Destination:Freedom Newsletter
Destination:Freedom
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
  NCI Logo Vol. 1 No. 30, Nov 11, 2000
Copyright © 2000, NCI, Inc.
James P. RePass, President
Leo King, Editor
 

A weekly North American Railroad update


Amtrak's newest diesel engine is P-42DC 123

NCI: Amtrak-GE

Amtrak's newest diesel engine is P-42DC 123, capable of 110 mph and developing 4,250 horsepower. The power plant is a 16 cylinder, four stroke, four-cycle GE 7FDL engine, and operates with a 26L compatible electronic air brake. It is also the first engine to display Amtrak's new "wavy" logo.

Snow, RePass address rail expo
Several hundred of the Southeast's leading political leaders, rail advocates, and transportation experts turned out November 8-10 for the first Southeast High Speed Rail Conference and Expo at Richmond, keynoted by CSX Chairman, President & CEO John Snow.

He said that CSX believes that freight railroads and passenger rail, both Amtrak and commuter, need to work together to build the capacity they both need, and that public funding of capacity building was a good idea.

Following Snow's address, which stressed his company's commitment to help integrate the growing demands for increased commuter and intercity passenger rail with his freight railroad's operations, the conference opened with an address by NCI President and CEO James P. RePass on the status of passenger rail corridor development in the United States. NCI, which pioneered the corridor model for passenger rail advocacy and which backs substantial public involvement in both freight and passenger rail capacity.

"While it took 88 years to finish the electrification of the Northeast Corridor, I am happy to report that the cause you are embarked upon here in Richmond and throughout the Carolinas and Georgia is not, I repeat not, an aberration."

RePass added, "The creation of a Richmond-Washington High-Speed Rail Corridor, the continual and impressive improvements to and investments in rail service in the Carolinas, and the aggressive new regional rail system in Georgia which will link up with South Carolina, will indeed create the foundation for a new Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor not just in name, but in reality."

The complete address, Walking on Water, is posted elsewhere on this website.


Floridians okay fast rail plan
We may not yet know who our next president will be, but Florida voters last week approved a Constitutional amendment requiring the state to begin building a high-speed rail network in the Sunshine state. The counts were about 2,905,000 for vs. 2,587,000 against, or about 54 percent of voters favoring the plan, as opposed to 47 percent disapproving. It passed by even higher margins near the larger cities.

The mandate is to connect Florida's five largest cities.

Supporters argued that a high-speed bullet train across Florida would take the state into the future, putting it on par with other bullet train, world-class success stories like France, Germany and Japan. The amendment orders state government to start building fast trains to link Florida's five largest urban areas. Construction must begin within three years, or by 2003, and the train must be able to go faster than 120 mph, reported WTVJ in Miami.

Retired Lakeland businessman C.C. "Doc" Dockery funded the $1.5 million petition drive out of his own pocket that put the issue before Florida voters.

Critics argued the project could take decades to finish. Opponents included the state's leading business groups, some of which said they didn't have the time or the money to launch a full-fledged campaign against Amendment One, but they warned that the fast train was a boondoggle that would derail road projects, drain money from schools and force higher taxes.

The decision on what kind of train - monorail, fixed guideway or magnetic levitation - would be left to lawmakers. They would also get to pick which cities get the train - and how it's paid for. No one knows how much the project will cost, but it was expected to be in the billions. Opponents promised a legal battle to challenge the constitutionality of the amendment, including passage by a mere majority.

The man behind the fast train, 67-year-old Dockery of Lakeland, said the high-speed rail network will help millions of Floridians who cannot or do not want to drive.

"We've got a great victory for those people who deserve an alternative to road rage and air rage," Dockery told the St. Petersburg Times Tuesday night.

"This is terrifying," said Tom Feeney (R-Oviedo), speaker designate of the Florida House of Representatives. "I don't know where the money's going to come from," the Orlando Sentinel reported.

If the system actually is built, Dockery will deserve the credit or take the blame.

He is a former member of the state's high-speed rail commission, and almost single-handedly forced the rail question onto the ballot.

Likely contenders for stops on the rail line include Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa-St. Petersburg.

Florida long has flirted with the idea of high-speed rail to ease clogged highways, but shortly after taking office, Gov. Jeb Bush killed the state's $6.3-billion rail plan, saying there were too many uncertainties.

Dockery, who years ago sat on a high-speed rail commission and still believes in the idea, decided to take the issue to voters. He spent his own money on advertising and legal advice, and collected more than 624,000 signatures to get it on the ballot.

"It might appear it's a sleeper, but not to me," Dockery said. "I've been working on it for 18 months."

The Florida Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 3 that the amendment met all the legal tests it needed to go before voters. Opponents found themselves scrambling just a month before Election Day.

"I think the voters just didn't get the whole story," said Bob Burleson, president of the Florida Transportation Builders Association. "I think the majority of people in Florida want high-speed rail. I'm just not sure they are going to want it as badly when they see what it will cost them."

The amendment will still face a tough battle in the state legislature because the state's governor still opposes the notion. Opponents include Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the state DOT, road builders, truckers, engineering associations, and at least eight county commissions.

Some opponents said transportation planning should not be done through the Constitution, and complained the amendment didn't tell voters that their tax dollars would likely pay for the trains.

Dockery suggested that the trains could be financed by a special authority, similar to a turnpike authority, which would issue bonds and pay them off by collecting user fees and franchise fees from transportation vendors.

Dockery, a well-known Republican fund-raiser in Florida, created the ballot proposal after Governor Bush killed off the Florida DOT's high-speed rail proposal last year.

Dockery said the question had to be built into Florida's Constitution because there would never be enough "political continuity" to pull off such a massive project.

"After 16 years of frustration, it was time to send the leadership a message," he said. "We want it, we need it, so just do it."

Observers thought the amendment's vague wording - it didn't mention cost - was partly responsible for its success.

"It sounded good, and they did some slick ads," said Mike Snyder, the top-ranking FDOT official in Central Florida. "If I wasn't in my position, they'd have convinced me."


Alstom, EMD join up for engine repairs
Alstom and EMD said last week they have entered into an agreement in principle to form a joint venture that will create a leading provider of locomotive maintenance services to railroad customers worldwide.

The partnership will be called Alstom EMD Services.

A press release stated the new firm "will focus on servicing locomotives of all types and brands, not just those manufactured by Alstom and EMD." Alstom will be the senior partner.


'Vets Advantage' coming to a station near you
Amtrak says it will soon announce a new program for veterans. It is expected to be called, "Veterans Advantage." Details have not yet been work out, but the carrier says the plan "will enable vets to receive significant discounts" on Amtrak travel.

Freight Lines...

NS adds 2 percent fuel surcharge

Norfolk Southern reported last week it began "assessing a 2 percent fuel surcharge on some shipments in October. The surcharge is based on the per-barrel price of crude oil and the amount of time the price remains above certain defined levels."

The railroad did not specify which shipments would get the surcharge.

The freight carrier stated "Crude oil prices that have hit all-time highs many times since the first of the year have affected NS. Depending on locomotive type, a fill-up takes between 1,100 and 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel. That adds up to a significant increase in expenses."

The firm stated, "On average, the company uses about 1.3 million gallons of diesel fuel per day to operate its locomotives. That's up from one million before Northern Region operations were added" to the system.

"We've seen fuel prices rise 50 percent over last year," said Rick White, assistant vice president for Purchasing, in Roanoke, Va.

"In addition to market price, railroads pay an additional 4.4-cent-per-gallon federal fuel tax."

Dick Kane, manager of diesel purchasing in Roanoke, said there was more to the fuel issue than rising prices.

"American refineries are operating at about 97 percent capacity right now. That means they can't really refine any more fuel, no matter how much more crude oil they bring in. Add to that some down time for maintenance at those facilities, and they're at capacity."

Kane said NS uses high-sulfur No. 2 fuel to run its locomotives, which is similar to No. 2 home heating oil. That means the company is competing with the home heating oil market, especially in the Northeast. As a result, NS is increasing its inventory on hand from a five- to seven-day supply to a 10- to 12-day supply.

"There's another factor in the equation in that diesel fuel only moves through pipelines about once a week," said Kane.

"We want to make sure we're able to provide the service our customers expect and demand from us. By increasing our inventory, we're confident we can do that."

The amount of fuel an individual locomotive uses depends on its age, horsepower, the terrain it travels, whether it must stop and idle, and train handling by the engineer. NS has operating policies to help conserve fuel, such as its locomotive shutdown policy.

"When a locomotive may have to sit and idle for a while, we want our train crews to shut them down when the ambient temperature reaches 40 degrees," said Lew Hale, vice president Transportation Services.

"That conserves some fuel. We also can pace our trains if we eliminate a certain number of starts and stops along the way and keep a consistent speed where possible, we use less fuel."

Kane said with NS using as much fuel as it does on a daily basis, small changes can add up.

"Just as a small increase in price can send our costs soaring, a small decrease in use means significant savings in fuel costs."


The Tail End

NCI: Leo King

The New York Central ran two premier passenger trains from Boston in the 1950s. One was the Twentieth Century Limited, and the other was the New England States. EMD E-8s or E-9s usually were assigned to these trains, and the cap was a Budd-built round end observation-lounge.

An End Note...

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

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

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

Destination: Freedom'seditor, Leo King, also writes for "ThemeStream," a forum for writers and readers. King's articles are all rail-related, and chronicle events over the last ten years on the Northeast Corridor, particularly in New England. Look for his articles at http://www.themestream.com under the heading "Travel," and the sub-heading, "Riding the Rails."

In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we are planning a page where we will feature 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 Site Webmaster in Boston.


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