Vol. 5 No. 42
November 1, 2004

Copyright © 2004
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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

A weekly North American rail and transit update

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

* Now in our Fifth Year *

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


Tomorrow is Election Day. Regardless of your politics,
we urge you to vote and let
your voice be heard.

 

Florida fast trains hang in the balance

A ‘no’ vote will keep the Florida Constitution as-is
while a ‘yes’ vote will repeal high-speed rail

 

Florida’s 2000 high-speed rail Constitutional amendment has led to at least three other proposed Constitutional amendments, resulting in a present-day election debate that raises two questions: Is the high-speed rail proposal the problem, or is Florida’s citizen initiative-based Constitutional amendment process at fault?

Many believe the answers to both questions may be “yes,” reports the Orlando Business Journal.

Convoluted language

The convoluted and confusing language in Florida’s ballot question 6 would repeal the high-speed rail Constitutional amendment enacted in 2000.

“Constitutional Amendment

Article X, Section 19

“Repeal of High-Speed Rail Amendment

This amendment repeals an amendment in the Florida Constitution that requires the Legislature, the Cabinet and the Governor to proceed with the development and operation of a high-speed ground transportation system by the state and/or by a private entity.

“The probable financial impact of passage of this amendment is a state cost savings ranging from $20 billion to $25 billion over the next 30 years. This estimate assumes the repeal of associated laws, the use of state bonds to finance construction, and could be reduced by federal or private sector funding.”

It takes a couple of readings to dope it out, but a “no” vote means keep the high-speed rail plan, and a “yes vote is a vote to repeal it.


Current law

Florida’s high-speed rail amendment as it currently exists in the state Constitution:

SECTION 19. High speed ground transportation system. – To reduce traffic congestion and provide alternatives to the traveling public, it is hereby declared to be in the public interest that a high speed ground transportation system consisting of a monorail, fixed guideway or magnetic levitation system, capable of speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour, be developed and operated in the State of Florida to provide high speed ground transportation by innovative, efficient and effective technologies consisting of dedicated rails or guideways separated from motor vehicular traffic that will link the five largest urban areas of the State as determined by the Legislature and provide for access to existing air and ground transportation facilities and services.

“The Legislature, the Cabinet and the Governor are hereby directed to proceed with the development of such a system by the State and/or by a private entity pursuant to state approval and authorization, including the acquisition of right-of-way, the financing of design and construction of the system, and the operation of the system, as provided by specific appropriation and by law, with construction to begin on or before November 1, 2003.

“History – Proposed by Initiative Petition filed with the Secretary of State September 3, 1999; adopted 2000.”

Both Bombardier Transportation and Fluor Corporations have jointly created a consortium, and have completed the initial planning, including a track plan between Orlando and Tampa.

“This system is going to cost a heck of a lot of money – billions and billions of dollars,” said Aubrey Jewett, a University of Central Florida political science professor, “and the Constitution is supposed to be a blueprint and framework for government. It is not appropriate to put policy issues like this in it. High-speed rail does not pass the test.”

Florida voters will get a chance to weigh in on the debate tomorrow when they vote on two of the Constitutional amendments that descended from the 2000 high-speed rail ballot vote.

“This is quite clearly something that the people want, and depending on the administration, it is also something the state wants,” says Ken Walton, executive director of The Rail Truth, a pro-rail group.

“It has been in Florida law to build a system from Tampa to Orlando since 1992, but absent it being in the Constitution, there is no mandate it be done. The will of the people is being ignored.”

Fred Leonhardt, an Orlando attorney and chairman of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, feels differently.

“This type of matter should not be dealt with in the Constitution,” he said. “The Constitution shouldn’t be used to work out the trendy issues of the day like fast trains or the size of a classroom.”

Florida is not alone in debating the question of high-speed rail.

Whether or not to build rail systems that would travel at speeds of more than 120 mph has become a national argument.

In fact, according to Charlie Quandel, chairman of the High Speed Rail Ground Transportation Assn., 11 high-speed rail systems currently are being discussed across the U.S.

“Five of these systems are considered mature, meaning they have done environmental studies, and Florida is one of them,” says Quandel. In addition to Florida, the mature systems include one in California, another in the Pacific Northwest, the MidWest Regional Rail Initiative and a system that would blanket the southeast United States from Washington, D.C., to Charlotte, N.C.

The focus of the debate, says Quandel, is funding: How will the systems be funded, and who will pay for them?

A lot of money already has been spent on taking these mature systems from the conceptual stages to operation. While the state of California has spent $30 million, those involved with the MidWest system have spent $150 million.

Florida’s High Speed Rail Authority has spent more than $14 million on ridership, feasibility and environmental studies, along with public workshops, hearings and contract negotiations, for just the first two phases of the state’s planned 1,272-mile system.

More money is needed on a national basis. Some $89.9 billion is necessary nationwide to get the 11 systems under discussion from the drawing table to groundbreaking.

Congress is on the case. Four different bills have been considered to make federal money available for high-speed rail projects. The most popular idea is to do it through tax credit bond issues. A bill to this effect has 135 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“There is a lot of support for meeting this need,” says Gary Burns, a spokesman for Rep. John Mica, a Republican from Winter Park, Fla.

Nearly three decades old, though, Florida’s high-speed rail debate has risen above the traditional funding questions surrounding systems in other parts of the nation.

Here, it is a Constitutional mandate.

Since 2000, the ballot box has been ground zero for the state’s rail debate, with the focus squarely on how to deal with the constitutional amendment. Even before the high-speed rail amendment was approved, its opponents, who questioned how the state would pay for the multibillion-dollar system, had created a Constitutional amendment for the 2000 ballot that required all future constitutional amendments to come with a price tag, indicating the fiscal impact the amendment would have on the state. It also passed.

Funding remains the biggest issue

Bush and Tom Gallagher, the state’s chief financial officer, led the charge to get Amendment 6 on the ballot, basing their opposition on the state’s role in funding the system and what they perceive as a lack of private-sector involvement.

“There is no money automatically available in the transportation budget for high-speed rail,” says Gallagher. “High-speed rail should be built by the private sector. I don’t think the state should be burdened by a financial commitment to build it.”

Proponents of rail disagree.

“This would be a true public-private partnership. Every transportation project starts with some government funds,” insists state Rep. Dennis Ross, another Lakeland Republican.

The entire article is online at http://orlando.bizjournals.com/orlando/stories/2004/10/25/story1.html?page=4


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EDITORIAL...  Editorial...

Fast Florida trains or not?

In our view, not keeping Florida’s high-speed rail project is foolhardy, and its opponents are spewing nonsense. It is absurd not to have high-speed trains.

“The Florida Bullet Train” (The Rail Truth) site states Florida can afford to build a bullet train system. It is a partnership between private enterprise and the state. To build the first leg of the system, Tampa to Orlando, the state will need to provide about $75 million per year. This would be less than 1.5 percent of the state’s $6.5 billion transportation budget.

The money for high-speed rail need not come from any other part of the state budget or cause taxes to go up. In fact, construction of the first segment of the bullet train will create 7,000 new jobs and $9 billion in economic benefits.

Federal funding for the project, to date, amounts to $9.15 million and state funding, so far, is $9 million. Despite the Governor’s veto of the state appropriation in 2003, the federal government, thanks to Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Rep. Adam Putnam and other members of the Florida delegation, the feds supported the project with $4 million.

Taxpayers will not have to subsidize operations. The contract between The Florida High Speed Rail Authority and The Fluor-Bombardier-Virgin Group consortium will specifically state that the ridership is guaranteed by the consortium and that no subsidies will be sought or authorized. Funding calls for the state to invest $75 million annually, which is less than 1.5 percent of the state’s $6 billion annual transportation budget. These funds are already being collected as part of the gas tax.

We urge all Florida voters to vote “No” on Question 6. That will insure keeping high-speed rail on track in the Sunshine State. A “no” vote on November 2 will allow Floridians to continue with the Constitutionally mandated project.

Why some Floridians, especially Gov. Jeb Bush, are so shortsighted regarding high-speed rail is mystifying. He and others claim the state can’t afford it.

Through convoluted legal language, a “yes” vote is actually a vote to defeat, to repeal, the already Constitutionally approved high-speed rail law. That was done some five years ago. In order to keep the high-speed project on track, a “no” vote is required on November 2 to reject the proposal.

High-speed rail is a 30-year project. It will not be a hurried project, and Floridians can well afford to build it. The governor and his cronies have misstated the facts regarding costs.

At the very least, building the railroad will create jobs– not only during construction but also after the trains start running, with conductors, locomotive engineers, dispatchers, maintainers, and so on.

FLHSRA Map

Florida High-Speed Rail Authority

It will take at least 30 years to complete the project, but when it’s done, it will blanket the state with fast trains. Initial speeds will be 120 mph, but eventually they are expected to operate at 150 mph.

 

The Florida High-Speed Rail Authority makes it clear costs will be borne “with private and federal dollars first. The Florida legislature has mandated that state funding be minimized.” The agency also states on its web site, “Any construction or operation will require funding approval and appropriation by the Florida legislature.”

Opponents of high-speed rail have consistently overstated expected construction costs. In short, they’ve lied to Floridians. The Lakeland Ledger of October 15 reported, “The network would be one of the costliest public works projects in Florida history. The first leg alone, running from Orlando to Tampa, with a stop in Lakeland, carries a cost estimated at $2.3 billion. The proposed route would take a path from Orlando International Airport directly to Walt Disney World, bypassing the International Drive tourist corridor. That has Disney squaring off against theme park rivals Universal and SeaWorld, which have combined to contribute $900,000 of the $3.1 million raised for the anti-train drive.”

No new taxes will be required.

A wide range of services and ticket prices are envisioned. Someone traveling between Orlando and Tampa will pay a $9.60 discounted commuter fare. Just as with an airline ticket, many factors can affect a ticket’s price – how much ahead of time is the ticket purchased, whether it’s part of a package, the time of travel, the level of service and amenities, and so on.

Under the provisions of the Section 19, construction should have begun one year ago, so the Bush Administration has already flaunted what Florida Constitutional law demands.

Online sources:

http://www.floridahighspeedrail.org/home.jsp

http://www.floridabullettrain.com/<P>

http://www.flsenate.gov/Statutes/index.cfm?Mode=Constitution&Submenu=3&Tab=statutes#A10<P>

http://www.theledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20041015/NEWS/410150384&SearchID=73188126976147

http://orlando.bizjournals.com


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Farr’s campaign seems to be weak

Congressional candidate Leslie Farr’s Hyde Park neighborhood is full of windowless, abandoned houses. Police chases and drug trafficking are regular occurrences. Residences lacking traditional address numbers have them spray-painted on. The 26-year-old former Amtrak conductor spends his days plotting his campaign’s next move – that is, when he’s not taking breaks to watch Friday After Next or play PlayStation.

Farr is a Republican, reported the http://riverfronttimes.com reported on October 27, but he doesn’t toe the party line. His political heroes include Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson and even William Lacy Clay, Sr., the father of his Democratic opponent. On the issues, Farr is apt to give freewheeling, un-GOP-sounding responses.

Leslie Farr

riverfronttimes.com:
Jennifer Silverberg

Leslie Farr is a U.S. House candidate. He is a former Amtrak conductor.
On gay marriage, for instance: “Civil unions, I have no problems with. Let’s say I were a homosexual, and my wife Tonya was a man—call her ‘Tony’ – and something happened to me where I passed on. Under the current scheme of things, Tony would not be able to receive any benefits. I paid Social Security all my life, so she – he – should be entitled to it. It’s only fair.”

Farr, who voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and Bill Clinton in 1996, gained notoriety for a partisan remark he made in August while conducting a train from Kansas City to St. Louis. The train was forced to wait two hours until the westbound train campaign special carrying John Kerry and John Edwards had passed by. To lighten the mood of irritated passengers, Farr suggested over the PA system that the voyagers “should vote accordingly in November.” Amtrak brass was not amused and suspended Farr without pay. He resigned a few weeks after the incident.

Farr regrets the remark but said he probably would have made the same comment if the Bush campaign was holding up the train.

“I am absolutely livid when the President comes here, because when they go downtown, they block every exit. I can’t get on the highway to run out to Del Taco – and I’m a big Del Taco fan.”

A former high school football and track star with a history degree from the University of Missouri, Farr has gone through some dramatic changes since college. He’s added 60 pounds, for one thing—and he’s shed his Democratic Party affiliation.

“My parents are Democrats. But I did my homework on the two. I just didn’t like what I saw in the Democratic Party platform.” He cites his opposition to abortion, stem-cell research and big government as motivations in turning elephant.

Farr’s convictions were so strong that, after leaving Amtrak, he decided to take on William Lacy Clay Jr., the popular two-term First District Democrat. (His wife, an account executive, takes care of the bills.) Farr ran unopposed in the Republican primary.

“We need a change in leadership in the First District—someone who’s not going to pick old wounds open,” said Farr. “We’re the fourth most racially segregated city in the nation; but now, poor black folks live with poor black folks, and poor white folks live with poor white folks. We need to address these issues.

“I just don’t think that the people of this district get what they deserve from Lacy,” he continued. “I’ve heard time and time again about people who had serious problems, called his office and never heard anything back. Then, a few months later, they got a calendar. That’s my thing: I’m going to be available and accountable.”

Farr added: “My message is less focused on the Republican Party than other people’s. I am a Republican, but I don’t go out and beat the Republican drum; I don’t say I’m going to join other Republicans in Congress and do these other things. I talk about things that are serious to people, things that they know and I know.”

The Missouri Republican State Committee gave the gregarious, fast-talking Farr all the money he requested for his campaign: $500. Why so little? “The more you request, the more they control you,” Farr said.

Farr runs his modest campaign out of the basement of his home. Headquarters are housed in a 400-square-foot area with two tables, a few rolling chairs and a computer. He says he’s distributed 500 lawn signs. Including the money given him by the Missouri GOP, Farr said he has raised about $6,000. He won’t accept political-action committee money and recently returned a $750 check from a pro-life PAC.

PAC money or not, it’s going to be almost impossible to touch Clay, who presides over an overwhelmingly Democratic district. Clay has raised more than $270,000, according to the Federal Election Commission. Farr is predicting victory November 2, but the political pulse-takers figure he’s got two chances: slim and none.

His campaign appears so quixotic that some political scientists speculate Farr’s electoral exercise may be of the sacrificial-lamb variety, intended to help Republican candidates at the top of the ticket.

“If Missouri Democrats don’t win 90 percent of the black vote, they won’t win a statewide election,” observes Jeff Smith, a Washington University political science professor who narrowly lost his congressional race to Russ Carnahan in the August primary.

“If a candidate can make [Republican nominee Matt] Blunt get 15 percent of the black vote instead of 8 percent, then [Democrat nominee] Claire [McCaskill] won’t win.”


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Acela Express car goes on ground

By Leo King
Editor

One passenger was taken to Yale New Haven Hospital with minor injuries, and another was treated and released Thursday when Amtrak’s Acela Express train No. 2191 derailed a car about one mile west of New Haven, Conn., on Metro-North territory, according to an Amtrak National Operations Center in Wilmington, Del., which issued an advisory.

It is the first derailment of Amtrak’s premier trains on the Northeast Corridor.

Sources close to the scene said the train crew may have erred making a reverse move against a stop signal, but that has not been confirmed.

Amtrak reported there were 76 passengers and six crewmembers on board at the time of the derailment, but no injuries were reported. The car remained upright. One passenger, who had previously sustained an injury, reported dizziness and was transported for medical treatment by emergency medical services people.

The derailment snarled train and road traffic for miles, New Haven authorities said.

A freight train had earlier damaged catenary and poles, and 2191 was reversing back into New Haven’s Union station at low speed when it derailed its seventh car, No. 3201. Passengers were transferred to a Shore Line East commuter train and sent back to New Haven’s station.

The freight train apparently was Providence & Worcester’s CT-1 with five engines, eight loads and 52 empty cars from Cedar Hill Yard, about three miles north of New Haven.

The Amtrak train departed Boston at 6:45 p.m. and was enroute to New York City. It was scheduled to arrive at 10:15 p.m.

Trains 179, 67 and special 828 were delayed while a route was cleared.

The New Haven Register reported Friday morning the morning rail commute was in jeopardy.

It appeared a contact and associated wires in the catenary system, had fallen onto the tracks between either Cedar or Plymouth streets and Lamberton Street. It was not clear if the wire caused one of the car’s wheels to derail or if it was a result of impact, he noted.

Police and fire personnel rushed to the scene and immediately got to the people in the compromised car.

The incident forced Metro-North to shut off the 14,000-volt catenary power, stalling all northbound trains at the Milford station, authorities said.

Sources close to the incident told D:F the derailment was “reportedly due to unauthorized movement by the Amtrak train after running a red signal.”

At 8:51 p.m., a freight train on the line was advised of dragging equipment, and the Metro North dispatcher “told its crew to stop west of Controlled Point 266 and inspect their train. Metro North 5593 and Amtrak 2191, behind the freight train, were advised.”

At 9:00 p.m., the freight train crew reported they found a strap on a load to be dragging, and removed it, after which they reported they were again on the move.

At 9:04 p.m., M-N’s dispatcher, who was not named, reported that “Amtrak 2191 had passed a red signal at CP 271, and that the switch associated with that signal was lined against Amtrak 2191.” The train then “made a reverse movement, initiated by Amtrak 2191, and not authorized by dispatcher.”

At 9:14 p.m., “Amtrak 2191 called the M-N dispatcher and reported their train derailed at CP271, and that a pole was knocked down.”

Union Station Amtrak Supervisor Lynda Pantalena told frazzled commuters at Union Station that train personnel were ordering Greyhound buses for them, but that the wait would be long.

"It1s not a safe situation," she said. "You can check Greyhound. I’m going to start ordering buses, but it’s not going to be anytime soon."

At about 11 p.m., Amtrak started using buses to transport northbound passengers stranded south of Milford to Union Station and points north.

Metro North said it resumed service on the New Haven Line from New Haven at 6:24 a.m., The AP reported. Four earlier trains left from Bridgeport. Service was restored on one track out of four, but Metro-North said there could be some delays for trains headings into New Haven from points south.

Amtrak was reporting a 90-minute delay Friday morning, and Metro North reported 10-minute delays.


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St. Paul Amtrak rider irked at carrier

Now that there is no mail service on the Empire Builder, (train Nos. 7 and 8), Amtrak recently released all mechanical employees at Midway Station in St. Paul, Minn., but they were able to bid on other jobs at other places. A rider told D:F, “Their reason for the change was that with no more mail cars to be handled, there is no need for mechanical people – but one passenger coach still often needs handling.” It operates as needed between Chicago and St. Paul, as trains 807 and 808.

That, though, is only part of the story.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari in Chicago told D:F on Thursday via e-mail, “The additional coach to and from Minneapolis-St. Paul is seasonal: It runs for the summer – between Memorial Day and Labor Day – and then occasionally between late November and late December to early January.”

Road crews handle all the work associated with mechanical preparation and switching the car. The result has led to more delays, said a critic of the railroad’s Minneapolis service.

Magliari said, “The mechanical forces that were released at MSP [Amtrak’s three-letter identifier for its Minneapolis-St Paul station] – were among those who were mentioned in the news release announcing our exit from the mail business,” and that press release, dated September 3, stated, “Some workers are expected to exercise their seniority rights for jobs elsewhere in the corporation, including the package shipping business that will continue on trains with checked baggage.”

CEO David Gunn noted, at the time, “I realize that this will be painful for some employees, but we will make every effort to provide opportunities for affected employees to remain with the company.” About 300 employees were affected, primarily at terminals and stations.

The setout coach runs on busy days, said the critic, “When there are many passengers using the train. It is often full on the northbound trips out of Chicago, and turnaround duties” – for someone – include gathering used pillows to recycle after the slip covers are tossed, trash needs to be collected, the restrooms cleaned, supplies replenished, and the seats turned so they face forward for the return trip.

“The car itself isn’t turned,” he said.

Magliari told D:F, “Issues related to reversing the cars to Chicago are being reviewed, along with the availability of the cars.”

“Now, there is nobody to make an effort make it presentable, so the result is passengers boarding the coach find it in the same condition in which it was left the prior night,” according to the critic.

“The complaints are just beginning... as well the ‘never agains’ from people who suffer the conditions but don’t complain. One of those ‘never agains’ on a recent trip was a travel agent who said she would never again recommend Amtrak,” he added.

The critic said it has been suggested that Amtrak’s answer will be that the passengers using that car “are just too much fuss and bother; and that they would sooner discontinue the set-out car permanently than provide staffing to see to it that it is run properly; this at a time when demand strains the one existing train on that route, and more capacity is needed, not less.”


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Passengers stranded in San Antonio

Amtrak passengers were left stranded October 25 at the downtown San Antonio station – dozens of people were left sleeping the ground. Several children were left to sleep inside their suitcases.

“People laying all over the ground, the bus terminal is full, they saying that there’s nothing they can do, they can’t put us up in hotel rooms, my grandbaby hasn’t had anything to eat,” said Darlene Gholston, from Michigan.

WOAI-TV San Antonio reported several families arrived in San Antonio from Fort Worth that Monday night. Amtrak told the TV station rain flooded Union Pacific’s tracks in Taylor, north of San Antonio, and that’s why they had to bus everyone to the Texas city.

“I know there are glitches but the treatment of the passengers was so shoddy and unnecessary. People have gone all this time nothing to eat,” said Carla Lymon, from Michigan.

Amtrak told the passengers they would have a place to sleep.

Amtrak blames Union Pacific for not switching the coach in place, but many said the 13-hour delay was inexcusable.

“We are going to fly from now on,” said Susan Dromgoole, a stuck passenger from California.

Finally, around 9:00 Tuesday morning, the train showed up.

A reporter called Union Pacific and it said there was a miscommunication between UP and Amtrak in getting that coach to the stranded passengers in San Antonio.


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FBI probes possible Iowa rail sabotage

The FBI has been called in to investigate possible sabotage of railroad switches belonging to the Iowa, Chicago and Eastern Railroad Corporation in Muscatine, Iowa, which authorities said could have led to a disaster.

Investigators said someone tampered with a locked switch on October 20 so trains would go the wrong way. Several other switches had been moved in a way that could have derailed trains, according to The AP.

The railroad has been in labor talks for two years with the Brotherhood of Locomotive, Engineers and Trainmen. In a letter to employees, railroad president Kevin Schieffer says he is not making any assumptions that any employee was involved in the incident, but he said there is some circumstantial evidence that has developed in that regard.

Union spokesman John Mullen said the tampering was most likely done by an outsider. The railroad runs from Minneapolis to Muscatine and across much of northern Iowa.


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New ‘NYP’ station plan is on again,
but this time for LIRR and NJT

The $910 million plan to transform New York City’s former central post office building into a grand new Pennsylvania Station is once again lurching forward. State officials said on October 27 that they had lined up two anchor tenants and most of the financing, and were close to picking a developer.

The state has narrowed the list of potential developers to four from six, The New York Times reported on Friday, and is now asking for specific proposals for converting the block-long James A. Farley Building on Eighth Avenue into a gleaming Moynihan Station, named after the senator who was its champion. The state expects to choose a developer in March and to start construction next summer.

Both New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road have told state officials that they want to have tracks and space at the station, replacing Amtrak as the anchor tenant. Earlier this year, Amtrak left the project because of money problems, choosing to remain in the existing Penn Station across Eighth Avenue. Although the state is still looking for up to $40 million to pay for an emergency ventilation system for the tunnels below the Farley building, officials said they were optimistic that the Moynihan Station’s time had come.

“We're going forward with this project, no question about it,” said Charles A. Gargano, chairman of the Moynihan Station Development Corp.

“It's basically fully funded for construction,” he said.


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LABOR LINES...  Labor lines...

BMWE to merge with Teamsters

A railroad union representing about 40,000 railroad workers has voted to merge with the Teamsters, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees approved the merger, with 76 percent voting in favor, the unions said on October 26.

BMWE represents workers who build, maintain, inspect and repair the tracks, bridges and other railroad infrastructure throughout North America.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, with about 30,000 members, merged with the Teamsters in January.

“As did my father, I have envisioned one union representing all transportation workers – roads to rails, ports to planes – that would provide workers with real power on the job and in the political arena,” said Teamsters President James P. Hoffa.

“This historic merger brings us closer to our vision.”

BMWE President Freddie Simpson will be president of the Teamsters’ rail division. The Teamsters have 1.4 million members.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Red Sox rally puts ‘T’ to test

By Dennis Kirkpatrick
D:F Staff Writer

Red Sox on Parade

Boston Globe: Jim Davis

The Boston Red Sox parade inched down Boylston Street on Saturday near Copley Square to the delight of the thrilled fans. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority had extra-long trains running on their lines and many, many trolleys.
Eighty-six years is a long time for faithful fans to wait for the home team to win a World Series, so when it finally happened it was much like a dam bursting.

Everyone wanted to be a part of the celebration – however, this was to be no easy task to accomplish as Boston would need to find a way to get an estimated three to five million people into and out of its city in a few hours time. To its credit, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) stepped up to the plate, and while it may not have hit a grand-slam home run, it certainly managed to win the game.

Boston is no stranger to large sports championship rallies. In the last three years the New England Patriots football team has brought home two Superbowl championships that were celebrated in the city. These rallies brought into the city an estimated 1.2 million people. The Red Sox celebration would be many times that.

In response to the sheer numbers, the City of Boston, in conjunction with Red Sox officials and other local agencies, devised a plan for a “rolling rally” on Saturday. Unlike prior celebrations that started with a parade and terminated at Boston’s City Hall Plaza for a stage presentation, this one would keep rolling and never stop to avoid any attempts at overcrowding at an end destination.

Seventeen high-wheelbase amphibious vehicles from Boston’s “Duck Tours” tourist service served to carry the team players, owners, families, and retired Sox favorites such as Johnny Pesky and “Butch” Hobson. Each duck was equipped with a public address system so team members could offer their thanks to the fans as they passed by.

The original plan would have seen the rally end near City Hall Plaza, but an eleventh-hour change took advantage of each vehicle’s capability to enter the water. The ducks entered the Charles River basin area and toured the Boston and Cambridge shorelines thus giving fans additional vantage points.

Bringing three to five million people into the city with their cars would be an impossibility, so the rally was dependent on the MBTA to carry the load both ways.

Television media reporting on the event was not supposed to start until 9:00 a.m., but the early morning news broadcasts were extended when it became known that people had already started to jockey for prime viewing spots along the parade route as early as 4:00 a.m., long before the start of any commuter or bus services.

By 6:15 a.m. traffic reporters said that the Riverside Station on the MBTA’s Green line had already reached capacity. The open-air parking facility – which boasts 925 parking spaces – usually does not fill up until much later in the morning. It is the southernmost terminus on the Green line.

At a 7:15 am station break one radio station reported the “E” branch of the Green line had its compliment of trolleys moved to service the other branches. While inconvenient, the “E” branch had bus route No. 39 to fall back on and parallels the majority of that branch. This signified that the ‘T’ was already operating at above its daily rush hour capacity and on shortened headways.

Not long after, the media was recommending that celebrants, especially those outside of the subway system use the MBTA commuter rail as their transportation choice, and directed people to the Anderson Regional Transportation Center in Woburn to the north and the Route 128 Station in Westwood to the south because each had substantial parking facilities, but by 9:15, Anderson’s 2,000 spaces and Route 128’s 2,500-plus were also full. The trains were running, but you would need to be dropped off to take one.

Fans began gathering at the Lowell commuter station 45 minutes north of Boston’s North Station well before 6:00 a.m. in order to be assured transport into the city. The first train out of Lowell would not make its scheduled stop at the next station. The conductor announced soon after the train was rolling that they were full and would run express to Boston’s North Station. Cheers went up in each coach. As the train slowly rolled into North Billerica, it kept on going much to the surprise of the mob crowding the platform. The scene would be repeated at every station along the line.

To the south, a similar scene played itself out as reported by Dianne Kirkpatrick. She’s my eldest daughter.

“We planned to get a train at 8:15 coming from Franklin at Readville Station in Hyde Park. While we waited on the platform, I watched a train pass on the lower level that had just come from the Route 128 station going into Boston. I could see it was standing room only.”

She continued, “Shortly after that the train approached coming from Franklin but it blew its whistle and kept going.” Here, the train would have switched onto the main line and proceeded into South Station.

While some people were left on the platforms for some inbound runs, the MBTA was running numerous extras to handle the load all morning and added extra coaches to many consists. As reported in the Taunton Gazette, some 2,500 fans jammed the MBTA’s inbound commuter train, which left Forge Park in Franklin, Mass. at 6:30 a.m. Eight extra cars were added to the train to accommodate the need.

“These trains typically have seven cars, but we went to 16 because of the huge volume of riders,” a conductor noted. The train would terminate at Boston’s Back Bay station because it was too long to fit comfortably at Boston’s South Station terminus. It was estimated there were as many as 100 people crowded into each coach.

To the MBTA’s credit, it kept the trains rolling along the commuter lines and in the subways all day, and frequently, so that no one felt they were waiting too long. While a few delays were reported here and there these were quickly remedied.

At press time there were no actual numbers available but observers of the ‘T’ generally agreed that the MBTA reached an all-time record for the number of passengers handled in one day. After this, rush hour should be somewhat anti-climatic.


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BNSF, N. Mexico agree track use

Commuter rail service between Belen and Bernalillo, New Mexico is one step closer to becoming a reality. Gov. Bill Richardson said recently that a memorandum of understanding with the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Ry. has been signed.

The agreement paves the way for the state to secure use of BNSF tracks for coming commuter rail service, Los Lunas News-Bulletin reported October 23.

Richardson also announced the state is negotiating a contract to buy 10 coaches, and expects to complete the deal this week.

“We have made considerable progress toward turning the dream of commuter rail into reality,” he said at a press conference in Albuquerque. “I am confident we will, in short order, be able to complete the final agreements for use of the track, movements of the trains, improvements to crossing and construction of platforms.”

He added that agreements for building rail stations have been reached with most local governments located along the corridor. The state is continuing discussions with Sandia Pueblo regarding locating a potential station there.

Meanwhile, on September 28, some 60 Valencia County residents attended a public information meeting at Los Lunas village administration building to view displays about the rail stations, hear an update from Mid-Region Council of Government (MRCOG) staff and ask questions. A similar meeting was held in Belen on September 22 and was attended by 55 people.

“We are here to inform the people about the project as well as listen to their concerns and needs,” said Bruce Rizzieri, public transport planner for MRCOG.

They took a survey among people who attended.

“This information will help us make decisions in the future,” Rizzieri said.

The public’s reception at the meetings of the commuter rail concept has been good. There were concerns at the Belen meeting regarding additional locomotive horn noise.

The Belen-Bernalillo service is the first phase of the governor’s commuter rail initiative, which will eventually run from Belen to Santa Fe.

Start date for the first phase is November 2005, while the second phase into Santa Fe will be completed by fall 2008.

“The Bernalillo to Santa Fe phase is more time-consuming because BNSF’s line does not go into Santa Fe,” said Rizzieri. “We have started an environmental impact study process to determine a new corridor.”

In July, the State Transportation Commission approved $75 million to build the commuter rail service linking Belen, Los Lunas, Isleta, Albuquerque and Bernalillo.

There are nine stations planned. Besides Belen, Los Lunas and Isleta, there will be stations in the South Valley at Second and Rio Bravo, downtown Albuquerque, North Valley, Alameda, Sandia, Bernalillo and U.S. 550.

Agreements have been approved by Belen City Council to have a station on the east side of the north-south rail line between Reinken and Ross Avenues. The rail service’s maintenance yards will also be in that area.

Funds from the state will construct the station and parking area.

Los Lunas plans to locate its station south of Courthouse Road along the tracks. The village has received $1.23 million from the USDOT to build a transportation center facility that will include a 5,000-square-foot building, parking and a five-acre park on the 18.4 acres of land.

Rizzieri said when the service first begins there will be four to eight trains running daily, “one every hour and a half during the peak commute periods. We are also planning to have weekend trains and special event trains.”

Among the negotiations being conducted with BNSF, Rizzieri said is how the commuter trains and BNSF trains will share the track.

“For us to maintain our schedule, we will have to have priority during the commute period,” he said. “It’s all about timing.”

Rizzieri told the audience that discussions are under way regarding how commuters will be transported from their destination station and their work.

One resident asked if there would be ground transportation to Sandia Labs.

“We are evaluating several routes to various work sites such as Sandia Labs and Kirtland, the hospitals and even the airport. Once the routes have been determined, we will got to the final destination with proposals,” Rizzieri said.

Another request was to have ground service from the South Valley station to the Albuquerque Sunport.

Rizzieri said fares have not been set yet.

“We are thinking, initially, rides will be free to build up ridership,” he added,” noting “We should know more about this six months from now.”

Funds are being sought by MRCOG to offset the initial three years of operations, allowing the ridership to grow before it has to support the operations.


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VRE starts new idea

Here’s a new idea that’s beginning to catch on with commuter railroads: a guaranteed ride home.

“’Guaranteed Ride Home’ is a regional, cooperative effort between Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. designed to make public transportation more attractive by eliminating the one concern many commuters have: How will I get home if a family emergency or unscheduled overtime crops up?”

In a message to riders via its web site, Virginia Railway Express said the guaranteed ride hope program “seeks to provide that answer for commuters with a ‘safety net’ that guarantees them a ride home in cases of family illness, unscheduled overtime or an unusual emergency.”

A spokeswoman said, “The program is free and available to all VRE passengers, but you must register in order to be eligible for your free ride home.” She added, “Certain limitation and rules apply.”

Some befits include 100 percent coverage for an emergency ride – the ride is paid up front, no reimbursement necessary.

Extended coverage is also included. In addition to personal emergencies, unscheduled overtime is included as well.

For commuters who live more than 40 miles away, a cab ride or rental car is available.

VRE has posted a list of counties and cities in which you must work, and another list in which you must live in order to qualify.

VRE is online at http://www.vre.org/programs/comcon.htm.

Commuter Connections/Guaranteed Ride Home is online at http://www.mwcog.org/commuter/Bdy-Grh.html


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Amtrak, Caltrans expands service

The Orange County Transit Authority said last week it had reached an agreement with Caltrans and Amtrak to expand commuter rail service between Orange County and Los Angeles.

On November 17, two Amtrak trains will add weekday service between Los Angeles and the Laguna Niguel-Mission Viejo station. Another Amtrak train from Los Angeles will begin stopping in the afternoon at the transportation center in Orange, the Los Angeles Times reported.

One Laguna Niguel train will depart for Los Angeles at 12:15 p.m. The other will head from Los Angeles to Laguna Niguel at 7:25 p.m. The third train will depart Los Angeles at 2:00 p.m. and arrive at the Orange station.

Metrolink passengers who buy 10-day passes will be allowed to use those passes to ride any Amtrak commuter service. That convenience is now extended only to Metrolink’s monthly pass holders.

“This is critically important for riders from Laguna Niguel,” said Cathryn De Young, an OCTA board member and Laguna Niguel council member. “It is exactly the direction we need to go to make Amtrak and Metrolink compatible.”

Elsewhere, OCTA board members voted 6-to-5 to extend the preliminary engineering phase of the “CenterLine” light rail project to February 28. The decision adds $2.25 million to the contract that was awarded in July 2002 to the engineering firm of Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade & Douglas Inc.

Considering an earlier $8-million increase, OCTA records show that the overall cost of preliminary engineering has now risen to more than $48 million. The original contract was for about $38 million.

The OCTA board usually votes unanimously or with overwhelming margins to approve CenterLine matters, but there has been growing disenchantment on the board because of uncertainty over whether Congress will approve about $500 million in federal funds for the project. A vote against the extension would have been a major setback.

CenterLine supporters say the contract extension is necessary to continue to court the Federal Transit Administration, which oversees funding for proposed light rail and subway projects across the nation.

CenterLine is a $1 billion trolley system that would run 9.5 miles from John Wayne Airport to the Santa Ana train station. The proposed line would pass through Irvine, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana.


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Anti-light rail group withdraws lawsuit

Anti-light rail advocates who opposed a regional transportation referendum have withdrawn a lawsuit against the city of Phoenix that sought more information on the costs of the mass transit project.

The No on 400 Committee had filed suit against Phoenix, trying to get the courts to require the city to turn over more information about light rail costs and possible overruns, the Business Journal of Phoenix reported last week.

Dave Thompson, who is heading the opposition to the Proposition 400 referendum, said the city had turned over only cursory data on light rail costs and contracts.

However, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge set the first hearing on the matter for November 1 – the day before election day – making the lawsuit useless in terms of trying to impact the proposition vote.

Proposition 400 asks Maricopa County voters to implement a $16 billion regional transportation plan, including $2.3 billion for light rail.

Thompson and former governor Fife Symington oppose that plan and want light rail killed all together so that money could be dedicated toward highways.

They also are launching local ballot initiatives in Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix and Glendale, asking local voters to nix light rail in 2006.

Business groups and real estate interests are strong backers of Prop. 400, arguing it offers plenty of money for highways, arterial road improvements and transit (including rail and buses).


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BUILDERS LINES...  Builders’ lines...

Bank funds loco sale to Mexico

The U.S. Export-Import Bank approved a $39.5 million loan guarantee on October 26 to support General Electric Co. selling 25 state-of-the-art locomotives to modernize a Mexican private sector railroad locomotive fleet.

Grupo Ferroviario Mexicano (GFM) will buy the 4,400-horsepower diesel electric locomotives and lease them to its sole subsidiary, Ferrocarril Mexicano (Ferromex), to improve the railroad’s efficiency and competitiveness. The railroad currently comprises 6,180 miles of track and carries nearly half of Mexico’s total freight.

This is Ex-Im Bank’s second financing for Ferromex. In 1999, shortly after privatization of the state-owned railroad system in Mexico, the bank guaranteed financing for 50 GE locomotives.


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APTA HIGHLIGHTS...  APTA Highlights...

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


New York Celebrates Centennial of Subway Opening

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority is reaching the culmination of its year-long celebration of the opening of the New York City subway on October 27. Exactly 100 years earlier the subway took its first ride from City Hall to 145th Street in Harlem with New York Mayor George B. McClellan Jr. at the controls. The MTA conducted a partial re-enactment of that first ride, from City Hall Station in lower Manhattan to Grand Central Terminal.

Representatives of the U.S. Postal Service went to the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn Heights for a special commemorative cancellation for mail.

“The subway made New York what it is today, and it is only appropriate for all New Yorkers to be reminded of its rich history,” MTA Chairman Peter S. Kalikow said in October 2003 at the kickoff of the year-long celebration. “It is that history we intend to celebrate over the course of the next year throughout the city.”

During the past year, NYC Transit and the New York Transit Museum have hosted a variety of programs commemorating the history of the city’s subway system, including special reservation-only tours of historic subway routes; hands-on arts programs for children, as well as a Subway Centennial Birthday Party October 24 at the museum; exhibits showcasing the subway as a subject for painters and photographers; and an exhibit of artifacts from the 100-year history of the system.


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Volvo Becomes Sole Owner of Nova Bus, Prévost Car; Becomes Partner in Blue Bird

Volvo Bus Corp., a division of the Volvo Group, has acquired from the British firm Henlys Group, PLC its 50 percent outstanding shares of Prevost Car Inc., including its Nova bus division. With this transaction, Volvo Bus Corporation becomes the sole owner of both Prevost Car and Nova Bus.

This acquisition is part of a financial restructuring of Henlys Group plc, which also establishes another of its subsidiaries, Blue Bird Corporation, as the sole operating subsidiary of a newly formed U.S. based holding company principally owned by Volvo Group and members of Henlys’ banking syndicate.


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

D.C. mayor endorses hazmat ban

Washington, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) said on October 25 that he would sign emergency legislation to bar railroads from shipping hazardous materials through the nation’s capital if the Bush administration fails to prohibit the potentially lethal cargo in the next two weeks.

Speaking at a council hearing on gaps in the city’s preparedness for another terror attack, the Washington Post reported Williams said he is inclined to give the Bush administration time “to work this out administratively” – but if federal authorities do not take action before November 9, when council member Kathy Patterson (D) plans to ask the council to approve an emergency bill, Williams said he “would support the legislation.”

The capital deserves special treatment, Patterson said.

The mayor said he does not believe that the Bush administration is playing politics with the issue, as Patterson and environmentalists have alleged. Since a year ago, when District lawmakers began considering legislation to force railroads to route hazardous materials around the city, the Transportation Security Administration has missed several self-imposed deadlines to address the issue. It now says it will not announce new regulations regarding hazardous shipments until after the November 2 election.

Williams said he is “a ‘jar is half-full’ person on this thing… I would want to believe that there really aren’t any politics involved.” Nonetheless, after a year of waiting, the mayor said he is open to the argument that council action is needed, if only for “symbolic reasons.”

“If I were shown there was no real willingness [by federal authorities] to move on a matter that was really just critical to the health and safety of my residents, then I would support it. You have no other choice,” Williams said.

The mayor’s statements came during a hearing before the council’s Judiciary Committee, which called more than a dozen witnesses to address efforts by the city and federal government to respond to and prevent future terrorist attacks. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge did not attend the hearing, but Richard Ben-Veniste, a D.C. lawyer who sat on the national 9/11 commission, did.

Ben-Veniste told council members that three years after the September 11, 2001, attacks, federal authorities have yet to produce a “formal written protocol” laying out the federal government’s role in a new attack. “Local officials indicate that they know they are very likely to be preempted by the federal government in a crisis, but they do not know when, why and by whom!” he said.

Ben-Veniste also criticized the Bush administration’s failure to address the issue of hazardous chemicals in freight trains, which he called “a clear risk to the health and safety of residents of Washington, D.C.”

Since the 2001 attacks, the Bush administration has grappled with how to regulate the transport of such chemicals as chlorine and ammonia, which could produce a toxic cloud capable of killing or injuring thousands if released in downtown Washington. As many as 8,500 rail cars a year carry such freight along a CSX Corp. rail line that runs within four blocks of the Capitol.

CSX and the chemical industry say they are working with the government to safeguard the shipments. They say that a ban in the nation’s capital would trigger similar requests by other cities, disrupting commerce.

Patterson and other local officials argue that the nation’s capital deserves special treatment. Under Patterson’s proposal, the District would ban shipments of certain highly toxic chemicals through the city unless those materials are for local use.

Patterson called the mayor’s statement of support for her emergency bill “very good news.” Under D.C. law, the council can approve such legislation in a single day. The bill would take effect for 90 days immediately upon receiving the mayor’s signature.

Patterson said she is not sure who would enforce the temporary law. She predicted that the rail and chemical industries would ask a judge to block its implementation.


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Protestors disdain M&E route restart

Demonstrators in Springfield, N.J., stayed clear of the police at a protest on October 24 against the resumption of freight rail service along the Rahway Valley Line.

The Coalition to Stop the Train had promised to block traffic on Mountain Avenue, but abandoned that plan when Union County officials warned the group that it would have to buy liability insurance for demonstrators who put themselves in harm’s way, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

The coalition is attempting to derail Morristown and Erie Railroad’s plan for the Rahway Valley Line from Cranford to Summit. The line has been dormant for more than 10 years but could see activity in a year.

Service on the old Staten Island Railroad route that stretches from Cranford to Linden is also being reactivated and could be ready by year’s end.

The crowd of about 150 clung to a small patch of grass across from the Springfield Fire Department and yards from a planned rail crossing. Speakers used a microphone to draw attention to their “stop the train” message.

“We will continue to fight to stop this train from coming through our municipalities,” said Robert Sheehan of Summit.

Protesters argue the trains are dangerous because the lines cut across major roads like Route 28 in Roselle Park, The Boulevard in Kenilworth, Mountain Avenue in Springfield and behind hundreds of homes.

The federal government has refused to kill the plan. The Union County freeholders agreed to the revitalization plan last year.

“We could not stop this train from going through, but we could control it,” said Union County Manager George Devanney.

“We tried to regulate the number of trains that come through, the time of day,” he said.

Trains would run no more than three times a week in the first two years of operation. During the third year, the train traffic would increase to three to five times a week.

“It’s nothing more than a waste of taxpayers’ money to continue to fight this,” Devanney said. “This has gone through the courts.”

“Who is against the train?” Springfield resident Teresa Puliti wanted to know as she studied a listing of Union County freeholder candidates at the rally. “I don’t want a freight train going through my town. It brings congestion and noise. It is going to impact on everyone in Springfield. I am a registered Democrat but I am going to vote against anyone who is for the freight train.”

“This whole thing is wrong,” said another Springfield resident, Arlene Stein. “We were never asked. It’s just being shoved down our throats.”

Politicians like state Sen. Tom Kean, Jr. and Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, both Republicans from Westfield, pledged their support to the coalition.

“There is no evidence of the need for this train,” Bramnick said to the protesters. “This is a massive disaster that they intend to impose on the citizens.”


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OmniTRAX leases CSX branch

OmniTRAX is leasing CSX’s former Fulco branch line near Atlanta.

The shortline operator, an affiliate of The Broe Cos., took over the branch on October 23 and renamed it Fulton County Ry., LLC.

Neither OmniTRAX nor CSX would state leasing price. Alfred M Sauer, of EVP Marketing & Strategic Planning of Denver and a spokesman for OmniTRAX, Inc., which is headquartered in that city, told D:F “FCR’s lease terms are confidential.”

FCR is located west of Atlanta, along the Caloosahatchie River, south of I-20 and west of I-285

David Lutz is FCR’s president, and Larry Davis is director of marketing and sales.

According to CSX and OmniTRAX representatives, the new lease agreement will “help enhance service to the Fulton Industrial District and expand opportunities for economic growth and development in the area.”

The agreement is expected to make Fulton an integrated logistics center. The Fulton Business District is one of the Southeast’s major transportation hubs.

OmniTRAX said it would make several infrastructure improvements, including rail replacement, installing 2,000 ties, installing three new switches, and track surfacing.

“OmniTRAX is excited about the potential we see at the Fulton Industrial Park,” said Bob Parker, OmniTRAX COO.

“We expect to invest necessary resources to increase the level of service to the park, thereby enabling Fulton’s customers to confidently increase their levels of business and use of rail.”

Sauer said, “There are approximately 40 rail-centric customers currently located in the Fulton Industrial District, and Fulton County Railway expects to handle in excess of 8,000 carloads per year.”

He added, “The creation of FCR has resulted in a net gain of 14 jobs,” and added, “FCR leases and operates approximately 55 miles of trackage, inclusive of yard tracks and industrial leads, but no bridge traffic. FCR’s average length of haul is less than 10 miles.”

OmniTRAX will include Broe Companies resources, its affiliated real estate and investment company, to augment its transportation services with real estate and other industrial development activities.

“This will foster economic expansion and job creation within the Fulton Industrial Business District,” Parker said.

He added, “This unique combination of transportation and real estate expertise creates a model that OmniTRAX has utilized successfully across its system and that it hopes will serve as a platform for an expanded relationship with CSX.”

Three EMD engines provide power – “We have two GP-38-3s and a rebuilt GP-20.”

Fulton Industrial Park is home to more than 40 existing rail-centric warehouseman and light manufacturing companies that move everything from food products and metals to paper and packaging products from five regions of the country. Shippers from the West Coast, Pacific Northwest, Canada, Ohio Valley and Southeast move more than 8,000 cars, or the equivalent of 30,000 trucks, annually through warehouses and light manufacturing facilities to end users in Atlanta and the surrounding areas, as well as multiple points throughout the East.


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Tough travel on UP lanes

Union Pacific isn’t out of the woods, yet, according to a company service bulletin sent to shippers last week. The biggest headache is power shortages.

The railroad stated on October 22, “Chicago area still reports a deficit of locomotives and rail cars. As a result, departure delays of up to 12 hours are being experienced on some services.”

The statement added, “Every effort will be made to protect the timely departure of premium services.”

In addition, UP Noted, “Global 3 is currently eight hours behind in switching. These switching delays are particularly impacting traffic interchanging to and from CSX. The chassis shortage at area ramps has improved in the past 24 hours, but is still problematic.”

The Los Angeles Basin reported that freight cars and locomotives are “marginal.”

The shortages are resulting in departure delays are being experienced by some services.

“UPRR is moving empty railcars and excess locomotives towards the L.A. Basin to mitigate some of the shortages.” The rail car supply was projected to equal area demand by October 23.

The Oakland ramp remained congested.

“A critical locomotive deficit at Roseville, Calif. will result in departure delays of up to eight hours on some volume out of Northern California.”

The Pacific Northwest remained congested and delays of up to 16 hours were anticipated.

Seattle and Portland were reported to be okay for freight cars, but also marginal for locomotives.

“Departure delays of up to eight hours may be incurred as a result. Heavy volume between Portland and Seattle resulted in several train crews in this lane running out of service hours short of destination. A domino effect led to numerous additional train crews likewise running out of service hours.”

The Salt Lake City Yard and ramp were congested and reported being behind in switching cars. As of this morning [October 22], the Salt Lake City yard held 500 cars in excess of capacity.

Marion Ark., released some trains late due to locomotive shortages.

The Northern Corridor is currently congested in Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho as a result of track projects and capacity issues, and the Southern Corridor is heavily congested, particularly from Del Rio to San Antonio Texas, “as a result of heavy volume and ongoing locomotive crew shortages, especially at San Antonio.”

Some trains transiting that area experienced up to 18-hour delays. UP stated, “To address corridor congestion, UPRR is currently spacing trains at two-hour intervals at Yuma and Tucson Ariz., as well as El Paso.” The spacing was applied to trains traveling both east and west.

A locomotive crew shortage in New Orleans “delayed the departure of volume originating and interchange at New Orleans by up to eight hours.”


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MA&N gets grant for 3B Timber

The Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern Railroad is getting a half-million dollar grant to build a line into a timber cutter’s yard.

News 10 Now of Syracuse, N.Y. reported on October 25 more than 50 people met at the 3B Timber Co. site in Boonville, N.Y. for State Sen. Ray Meier’s reported he got the grant.

“I’m very pleased today to be able to announce that I have secured a $500,000 multi-modal transportation grant which will be used for the expansion of the rail siding here at 3B, and for major improvements to the tracks between here and Utica,” said Meier.

The grant will allow the 3B company to accommodate as many as 20 freight cars at one time.

Officials said construction on the railway has begun, and it should be complete by mid-December. Currently the tracks only allow the company to spot three cars at a time. The improvements will allow for more efficient shipping and lower freight rates.

3B Timber vice-president Gary Bourgeois said sending only three cars at a time has been a problem for about three years because yard space filled up quickly, and the company was unable to send out their product to as many companies as they’d like.

“With our siding, it has handled three cars at a max. For six to eight months we were bringing in 15 to 16 rail car loads a week, and with only being able to get six out a week we were just running out of room,” said Bourgeois.

Members of the Mohawk, Adirondack and Northern Railroad Corp. said the improvements will spur economic growth.

“It’s going to be business for us, business for 3B, business for the lumber people, and the loggers, and the truckers that are bringing the logs in here, so it helps the local economy in like a mushroom effect,” said David Monteverde.

Officials said 3B is one of the leading logging companies in the North Country, and improvements to the railroad will lead to more jobs.


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NS apologizes for chemical spill

A Norfolk Southern spokeswoman in Norfolk apologized last week for a recent chemical spill that prompted the evacuation of 200 homes in the Louisville, Va., Petersburg Estates subdivision for more than six hours.

The spill also sent about a dozen people to the hospital for observation. Authorities initially thought just two people had been taken to a hospital, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

“We apologize for the inconvenience that this incident caused to the local residents,” said spokeswoman Susan Terpay.

“We are going to find out what occurred and prevent it from happening again,” she said.

The company worked October 25 to clean up about 100 gallons of thioglycol, an industrial solvent that escaped from a leaky valve on a tank that had been removed from a tank car Sunday afternoon at an NS terminal on Jennings Lane, officials said.

Terpay said four railroad employees, six private contractors and two trespassers were treated at a hospital and released.

Steve Adkins, deputy chief of the Camp Taylor Fire Protection District, which responded to the spill, said his department eventually learned of 11 people who needed decontamination and medical observation.

Terpay said the exact cause of the spill was unclear, but local fire and emergency officials said it appears a valve was damaged while the chemical was removed from the freight car.

Norfolk Southern does not believe any of the chemical leaked while the tank was being transported to Louisville, she said. A local hazardous materials ordinance requires the company to reimburse local officials for the cost of the response. Terpay said the company would do so.

A reimbursement figure hasn’t been released.

Thioglycol has a very strong odor that can sicken people, said Brad Learn, assistant director of the Louisville Metro Emergency Management Agency. The solvent can be toxic if inhaled or ingested, according to a guidebook for emergency officials.


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CP’s Green is promoted; Lamarre leaves

Fred Green is Canadian Pacific Ry.’s new executive vice-president and COO. Rob Ritchie, CP’s president and CEO, said last week the railroad’s directors approved the appointment last week, and took over his new post immediately.

Green began his career with CP in 1978.

Elsewhere at CP, Jacques Lamarre left the carrier board.

Lamarre, who is president and CEO at SNC-Lavalin Group, Inc., departed October 25. He joined the CP board in October 2001, concurrent with the spin-off of the subsidiaries of Canadian Pacific Ltd.

“Mr. Lamarre’s departure reflects demands placed on him by the ongoing success and growth of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. and by his other business endeavors,” a spokesman said.


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BUSINESS LINES...  Business lines...

BNSF

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. reported on October 26 its third-quarter 2004 earnings of one cent per share, which includes a tax charge of $288 million, or $0.76 per share to reflect changes in the way BNSF estimates asbestos and environmental liabilities. Third-quarter 2003 earnings per share were $0.55.

“We achieved an all-time record for quarterly revenues which enabled BNSF to record its third consecutive quarterly double-digit revenue increase,” said Matthew K. Rose, BNSF Chairman, President and CEO. “Substantial unit volume increases in three of our four business groups contributed to this strong performance.”

The firm stated third-quarter 2004 freight revenues increased $373 million, or 16 percent, to an all-time quarterly record of $2.74 billion compared with 2003 third-quarter revenues of $2.37 billion. Of the 16 percent increase, about 3 percent was driven by fuel surcharges and about 3 percent came from price increases. Consumer Products revenues increased $168 million, or 18 percent, to an all-time quarterly record of $1.10 billion as a result of double-digit increases in the international intermodal, truckload and perishables sectors.

Industrial Products revenues increased $80 million, or 14 percent, to an all- time quarterly record of $634 million reflecting strong demand in the construction products, building products, and petroleum products sectors. Coal revenues rose $78 million, or 15 percent, to $589 million resulting from record demand by utility customers. Agricultural Products revenues were up $47 million, or 13 percent, to $418 million driven by increased corn and wheat exports.

Third-quarter 2004 operating expenses, which include the pre-tax charge of $465 million, were $2.69 billion while prior-year third-quarter operating expenses were $1.97 billion. This increase was primarily due to the charge as well as historically high fuel prices and 12-percent higher freight volumes. Operating income, including the impact of the above charge, was $100 million. Third-quarter 2003 operating income was $430 million.

As a result of a comment letter received following its Form 8-K filing on October 7, BNSF is currently in discussions with the staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission concerning the charge recorded in the third quarter to reflect changes in the way BNSF estimates asbestos and environmental liabilities.

“The company believes its accounting for the charge is appropriate. Regardless of the outcome of these discussions, the company believes there will not be a material impact on the ongoing results of its operations or liquidity,” the railroad stated.


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CN

Canadian National reported on October 27 its directors have authorized a “normal course issuer bid” to purchase for cancellation up to 14 million, or approximately 5 percent, of the common shares outstanding of the company not held by its insiders on October 15.

An aggregate total of approximately 286.5 million common shares were issued and outstanding on that date. The price CN will pay for any common shares will be the market price at the time of acquisition, plus brokerage fees.

The railroad explained the share buy-back program – starting November 1 and ending no later than October 31, 2005 – will be conducted via the Toronto and New York stock exchanges, and will conform to their regulations.

Claude Mongeau, executive vice-president and CFO, said, “CN’s solid cash flow generation capacity has been enhanced by the acquisitions of the railroad and related holdings of Great Lakes Transportation and BC Rail earlier this year. With a strong balance sheet providing strategic flexibility, CN’s management and directors believe that this share buy-back program is timely and will support shareholder value creation.”

CN also reported a fourth-quarter 2004 dividend on the company’s common shares outstanding. A quarterly dividend of nineteen and one-half cents (Cdn $0.195) will be paid on December 31 to shareholders of record at the close of business on December 10.


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CP

Canadian Pacific Ry. reported on October 26 its third-quarter 2004 net income was $177 million, or $1.11 per diluted share, compared with net income of $91 million, or $0.57 per diluted share in the same period of 2003. The increase included an after-tax gain of $73 million on foreign exchange on long-term debt. Volumes grew in six of seven business lines, including a 9-per-cent jump in intermodal, which is on pace to become a $1-billion business line for CPR this year.

Excluding foreign exchange gains and losses on long-term debt, income in third-quarter 2004 increased 9 per cent to $104 million, or $0.65 per diluted share, compared with $95 million, or $0.60 in third-quarter 2003.

Rob Ritchie, President and CEO, said, “The ongoing growth in our business and the upward trend in CPR’s yield and operating performance accomplished by our people” pleased him.

He noted, “We successfully completed an unprecedented program of track maintenance on our busy Western corridor in a compressed time period while moving more freight than ever before. With several pinch-points removed, more new locomotives arriving in the coming weeks and 500 new people now qualified to operate trains, CP has entered the fall peak season well positioned to handle anticipated freight volumes and to keep our network fluid.”

Ritchie noted, “Record world oil prices remain a challenge in the transportation sector. However, CP’s improved fuel surcharge program, which enables CP to pass on higher prices more quickly, is generating solid results. The new surcharge program, in combination with indexing and a favorable hedge position, enabled CPR to recover about three-quarters of our price-related fuel cost increase in the third quarter”

CP analysts stated CP’s operating income of $219 million was an 8 per cent increase. Revenue was up $85 million, with increases in all business lines except grain, where a late harvest delayed rail shipments.

Operating expenses were up $70 million, driven by higher freight volumes and fuel prices, temporary costs to train additional crews, and a return to a normal level of performance-based incentive compensation.

Its operating ratio was 77.9 per cent, compared with 77.5 per cent a year earlier.


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CSX

CSX Corp. of Jacksonville, Fla., reported its financial results on October 28 for the third quarter. Net earnings were $123 million, or 57 cents per share, including a net gain on the Conrail spin-off transaction.

Its consolidated operating income was $264 million and surface transportation revenue, including rail and intermodal, increased $115 million to $1.94 billion. Merchandise revenue was up 6 percent and coal revenue was up 10 percent during the quarter.

“This is the third consecutive quarter in which CSX delivered consistent, continuous improvement in year-over-year surface transportation operating income,” said Michael J. Ward, CSX chairman, president, and CEO.

“In addition, it is the tenth consecutive quarter that the company has demonstrated revenue growth, reflecting the strength in the economy and the importance of rail transportation,” he added.


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GATX

GATX Corp. reported on October 28 its third-quarter gross income of $327.4 million, up from $292.6 million last year. Net income totaled $40.7 million, up from $22.7 million. On a per-share basis, the company earned 78 cents a share, up from 46 cents last year. Earnings from continuing operations, excluding a 53-cent insurance-related gain, totaled 25 cents a share. Analysts expected a profit of 17 cents a share, according to Thomson First Call.


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KCS

Kansas City Southern’s third quarter 2004 consolidated net income of $11.1 million, increased 158 percent compared with third quarter 2003 consolidated net income of $4.3 million.

KCS operating revenue reached record levels for third quarter 2004, increasing by 11.9 percent over third quarter 2003 to $162.1 million while its operating income increased 35.9 percent over the comparable 2003 period, to $24.6 million.

The railroad’s net income available to common stock shareholders for the third quarter was $8.9 million, or 14 cents diluted earnings per share, compared to $1.0 million, or two cents diluted earnings per share, for third quarter 2003.

KCSR posted record third quarter 2004 operating revenues of $162.1 million, an increase of $17.2 million, or 11.9 percent, over the comparable 2003 period. Four of its five commodity groups attained quarter-over-quarter double digit revenue growth led by paper and forest products, which increased 23.3 percent with strong gains in all its market segments.

Intermodal revenues, including Norfolk Southern and CSX haulage business, increased 14.1 percent in the third quarter compared with a year earlier. Most other commodities recorded gains. Coal, the only business segment to experience a quarter-over-quarter decline, experienced a 3.7 percent decrease in revenues, due primarily to sharply lower deliveries to one plant served by KCS.


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P&W

Providence and Worcester Railroad Co. reported on October 27 the directors declared a dividend of four cents a share on its outstanding common stock, payable November 18 to shareholders of record on November 4.


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Portec

Portec Rail Products, Inc. (PRPX) said on October 26its unaudited net income of $976,000 earned 11 cents per share for the third quarter ended September 30. Its year-to-date net income was $3,097,000 or 36 cents per share for the nine months ended September 30, on the firm’s average basic and diluted shares of 8,711,150 for both periods.

This compares to unaudited net income of $750,000 or11 cents per share for the third quarter ended September 30, 2003 and $2,860,000 or 44 cents per share for the nine months ended September 30, 2003. That was on average basic and diluted shares of 6,524,335 (pre-initial public offering) for both periods.

The railroad supplier stated net sales during third quarter 2004 were $17.0 million compared to $12.9 million during the third quarter of 2003. Net sales for the nine months ending September 30 were $50.7 million compared to $44.7 million for the same 2003 period.

John S. Cooper, President and CEO said “All four of our business units performed well and bookings for new business continued at higher levels than the same periods in 2003. We completed the acquisition of Salient Systems, Inc. on September 30, our first acquisition following our initial public offering in January 2004.”

Portec is headquartered in Pittsburgh and manufactures, supplies and distributes railroad products, including rail joints, rail anchors and spikes, railway friction management products, railway wayside data collection and data management systems and load securement systems.

The company’s largest business unit is the Railway Maintenance Products Division.


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RailAmerica

RailAmerica, Inc., headquartered on Boca Raton, Fla., reported a $30.6 million loss from continuing operations for the third quarter, or 84 cents per share, compared to earnings from continuing operations of $7.0 million, or 21 cents per share for the third quarter of 2003.

Excluding the $39.5 million ($20 million non-cash) pre-tax, or $26.9 million net of tax, for refinancing expense associated with a bond tender and the amended and restated credit facility, and the $12.6 million, or $8.7 million net of tax, impairment charge for the E&N Ry. in British Columbia, earnings from continuing operations were $5.0 million, or 14 cents per share.

“We believe that discussing the results of operations adjusted for the refinancing costs and the E&N impairment charge provide a better comparison of our financial results,” a spokesman said.

The carrier stated it was able to achieve its net debt to total capitalization goal of 50 percent.


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AAR 2004 Railroad Facts is available

Class I U.S. railroads provided a record 1.55 trillion ton-miles of freight service in 2003. Pennsylvania has more freight railroads – but Texas has more rail mileage than any other state. Class I railroads spent almost $5.9 billion on capital improvements in 2003.

Those facts and many more can be found in the 2004 edition of Railroad Facts, which the AAR’s Policy and Economics Department recently published.

The pocket-sized reference focuses mainly on Class I railroads and contains statistics and graphics for 2003 and selected prior years, including, in some cases, as far back as 1929.

Railroad Facts contains more than 80 pages of facts and statistics on finance, traffic, operations, plant and equipment, employment and compensation, fuel consumption and cost, and loss and damage. It also contains a profile of each Class I railroad, Amtrak, the two major Canadian railroads, and the two largest Mexican railways.

Copies of Railroad Facts are available for non-AAR members for $15.00 for one copy; $12.00 per copy for two to ten copies; and $10.00 per copy for orders over 10 copies. The cost for AAR members is $5.00 per copy.

The AAR website is www.aar.org.


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AAR notes:

Second consecutive intermodal record

For the second week in a row, intermodal shipments on the nation’s railroads set a weekly record, the AAR reported Thursday.

Railroads originated 231,829 trailers or containers during the week ended October 23, breaking the mark set one week earlier by 574 units. Volume was up 10.5 percent from the comparable week a year earlier.

Carload freight, which doesn’t include the intermodal data, totaled 349,541 cars, up 2.2 percent from a year ago with loadings up 4.6 percent in the West, but down 0.7 percent in the East. Total volume was estimated at 32.7 billion ton-miles, up 1.9 percent from last year.

Fourteen of 19 carload commodities registered gains from last year, with metallic ores up 26.4 percent, nonmetallic minerals up 9.1 percent, and petroleum products up 8.4 percent. Among commodities showing declines were primary forest products, off 10.5 percent, and grain, off 3.6 percent.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 42 weeks of 2004: 14,137,425 carloads, up 2.9 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 8,838,261 trailers or containers, up 9.6 percent; and total volume of an estimated 1.281 trillion ton-miles, up 3.9 percent from last year’s first 42 weeks.

On Canadian railroads, during the week ended October 23 carload traffic totaled 71,087 cars, up 1.7 percent from last year while intermodal volume totaled 46,334 trailers or containers, down 0.3 percent from last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 42 weeks of 2004 on the Canadian railroads totaled 2,816,322 carloads, up 7.8 percent from last year, and 1,760,504 trailers and containers, up 0.2 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 42 weeks of 2004 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 16,953,747 carloads, up 3.7 percent from last year and 10,598,765 trailers and containers, up 7.9 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that originated carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended October 23 totaled 8,831 cars, up 4.7 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 4,700 originated trailers or containers, up 44.5 percent from the 42nd week of 2003. For the first 42 weeks of 2004, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 364,751 cars, up 2.9 percent from last year, and 156,885 trailers or containers, up 6.5 percent.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 88 percent of U.S. carload freight and 95 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 95 percent and 100 percent. The Canadian railroads reporting to the AAR account for 90 percent of Canadian rail traffic. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of U.S. intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: CBSMarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)41.8141.11
Canadian National (CNI)54.0552.24
Canadian Pacific (CP) 28.2527.83
CSX (CSX)36.5034.56
Florida East Coast (FLA)37.8637.37
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)25.3225.11
Kansas City Southern (KSU)16.9516.24
Norfolk Southern (NSC)33.9532.82
Providence & Worcester (PWX)11.8010.80
Union Pacific (UNP)62.9761.06


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WE GET LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor

I’m sure other trolley people will tell you this, but here is my version. The car pictured in D:F on October 25 is not a 1930s vintage PCC; it is a postwar car. Standee windows and the windshield are the giveaways to this.

Jim Fahlstedt
Reidsville, N.C.


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End Notes...

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

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

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

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

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


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