Destination:Freedom Newsletter
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 3 No. 46, November 11, 2002
Copyright © 2002, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - James Furlong
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update

Ballot initiatives include setbacks for mass transit

By Wes Vernon
Washington Correspondent

It was a mixed bag for rail transit initiatives around the country November 5.

While cities from Miami, Florida to Riverside, California gave a thumbs up, the folks in cities such as Seattle, Washington and Kansas City, Missouri said, “no way.”

Voters in Miami and Dade County voted almost 2 to 1 to build a multi-billion dollar mass transit system that includes construction and operation of a network of new rail lines, which eventually will reach every quadrant of the county.

Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Pinelas described the project as “huge.”

“This is huge for generations to come,” agreed Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro.

“Twenty years from now,” he told the Miami Herald, “this community will look a lot different. You will have Metrorail and Metrobus to every corner of Miami-Dade County, and even into Broward County.” Vastly expanded bus service is also part of the integrated package.

Ninety miles of rail lines are included, bringing to reality the original plan for Metrorail as a network of trains fed by buses and reaching across Miami-Dade to the Broward line.

In California, Riverside voters gave the go-ahead to extend for another 30-years a 1/2-cent sales tax for transportation improvements that include expansion of Metrolink commuter rail service from Riverside to Perris and Hemet-San Jacinto.

Statewide, however, California voters rejected Proposition 51, an all inclusive transportation measure that would have established a new trust fund, and would have used money from an existing tax on motor vehicles for specific projects to expand mass transit.

A half-cent sales tax referendum fared poorly in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. Voters there slapped down a measure whose backers promised all kinds of things both for roads and for transit.

Rail operators are now scrambling for “Plan B” (the Washington Post’s description).

Virginia Railway Express commuter rail service had counted on $100 million to pay for 50 new cars. The top manager of VRE said this means more crowding and that in about a year from now, the trains won’t be able to carry any additional passengers.

Metrorail, the rapid transit “subway” whose 103-mile system links Virginia with D.C. and Maryland had counted on money from the sales tax for maintenance of trains, buses and stations.

However, the ballot initiative also was to pour billions into highway projects, and the conspicuous support of the Northern Virginia business establishment, especially those who stood to reap the benefit of this taxpayer largesse, stirred some resentment among taxpayers who conducted a David and Goliath battle that led to the proposal’s resounding defeat. Ironically, opponents contended that the vast highway and roads component of the measure would lead to road-builder and developer-instigated “sprawl,” notwithstanding the transit segments of the plan. Opponents note their 55 percent to 45 percent victory came despite being outspent 25-to-1.

Further south, voters in the Norfolk-Hampton Roads-Virginia Beach area knocked down a 1-cent sales tax increase that would have included $200 million worth of unspecified mass transit projects, possibly including a light rail line in Norfolk.

In terms of pure confusion, even for a mixed message, Seattle may take the prize. We will try to navigate the ticket:

The voters there appear to have narrowly approved a measure to create a new “Seattle Popular Monorail Authority” to oversee construction of a 14-mile monorail line to serve the city’s downtown and west side. As of Friday, the initiative was still leading, though absentee ballots (still being counted) had narrowed the margin somewhat.

At the same time, a ballot proposal that would slash 20 percent of the funding from Sound Transit’s light rail budget was approved, but hold the phone!

Just a few days before the election, a judge had ruled that the Sound Transit Agency did not even need to ask the voters to reaffirm support for a planned rail line from downtown Seattle to Tukwila [See story in Commuter lines, below – Ed].

Anti-transit pro-highway activist Tim Eyman crafted the measure. He said the latest Election Day vote was more a shot at light rail than an anti-tax movement. It would reduce car tabs to $30 partially by repealing a 0.3 percent excise tax that feeds Sound Transit.

King County (Seattle) Executive Ron Sims, who chairs the agency, said he believes the measure will be thrown out “just as many of Eyman’s past tax-slashing measures have been.” Count on future court battles there.

The voters of Washington State also apparently deep-sixed Referendum 51, a gasoline tax proposed by the state legislature that would have included funding for intercity freight and passenger rail, public transportation, and passenger ferries.

Washington Gov. Gary Locke said the outcome of the Tuesday’s vote “was not the end of our efforts to improve transportation.”

“Hundreds of thousands of people across the state said they want transportation improvements,” the governor added, “They just didn’t want the package that was on the ballot.” He promised to seek a bipartisan effort on a revised plan.

That long-running soap opera in the Northwest has yet to play itself out.

In Las Vegas, Nevada, the locals in the gambling city – which is overrun with tourist traffic on a year-round basis – decided they would take action to put an infusion of money from quarter-cent sales tax into a fund to relieve the congestion in part by strengthening mass transit’s role in the transportation mix.

That would include extending monorail to downtown Fremont Street, and expand a new commuter rail system to outlying areas via Union Pacific Railroad from Strip/downtown to Henderson-Boulder City and Strip/downtown to Apex-Ivanpah.

Denton County, Texas approved transit big time. By a healthy margin, they okayed a Denton County Transportation Authority that would include a $132 million commuter rail line from Denton to Carrollton, where Denton County’s train will meet Dallas Area Rapid Transit trains for service to Dallas. Essentially, DCTA will work with Dallas’ DAR and Ft. Worth’s FWTA’s “T” to extend rail transit lines to Denton County.

Kansas City, Missouri offered less happy news for transit advocates. There, the voters defeated by a landside proportions a ten-year 1/2 percent sales tax increase that would have included reinstating the city’s historic street cars (using modern technology) for connecting neighborhoods and destinations in the downtown urban core. It also would have funded a regional transit hub at the North Waiting room at Union Station, providing convenient connections for suburban commuter trains, downtown streetcars, Amtrak, buses, light rail express routes, and walking and bicycle greenway trails.

Cincinnati, Ohio, by more than 2 to 1, defeated a 1/2-cent sales tax hike that would have included 60 miles of light rail improvements in Hamilton County. There would have been new light rail lines in Interstate 71, Interstate 75, and Interstate 74 corridors. Two additional light-rail lines would have run from Xavier University to Eastgate and Northside.

Charleston, South Carolina narrowly approved a half-cent sales tax increase for “traffic congestion relief” that will include $335 million for mass transit.

By a thin margin, Boulder County, Colorado defeated a proposal to increase its debt for key transportation upgrades such as “rail, buses, high-occupancy vehicle lanes, special transit and bike and pedestrian paths.”

The ski resort city of Aspen, Colorado turned down a plan to authorize a citizens group to raise funds and operate city-owned trolleys. The Aspen City Railway Co. would have served a route between Gondola Plaza and the post office replacing the Galena Street shuttle. Without authority for the restoration, the six antique trolleys will be given away to another city.

How does one explain the overall transit picture November 5? What is the message? Explanations that have been offered range from a mistrust of transportation planners to an anti-tax mood, pure and simple. Only a minority point of view (such as the one we have already cited) holds that the outcome stemmed from an inherent antipathy to mass transit. Voters generally were just as hostile to paying more taxes to highways as for mass transit, if not more so.

The voters, or so the theory goes, are not necessarily visionaries. Many of them will open their wallets only to those things they actually see as opposed to those still on drawing boards.

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DOT accepts rebuilt Turbotrain
for New York’s Empire Corridor

New York DOT officials accepted the first of seven Turbotrains being rebuilt for service on Amtrak’s Empire Corridor by SuperSteel Schenectady Inc. in Glenville last week.

Acceptance of the first five-car trainset came after overnight tests conducted on the night of November 6, DOT spokeswoman Melissa Carlson told The Business Review.

State and SuperSteel officials ran the train from Rensselaer to Penn Station during the late night and early morning hours when no regularly scheduled Amtrak service was on the route, Carlson said.

The late night-early morning run, was the final shakeout in a series of tests that began in September, she added.

“We didn’t find any problems. We figured out what needed to be fixed and fixed it,” she said.

SuperSteel is refurbishing seven Turbotrains dating from the 1970s for $98.5 million from the state. The goal is to put the seven trains into high-speed service on the Empire Corridor that runs from Niagara Falls to New York City. As part of the agreement, Amtrak is to upgrade the rails to accept high-speed trains and to finance the installation of a second track from Schenectady to Rensselaer.

CSX owns the tracks between Albany and Buffalo (and on to Chicago).

As far as the DOT is concerned, now that the train has been accepted for service, it can be turned over to Amtrak and begin regular runs, Carlson said.

Amtrak spokesman Daniel Stessel said there was no date set yet for putting the Turbotrains into service. They cannot be used for high-speed travel until the tracks are upgraded, and that hasn’t happened yet, he said.

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Maine town wants train year-round

Businesses and officials hope Amtrak’s Downeaster service will stop in Old Orchard Beach, Maine year-round. The community is, for now, a summer-only stop on the Portland-Boston route over Guilford Rail System tracks. Service stopped on October 31 until next spring, the AP reported on November 6.

“I see no reason why we can’t be a year-round stop,” said Town Councilor Darryl Chandler. “The beach is beautiful in the winter.”

More than 4,600 people traveled to and from the town from July to September, generating revenues in excess of $70,000.

Those figures are impressive, given that the Amtrak train only began stopping in town seven weeks before Labor Day, said James Harmon, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. Harmon and other business owners said there is no reason the town cannot operate all year.

“I think it will be a natural progression,” Harmon said, and added they “built the platform with that in mind. The focus now will be to develop a marketing campaign to bring more people to Old Orchard Beach.”

Business owners say the Downeaster has the potential to extend the tourist season. “It’s difficult to attract clientele during the off-season around here,” said Rick Payette, co-owner of the Landmark Restaurant. “I think the train would definitely help.”

John Englert, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, said there are no discussions planned about making the town a year-round stop, but said it is a future possibility. “Right now we’re all fairly comfortable with the seasonal aspect,” he said.

Jonathan Carter, chairman of the board for the authority, said it would take a few more seasons before such a change could be adopted. “I feel that Old Orchard Beach was a huge success for us this year, and it’s certainly something that if the service is going to continue to be successful, we need to take a look at it,” he said.

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How do we spot terrorists?

Boston crews irked over non-training

Amtrak trainmen in Boston and elsewhere – including MBTA commuter rail crews – say they have been given zero training to deal with or spot terrorists, despite recent warnings from federal officials that al-Qaeda may be targeting U.S. railways.

“Our people are very worried,” said Charlie Moneypenny, spokesman for the Transport Workers Union, which represents 2,500 Amtrak workers, including 450 in Boston. The report appeared in the Boston Herald via CNN Money on October 31.

“There was a notice posted on the bulletin board on Friday that really doesn’t tell us much of anything,” Moneypenny said. “I am concerned for our members and I am concerned for our passengers.”

Moneypenny criticized Amtrak for scrapping Boston’s eight-member safety office earlier this year in a cost-cutting move, saying those staffers could have been used to train workers in terrorism-related issues, but an Amtrak spokesman yesterday said the company boosted security patrols on its train in the wake of last week’s warning.

“Prior to this (warning) that came out… we have, on frequent occasions, encouraged our employees to be on the lookout for unusual or suspicious activity and to report it to Amtrak police or supervisors when they see it,” said Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black.

Black also said the closing of Amtrak’s safety office “is a staffing question and has nothing to do with Amtrak’s commitment to security in the wake of these nonspecific threats that came out last week.”

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Amtrak hires environmental outfit

Amtrak has awarded a contract to an international engineering services firm, AMEC, to look into a broad range of environmental services.

AMEC’s Earth & Environmental offices throughout the United States, including Phoenix, Ariz., will be one of the key suppliers of environmental services over the next three years to the passenger railroad

The contract is valued at about $2.5 million, reports The Phoenix Business Journal of November 5.

The scope of work includes federal and state environmental permitting, soil and groundwater investigations, wetlands assessments and mitigation, environmental compliance audits, waste remediation design and oversight, due diligence property reviews, design and evaluation of industrial pollution control systems, assessment of human health and ecological risks, and other environmental consulting services.

Earth & Environmental people have worked for railroads for more than 20 years, company officials said. It operates 90 Earth & Environmental offices in North America.

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BC Ry. ends passenger route

BC RY last day

Two photos: David Moorhouse/UTU

British Columbia Ry. ended passenger service on October 31, after operating continuously since January 1, 1914. Also gone were 90 jobs. More photos are online at Photographer Moorehouse is the Secretary-Treasurer of UTU Local 1778.

Under high fog and dim pre-dawn light, the last B.C. Rail passenger train left Prince George, British Columbia on October 31 with 72 passengers.

B.C. Rail is derailing the Prince George-to-North Vancouver passenger service to cut costs, Canadian Press reported.

Prince George station personnel present for the start of the final run noted that more passengers would be picked up at Quesnel, Williams Lake and other centers, and the two Budd cars would be full by the time the train reached Lillooet.

The train arrived in North Vancouver around 10 p.m. that night.

A banner on the Budd car commemorated 88 years of service for the rail line. B.C. Rail is cutting the service in what it calls a fight for its own survival.

Spokesman Alan Devers called it a sad day for the railway, which is losing $5 million a year on the route. He said B.C. Rail is in a financial fight for its survival and it needs to focus on its core business of moving freight. The only passenger service left will be a 60-kilometer run from Darcy to Lillooet.

Dave Johnson, a director of AmericaRail Tours, was in charge of 23 U.S. tourists who were among the passengers on the last train.

He said they were railway enthusiasts who had specifically traveled to Prince George to take the trip on the last Cariboo Prospector.

At 6:55 a.m. the metal platforms for passengers to step on the train were pulled up for the last time as conductors called out, “All Aboard!”

BC RY Last day-leaving the depot
“’Board!” the conductor called, and the last Cariboo Prospector passenger train to leave Prince George, B.C. left the depot enroute to North Vancouver, B.C.
Cameras flashed both inside the train and on the platform as people sought to record the historic last departure. As the train started to move out, a woman working in the still open baggage compartment said hopefully to well-wishers on the platform, “We’ll be back. We’ll be back.”

Station personnel on the platform embraced and many broke into tears as the train moved out past the platform on its last run.

Inside the brightly lit, modern passenger terminal, a woman took a group photo of them during their last shift working together.

As one service ended, though, another began. Shuttle service from D’Arcy to Lillooet began on November 1. The Seton Lake Indian Band and BC Rail launched its new service between D’Arcy and Lillooet.

It will operate year round on BC Ry. and will make at least one return trip from Seton Portage to Lillooet each day. The shuttle service will use two new 20-seat rail shuttle vehicles (RSVs).

The Indian band will manage the passenger bookings, ticket sales, revenue collection, marketing and customer service and BC Rail will operate the RSVs.

“We are pleased to be part of a unique solution that offers a service for people along Anderson and Seton Lakes,” said Cliff Casper, Seton Lake Band Councilor.

“We are working diligently with BC Rail to bring us one step closer to the inaugural run of this important shuttle service for the D’Arcy to Lillooet corridor.”

Service between D’Arcy and Lillooet and additional trips between Seton Portage and Lillooet will be on a demand basis, with at least four passengers required per trip. All passengers must pre-purchase tickets by making a booking at least three days in advance. Shuttle Saver tickets will be distributed by the Seton Lake Band at select stations and/or onboard the RSVs. Ticket pricing will be similar to current fares in the corridor – exact prices will be released in the near future.

The Rail Shuttle Vehicles will service D’Arcy early morning prior to departing Seton for Lillooet if more than 4 persons have made bookings at least 3 days in advance. Similarly the RSVs will service D’Arcy in the afternoon as an extension of the afternoon run from Lillooet to Seton Portage.

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Right-of-way dispute irks landowners

Williamsburg, Mass., is a woodsy neighbor to Northampton, but a single question has inflamed the passions of some residents: Who owns the patchwork remnants of an abandoned railroad right-of-way, dormant, and little noticed, for more than twenty years?

Some property owners who live beside the old railroad route say the land belongs to them. Others say it belongs to an electric company that wants to sell it to the town for a public bicycle path – and the opposing camps in this town of 2,427 have accused each other of harassment and threats, of hang-up phone calls in the wee hours, of barking dogs planted to intimidate, the Boston Globe reported on November 3.

The country is criss-crossed with nearly 12,000 miles of railroad corridors reborn as public trails. Massachusetts already has 14 rail trails and the conversion of 65 more is underway.

“I guess what’s unusual here is the bile, the venom, the hostility that is palpable,” said Larry Hott, vice president of Burghy Bikers, the group fighting for the Williamsburg path.

The argument that began festering here in the 1980s, and that now hinges on the interpretation of a technical property law, will go before the Supreme Judicial Court. Two years ago, a lower court judge threw out the neighbors’ lawsuit, ruling that the land belonged to Massachusetts Electric Co.

Linda Sarafin Rowley, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, insists the case is not about the bike path but about citizens fighting a corporate behemoth. Mass. Electric’s claims to her property, she says, include a chunk of land that runs beneath her house.

“What we’re fighting for is simply to be allowed to live in our homes in peace and quiet,” said Rowley, a former nurse who quit her job five years ago to pursue the lawsuit full time.

Rowley lives in the house on Hatfield Road that her great-grandparents bought around 1900. The house was handed down, generation by generation, until she and her husband moved in nine years ago.

She says she cannot tear down a small, old barn and build a new one, or add a stone retaining wall along a crumbling bank, because the ownership of those sections of her property is disputed. Sheri Cone, a fellow neighbor and plaintiff, said the planned sale of her house fell apart a few years ago when the buyers learned about the murky title and walked away.

And Richard Goldman, another plaintiff, said he lost money on a restaurant he sold because the disputed territory ran through the parking lot.

“What’s kept us together is principle,” he said, sitting at Rowley’s kitchen table one day last week. “How dare a large corporation try to roll over people’s property rights?”

Still, the landowners make no secret of their dislike for a bicycle path that would veer close to their houses. “Your backyard is like a room of your house when you live in the country,” argued their lawyer, Wendy Sibbison.

Since the contentious land issue arose, lawyers and residents have been looking through 150 years of paperwork, scrutinizing old deeds and railroad maps. In 1866, the Legislature gave permission to the New Haven and Northampton Rail Co. to extend its tracks from Northampton to Williamsburg. Within a decade, the railroad bought some strips of land for the tracks, and got easements across others, but in 1962, the railroad stopped running and eventually ripped up its tracks.

In 1971, the Penn Central Transportation Co., the eventual successor to the original railroad, sold some of its land, including the Williamsburg strip, to Massachusetts Electric. Sibbison argues that the railroad could not sell what it did not own – and it did not own the strips of property.

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Jacksonville's Bombardier Monorail


Bombardier Transportation on Friday (Nov. 8) delivered the second and final two-car monorail ordered in 2001 by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, adding to its fleet of 9 trainsets ordered in 1994. The Jacksonville monorail system has been in revenue service since 1998.

Scottsdale considers light rail

Scottsdale, Arizona transportation commissioners set the stage November 7 for the city to one day have a streetcar or light rail system running down Scottsdale Road through Tempe.

The commissioners voted 6-1, reported the Arizona Republic, to recommend that the City Council incorporate the proposed route into a regional rapid-transit map being drawn up by the Maricopa Assn. of Governments. The step would not commit the city to spend any money or even build a project, but it would keep Scottsdale in the valley-wide effort to build mass transportation and remain eligible for future federal funding, said Michelle Korf, Scottsdale's transportation planning director.

Tempe transportation commissioners also voted to recommend the route to their City Council at the meeting, which was held in Scottsdale.

Tempe, Mesa and north-central Phoenix are well on the way to designing a 20-mile light-rail line.

In 2000, Scottsdale commissioned the two-year study that recommended the transit route to look at a variety of high-tech transit options. The $700,000 study projects travel demands through 2020 and considers how the city can better link with neighboring cities such as Tempe.

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

Sprawl is no cure for congestion

Metropolitan areas that sprawl more have higher traffic fatality rates, more traffic, and poorer air quality than less sprawling areas, according to a study released October 17. The report, Measuring Sprawl and Its Impact, is based on a three-year research project conducted by professors at Rutgers and Cornell universities.

Unlike previous studies that attempted to evaluate sprawl based on one or two statistics such as density, Measuring Sprawl uses 22 variables to rate metro areas on four different aspects of their development.

The “scores” for each factor indicate how badly those regions have sprawled in terms of spreading out housing and population; segregating homes from the activities of daily life; lacking the focus of strong economic and social centers; and building poorly connected street networks.

“For the first time we are able to define sprawl objectively so can see how it measures up,” said Don Chen, executive director of Smart Growth America, sponsor of the research. “What this study tells us is that sprawl has a direct and negative impact on our everyday lives.”

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Hundreds pay respects to bus driver

Hundreds of mourners including local government officials, bus operators from throughout the Washington area, and APTA representatives gathered October 26 to pay their final respects to Conrad Johnson, a 10-year bus operator in suburban Montgomery County, Md., who was the thirteenth and last victim of the Washington area sniper.

Johnson, 35, was shot the morning of October 22 in Aspen Hill, Md., as he prepared to begin his morning route with Montgomery County Transit Services “Ride On.” Two suspects in the sniper shootings were taken into custody the following day.

The funeral was held at the Glendale Baptist Church in Landover, Md., followed by burial at Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton, Md.

Approximately 30 transit vehicles from more than a dozen transit agencies, displaying black ribbons from their rear view mirrors, participated in a one-mile-long bus procession that began at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Silver Spring Metrorail Station; continued to the church, and escorted the car procession to the cemetery.

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Rae joins Virginia rail department

Gov. Mark R. Warner recently appointed Karen J. Rae as director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT).

She stepped down earlier this year as general manager and CEO of the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Austin, Texas, a position she had held since 1998.

Rae has 25 years of transportation experience. Before joining Capital Metro, she served seven years with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority in Buffalo, N.Y.

The Virginia DRPT implements and improves passenger and freight rail service statewide.

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Phelps leaves Waco for Denton

Chris Phelps, general manager for Waco Transit in Waco, Texas, has been named general manager of LINK in Denton, Texas, by McDonald Transit Associates, which took over system operation on October 1.

The Denton transit system operates eight fixed routes and Americans with Disabilities Act paratransit service with 15 vehicles and 21 employees. The service contract between the city council and McDonald Transit is for two years, with three one-year options.

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Freight lines...
Fec Extra at Bowden Yard

NCI: Leo King

An empty Florida East Coast work extra – which began the day as No. 905 – hauls 18 empty Norfolk Southern ballast hoppers back to Bowden Yard in Jacksonville, Fla. Keeping the track in first-rate condition is always a major cost for railroads. Engine 447 passed MP 8.4 at 9:25 a.m. on October 21.

“This was local train 905, commonly referred to as the Bunnell Turn (it goes south to Bunnell and turns around and comes back to Bowden),” FEC spokesman Husein Cumber told D:F.

“We buy our ballast from Rinker in Georgia. NS serves the quarry, and they are using NS equipment for the move. This morning, the 905 picked up the empty ballast cars from the work train and returned them to Bowden where we will interchange them back to NS.” Bunnell is 77.7 miles south of MP 8.4.

FECI revenues up; sells telecom outfit

Florida East Coast Ry. revenues “rose 2 percent to $40.0 million in the third quarter 2002 over the prior year period,” the company reported on November 6. It also reported on that same day it was going to sell EPIK Communications Inc., its wholly owned telecommunications subsidiary.

The parent company, FEC Industries said last June that it had retained Morgan Stanley “to assist in a review of strategic alternatives.”

In its announcement, the corporation had stated its expectation that “If the company should consummate a transaction involving EPIK, it likely would be for less than the book value, which would result in a non-cash charge to earnings.”

Directors voted to exit the telecommunications business and have written down the entire remaining $238.1 million book value of EPIK’s long-lived telecommunications assets. The carrying value of EPIK’s other assets, consisting primarily of current assets, totaled $11.0 million at September 30, and as required by federal statute (SFAS 144), the company said it has accounted for telecommunications as a continuing operation, though it may also reclassify telecommunications to discontinued operations in the future if the criteria specified in SFAS 144 for discontinued operations accounting are met.

EPIK’s third quarter 2002 revenues were $4.8 million, compared to $2.9 million in the third quarter 2001.

During the third quarter 2002, the company made capital investments of approximately $5.5 million at the Railway

Robert W. Anestis, FECI’s chairman, president and CEO, said, “Florida East Coast Industries’ core railway and real estate businesses have been the basis for the company’s success and together hold a wealth of assets. We expect to capitalize on our unique railway services in Florida and to continue growing our Florida real estate business.”

He pointed out “The railway maintains the only direct route from Jacksonville to Miami, serving some of the most densely populated areas of Florida.”

Its competitor, CSX, operates from Jacksonville to Orlando via an inland route and on to the state’s west coat at Tampa. CSX also terminates in Miami via West Palm Beach.

Anestis said FEC’s “strategy continues to be to grow revenue by acquiring new customers and expanding current customer relationships, while minimizing costs.”

Anestis said the railway’s operating ratio “showed improvement over the prior year as carload revenues continued to improve.”

Except for EPIK, FECI has been profitable in all its ventures, including a trucking company and real estate holdings.

Third quarter 2002 railway segment revenues increased 2.3 percent to $40.0 million, compared to $39.1 million in the third quarter 2001, driven by consistent growth in carload revenues. The railway operations’ EBITDA increased 11.8 percent to $14.3 million, compared to $12.8 million in the prior year. Operating profit improved 14.0 percent to $9.7 million in the third quarter 2002, compared to $8.5 million in the prior year period. The operating ratio decreased to 75.6 percent from 78.1 percent in the third quarter 2001 on greater revenues and reduced expenses.

Third quarter 2002 freight and carload revenues grew 2.4 percent and 5.7 percent, respectively, over the same period of 2001. Carload growth primarily reflects higher revenue from aggregate (crushed stone), which is up 4.7 percent as a result of strong construction demand, and customers achieving greater market share from joint initiatives with the railway.

In addition, revenues from foodstuffs grew 14.3 percent due to significant new business from Tropicana Products, Inc. and Gold Coast Beverage Distributors.

Revenues from rail transport of motor vehicles also contributed to the increase, which is up 15.6 percent as renewed financing incentives and the introduction of 2003 models increased demand.

In the third quarter 2002, intermodal revenues declined 2.6 percent, primarily due to decreased demand from international transport customers and LTL (less than truckload) carriers: This was somewhat offset by higher interchange revenues from FLX and the “Hurricane Train,” a joint marketing alliance with Norfolk Southern that began in August 2001.

Operating expenses for the Railway were $30.2 million for the third quarter 2002, compared to $30.5 million for the third quarter 2001. Compared to the prior year quarter, the Company realized favorable car hire expenses of $1.0 million, lower fuel costs of $0.2 million, and a reduction in rail grinding expenses of $0.4 million as they had been incurred earlier this year in 2002. These lower expenses offset higher wages and benefits expenses of $1.0 million, which included an infrequent maximum medical coverage claim and severance costs as part of an ongoing cost reduction program, and increased depreciation expense of $0.3 million.

For the year 2002, the Railway expects operating profit comparable to 2001, and capital expenditures of between $30-32 million.

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New NS Logo

Norfolk Southern

Norfolk Southern has modified its “Thoroughbred” logo by adding a horse’s head over the “N.”

NS looks for shareholder approvals

Norfolk Southern Corp.’s directors have agreed to seek shareholder approval before offering certain executive severance packages.

Shareholders voted at the railroad’s annual meeting in May in favor of a resolution that would require their support of any severance deal totaling at least three times an executive’s base salary and bonuses. Until now, such “golden parachutes” required no shareholder input, according to The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk of November 2.

NS is headquartered in that Virginia city.

Amalgamated Bank, a New York City-based investor of workers’ retirement funds, proposed the resolution, similar to proposals it has brought before shareholders of other corporations. The NS resolution was the first of those efforts to win the vote of a majority of shareholders.

Amalgamated Bank’s LongView Funds own more than 100,000 shares of NS common stock. LongView typically sponsors about 25 shareholder proposals each year, including efforts to add independent members to corporate boards and to rein in executive pay.

The bank proposed the oversight of golden parachutes at Norfolk Southern in response to a deal promised to David R. Goode, the company’s chairman, president and CEO that would amount to more than three times his base salary, bonuses and other benefits. Amalgamated’s economists said they considered that compensation high when measured against the declining value of the company’s stock in recent years.

Norfolk Southern stock closed at $21.15 in trading on November 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, up 95 cents. The share price has rebounded since falling from about $35 in early 1998 to less than $15 in late 2000.

Almost 56 percent of NS shares, voted either in person or by proxy at the time of the annual meeting, favored the resolution.

Shareholder support of the proposal didn’t guarantee that the board would implement it. The board originally opposed the proposal, arguing that the company needed the freedom to offer competitive packages to attract desired employees, but with a majority of shareholders backing it, the board’s executive and governance committee decided to adopt the proposal on October 22.

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Part of UP yard to become a mall

It looks like Sacramento’s Union Pacific freight yard is going to become a major shopping and entertainment district.

A development team has reached a tentative agreement to turn the southern portion of the yard (north of I Street), into stores, offices and housing, according to KCRA-TV on November 1.

UP named Venice, Calif., based Millennia Associates to develop the first 37 acres known as the Depot District. Plans include moving the current tracks from behind the depot 500 feet to the north, and the Amtrak depot would be converted into a new intermodal station for trains, buses and light rail.

“The development around that is to be multifamily residential, offices, commercial, hotels, a pedestrian plan that connects the existing depot to the new transit facility with a lot of restaurants and retail facilities,” said UP spokesman Michael Casey.

Significantly, the project has complete city support. Mayor Heather Fargo said that is the way to continue to develop downtown.

“The city is in the process of appraisals, and we hope to purchase the depot building and the surrounding acreage so we can help determine what intermodal will look like and how it’s going to function,” Fargo said.

If everything goes as planned, construction could begin in a little more than 2 years.

The next step is for Union Pacific and Millenia Associates to enter a 45-day negotiation period, and the hope is that at the end of those 45 days, an agreement will be reached to move forward.

Historic on-site buildings would be transformed into a shopping area and railroad museum, and perhaps a downtown arena.

Millenia has redeveloped other unused UP rail yards, including the Gateway Project in Salt Lake City.

Also on board is the same architectural company involved with revitalizing Sacramento’s downtown plaza 10 years ago.

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Cross-Harbor line gets contract

New York Regional Rail Corp. said last week it has been awarded a multi-year contract for its rail subsidiary, New York Cross Harbor (NYCH) from Balfour Beatty Construction Co., Inc. to receive, store and transfer freight cars containing bridge beams and supports for constructing the new Sikorsky Bridge over the Housatonic River.

The railroad expects to earn $250,000 and $500,000 over next two years from the project, which represents a 20 percent to 40 percent increase in rail revenues.

Bridge beams, as long as 120 feet and as high as 16 feet, are fabricated in Vancouver, Wash., and shipped by rail across the country.

NYCH is able barge freight cars to waterfront locations. The steel beams are transferred from flat cars to specially outfitted barges, and then taken directly to the construction site where they are lifted on to the bridge span.

The Sikorsky Bridge, being built for Connecticut DOT by Balfour Beatty, is a major link in Connecticut Route 15, the Merritt Parkway.

The bridge components will move the final 100 miles through the congested New York metropolitan area.

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NS names Fesen to Pennsylvania VP post

Norfolk Southern Corp. has named Michael R. Fesen its resident vice-president for Pennsylvania, with headquarters in Harrisburg. He started his new job on November 1.

Fesen will be NS’s chief political liaison to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, representing the corporation when legislative, regulatory and policy issues are being considered.

Fesen joined NS from the Williams Companies, where he served as manager of state government affairs for its Eastern Region.

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CN, UTU agree on new pact

Canadian National Ry. and the United Transportation Union (UTU) reported last week they had reached a tentative labor agreement covering 600 UTU members who work on CN’s former Illinois Central properties in the United States. The agreement would pay conductors and brakemen hourly wages and revise prior work rules and agreements in exchange for guaranteed time off and job security for current UTU members. The agreement, which would take effect January1, 2003, is subject to ratification by UTU members.

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Mariners warn big city ports
are headed for gridlock

U. S. Maritime Administrator Capt. William G. Schubert warned shippers and receivers on November 1 that large U.S. ports area heading toward a glut.

The Maritime Administration report, based on a survey of 70 percent of American intermodal ports. It focused on the state of roadway, rail, and waterside access.

Schubert said it found that “while intermodal connections at U.S. ports may be good enough now to keep cargo moving, they probably won’t be in a few years.”

Expected increases in cargo traffic will strain the system especially in already congested metropolitan areas and major trade corridors.

“Getting a ship into port is only part of the story,” said Schubert.

“If the goods can’t move quickly away from the water, then our transportation system isn’t doing the job.”

He noted that most ports anticipate greater cargo flows in the future.

An emerging need for all U.S. Ports, especially container ports, is for real-time traffic information.

Radio transmission and web-based information on traffic conditions is of increasing importance to ports and transportation providers as they manage the inland movement of marine cargo. That is reflected in the large number of ports reporting unacceptable conditions in these emerging elements of the intermodal access system.

Significant access issues are found on the local access roads to ports, and at-grade rail crossings. Truck-only routes are of increasing significance as cargo volumes grow and there is a critical need to separate freight and passenger traffic on local roads and on state and interstate roads.

The report also revealed the positive results of intermodal access investments. More than 90 percent of the ports reported acceptable or higher conditions in terms of the availability of on-dock rail facilities and aids to navigation on the waterways.

The Maritime Administration, which uses the acronym “MARAD,” said it “will continue its assessment on the access to the marine ports and terminals, on an annual basis, to address the magnitude of intermodal access issues that impact the flow of commerce.”

The agency said the action “will complement other departmental initiatives in identifying the direction and trend that these intermodal interface linkages between land and water impact congestion on our transportation system that threatens our economy and well-being.”

MARAD is primarily responsible for encouraging the development and maintenance of a competitive United States merchant fleet “that is capable of carrying the nation’s domestic waterborne commerce and a substantial portion of its waterborne foreign commerce.”

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AAR reports rail traffic was down in October

U.S. rail carload traffic fell 1.6 percent (27,646 carloads) while intermodal rail traffic fell 5.1 percent (48,243 units) in October 2002 compared to October 2001, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on Thursday.

The significant drop in intermodal traffic in October largely reflected the effects of the 10-day port shutdown on the West Coast earlier this month, according to the railroad organization. During the shutdown, tens of thousands of international containers could not be loaded onto railroad flat cars for transport inland or unloaded from flat cars onto waiting steamships.

A recent study sponsored by the AAR found that nearly 250 doublestack trains per week originate on the West Coast and serve all the major long-haul U.S. markets, up from one per week in 1984. Today, approximately half of U.S. intermodal rail traffic consists of U.S. imports or exports.

“Prior to October, year-to-date intermodal originations on U.S. railroads were up 5.3 percent, with volumes rising through the period,” noted AAR Vice President Craig F. Rockey.

“We expect that over the course of the next few weeks, some of the lower volume from this month will be made up as the backlog gets cleared. Railroads certainly lost some intermodal traffic because it was redirected or shipped by air instead of steamship, but railroads have had no trouble handling the surge of traffic once it started moving again.”

Commodities that saw U.S. rail carload traffic gains in October 2002 included metallic ores (up 15.6 percent, or 12,151 carloads), motor vehicles and equipment (up 6.0 percent, or 7,474 carloads), and primary metal products (up 8.3 percent, or 5,013 carloads). Major commodity categories that saw declines in October 2002 including coal (down 3.9 percent, or 27,190 carloads); grain (down 10.5 percent, or 13,714 carloads); and crushed stone, sand and gravel (down 6.8 percent, or 7,722 carloads). All told, 11 of the 19 commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw carload decreases in October 2002 compared with October 2001.

Through October, total year-to-date U.S. rail carloadings totaled 14,554,983 cars, down 1.0 percent (151,680 carloads), including year-to-date declines in carloads of coal (down 3.5 percent, or 207,535 carloads), grain (down 4.1 percent, or 38,794 carloads), and primary forest products (down 11.7 percent, or 24,804 carloads).

On the positive side, carloads of motor vehicles and equipment were up 4.2 percent (43,613 carloads) in 2002 through October, carloads of metallic ores were up 6.8 percent (42,166 carloads), and carloads of chemicals were up 1.9 percent (23,063 carloads).

Year-to-date U.S. intermodal traffic through October totaled 7,920,631 trailers and containers, up 4.1 percent (308,602 trailers and containers). Total volume through the first 44 weeks of 2002 was estimated at 1.262 trillion ton-miles, up 0.7 percent from last year.

Canadian intermodal traffic was up 13.6 percent (25,659 units) in October 2002, while Canadian rail carload traffic was down 1.2 percent (3,710 carloads) during the month. Coal carloadings were down 19.2 percent (8,617 carloads) and grain carloadings continued to decline, falling 15.8 percent (7,930 carloads) in October. On the positive side, carloads of chemicals were up 11.8 percent (7,129 carloads) and carloads of motor vehicles and equipment rose 11.9 percent (4,494 carloads).

For the first ten months of 2002, Canadian carload traffic totaled 2,630,631 cars, down 2.7 percent (71,626 carloads), while Canadian intermodal traffic through October 2002 totaled 1,702,310 trailers and containers, up 10.2 percent (157,307 units).

Carloads originated on Transportación Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM), a major Mexican railroad, were up 49.9 percent (15,349 carloads) in October, while intermodal originations were up 96.9 percent (9,367 trailers and containers). For the first ten months of 2002, TFM carload originations were up 12.4 percent (37,950 carloads), while TFM intermodal traffic was up 26.9 percent (28,064 units).

For just the week ended November 2, the AAR reported the following totals for U.S. railroads: 339,743 carloads, down 4.7 percent from the corresponding week in 2001, with loadings down 5.2 percent in the East and down 4.3 percent in the West; intermodal volume of 203,873 trailers and containers, up 7.4 percent; and total volume of an estimated 29.3 billion ton-miles, down 4.2 percent from the equivalent week last year.

For Canadian railroads during the week ended November 2, the AAR reported volume of 61,819 carloads, down 4.1 percent from last year; and 42,282 trailers and containers, up 11.4 percent from the corresponding week in 2001.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 44 weeks of 2002 on 16 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 17,185,614 carloads, down 1.3 percent (223,306 carloads) from last year; and 9,622,941 trailers and containers, up 5.1 percent (465,909 units) from 2001’s first 44 weeks.

The AAR is online at

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Commuter lines...
Tampa revives its streetcars
after a 56-year interruption

Trolleys in the barn

Three photos: Jim RePass

Tampa has a new trolley barn
By Jim RePass

After an 18-year struggle that finally turned around when pro-transit Mayor Dick Greco took office and got behind the project, Tampa brought back the first in a series of trolley lines it had shut down in 1946. That was in October.

Shepherded by Hillsborough County Area Regional Transit (HARTLine) Engineering Director Steve Carroll and City of Tampa Chief Design Engineer Tom Capell, and with the direct involvement of top Mayoral aide Ron Rotella, the first 2.3 mile segment opened to much fanfare October 19 and 20, with some 20,000 riders.

Regular ridership is expected to top 300,000 per year, with most business concentrated on the weekends, since the first segment serves Tampa’s thriving entertainment district, Ybor City, connecting it to the convention center and waterfront area. Ridership will grow as the route is extended over the next five years to the main downtown business area, and then to one of Tampa’s oldest residential neighborhoods.

The $53 million project (trolley line plus development, when completed) benefits from a unique operating fund endowment which will augment farebox revenues. Naming rights to individual trolley cars (there are eight) and station stops are being sold, and advertising will be a key part of operating revenues, according to Rotella.

Federal grants will help with operating costs for the first three years. The line gets about $12 million from the local gas tax – but the line got a big boost when HFC Corp. granted $1 million to Historic Streetcar, Inc., a nonprofit corporation formed to manage the operation of the system, to pay the system to take down a failed people mover, and $4 million for the operating endowment.

Unlike strictly public systems, Tampa’s operator “will have the ability to invest available revenues to support future operation of the system” noted Steve Carroll.

Observers expect that Tampa’s example will be studied closely by other communities interested in bringing back streetcar service, as many are doing across America.

For example, New Orleans is restoring trolley (or “streetcar”) service to Canal Street after a lapse of 38 years, and a streetcar named Desire is also in the works. Recall New Orleans’ French connections and you’ll get the right pronunciation.

Tampa’s eight streetcars are from-the-ground-up recreations of the historic Birney trolley cars that ran in Tampa from 1896 to 1946. Built on original Birney chassis by Gomaco of Idaho (online at,) the eight cars cost only about $600,000 each, yet are fully modernized and air conditioned for the hot Tampa climate.

They run on standard-gauge track reinstalled in Tampa’s streets in a special right-of-way, and even cross CSX railroad’s track that run parallel to the main streets of Ybor City. That required an elaborate permanent flagman system to insure safety.

The TECOLine operators are re-trained bus drivers from HARTLine, which runs TECOLine under contract from Historic Streetcar Inc.

There are many features of Tampa’s trolley revival which show the kinds of creative thinking that will be necessary to streetcar revival in other cities, a growing trend across America as city officials realize that the trolleys they ripped up 50 years ago comprised an essential element of downtown’s vitality and economic health. As transportation planners come to appreciate the huge impact on real estate values that a vibrant downtown can bring to a city, trolleys are likely to become more and more the solution of choice for urban transportation.

HARTLine’s SteveCarroll wrote a technical description of the project. He wrote that the The first Teco “line segment extends from Ybor City through the Channelside and Garrison Seaport Districts to the Tampa Convention Center in the Central Business District.”

The system is designed to operate as a single-track, bi-directional line “with six passing tracks” to allow street car meets.

It also added flexibility needed “to allow up to eight streetcars to operate simultaneously and serve 12 station stops every 6 to 9 minutes in either direction.”

The streetcars have their own separate right-of-way, so they are not competing with automobile traffic.

He said most of the right-of-way, about 70 percent, “is owned by public entities. The remaining 30 percent in private ownership is being donated to the project.”

He aid “The line will operate with hard meets, and the location of the meets depends on the number of streetcars operating at any one time. All of the sidings are directional with spring-run-through switches to control meets. Power for the system will be 600 volts direct current (DC) supplied by an overhead trolley wire.

Each of the stations includes a covered waiting area, and a specially designed high block and bridge mechanism to comply with guidelines established by the Americans with Disabilities Act.Each station will be lighted and have security cameras.

Eight replica double-truck Birney streetcars, already completed, are capable of handling up to 84 passengers.

“These will be the first streetcars with four wheelchair positions, door sensing edging, a voice attenuation digital display system, interior bicycle racks, insulation and air conditioning, and an inverter to convert DC power to alternating current to run the air conditioning system,” he said.

Each car four 48-inch doors and a 40-inch clear opening to accommodate wheelchairs.

Looking toward 7th Ave.
A look down 7th Avenue towards the center of Ybor City.

At the station
– The trolleys cross the CSX diamond at Ybor City.

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Tacomans see Sound Transit’s
newest trolleys on city rails

New Trolley rolls out

Sound Transit

It’s rollout day for Sound Transit’s new trolleys.

Citizens of Tacoma got their first real look last week at the Sound Transit light rail trains that will go into service next September. Amid fanfare, streamers and music, the 66-foot long, double-articulated Tacoma Link train was formally rolled out at Sound Transit’s Tacoma Maintenance Base.

“Light Rail has arrived in the Pacific Northwest,” said Sound Transit Board Chair Ron Sims.

He added, “The Tacoma Link light rail trains are the backbone of a brand new train service and are symbolic of the transportation system that is being built in Central Puget Sound.”

Sims also pointed out that when Tacoma Link goes into service next September, Pierce County will be the first of Sound Transit’s five sub-areas to receive all three of the agency’s services: light rail, Sounder commuter rail and ST Express regional bus service.

The 1.6-mile Tacoma Link system will connect downtown Tacoma with Tacoma Dome Station, providing a key piece of the Sound Transit regional network of integrated transit services.

“The Tacoma light rail trains will be a new option for getting around downtown Tacoma,” said Pierce County Executive/Sound Transit Vice Chairman John Ladenburg. “The trains will connect the busy Tacoma Dome Station to businesses, theaters and museums in downtown.”

Following the roll out ceremony, the public was invited to tour the Sound Transit MW and walk through the new trains.

The three Tacoma Link trains were delivered via ship on September 3. They will go through extensive testing beginning later this month, and over the next several months, the staff and crew will receive training in operating and maintaining the system.

In 1996 voters approved funding for Sound Transit to provide a regional system of transit improvements, including Sounder commuter rail, ST Express regional bus service, numerous capital improvements (including park-and-ride lots, transit centers and direct access ramps) and Link light rail, but some of that may be in jeopardy following last week’s elections. See the complete story elsewhere in this edition of D:F.

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Legal lines...  Legal Lines...

Sound Transit clears construction
legal hurdle before last week’s voting

A King County, Washington, Superior Court judge last week rejected Sane Transit’s attempt to derail the voter-approved Central Link light rail project. The ruling means that Sound Transit can continue to move forward with the badly needed transportation project.

“This is good news for commuters who have been stuck in traffic for too long,” Sound Transit Board Chair Ron Sims said.

“Voters have said time and again they want us to stop talking about traffic and just build a regional system of transportation solutions. Today’s ruling allows us to keep moving forward on a key element of that system.”

Voters approved a regional system of transportation improvements-including Sounder commuter rail, ST Express regional bus service, numerous capital improvements (including park-and-ride lots, transit centers and direct access ramps) and Link light rail-by 56.5 percent in 1996. Since then polls have consistently shown that voters continue to support building Central Link light rail, even when told it will cost more and take longer to build.

Sims praised King County Superior Court Judge John Erlick’s opinion, saying, “I am grateful Judge Erlick chose to support the voters’ decision to create a regional transportation system rather than second-guessing their choices.”

(To review the full text of the decision see the King County Web site:

The Central Link light rail project has been getting green lights from the federal government all summer, including the granting of Final Design authority, the release of $50 million, and getting a “Letter of No Prejudice” for pre-construction work. Sound Transit began pre-construction work (site preparation and building demolition) for the Central Link light rail Operations and Maintenance Facility last month.

“It’s time for this region to stop arguing about transportation solutions and just build them,” Sims said.

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STB says merger outcome is good

The Surface Transportation Board agreed last week that the Conrail merger is now trouble-free.

Chairman Linda J. Morgan said on November 6 the board found that service problems resulting from the merger’s implementation “have not recurred, conditions imposed on the merger are working as intended, the merger has not resulted in any competitive or market power problems, and substantial progress has been made in implementing the various environmental conditions and settlement agreements.”

The STB okayed the CSX and Norfolk Southern takeover of Conrail lines on July 23, 1998, but it also imposed a five-year general oversight condition to allow the agency to assess the progress of the merger’s implementation and the workings of other board-imposed conditions.

There were bumps along the road, but CSX and NS were able to overcome them, to the STB’s satisfaction.

It found that “service problems that arose in the immediate aftermath of the merger implementation have not recurred, conditions imposed on the merger are working as intended, the merger has not created any competitive or market power problems, and substantial progress has been made in implementing the various environmental conditions and settlement agreements. The Board concluded that the implementation of the Conrail merger transaction is now largely complete.”

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Lines across the pond...

12 die in French train fire

Twelve people died and at least nine people were injured on November 6 after an overnight train heading from Paris to Vienna caught fire and filled a sleeping car with smoke, fire department officials said.

The fire broke out at about 2:15 a.m. local time when the train was leaving the city of Nancy, about 200 miles east of Paris.

It was first noticed by station staff who saw smoke inside one of the cars as the train passed through. All of the dead – six men, five women and one child – were thought to have been killed by smoke inhalation.

“Rescuers got to the scene at 2:22 a.m. They discovered the first sleeping car charred,” Regional official Jean-Francois Cordet told The AP.

“Inside were 12 dead, nine injured.” Five Americans were among those dead, according to the U.S. Embassy in Paris.

Damage on the train was limited to two cars that caught fire, said Lt. Olivier Dumoulin of the Nancy Fire Department. Deutsche Bahn, the German railroad, owned the two cars that caught fire and the rest of the train was French-owned.

The cause of the blaze is believed to be accidental, police said. Authorities were initially attributing the cause to an electrical problem, possibly in the heating system. There were about 150 passengers on board the train at the time of the fire, Dumoulin said.

Fatal accidents are extremely rare on the French rail system, which has a safety record that is the envy of many other nations.

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Dialogue...  Dialogue...

Foster’s Daily Democrat editorial
Dover, New Hampshire
November 6, 2002

Let’s not tinker with the state’s highway fund: The constitution is specific on this issue. The language of the state constitution is clear. The highway fund is for highways. It’s a long stretch before you can plunder the fund for the construction of rail stations.

Art.] 6-a. [Use of certain revenues restricted to highways.] All revenue in excess of the necessary cost of collection and administration accruing to the state from registration fees, operators’ licenses, gasoline road tolls or any other special charges or taxes with respect to the operation of motor vehicle fuels shall be appropriated and used exclusively for the construction, reconstruction and maintenance of public highways within this state, including the supervision of traffic thereon and payment of the interest and principal of obligations incurred for said purposes; and no part of such revenues shall, by transfer of funds or otherwise, be diverted to any other purpose whatsoever.

– November 29, 1938

It’s a long sentence, but a clear one; motor vehicle dollars are for motor vehicle-related projects. The language of restricted funds was added to the constitution to ensure good roads and highways in New Hampshire.

It has worked.

New Hampshire has some of the best primary and secondary roads in the country. There may be some things for which New Hampshire can be criticized, but the way in which the state maintains its roads is not one of them.

Credit at least two factors: The first is that the Department of Transportation is well-managed by people with vision. The other is the ability to rely on specific funds for highway maintenance and modernization.

The Executive Council recently rejected a request to use monies from the gasoline tax for a planned rail station in Nashua. The vote was 3-2.

The planned service is a commuter rail connecting Nashua with Lowell, Mass. – a second rail transportation link with Boston. Less than a year ago, Amtrak began operation of the Downeaster, a rail service connecting Portland, Maine, and Boston with stops in Dover, Durham and Exeter.

The Nashua-to-Lowell link is expected to be in operation by 2005.

It’s about trying to grab a federal carrot.

If the state is going to get $30 million in matching funds, it has to assume 20 percent of the cost.

Advocates of tapping the gasoline tax for railroads say if the Executive Council continues to block the transfer of funds, another planned commuter railroad that would run along Interstate 93 from the Massachusetts border to Manchester could be in trouble.

How much is going to be taken from roads and highways to fund the second commuter rail service?

Transportation Commissioner Carol Murray said she hopes to get councilors to change their minds by arguing that rail service would ease congestion on the F.E. Everett Turnpike and I-93.

It’s a stretch. The same argument might be made to subsidize intercity bus service.

A representative of the New Hampshire Motor Transport Assn., a trucking group, says using the gas tax for any purpose other than highway maintenance and construction is illegal and says the association will probably sue the state if it grants the request to use the tax for commuter railroads.

Carol Murray hopes to change at least one vote on the Executive Council.

“I’m going to try and get them to agree to go forward,” she said. “If the truckers sue, then we can go to court. If the court agrees with them, then we go to the Legislature and say, ‘Look, we have a funding problem.’”

It is better to go to the Legislature for funds than play fast and loose with a specific and clear provision of the constitution.

The use of highway funds for anything but highways is a policy matter that deserves the consideration of the Legislature and, most likely, the consent of two-thirds of the voters.

Reply by Jim RePass

November 6, 2002

To the Editor:

You are right that we should not tinker with constitutional restrictions on the state highway gas tax fund. [Editorial, November 6].

We should repeal those restrictions altogether.

During the 1930s, members of the Highway Lobby went from state-to-state across America wining and dining state legislators and governors to convince them that state gas taxes should only be used for highways, and that we needed state constitutional amendments to do that.

As a consequence, more than 30 states adopted such amendments, effectively guaranteeing a monopoly on public funding for highways, and tying the hands of any governor or other public official who sought to build transit.

New Hampshire residents who want to have alternatives to something other than sprawl-inducing mega-highways such as the absurd 10-lane monstrosity you have built through Nashua (which has absolutely glutted Route 3 and other secondary roads with impassable traffic as a consequence) need to start organizing to repeal that archaic amendment, or the future of New Hampshire will resemble Atlanta or Houston. Commuter rail works well wherever it is built, but you can’t ride a transit system that isn’t there.

James P. RePass
President & CEO
The National Corridors Initiative

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We get letters and photos...  We get letters...and photos...

M497 with Jet Engines attached

Dot Ameling: New York Central – Later Power

The picture was taken at Bryan, Ohio and appeared in Alvin Staufer and Edward L. May’s classic New York Central book. The Central experimented briefly with pure jet engines in 1966 with M-497.
Jets, turbines, locomotives and Budds

We were surprised at the response we got in the day’s mail responding to David Beale’s letter last week regarding Bombardier Transportation’s JetTrain.

We spoke during the week with Bombardier’s lead designer for the locomotive project, Daniel Hubert.

He’s Bombardier Transportation’s manager of advanced engineering in the firm’s St. Bruno offices, near Montreal. Hubert told D:F in a telephone interview that his firm’s JetTrain power plant, a derivative of the Pratt & Whitney PW150 engine “is not a pure jet with hot air coming out the rear and pushing a vehicle – of any kind – forward, but it is based on propulsion principals. It’s all the same technology.”

He explained, “The hot turbine airflow is actually used to propel it. When it’s a turbine engine, that flow of energy is captured by two turbines at the last stage of the engine” turning an output shaft, which, in this case, turns a pair of generators after sending the energy through a gearbox to change the speed ratio.” The exhaust gases are then vented through the exhaust system on the roof, and the engine produces 5,000-shaft hp.

He said they tried some other engines before they settled on that particular P&W model.

“Originally we looked at other models, but this one had better fuel consumption, higher reliability and it was easier to control it.”

Adopting the engine for locomotive propulsion was the hard part of their efforts.

“One of the critical aspects of the successful locomotive integration is the control algorithm between the propulsion system and the turbine power plant. Turbines are normally equipped with a controller that monitors engine parameters and modulates the fuel injection to achieve the desired power level.”

He explained, “With other kinds of turbines, it was not possible to easily modify this controller, we would have had to use an ‘interpreter,’” as he termed it, “which means a third controller to interface between the propulsion control and turbine control.”

If they did that, it would have become unnecessarily complicated.

“We were able to put in a complete different control system that used the original turbine controller software but that interfaced directly with the propulsion and also controlled all turbine auxiliaries. This dual controller approach is much simpler and offers a faster response time.”

He was involved with the project when the FRA sent out a request for proposals for a locomotive that could make at least 125 mph.

“The optimum goal was to be able to go at 150 mph. When we first started, the other engine proposed didn’t have the power to go, and it was our intent to make that speed at the outset,” he said.

Hubert said the first carbody was fabricated at the builder’s La Pocatière shops and partially assembled in their Plattsburgh facility.

“We went back to la Pocatière to integrate the locomotive’s specific subsystems,” he said, and they ran it at low speeds on a test track in their back yard.

Bombardier wrote its proposal in 1998. He was a systems integrator at the time, and he followed the project through all production. He started with Bombardier in 1996 as a project engineer.

He said the JetTrain engine has not developed any of the problems Amtrak’s Acela Express trainsets sustained after the yaw damper problems of last summer, and the cracked frames where the dampers connect to the carbody.

“The prototype will be modified to incorporate the Acela solution. The JetTrain locomotive will not be manufactured with the same yaw damper bracket design.” The new design will be incorporated into any new series production.

In the AAR-FRA test track in Pueblo, Colo., it ran at 150 mph for sustained periods during the five-month high speed dynamic test period, where it reach a maximum speed of 156 mph.

Reader Edwin C. Locklin told us about a New York Central experiment way back in 1966, as did NCI board member Doug Alexander.

Locklin, of Charlotte, N.C., wrote, “In response to David Beale’s informative letter regarding “Jet Rail Cars,” I would like to remind everyone that the New York Central Railroad experimented with jet propulsion just as Mr. Beale’s described in his letter. There were two jet engines placed on the roof at the front end of a converted RDC [Rail Diesel Car built by Budd Corp.] car. Those engines accomplished propulsion in the exact same way aircraft engines do on an airplane wing.”

He also attached a photo, scanned from Alvin E. Staufer and Edward L. May’s classic book, New York Central: Later Power (Wayner Publications, 1981).

“I think it’s hideous and a very stupid idea, but the NYC officials were looking for something new and faster. After all, they were in direct competition with the Standard Railway of the World,” Locklin wrote.

For readers who are not familiar with that phrase, it was how the Pennsylvania Railroad billed itself long before it became Penn Central.

West Coast reader and occasional D:F contributor Bill Stewart, who is also a journalist, noted, “Don’t knock the turbo-prop or prop-jet. We have them running unlimited hydroplanes, putting out more horsepower than the big inline aircraft engines of WW II, and the Coast Guard uses them in tandem for some scary cutters – the only problem is the 30-inch (per side) exhaust always soots up the sides of the white boats. I think those cutters are about 125 feet, can go like a rabbit and turn so fast you are supposed to be belted to the ship at all times.”

Stewart noted, “Freightliner Trucks, owned by Benz, also has been playing with some smaller jet turbines. The word I heard was they are getting pretty good reliability. Some of the jets are light enough for two guys to carry without using a dolly, but strong enough to send an F5 straight up through the sound barrier.

“The one thing I would question is quietness. The hydroplanes have a sound that makes the hair on your neck stand up.

M497 ready to go

New York Central

M-497 literally flew over grade crossings, according to an eyewitness

NCI’s Alexander also sent us a photo, “but I was only 6 year’s old at the time,” he writes. He found the photo on the web, and a narrative that explained the NYC project.

George Elwood wrote, on a website, “As I remember reading about this test conducted by the NYC in northwest Ohio, it was to determine if jointed rail would be acceptable for high-speed travel. The RDC was fitted with a pair of [GE] J-47 engines from a scrapped B-47. The front of the RDC was fitted with a streamline faring designed to keep the front end down. The windows inserted into the faring were number boards from F-units. The jet engines were also mounted to provide some downward thrust on the front of the car. The diesel engines were removed for the test. The car was towed from Cleveland to the test area. NYC or local police manned all road crossings. After the first run, the car was towed back to the starting point for a second run. After the two test runs, the car was returned to Collinwood shops in Cleveland where the jet engines and nose faring were removed and the car returned to service.”

From the New York Central mail list, we learned that Invention & Technology magazine published a piece on the 1966 run of NYC’s gas turbine powered M-497.

“As a witness to the runs, I never doubted that it was dangerous as it ran through several towns and cities. PRR-NYC rivalry?” asked Craig Berndt.

Robert B. Watson, of Devon, Pa. wrote in 1999, “I feel compelled to offer comment on “Postfix: Jet Train,” by Ed Pershey, in your fall 1999 issue. I was at the time the Pennsylvania Railroad’s coordinator of the Northeast Corridor Demonstration Project, a government-railroad-supplier partnership that ultimately brought the Metroliner and Turbo-train to service in 1969.

“In 1966 our project had just gotten under way with road tests of four cars. Our testing eventually achieved the contractually required speed of 155 mph, as we struggled with all manner of difficulties, but the New York Central jet train’s achievement of the record speed of 183-plus mph rocked the Pennsylvania Railroad at the highest levels, coming as a complete surprise to a “red team” that had assumed that the merger agreement between the two companies was a fait accompli and that planning was being conducted in an open and straightforward manner.

“I have been told on good authority that the reaction to the news was electric, as outrage consumed the Pennsylvania’s chairman and merger architect Stuart T. Saunders and his staff.

“There is no doubt that a North American rail-speed record was set, but whatever else was learned from the experience is most obscure. The flight of the M-497 seems to have been no more than a stunt to take the edge off the Pennsylvania’s prominent role in the Northeast Corridor project-and probably a dangerous stunt.

“I was later reliably told by a colleague, who was personally involved with the preparation of the vehicle and also claimed to have been aboard for the run, that the M-497 was actually airborne at times when passing over grade crossings at high speed. If indeed disaster was so nearly averted, it was a high risk to take for a mere publicity stunt.

“Whatever the case, the M-497’s run served to agitate the New York Central’s future merger partner and perhaps presaged an atmosphere that would ultimately help to bring down all the railroads of the Northeast. The jet train was a diversion, and the current state of high-speed rail in the U.S., sorry though it may be, owes nothing to its risky one-time flash of speed on level tangent track through Midwestern cornfields one day in 1966.”

A footnote: Bombardier told reporters last week, on November 6, “China Aviation Industry Corp. and Pratt & Whitney Canada announced today that they have signed agreement for the installation of the PW150B engine on the Y8F600 aircraft program. The aircraft development program has been launched and aircraft certification is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2005.”

That’s the latest version of the 150 power plant.

The Y8 is a four-engine medium transport aircraft developed and manufactured by Shaanxi Aircraft Co., a subsidiary of AVIC II. The Y-8 series “includes 16 successfully developed versions, with a total of 90 aircraft produced and sold. It is mainly used in general transport and postal aviation.”

– Leo King, Editor

Dear Editor:

One minor correction: I am not a “treasurer by day.” (D:F November 4, “Amtrak accounting: Is it clear yet?”).

I did serve for seven years as the treasurer of a non-profit organization with a budget of over half a million dollars, but I no longer do so (although I am still on the board of that organization and still have quite a bit to say about their financial reporting). I am not an accountant by profession, nor do I have any training as an accountant.

Daniel Chazin
Teaneck, N.J.

Dear Editor:

“We maintain a business-like relationship with labor if we hope to survive.”

Business Like? I haven’t had a raise in over three years. That is not good for morale, and thus not good for business.

Keith Kovaleski
Monroe, N.J.

Dear Editor:

Ben Hauben was (and probably still is) trying to build a train station in Manchester, Vermont, not New Hampshire as listed on your website [last week, story titled, “Rutland station sees fewer people”).

Robert Gates
Bennington, Vt.

A journalistic requirement is to get the right place – the “where” of a story. I erred, for which I apologize. – Ed.

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Off the main line...

An obit – Lonnie Donegan

Lonnie Donegan, a rock and blues musician whose “skiffle” sound inspired John Lennon and Pete Townshend to learn to play the guitar, died November 3 in Peterborough, in central England. He was 71.

No cause was given, but he had suffered several heart attacks, said Judy Totton, a publicity agent. She said he had been on a tour of Britain.

Donegan’s singing hits included “Rock Island Line” in 1956, among others.

He was born Anthony Donegan in Glasgow in 1931. A fan of American country, folk and blues music, he changed his name as a tribute to the bluesman Lonnie Johnson.

Skiffle music, which Donegan introduced to Britain in the 1950s, was a mixture of styles that traced its roots to 1920s America, blending jug band, acoustic, folk, blues and country-western styles. Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly were among his biggest influences.

Skiffle was simple and cheap, apparently within the ability of anyone, regardless of musical talent. All that was needed was a guitar, a snare drum, jugs, a washboard or a standup bass made from a broomstick attached to an empty tea chest – and two chords.

His “Rock Island Line” inspired two young Liverpudlians, John Lennon and George Harrison, to take up the guitar.

A year later, Lennon’s skiffle group, the Quarrymen, was playing at a church event near Liverpool when the 15-year-old Paul McCartney introduced himself. Pete Townshend, The Who’s windmilling guitar player, started out as leader of the Detours, a skiffle group also featuring the vocalist Roger Daltrey. Elton John, Ringo Starr and Brian May, of Queen, also paid tribute by playing on Donegan’s 1978 album Puttin’ on the Style.

Donegan was made a member of the Order of the British Empire in 2000. His wife and son survive him.

Return to index

November 2002

Boston to Montreal High Speed Rail Meetings

Public meetings to hear the findings of the Boston-Montreal high-speed rail study have been scheduled at the following locations: All meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m.

New Hampshire: November 12, New Hampshire DOT John O. Morton Building on Hazen Drive, Concord.

Massachusetts: November 13, Greater Lowell Transit District Headquarters, Hale Street, Lowell.

Vermont: November 14, Pavilion Auditorium, State Street, Montpelier.

An additional meeting will be held in Montreal, Quebec on November 25. Details to follow.

The second round of meetings will provide a review of the draft results and study recommendations.


November 14

Railway Progress Institute 94th Annual Meet

Hyatt Regency, Chicago

Contact RPI website at, or Tom Simpson, (703) 836-2332.

November 17-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 17-20

Intermodal Assn. Of North America
International Intermodal Expo

Anaheim Convention Center, Calif.

Contact via website at, or Tom Malloy, (301) 982-3400, ext. 28; fax (301) 982 –4815.

End Notes...

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

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

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

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

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

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