Vol. 7 No. 46
November 6, 2006

Copyright © 2006
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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A weekly North American rail and transit update

The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative Inc.

Publisher - James P. RePass
Editor - Molly McKayWebmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick
European Correspondent - David Beale

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

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

  News of the week…
Riders on inaugural run note comfort, not just high speed
Mystery manufacturer looking to locate near rail, and
   Interstate in South Dakota
NYC-Albany Express will have food service
  Commuter lines…
Inspection tour of the Greenbush Lines shows
   Mass commuter rail progress
  Safety lines…
Cameras catch speeding Britons and lots of grief
  Off the main line…
Worth reading elsewhere
  Selected rail stocks…
it out in the fight for rail
  Internet lines…
New NCI web feature
  End notes…

NEWS OF THE WEEK... News of the week...

Riders on inaugural run note
comfort, not just high speed

From the Internet and by DF Staff

HARRISBURG---Riders on the inaugural trip last week of Amtrak’s new 110-mph Harrisburg-Philadelphia-New York Keystone Service noticed something missing: the bumps in the track that used to be there.

Harrisburg Patriot-News reporter Frank Cozzoli caught the mood of the trip: “It’s not like jumping in a fast car, hitting the gas pedal and holding it at 110 mph until you’re in downtown Philadelphia. Railroads, like highways, have reduced-speed zones. But Amtrak trains did hit 110 mph at times yesterday as high-speed rail made its debut in the 104-mile Keystone Corridor.”

But Cozzoli also noted the riders pleasant surprise at what wasn’t there: bumpy track that used to be speeds well below 110 mph:

“It was pleasant,” Anthony Merritt of Lancaster told Cozzoli as he arrived in Harrisburg yesterday morning. “The comfort and the speed, it was a good combination.” Larry Joyce of Summerdale, who’s been riding trains since he was 4, agreed. “ You can feel the difference,” Joyce said to the Patriot-News: “This was really a bumpy section coming out of Middletown to Elizabethtown.”

Amtrak and the state of Pennsylvania combined to completely rehabilitate the 104-mile line between Harrisburg and Philadelphia --- one of Pennsylvania’s busiest travel corridors --- in a project that took only a few years to negotiate, plan, fund, and build, at a cost of $145 million, once serious political muscle – Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who joined in with long-time rail advocate State Rep. Rick Geist (R-Altoona) --- got behind the project. Before Rendell stepped in, the line had been quietly deteriorating for more than half a century, even to the point that diesels had to be used on the ostensibly electrified line. That problem has now been fixed.

By replacing ancient jointed rail with CWR, or Continuously Welded Rail, the line now offers service that is not only much faster, but far more comfortable. Because of parsimonious Federal capital funding over the past 35 years, Amtrak has been largely unable to rehabilitate its century-old infrastructure on the Northeast Corridor, which it owns from Washington, DC to New York City and then from New Haven to Massachusetts, with operating control over the last segment of the line into Boston. The New York-New Haven stretch is owned by the Connecticut Department of Transportation and is the worst segment on the corridor, largely responsible for all-too-frequent delays to Amtrak’s high speed Boston-New York service.

Amtrak’s work Harrisburg-Philadelphia follows a pattern being experienced all over America, as state officials step in to fill the funding gaps caused by lack of Federal funding, and invest in new commuter/intercity rail lines. While riders expect the quicker trip times --- Harrisburg-Philadelphia expresses are now 90 minutes instead of two hours, for example, and 10 out of 14 trains continue on to New York City --- what surprises them is the comfort level of the new service, when track has been upgraded as it was on that line.

The new Keystone Service encompasses a number of infrastructure improvements that will result in increased top speeds — from a previous top speed of 90 mph to a maximum of 110 mph, the fastest outside the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak reported.

In order to accommodate the higher speeds and faster travel times, signal and electrification systems, including more than two dozen signal instrument houses, were upgraded for the first time in 70 years. New fiber optic cable will provide reliable communications and greater signal control, and electrification has been restored over the entire route.

Amtrak also installed approximately 120 miles of continuous-welded rail which provides for a much smoother ride. Other infrastructure improvements include the installation of 185,000 concrete ties, nearly 80,000 wooden ties, and 53 new switches. A new freight bypass will improve safety and reliability. Bridge structures and culverts have been replaced and drainage improved.

Also improving travel times are ten cab-control cars that have been newly-rebuilt in the Amtrak shops. These cars allow engineers to operate the train from either end, eliminating the need to turn the train around thus saving time and allowing trains and train crews to complete more trips.

Popularity of the Keystone Corridor

The Keystone Corridor is one of Amtrak’s most popular with 823,097 Amtrak passengers traveling the route in FY2006, a 13% increase from 730,360 in FY2005. In addition, Philadelphia rose to second place on Amtrak’s list of the Top 50 Stations in 2005, bypassing Washington, D.C. In 2005, Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station served more than 3.74 million passengers up from 3.69 million passengers in 2004. During the same period, the station in Harrisburg rose from 28th to 27th place on the top 50 list serving 340,000 passengers in 2005, up from 317,000 in 2004.

About PennDOT

PennDOT manages the state highway and bridge network, encompassing nearly 40,000 miles of highway and 25,000 bridges, and oversees the distribution of grants for passenger and rail freight, public transit and aviation.

About Amtrak

Amtrak provides intercity passenger rail service to more than 500 destinations in 46 states on a 21,000-mile route system. For schedules, fares and information, passengers may call 800-USA-RAIL or visit Amtrak.com.

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Mystery manufacturer looking to locate
near rail, Interstate in South Dakota

From the Internet

SIOUX CITY, IA--- A “mystery” manufacturer is looking to locate a giant manufacturing facility in Iowa, reports the Sioux City Journal in a story by staff writer Michele Linck, and other states are also on the list.

The site involves at least 1,500 acres along the Missouri River between Elk Point and Burbank, S.D., according to property owners who have been approached by company agents wanting to buy options on their farmland in that area, reports the Journal

Dawn Glover, executive director of the Elk Point Economic Development Board, said the company’s requirements include proximity to the river and an interstate highway. She said she has signed a confidentiality statement and could not give any more information than that. Property owners also mention that proximity to a railroad line is also key and note that a Burlington Northern Santa Fe line runs nearby, the Journal reports.

“The Union County site is just one of ‘several sites under review in the Midwest in various states,’ according to a statement released by Iowa Gov. Mike Rounds’ spokesman, Mark Johnston, reports the Journal. “The governor’s office feels that we have a good chance of being the state of choice. There is much hard work yet to be done.”

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NYC-Albany Express will have food service

From the Internet and By DF Staff

RENSSELAER -- Food service is planned on the new express train between the Capital Region and New York City, according to an official at the state Senate High-Speed Rail Task Force, reports Albany Times-Union deputy business editor Eric Anderson.

The Albany-New York City run was plagued with worker-management unrest and poor food service management for several years before Amtrak cut back the service in 2005. At the time Amtrak claimed to be losing $1 million annually on the food service alone.

The Times-Union reports that the task force “…wants to start operating the express train as soon as possible, according to Carla Chiaro, its administrative director. While it likely won’t begin operating this week, she said Monday that talks with Amtrak and the state Department of Transportation were progressing. Amtrak officials have equipment and crews that could provide the service, and food likely would be provided from the railroad’s commissary in New York City, the paper said.

The train already appears on Amtrak’s fall schedule, with a footnote that explains the start date hasn’t been set. It’s the first in a series of steps that would put in place new equipment, faster schedules and other improvements to passenger rail service upstate, reported the Times-Union.

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COMMUTERLINES...  Commuter lines...

Tracks for the Greenbush line in Cohasset

Four Photos - Jim RePass, NCI  

Under construction and soon to be complete, the tracks for the Greenbush line are seen here from above in Cohasset
Inspection tour of the Greenbush Line
shows Mass commuter rail progress

By DF Staff


GREENBUSH, MA --- Work on the 24-year, $497 million, 18-mile Greenbush branch of the historic Old Colony Rail Line, now a part of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority commuter rail network, is nearing completion, with a start date for operations now set at mid-Summer, 2007.

The line, taken out of service in 1959 and then largely abandoned as Boston’s now infamously over-crowded Southeast Expressway opened, is being placed back into service almost 50 years after it was declared superfluous by the highway advocates who were then busily at work paving over much of the Massachusetts landscape.

The Greenbush project was delayed time and again by a small group of wealthy South Shore residents who realized with horror that trains might once again be running in or near their backyards, and funded a long effort, often fronted by apparent environmentalists, to delay, obstruct, and defeat the line. They failed, because the need was and is so great for an alternative to the real environmental monster, the automobile, and because the community rallied to push the line forward. Two other related branches of the Old Colony Line, Plymouth and Middleborough, are already open. As predicted, real estate values around those new lines has soared, not declined, as Greenbush advocates alleged.

The following photographs show the state of progress of the Greenbush line as of Fall 2006;

Tunnel construction - Hingham, MA - Greenbush Line

Looking over Hingham’s $40 million tunnel for the Greenbush Branch line.

Station platform at Weymouth Heights

This station platform is on a curve at Weymouth Heights in North Weymouth, Mass.

An inspection tour gives the once-over at the ‘Egypt’ Grade Crossing.

Cohasset Village train tracks pass behind buildings

Tracks pass behind area businesses at the Center of Cohasset Village. The station will be about two miles away from here.

Greenbush station under construction will open in 2007

End of the line. The new station at Greenbush at the terminus of a 28-mile journey. The station is scheduled to open in 2007.

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SAFETY LINES...  Safety lines...

Area Map Cameras catch speeding Britons and lots of grief

From the Internet

KELVEDON HATCH, ENGLAND -- Speed cameras strategically placed throughout the country are having a positive effect in slowing down drivers and reducing highway fatalities, according to an article from the Kelvedon Hatch Journal sent to the New York Times.

There are 6,000 spots for speed cameras, in the country and in the city, on highways, urban arteries, suburban streets and rural lanes.

It’s the government’s main weapon against impatient drivers, and it’s paying off. The number of people speeding near the camera sites has been reduced by 31 percent, which in turn has reduced the number of people killed or seriously injured by 42 percent.

In public opinion surveys, government officials point out, a majority of Britons say they support having cameras on the roads. But people still drive fast; about two million drivers are caught by the speed cameras a year, generating more than $200 million in fines.

Many Britons hate the cameras and bristle at having their driving habits dictated by government. A vigilante group called Motorists Against Detection has devised numerous ways of vandalizing the cameras: digging them up; shooting, hammering and firebombing them; festooning them with burning tires; and filling their casings with self-expanding insulation foam that, when activated, blows them apart.

“Speed cameras can’t detect tailgating, bad driving, drink driving or drug driving,” said a spokesman for the group, explaining his objections. An occasional contributor to British radio debates about traffic regulations, he uses the name Captain Gatso — after the most common form of speed camera — because, he says, he wants to avoid arrest.

In the little hamlet of Brentwood, a particularly reviled camera — installed to catch people exceeding the 40 m.p.h. speed limit on a busy suburban road — has been set on fire three times in the past year, and three times it has been repaired. But the camera is winning: repaired and rebuilt, swathed in protective fireproof housing, at a cost of about $66,000., it is back on the job again, new and improved.

“Touch wood, we haven’t had any incidents since,” said Rachel Whitelock, liaison for the Essex Safety Camera Partnership, which installs and maintains the county’s camera sites: 96 stationary spots; 160 stretches of road policed by cameras whose locations change; and 26 traffic light cameras for red lights.

The cameras detect cars that exceed the speed limit, often with radar technology, and take flash photographs of the license plates so a ticket can be issued. A speeding offense adds three points to a driver’s license. Because drivers who amass 12 points in three years face six-month driving bans, people go to enormous lengths to avoid detection. One young engineer from South Yorkshire, instead of just accepting that he’d been caught speeding, got into trouble because he blew the camera apart.

“It’s incredibly difficult to get to people to come to terms with slowing down here,” said Francis Ashton, the road safety manager for the city of Nottingham. “In the States, you have much slower speed limits, and there’s more of a culture of sticking to the speed limit.”

[ EDITOR’S NOTE: An advocacy group in Connecticut, the Citizens Transportation Lobby, will urge the state department of transportation to take similar measures here, as a more effective measure in controlling speeding violations of large trucks. The group was formed several years ago after four Yale students were killed on I-95 when their SUV slammed into an overturned tractor-trailer. ]

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Cameras watch passing cars


OFF THE MAIN LINE...  Off the main line...

Worth reading elsewhere

In “The Dangerous Lives of Train-Hoppin’ Hobos” writer Nina Shapiro of the Seattle Weekly has taken a good look at the myth of the hobo life – and its modern resurgence --- and her story is a word of caution to those who seek the life of freedom always symbolized by the image of the hobo. You can find her story at the Seattle Weekly website, www.seattleweekly.com

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)76.3177.99
Canadian National (CNI)47.6147.08
Canadian Pacific (CP)56.2356.80
CSX (CSX)35.7336.44
Florida East Coast (FLA)57.4860.36
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)26.0827.96
Kansas City Southern (KSU)27.5229.68
Norfolk Southern (NSC)51.8353.33
Providence & Worcester (PWX)19.3420.15
Union Pacific (UNP)90.1990.86

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OPINION...  Opinion...

Slugging it out in the fight for rail

Congratulations to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and State Rep. Rick Geist, as well as Amtrak, for persevering in their years-long efforts to improve passenger and intercity rail in Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania/New Jersey/New York region. The “new” Keystone service --- or rather, the revived Keystone line --- covers the Pennsylvania state capital of Harrisburg, Central Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and New York with fast service that was once the hallmark of the Pennsylvania Railroad, but was allowed to become decrepit after decades of Federal neglect.

Let’s hope that the Governors on the eastern side of New York, in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts —whoever is elected November 8 --- notice the competitive advantage just carved out by Pennsylvania and New Jersey and follow suit by getting the New York- New Haven-Hartford-Springfield line into competitive shape and equipped with modern equipment, as well as extending fully electrified (it’s already in place) ShoreLine East service to Providence. The economic health of the region is dependent upon it, because we just can not pave our way out of the traffic congestion we have.

But in the meantime, hats off to Pennsylvania’s Ed Rendell and Rick Geist, and the Amtrak team that made it happen, in the Keystone State. n

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New NCI web feature

Starting with last week’s edition of Destination: Freedom, it became possible to click a single button to send a copy of the newsletter or a link to the newsletter to a friend via e-mail. Thanks to a resident script at our web host, Powweb.Com, we can now offer this feature. The button is conveniently located at the top of the page on the left side of the flag.

We will also soon add that same feature to a number of other pages at our web site for the convience of our readership.

Neither NCI or Powweb.com retain any information from the script that generates the courtesy e-mail message that sends the information.


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NEWS ITEMS...  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 editor at editor@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster at webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

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

Photo submissions are welcome. NCI is always interested in images that demonstrate the positive aspects of rail, transit, and intermodalism, as well as of current newsworthy events associated with our mission. Please contact the webmaster in advance of sending images so we can recommend attachment by e-mail or grant direct file transfer protocols (FTP) access depending on size and number. Descriptive text which includes location, train name, and something about the content of the image is encouraged. We will credit the photographer and offer a return link to your e-mail address or web site.

Journalists and others who wish to receive high quality NCI-originated images by Leo King and other photo journalists should contact our webmaster@nationalcorridors.org for additional information.

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 transportation initiative 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 link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) our webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

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