reported.
"We do have train service," King said, providing a link to Boston that he described as important economically, recreationally and psychologically.
"This 13-year odyssey proves beyond a doubt that perseverance counts," said Wayne Davis of TrainRiders/Northeast, a rail advocacy group. The campaign to restore service has dragged on for so long, Davis said, that two governors, two state transportation commissioners, three Amtrak presidents and "many sessions of Congress" have been involved in it.
The schedule calls for the first southward train to leave Portland at 6:05 a.m. daily and arrive at Boston's North Station at 8:50 a.m. Other trains will leave Portland at 8:45 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 4:20 p.m. daily.
The first northbound train will leave Boston at 9:45 a.m. daily, arriving in Portland at 12:30 p.m. Other trains will leave Boston at noon, 6:15 p.m. and 11 p.m. daily.
A one-way ticket from Portland to Boston will cost $21 and a round-trip, same-day ticket will cost $35, with lower fares for passengers who are traveling shorter distances.
Still unclear is how fast the train will run, which will affect arrival times. King said the Downeaster plans to roll at 60 mph initially, unless safety tests back the targeted speed of 79 mph, which would shave 12 to 15 minutes off the trip. The tests were conducted in September to find out if the higher speed was acceptable, following a $52 million overhaul of the track between Portland and Plaistow, N.H. A track-testing vehicle made the Surface Transportation Board (STB)-ordered tests from the Transportation Technology Center of Pueblo, Colo., but the results are not known yet.
The tests should settle a long-running dispute between Amtrak, which supports the faster speed, and Guilford Transportation Industries, which owns most of the track on which the train will travel. Guilford has argued that speeds should not top 60 mph, but Amtrak argued that faster speeds are needed to make the service popular enough to be successful.
The STB has already ruled twice in Amtrak's favor, but the federal body also ordered the track tests to be completed before the trains could operate at the higher speeds.
NCI: Leo KingThree coaches and a café car were sandwiched between P-40 No. 831 and cabbage car 90220 as the first complete Boston-Portland train was assembled in Boston's Southampton Street yard on October 18.
In regular service, the four daily trains will consist of four cars - three coaches and a café car. The first sample trainset was made up in Southampton Street Yard in Boston on October 18. It consisted of 4,000 horsepower P-40 locomotive No. 831 followed by coaches 49985, 49317, 49926, café 48140 and "cabbage car" 90220.
The cabbage car is a de-engined former F-40PH that still has its train control equipment in the cab, but the engine compartment has been turned into a large room to store baggage. The train traveled the following day for a photo shoot.
Maine's legislature created NNEPRA to initiate and establish regularly scheduled train service between points within Maine and outside the state. Their first task was to restart service between Portland and Boston. Under NNEPRA's oversight, 78 miles of Guilford Transportation System tracks between Plaistow, N.H. and Portland were rehabilitated. The $62-million project was funded with a combination of Federal Transit Administration and state of Maine funds.
The Massachusetts Bay transportation Authority operates the tracks between North Station and Plaistow.
The partnership between Amtrak and NNEPRA began in December 1996 when an "Agreement for the Provision of Rail Passenger Service" was signed. That partnership has since been expanded to include additional amendments incorporating the Downeaster in Amtrak's national marketing programs and reservation systems.
NNEPRA's media contact, Patricia Douglas, said in a press release one of its goals "is to provide passengers with the best possible equipment, service and on-board amenities including high quality food and beverages with an emphasis on New England flavors and products."
To that end, the entrepreneurial spirit is aboard the trans as well. She said they want "to provide purveyors and suppliers the opportunity to feature their products in connection with the Downeaster, so they have "contracted with Epicurean Feast of Maynard, Mass. to bring their upscale culinary talents to the Downeaster's café car."
Actually, the cat was out of the bag a day earlier when Amtrak's acting board chairman Michael Dukakis told the Boston Globe when the trains would start.
Dukakis called the new service "very important" for both cities. He added that it would give many business and recreational travelers an option to flying and driving.
Nationwide, train travel is reaching levels not seen since the last passenger train ran between the city pairs some thirty years ago.
Amtrak reported that by the end of September, its ticket sales were up 7 percent nationally, and 36 percent on the high-speed Acela Express, which runs between Boston's South Station and Washington's Union Station.
In 1994, a study projected that the new train would carry 320,000 riders annually, a number that one Maine rail official predicts will be much higher in the current climate.
The Downeaster will make stops in Haverhill, Mass., where MBTA service ends; Exeter and Dover, N.H.; and Saco and Wells, Maine. Other stops being planned include weekend trips to the Univ. of New Hampshire at Durham during the school year, and Old Orchard Beach in summer. The line may also eventually extend to Freeport, Brunswick, and Lewiston and Auburn, Maine.
Thompson thrills listeners;
Railway Age hosts conference
Publisher, Destination Freedom
Former Amtrak chair and Health & Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson thrilled his audience October 17 as Railway Age (www.railwayage.com) magazine hosted its eighth - and by all accounts, best - D.C. conference in many years.
Arriving directly from giving testimony on Capitol Hill to receive the publication's prestigious award, named for the legendary Amtrak chairman, the late W. Graham Claytor, Jr., Thompson demonstrated why he is so highly regarded not only in the rail community, but well beyond those borders:
"I may be Health and Human Services Secretary now, but I will fight for Amtrak, and for trains, until the day I die," declared the former Wisconsin governor who led Amtrak from 1997 until last spring, when he was confirmed at HHS.
"I speak with the President about that every time I see him."
Thompson said the Claytor Award was "especially meaningful to me because I'm so passionate about the importance of railway transportation in the United States."
"I especially want to recognize Bill Vantuono and the folks at Railway Age for their long-term leadership in the whole American rail industry," said Thompson.
"Since 1876, just a few years after the completion of the first transcontinental rail line in Promontory Point, Utah, Railway Age has provided its readers with up-to-the-minute information about all facets of American railroading."
Vantuono, the magazine's editor, and Simmons-Boardman Railway Group publisher Robert P. DeMarco organized the conference, along with conference director Jane Poterala.
Conference keynoter Edward Hamberger, President of the Association of American Railroads, opened the conference October 16 with a description of AAR's actions since September 11 to improve the safety and security of America's freight railroads.
"Since the events of September 11, we have a new focus on security," said Hamberger, who also referred to the conference theme, "Passenger Trains on Freight Railroads" and emphasized his organization's and the freight railroads' willingness to work with Amtrak and commuter rail lines to improve service. The freight railroads have no problem with passenger service "... as long as it does not have a negative impact on freight railroads," said Hamberger, who noted that freight railroads have capacity and safety issues that must be addressed.
A mock negotiating session between the mayor of a hypothetical town wanting to introduce commuter rail service over a local freight line's tracks and the representative of that railroad presented in an often hilarious way the disputes that frequently arise when passenger trains actually try to establish new service or expand existing service on freight railroads.
Moderated by Kevin Shays of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, and with Georgia Rail Passenger Authority vice-chair E.H. Culpepper III convincingly playing the mayor of Townville, James Stoetzel, vice-president of Contract Operations-Rail for Connex North America, as the railroad's hard-guy negotiator, and rail consultant Bob Leilich wittily impersonating, well, a consultant to the "mayor," the trio let fly with one of the most entertaining and informative sessions of the entire conference.
The bottom line for passenger rail operators is that the freight railroads will look for security, safety, capacity enhancements, infrastructure and equipment upgrades, and contributions to profit and overhead.
One of the most moving and effective presentations of the conference was that of Stan Feinsod, senior vice-president of Systra Consulting, who acted as moderator of a strong session, "Can All Railroads Be Scheduled?" with Bill Schafer of Norfolk Southern, John Gibson of CSX, Geoff Harrison-Mee of Connex, and Joe Zadel of Canadian National.
Feinsod boldly asserted, "We are in a historical anomaly, a relatively short time period when passenger and freight operations diverged.
Starting in 1971 and hopefully ending in 2001, we witnessed a 30-year period of deconstruction, reduction, depression and dissonance, but passenger rail transportation did not die, and the freight railroad system did not die."
Instead, what did happen over the 30 years spanning the time when the passenger railroads were carved out of the rail system and placed into the entity called "Amtrak," was that "the railroad infrastructure was deconstructed, tracks and interlockings were removed, and capacity, flexibility, and performance standards were drastically reduced," with a serious degradation to operations on freight railroads, which harmed not only their operations, but made it progressively harder for Amtrak to operate effectively and on schedule.
The solution? "Today, here and now, let's declare this 30-year period of division and deconstruction over," declared Feinsod.
Instead, he said, "Let's look forward to reconstruction, planning for growth and success, and rooting out and solving the kinds of infrastructure and capacity problems that cause the freight delays discussed by John Gibson of CSX and the problems in Chicago illustrated by Mike Franke of Amtrak. Passenger and freight trains can be operated together on American Railroads."
Feinsod stated, "Infrastructure investment, technology investment and relearning operating practices we used to apply, will deal with the problems," and, he added, "We need to stop needing to recite the Ten Commandments of freight railroad owners - everyone agrees with them. No one is arguing."
Feinsod declared, "We need to adopt a single integrated business philosophy that says we will grow the infrastructure together so it can operate well, with slow and fast trains, and passenger and freight trains. We will solve the financial problems fairly, and we will move with some urgency - to take the steps necessary to identify infrastructure needs."
He added, "We will get the funds the railroad industry needs, and go back to using railroads as they are meant to be used, as they always were used, and put this 30-year period behind us."
This year's conference was packed with sessions on rail that were designed to address current problems and find solutions for them.
Consultant Sheldon Lusting zeroed in on "What Constitutes an Avoidable Delay" and proceeded to show how present operating practices can make late trains even later than they have to be. William Lind of the Free Congress Foundation, featured as luncheon speaker October 16, debunked the libertarian mindset and misuse of anti-rail statistics in a well-received presentation based on his and FCF Paul Weyrich's publication for APTA, "Twelve Anti-Transit Myth A Conservative Critique".
"The Last Mile" dilemma was tackled by Lonnie Blaydes of Dallas Area Rapid Transit (and soon to be an independent consultant), Mike Franke of Amtrak, and Wilbur Smith's Kenneth Sislak, who arrived at the conference after being effectively marooned in the Middle East since September 11. The last mile, or how to get from the main line to the city center or other desired destination point, can be blocked by outdated infrastructure, such as the Midwest's frequent at-grade crossings of both highway and rail, or by outmoded rail regulations, but it can also be served by innovative rail technologies such as is the case in Karlsruhe, Germany.
There, light rail vehicles operate not only on local city and suburban tracks but actually traverse main line rail between endpoint systems. In the United States the Federal Railroad Administration has made such service almost impossible to implement, citing safety concerns.
Consultant Charles Banks of R.L. Banks made the blunt point that "freight railroads are a slowly failing industry from a purely financial perspective" and will continue to fail to attract investment capital until other sources of infrastructure financing are put in place, including government investment.
|Vermont ponders large station|
The Manchester, Vt., Planning Commission has agreed to explore a zoning change that would allow a 25,000-square-foot railroad station to be built downtown, despite some concerns about the building's size.
The commission's unanimous vote last week came amid general approval for the station's proposed design, but the scale of the building prompted at least one board member to question whether changing the zoning bylaw would create a harmful precedent, according to the Rutland Herald.
The commission voted 7-0 to examine a variety of ways to enable developer Ben Hauben to build a large Amtrak station at the former "Grabbers" property on Routes 11 and 30. As the town's bylaw now stands, building footprints are limited to 3,000 square feet. The station's first floor would be more than four times that size.
Hauben's preliminary plan calls for setting aside 4,000 square feet for retail space and another 4,000 square feet for restaurant use on the ground floor. The station's second floor would be given over to office space.
The commission intends to examine three options that might allow the project to go forward: a stand-alone bylaw aimed specifically at the railroad station; a more time consuming change to a major development review bylaw that would grant a size bonus for buildings containing public uses; and a change to the existing bylaw's definition of essential services, which are exempt from the 3,000-square-foot limit.
Robert Stannard, a lobbyist for Railhead Ltd., said Amtrak service from Penn Station in New York could begin within months. Stannard intends to return before the commission on October. 22 with proposed language for a targeted zoning change.
While only about 2,000 square feet of the proposed station would be devoted exclusively to Amtrak, Stannard said a large, mixed-use building was required for the project's success.
The Grabbers site is too valuable a piece of real estate to be used otherwise, he said.
Stannard argued that the project was in keeping with the scale of an adjacent hardware store, which measures about 12,000 square feet. Its warehouses are as much as twice that size, he said.
Commission member Marge Wilbur endorsed the statements of several audience members who said the station would provide an architectural anchor and bring vitality to the east side of town.
"It opens up a lot of positive possibilities for Manchester," she said.
Florida keeps moving toward
Despite the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, high-speed rail projects in Florida, so far, appear to be on track.
Charles "Doc" Dockery, one of 10 members on the Florida High-Speed Rail Authority, said the events of September 11 have had no direct impact on Florida's high-speed rail project; at least, not yet.
In a recent interview with D:F, he said, "Not to the extent there is anything formal. There is just a greater awareness among people in Florida as well as in the entire country about a need for a good alternative to air and road travel."
He said, "I think there is a greater awareness of that now, and the fact that a lot of people are being laid off in Florida. The economic impact of this in Florida has taken on much greater significance."
One of the studies which was done for Florida's DOT on the link between Orlando and Tampa indicated that while the infrastructure may cost $1 million, "the economic return is estimated at $12 million, and that would create about 11,000 new jobs, so that has taken on a greater degree of importance in the eyes of the members of the legislature."
The authority hired general consultant HNTB Architects, Engineers and Planners of Orlando. They work as an extension of the authority's staff, Dockery said. At its August 27 meeting in Orlando, the authority selected the Parsons Transportation Group to conduct the project development and environmental work activities as required under the Florida High Speed Rail Authority Act. Fourteen other consultants were also hired.
The 2001 Florida legislature created the High Speed Rail Authority to advance "intrastate travel via high-speed rail" following the mandate voters demanded in the 2000 election. They approved a Constitutional amendment.
The authority's ten members is a veritable list of who's who in Florida transportation circles. Besides Dockery, who spent upwards of $1.5 million of his own money to get the high-speed rail Constitutional amendment question on the ballot in the first place, members include authority chairman and former state senator Frederick Dudley, who was appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush. Dudley is a Tallahassee attorney.
Vice-chairman John P. Browning Jr. is a Florida Transportation Commission member, as is secretary Norm Mansour.
Heidi Eddins is executive vice-president, secretary and general counsel of Florida East Coast Industries - and the FEC Railway - based in St. Augustine.
Thomas F. Barry, Jr., P.E., the ex officio member who is also the Florida DOT secretary.
Modest sums, so far
The state budget has included exactly $4.5 million for the authority's fiscal year 2002 budget.
The general consultants will earn $3,890,000 while $300,000 will be spent on staff, including salaries and benefits. $200,000 is allocated for travel and other expenses, and Amtrak will earn $110,000.
A footnote points out that "$4.5 million in federal funds to support the Florida project have the potential to be appropriated in Congress this year. The total of the preliminary design, engineering and preliminary environmental (PD&E) activities for the Tampa Bay to Orlando segment is estimated at $18 million. If federal funds are appropriated, the authority will prepare and approve a supplemental budget for use of these funds, with a priority set funding PD&E activities."
The authority is required to plan, administer and manage the preliminary engineering and environmental assessment of the state's high-speed rail system, which includes making the system capable of traveling at speeds greater than 120 miles per hour, and building dedicated rails or guideways separated from motor vehicle traffic.
The first segment will be developed and operated between Orlando, Tampa, and St. Petersburg, with future service to Miami.
The consultant is required "to study the engineering, environmental and social impacts of alternative alignments for the high-speed system in the Orlando to Tampa corridor" and is not only encouraged to "use materials previously developed in other studies that are applicable to this work, such as the Coast-to-Coast Rail Feasibility Study and studies prepared in association with the failed Florida Overland Express (FOX) project," but is required to do so.
Meanwhile, the authority is preparing a plan "of tasks, milestones and organization necessary to complete the environmental review, economic and financial analysis, obtain permits, perform preliminary and final design, develop bid plans and specifications, and commence construction of the initial phase of the new rail system by Nov. 1, 2003, as required by Article X, Section 19 of the Florida Constitution. Project Management Plan to be presented to the authority 30 days following Notice to Proceed." The quote is from the authority's web site and its enabling language, at http://www.dot.state.fl.us/FHSRauthority/Default.htm.
Public hearings on the environmental impact statement will be held, but neither dates nor locations have been set yet.
The authority is also required to establish a project image and identity - a logo - and they are charged with coordination with local governments, hold station area planning sessions with the public, make community presentations, and hold information exchange meetings with the business community.
They are also required to "hold neighborhood level open house/information exchange meetings... provide targeted outreach to traditionally underserved groups, provide newsletters and brochures, and conduct random polls to identify areas of confusion/concern."
They are also required to "provide a hotline and web site, document the overall program through a master list of events, meetings and techniques used for inclusion into the environmental impact statement," and provide resources to the authority "to satisfy demands for information from journalists and the media regarding all aspects of the project, as well as develop a package of background information on the various aspects of high-speed rail transportation to assure informed reporting of issues by the press."
Some other requirements will be to "Identify opportunities for intermodal connection coordination, establish communication with other transportation providers, and develop requirements and criteria for establishing seamless or near-seamless connections, including requirements of airline security, code-sharing, third party reservation and ticket agency, and baggage transfer, and to investigate requirements for interface with the cruise industry."
Funding will come from a variety of sources. The authority will research financing options for the systems, including but not limited to federal funds, state funds, local funds, public-private partnerships, private participation, equity sales, bonding, tax increment financing, user fees, and access right fees.
Fast trains on California horizon;
200 mph is expected statewide
Engineers investigating routes for a proposed $25 billion statewide bullet-train route in California are looking at tunneling under downtown Oakland for a station at City Center or digging under the Oakland Embarcadero for a terminus at the West Oakland BART Station.
The train, which could take commuters from the Bay Area to Los Angeles in 2.5 hours, also would stop at the Coliseum BART station, rail planners told the City Council's Public Works Committee last week.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority is in the middle of environmental and engineering studies for the 700-mile high-speed lines.
The authority, established by the state legislature in 1996 to investigate the idea of building such a system, will vote on a first round of recommendations on routes at a Nov. 14 meeting in Bakersfield.
The rail system would run from the Bay Area to Merced, and from Sacramento to Los Angeles and down to San Diego. It would be the only one of its kind in the United States, and similar to systems in Japan and Europe. The bullet trains would travel at speeds up to 200 miles per hour, but would slow in urban areas. For safety reasons, the tracks would not cross any roadways, passing over or under them.
The environmental process alone will cost $25 million and the whole system is projected to cost in excess of $25 billion. The authority is proposing an increase in the state sales tax for much of the funding. If it is eventually approved, it would take until at least 2016 to complete the system. The final environmental impact report is expected in December 2003.
|Oklahoma legislator proposes tax to help rails|
Midwest City, Okla. state Sen. Dave Herbert from said last week he will once again sponsor a bill this year to raise fuel taxes by one cent per gallon to fund Amtrak expansion in the state. The added tax would last for ten years and raise $18 million.
The expansion would include a route or routes to Kansas and increase the speed of existing rail service in the state.
Oklahoma could receive $72 million in federal matching funds to improve and expand passenger rail in the state. The federal High Speed Rail Infrastructure Act is expected to pass allowing states with designated high-peed rail corridors to reap these benefits.
This is the first piece of passenger rail legislation introduced for the upcoming session in the state legislature. There will be others.
Similar legislation has passed through the State Senate the past two years but it has failed in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.
Some House committee members have been quoted as saying that they were not interested in allowing this legislation to come to a popular, statewide vote because they feel that most counties in the state would not receive benefit from the rail program.
Evan Stair, executive director of Passenger Rail Oklahoma said, "Passenger rail service does not have to pass through all Oklahoma counties to be of benefit. For example, prior to the reintroduction of passenger rail service to the state, many Oklahomans traveled to Newton, Kans. to board Amtrak trains in the wee hours. Today, people in the state can travel a shorter distance during daylight hours to board an Amtrak train. With further route extensions, Amtrak comes even closer to rural Oklahoma communities."
He noted, "People travel from all over the state to fly out of Oklahoma City and Tulsa. It is shortsighted to view state passenger rail service as benefiting only a few counties. It is also disturbing that our elected officials are not allowing the people of Oklahoma to vote on this important transportation issue."
|Amtrak buys speech recognition system|
Amtrak reports it has bought a new, state-of-the-art speech recognition system passengers will be able to use for train status information through its toll-free reservation line, 1-800-USA-RAIL. SpeechWorks International, Inc markets the software.
Amtrak's reports it receives more than 27 million calls each year - 2.7 million requesting train status information, and with the implementation of the new speech recognition system, they can check the status of any Amtrak train nationwide. Unlike conventional information systems, guests calling the new system do not need to know the train number, Amtrak stated.
Florida East Coast Railway reports it has purchased five "Beltpack" remote-control systems for locomotive control. The devices are computer-based systems to allow qualified operators to move a locomotive via a radio link while either aboard the locomotive or standing near the track.
A press release did not refer to the operators as locomotive engineers. No response yet from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. Canac, Inc., of Montreal, makes the machines.
The systems are contained within a portable radio control unit, which involves some locomotive modification.
"With the recent Federal Railroad Administration issuance of guidelines for the operation of remote control locomotives, we wanted to be one of the first major railroads in this country to adopt LRC technology," said FEC president and COO John McPherson, in a prepared statement.
RPI annual meeting, banquet
Call 703 836 2322 or fax 703 5498 0058
83rd Annual Railroad Tie Assn. Convention
La Mansion del Rio
AAR and TTCI
NCI: Leo KingTen years ago, when Amtrak knew it was going to be able to electrify the route between Boston and New Haven, completing the job begun some eighty years earlier, the railroad had to replace fixed timber deck bridges with concrete pads that could have ballast added. Among the larger spans to get the "treatment" was a century-old deck over the Blackstone River in Rhode Island, just inches from the Massachusetts state line. The bridge carries the non-descript name, Tin Bridge, but anyone who deals with moving trains on the New England Division knows exactly where it is, and that it is double track iron. Track department people removed to the old track, and B&B fixed up the metal skeleton underneath. That red crane was used to remove the older ironwork that had to be replaced, and in a few days would insert the new concrete pads. Meanwhile, the trains moved at track speed over the single-track that carried trains east and west between Attleboro and Lawn interlockings.
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