Vol. 5 No. 44
November 15, 2004

Copyright © 2004
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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

A weekly North American rail and transit update

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

* Now in our Fifth Year *

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


 

The Congress reconvenes tomorrow. The House
will meet at 2:00 p.m. for legislative business.
Votes will be postponed until 6:30 p.m.

 

Fallujah, Iraq

Two photos: Anja Niedringhaus, Associated Press, via The New York Times

Most of the 8,000 American troops and 2,000 Iraqi soldiers went over a railroad embankment at six separate points, military officials said, aiming to clear out insurgents one house at a time.

 

Station hit:

GIs strike insurgents in Fallujah

FALLUJAH, Iraq, November 10 – After two days of street-to-street fighting, the American-led assault on the city of Fallujah in Iraq wrested more territory from insurgents, while a militant group said last week that it had kidnapped two of the Iraqi prime minister’s relatives and would execute them if the siege did not end.

Troops captured the mayor’s office, two mosques, a commercial center and other major objectives in the heart of the downtown and advanced past the main highway through the city. The assault began with 8,000 U.S. Marines and soldiers and 2,000 Iraqi soldiers crossing over the tracks and pounding the Iraqi Railroad Fallujah station.

The insurgents continued to fight and withdraw to new positions as American and Iraqi military forces, relying heavily on artillery and air support, pushed in from the north. Baku Today of Azerbaijan reported last week American and Iraqi forces captured the city’s main hospital and train station. The station was destroyed. Two main bridges were also secured.

The interim government is trying to clear the way for democratic national elections, scheduled to be held before the end of January.

Fallujah, Iraq

Marines arrest Iraqis at the Fallujah railroad station.


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Two photos: Amtrak Ink

Carman Lance Johnson removes the ceiling panels in a Superliner dining car while readying the car for preventive maintenance at Los Angeles’s 8th Street Yard.

 

Amtrak makes more plans to fix up
railroad; many repairs in schedule

Carrier is getting 10 diesel switchers, 80 new auto
carriers; 50 road diesels to be overhauled, more

 

Amtrak’s mechanical department is busy again this year. The fixer-upper folks began their new fiscal year on October 1 with an aggressive capital program “to return to service overhauled and remanufactured cars and locomotives from the backshops,” and to conduct regular preventive maintenance and inspections at terminal shops.

Amtrak’s time is frequently measured in its fiscal year.

“Last year,” wrote Amtrak Ink in its November issue, “saw a heavy workload for the mechanical department, but some good results in the output of shop work. However, Amtrak continues to face considerable challenges due to the long-term effects of prior deferred maintenance, remanufactures and overhauls.”

The railroad’s chief mechanical officer, Vince Nesci, put it this way.

“Last year, we worked steadily in fiscal 2004 toward a state of good repair for our fleet, and we made good progress. The goals we’ve set for this fiscal year reflect more steady growth and progress.” Fiscal 2004 ended on September 30.

Mechanical says the department has established five goals for fiscal 2005 “that are designed to address the department’s main concern – to have in service and ready for service a sufficient and reliable fleet.”

Nesci said the objectives include executing its fleet capital program, acquiring rolling stock – including new engines – “more frequent inspections in yards and terminals, improving reliability of the fleet for passengers and crews to improve on-time performance and safety, improving overall fleet availability, reducing labor costs and continuing national Mechanical department processes.”

Above all, they are following the Amtrak mantra “to keep the fleet in a state of good repair.”

Light overhaul work is typically limited in scope and is characterized by minor structural repair or replacement of parts, Nesci said. Heavy overhauls are characterized by a complete teardown with some upgrades and structural repairs while remanufacturing involves a onetime teardown and reassembly enabling the asset to greatly extend its expected useful life.

In a remanufacture, materials “are replaced with new and often improved designs and the structures may be significantly redesigned,” he said.

Slated for heavy overhaul and remanufacture this year at the Bear and Beech Grove backshops are 220 passenger cars; including 35 café-lounge cars, 83 coaches, and eight cab cars in the Amfleet line, along with 10 café cars and 18 coaches in the Horizon fleet, 28 sleepers, seven coaches, 11 diner-lounge cars, and six transition-dormitory cars in the Superliner fleet.

Also included for the first time is a program to overhaul 12 Pacific Surfliner coaches. Other equipment in line for overhaul includes 40 maintenance-of-way work cars, and 20 baggage cars.

The fleet program will also target light overhauls of 55 Amfleet passenger cars, 34 Superliner passenger cars, three Horizon Coach cars, 20 Viewliner passenger cars, and 13 Heritage passenger cars.

Wind Machine

The wind machine at the coach’s diaphragm blows all dirt and debris out of the car with compressed air.

 

Diesel road engines getting heavy overhauls between now and September 30 are 40 P-42s, two DM-32s, and eight F-59s diesels. So are seven electric AEM-7 DCs, which also includes a MARC commuter engine. Eleven AEM-7 and eight HHP-8 locomotives are scheduled for light overhaul.

Switchers scheduled for heavy overhaul include four MP-15s, three SW-1s, an SW-1001, and five GP-38s.

The carrier’s wreck-repair program will focus on 10 Amfleet passenger cars, 10 Superliner passenger cars and six locomotives.

Also in the plan is acquiring 80 new auto carriers, 10 diesel switchers, and converting five GP-40s to switchers from road power configuration.

Nesci said frequent inspections at yards and terminals including light, medium, and heavy car inspections are critical to sustaining the repair work completed in heavy overhauls.

Preventative maintenance at department terminal shops, including increased maintenance cycles now on 30-day, quarterly and annual cycles, will improve fleet availability and reliability.

“With the focus on state of good repair, we’ve reinstated the overhaul programs in the backshops and more important, increased the frequency of planned maintenance on the fleet between overhauls,” explained Nesci.

“The 180-day and 360-day inspection intervals that used to be in effect, were essentially doubled to become three quarterly (92 day) and one annual inspection, to raise our fleet to a state of good repair at a more rapid rate than we had previously seen. Our goal is to lower the quantity of unplanned maintenance we perform while simultaneously increasing fleet reliability through our planned maintenance programs,” he added.

Next week: Penn Coach Yard facility opens for business


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Who’s on first?

Will they? Won’t they?

Some railroaders have been wondering if USDOT’s Norman Y. Mineta will stay on as its secretary. A snippet from the Washington Post’s and Al Kamen’s “In the Loop” column may offer a clue.

First though, a few lines on Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson – a former Amtrak chairman and firm supporter.

Thompson said last December he did not expect to be to be around when the new Medicare drug law goes into effect in 2006, but Thompson, answering reporters’ questions last week about his future, first said, “The President and I haven’t had a chance to talk. Clearly this will be left up to the President.” Reporters, talking to Thompson on a conference call about an anthrax vaccine, reminded him that he had publicly announced he would not stay and asked if he was changing his mind.

“All I can tell you – this is a discussion about anthrax – we’ll have to talk about my future some other time,” Thompson said.

His future may depend on what the definition of “leave” is.

Thompson, if leaving HHS, might stick around if there is a chance he’ll be able to run the Department of Transportation, which is what he really wanted in the first place at the beginning of the Bush administration.

Loop Fans may recall that the Bush administration practically had to break Thompson’s legs to get him to give up his spot as chairman of the Amtrak board to Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.

It has been speculated that Mineta, the only Democrat in the Cabinet, will be leaving his job… but don’t count on it, yet.


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Californians select high-speed routes

California’s High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) last week unveiled staff recommendations for four remaining key route alignments within California’s proposed high-speed rail system.

As they had done at their September meeting for three major alignments, the board gave advisory approval on the routes discussed at the November 10 meeting. The formal vote on these and other alignments will take place at the CHRSA’s December board meeting.

“The recommendations were based on technical studies, and public resource agency and general public input,” the authority stated in a press release.

Alignment recommendations will connect Sacramento to Bakersfield, San Francisco to San Jose, and Oakland to San Jose. They also recommended connecting Los Angeles to San Diego via the Inland Empire.

Last January, the authority and the FRA released the “Draft Program Environmental Impact Report/Statement (EIR/EIS)” for a statewide high-speed train system, the largest public works project to undergo environmental review in America.

“I could not be more pleased with the review process. It did exactly what it was intended to do – spark dialogue, identify needs for further technical study, and validate existing data. So far, this process has hit a home run,” said Joe Petrillo, CHSRA chair.

The board also directed its staff to give further attention to the alignment between Fresno and Bakersfield. The advisory approval allows the staff to continue to move the process forward and respond to public comments. “High-speed trains are an integral part of California’s transportation future,” said Petrillo.

He explained, “By deciding alignments and station locations, we are at the point where this project is becoming more and more real to Californians. Californians are understanding how this train will help them travel between cities as well as help relieve local congestion.”

Mehdi Morshed, CHSRA executive director, said the day’s “milestone is yet another step towards better transportation efficiency in California and good news for local economies up and down the state. We’ve said it before and we need to say it again, now is the time for interested parties to make their voices heard in Sacramento, so that the legislature and [Schwarzenegger] administration will continue to support high-speed trains.”

The authority’s staff presented the board with a summary of the public and resource agency comments from more than 2,000 Californians including representatives of business, labor, environmental and transportation groups. This input and the technical studies contributed to their recommendations.

Plan details explained how the routes would be aligned. For example, connecting Los Angeles to San Diego via the Inland Empire, the staff recommended the route utilizing Union Pacific’s existing freight corridors. Several agencies agreed, including Caltrans and the communities of Murrieta, Escondido and the City of San Diego. The proposed route follows the Interstate 15 corridor. From Mira Mesa to San Diego the staff recommends the Carroll Canyon alignment to directly serve downtown San Diego as well as serving the city’s transportation hub.

Proposed station locations would be located in the East San Gabriel Valley at the City of Industry, the Ontario Airport Connector, Riverside County and East San Bernardino County at Univ. of California, Riverside, Temecula Valley at Murrieta, Escondido at I-15, Mid-San Diego County at University City, and downtown San Diego at the former Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe depot.

Connecting San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, the staff recommended using the existing Caltrain Corridor and the Hayward line to I-880. A next-tier program EIR/EIS study of the Northern Mountain Crossing connecting San Jose to the Central Valley was recommended at the Authority’s September 2004 board meeting.

For the San Francisco Peninsula, the staff recommended using the Caltrain Corridor with a shared use program between Caltrain and high-speed trains. High-speed trains could operate at speeds of 100-125 mph along the peninsula providing 30-minute express travel times between San Francisco and San Jose. The proposed station locations include the downtown San Francisco Transbay Terminal and the Millbrae airport connector station. A potential mid-peninsula station will be recommended in the next-tier study.

From Oakland to San Jose, the line would use the Hayward Line to I-880 due to higher ridership; considerably less environmental impact; and support of the MTC and City of Newark. Potential station locations include a downtown Oakland terminus at either West Oakland and 12th Street or the city center. From the, the trains would operate to the Oakland Airport Connector to the Coliseum BART Station, Southern Alameda County at Union City, and the downtown San Jose terminus at Diridon Station.

Connecting Sacramento to Bakersfield, The authority staff recommended using both UP and Burlington Northern and Santa Fe (BNSF) rights-of-way for high-speed trains in the Central Valley.

The Sacramento Rail Depot in downtown Sacramento is recommended for the high-speed train’s northern terminus. From Sacramento to Stockton, the staff is recommending operating over the UP alignment bypassing Lodi on the Central California track and reconnecting to UP to serve the Stockton downtown Altamont Commuter Express station site.

From Stockton to Merced, trains would run over the BNSF alignment because it avoids most of the urban areas between Stockton and Merced, is less costly, has less environmental impact, and serves Castle Air Force Base. Potential station locations include Amtrak’s Briggsmore station in Modesto and Castle Air Force Base, allowing access to the developing Univ. of California Merced campus.

Continuing from Merced to Fresno along BNSF is the authority staff’s preferred option. This alignment includes transitions to the UPRR to serve Fresno and Merced. The downtown Fresno station is recommended because it has high connectivity and accessibility. A direct route through Fresno rather than an express loop outside of the city is recommended because it has fewer environmental impacts; is less costly and has better access.

The authority staff also selected the BNSF alignment between Fresno and Bakersfield. Amtrak intercity rail service will serve King’s County and Tulare County to the high-speed train system. The proposed station location is downtown Bakersfield Truxton station.


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Florida authority okays new route;
gets offer for another $500 million

The Florida High Speed Rail Authority is alive and approving projects – at least until the Legislature meets in March.

The authority agreed on November 10 in an Orlando meeting to create a new route for its high-speed trains, and heard an offer of up to $500 million in additional private funding at its first meeting since Floridians voted overwhelmingly last week to repeal the 2000 Constitutional amendment requiring the state to build a high-speed rail system.

Reporting in the Lakeland, Fla. Lakeland Ledger, reporter Bill Rufty informed his readers in what many thought was going to be its last meeting on Wednesday, the authority also approved the final $240,000 to complete an environmental engineering study.

The 2000 amendment, which was proposed by Lakeland businessman C.C. “Doc” Dockery, mandated the state build a high-speed rail system connecting at least five metropolitan areas in the state. Dockery is now a member of the authority.

Gov. Jeb Bush (R) engineered repealing the amendment.

Since the project’s initial approval in 2000, no construction had begun, but a route and contractor were selected. The system’s first leg, from Orlando to Tampa, was forecast to cost about $2.3 billion.

Supporters of high-speed rail said the November 2 vote to repeal the 2000 amendment have not killed the project, and they noted it did not wipe out the High Speed Rail Authority. Dockery said that in addition there is still a high-speed rail provision in state law.

“It is still in the Growth Management Bill passed in 1995,” Dockery said. “Some day it will be built, even the governor has said as much. It is just the right thing to do.”

Authority members got backing from some powerful legislators at their meeting.

“I have been wondering what to say to you all today,” said Sen. Jim Sebesta, a Republican from St. Petersburg and recent chairman of the Florida Senate Transportation Committee.

“I supported repeal because I didn’t want the residents of Florida to foot the whole bill, and it didn’t belong in the Constitution.”

He added, “I know efforts are being made this morning and in the legislature to deep-six this authority, but I also believe that high-speed rail is an important segment to solving our transportation problems in this state. My message to you is: Don’t quit.”

State Sen. Lee Constantine, another Republican from Altamonte Springs, also encouraged the authority not to dissolve.

“I truly believe we still need to move forward and have innovations in transportation and in high-speed rail,” he said. “Let’s continue to look for innovative approaches and not look at this (repeal) as a rejection.”

Chairman Fred Dudley opened the meeting by saying, “I was scheduled for a few remarks, but before I make the motion to adjourn, let me say…”

The audience of 80 people, many of whom were contractors or subcontractors, laughed nervously. People had entered the meeting at the Hyatt Regency wondering whether the authority would end that day.

Dudley said he has no idea whether the legislature will repeal the commission when it convenes in March.

“But when I have two state senators here urging us to keep going, I have to think that we are meeting their wishes,” he said.

The authority abruptly changed the track alignment that would leave Orlando International Airport and head toward Tampa, with a possible stop in Lakeland.

Last year the authority approved a route along the southbound Greeneway, connecting with Disney World at its Celebrations development and then heading down the median of Interstate 4 (the Bee Line) to Lakeland and Tampa, but authority staff members said Disney had dropped negotiations during the repeal movement and, more importantly, the Orange County Expressway Authority was not negotiating on a route down the Greeneway.

The Orlando Sentinel noted switching routes could be a boon to SeaWorld Orlando and Universal Orlando, which wanted the Bee Line route and gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Amendment 6 campaign when they didn’t get their way.

It also might be a bust for Walt Disney World, which had secured exclusive theme park access to the train when the Greeneway was selected last year but provided no money to oppose Amendment 6. Disney had no comment Tuesday, spokesman Bill Warren said.

The route change could benefit the people who paid the most money and worked the hardest to defeat the rail system with its old alignment: Universal Studios, Sea World and the hotels and businesses along International Drive, all of whom opposed the Greeneway route in favor of the Bee Line near their attractions.

While the authority made no mention of a stop on the Bee Line, most observers thought that those businesses now will ask for one.

Authority member Leila Nodarse recommended the route change, noting that the Greeneway members were not likely to give the right-of-way because of deed restrictions along the roadway. She urged fellow members, some who were dragging their feet, to spend another $240,000 so that the consultants could finish an environmental engineering study to get approval for the first phase of the bullet train from the FRA, which also would release federal money for the project.

“We have spent $8 million on this project so I am willing to spend $240,000 to finish it and at least have it on the shelf and ready to go,” she said.

In another unexpected development, Global Rail Consortium, which was the authority’s No. 2 choice for the construction and operation of the bullet train, sweetened the pot by offering to provide $500 million in private funds for the first phase.

Authority members agreed to include the offer in their report to the legislature, which is due January 2. A representative for the first choice, Fluor-Bombardier said his company was ready to respond at the December meeting, which will be held in Tallahassee.

The AP contributed to this article.


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Some Texans think twice about route

While Texas state leaders have pinned their hopes on toll roads to keep Texas road construction moving, a small but growing number of groups and cities – including Dallas – are questioning the plans.

On Friday, about a dozen groups – some opposing tolls or the Trans-Texas Corridor and environmental groups –met for the first time in Austin to discuss how to fight the state’s transportation plans, according to The Dallas Morning News.

“We have seen each of these groups combating this issue as if it were a local issue,” said Fayetteville resident David Stall, co-founder of Corridor Watch. “We can be effective in having our concerns addressed if we work together.”

Last year, state leaders passed the largest transportation bill in state history. It calls for converting planned or expanded highways to toll roads, like State Highway 121 in Denton County. The bill also provides initial funding for Gov. Rick Perry’s highway and adjacent high-speed passenger and freight rail concept that stands as big as the state itself: the $175 billion Trans-Texas Corridor.

The proposals may not be popular with everyone, but they show the importance the governor places on transportation, said Ric Williamson, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission and a Perry appointee.

“This governor is not going to let urban Texas rot while doing nothing,” Williamson said.

Dallas, Hillsboro and Laredo have questioned plans to build the 800-mile Trans-Texas Corridor highway to parallel Interstate 35. Opposition also is coming from other areas. Property rights concerns have led the Republican Party of Texas’ latest platform to urge the repeal of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

The Texas DOT will conduct public meetings in North Texas this week to collect input on plans to build the Trans-Texas Corridor. The route will parallel Interstate 35 from the Red River to Brownsville.


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Still unclear why a train backed up

FRA, Amtrak and Metro-North are still investigating an October 28 Acela Express low-speed derailment while backing up in New Haven, Conn. The engineer is accused of ignoring stop signals and failing to seek permission to reverse the train, according to a Metro-North official.

Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black told D:F, “The accident is still under investigation. Toxicology tests are not yet back, but their results are not released. The Metro North dispatcher gave permission for the train to reverse. The conductor was in the east cab car when the train reversed.”

Train No. 2191 derailed near Union Station at Plymouth and Lamberton Streets, trapping 72 passengers and six crewmembers, and left two passengers with minor injuries. Metro-North Railroad owns the tracks.

Dan Brucker, a public affairs official at Metro-North, told the New Haven Register a freight train had knocked over a signal earlier in the night. When the engineer of the Amtrak train approached the area, he ignored a restricting signal and proceeded, according to preliminary results of an ongoing investigation, Brucker said.

An Amtrak spokesman had said previously that the train backed up at the direction of the Metro-North dispatcher, after the engineer on the Amtrak train noted possible damage to signals and catenary along the track.

M-N officials said dispatcher recordings revealed the engineer did not receive required permission to reverse the train, and went through switches lined against the train. When the engineer attempted to go in reverse, the train derailed.

“He was not given permission to back up within the switch area,” Brucker said, who added the engineer should have known the switch was not for his train.

“It is a requirement of all engineers that they know all of the speeds without speed limit signs and know all signal locations by heart,” Brucker said.

However, a spokesman for Amtrak Wednesday questioned how Metro-North, which owns the tracks, reached that conclusion.

Amtrak’s Black said officials of the national passenger carrier listened to the same tapes and “are surprised by Metro-North’s interpretation of them.”

He added, “On the tapes, the Metro-North dispatcher is quite explicit. The dispatcher gives very clear authorization to the Amtrak engineer to reverse his train.”


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Beech Grove Shop demolition

Amtrak Ink

Beech Grove’s Coach Shop 3, originally built in 1914, is being demolished. The structure was pulled down this fall, after it had been out of service for over four years due to inoperable heating, substandard plumbing and restroom facilities and structural damage. The building was slated for demolition in 2002 after a tornado caused significant damage to the already deteriorating building. Prior to 2000, Superliner overhauls were performed at the 150,000-square-foot facility.

 

Smith takes Amtrak financial post

David Smith has been appointed Amtrak’s chief financial officer. He took over his new post on November 8. Former CFO Deno Bokas resigned several months ago.

Smith recently served as CFO of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for eight years. TVA’s structure and unique relationship with the federal government parallels that of Amtrak, according to the passenger train carrier, and “Smith’s experience there provides him with an excellent insight to the relationship Amtrak has with the government and Congress.”

Amtrak President David Gunn said Smith “has an understanding of the importance of maintaining the credibility to our numbers.”

FBI SWAT show their stuff

Amtrak Ink

During an FBI SWAT training class, local law enforcement officers participate in a mock drill inside a Capitol Corridor car. Fifteen FBI agents from the Sacramento, Calif., area and four Suisun Sheriff’s Department SWAT Unit officers attended an eight-hour training class in July conducted by Amtrak Police Detective Pete Van Nuys and Road Foremen Brody Heilman and Larry Follis. The class provided area officers familiarity with passenger train emergency procedures and Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin equipment, including an F-59 locomotive. The instruction included locating the emergency entrances and exits, managing hostage or terrorist situations on a moving train and separating coach cars in an emergency.

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Amtrak to run test trains to Bossier City

Bossier City, La., Mayor George Dement still has one campaign promise to fulfill after four terms and 16 years in office: bring in an Amtrak train – but the mayor, during his last state of the city dinner November 9, said he will come closer to realizing that goal after he has left office next fall.

That’s when the city will participate in a four-day test in which Amtrak trains will run from Ft. Worth, Texas, to Bossier City, reports the Shreveport Times.

“That would be my ultimate shade tree contribution,” Dement said, alluding to a story he told earlier in the evening about a man who was concerned with making things for future generations to enjoy rather than for his own benefit.

Dement, 83, has announced he will not seek re-election in the spring.


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Richardson voted into TIAA post

The Travel Industry Association of America (TIAA) says Amtrak’s chief marketing officer, Barbara Richardson, will be their new national chairwoman, starting January 1.

Marriott International Senior Vice President Roger Dow will become organization’s CEO when William Norman retires at the end of the year, according to Pacific Business News.

The votes came during the 30th annual marketing outlook forum in Scottsdale, Ariz. Dow starts January 1.

In a newsletter to member Tuesday, TIA relayed its forecast that the travel industry will begin 2005 with increases in demand in all sectors, the first time that’s happened in four years, with some sectors finally exceeding year 2000 volume and spending levels.

“Gains in business travel are being driven primarily by a stronger economy and fewer travel restrictions by corporate America,” TIA Senior Vice President Suzanne Cook said.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Caltrain Baby Bullet in the city

For NCI: © Andrew Robb

A CalTrain “Baby Bullet” train pauses at Jack London Square in Oakland, Calif., on November 7. The engine is an EMD MPI MP36PH-3C.

 

Caltrain’s new train off to good start

It looks like Caltrain’s $163 million bet on its “Baby Bullet” train has paid off.

Four months after rolling out the express train service between San Jose and San Francisco, ridership has increased dramatically, spurring revenues, Caltrain officials told the San Francisco Examiner for its November 10 edition.

Since the Baby Bullet service began in June, overall ridership has increased 17 percent, and weekday figures have jumped about 11 percent, according to Caltrain spokeswoman Jayme Kuntz.

In September, the agency made $200,000 more than it did the same month a year before.

The Baby Bullet makes only six or seven stops on the Peninsula, compared to Caltrain’s normal 22 stations, slashing the commute between San Jose and “The City” by almost 40 minutes. The majority of the project was funded by a state grant, which was used for track construction as well as the purchase of new Baby Bullet trains.

Kuntz attributed the ridership increase directly to service improvements and changes in Caltrain’s timetables. The transit agency’s entire schedule shifted in June to accommodate the new trains. The numbers were boosted, she conceded, by the fact that prior to June, Caltrain had not offered weekend service in two years.

However, “overall ridership numbers are up dramatically,” she said, adding that about 3,000 more people hop on the train on an average weekday than they did before the express line was available.

“Traffic congestion or the lack thereof impacts our ridership numbers dramatically. When the economy slowed, there were huge layoffs down in [Silicon] Valley, and there was much less traffic on [U.S. Highway] 101,” Kuntz said. “People went back to driving cars because they’re faster. With the Baby Bullet, now you have an option that’s equally fast if not faster than driving, and you don’t have to deal with parking.”

Weekend riders have also received some new perks, she said.

Before shutting down Saturday and Sunday train service in 2002, Caltrain ran 52 trains per weekend. Now, they offer an extra 10 on Sunday. People are “absolutely” using the weekend service, Kuntz said.

“We hear they want more trains to run later on the weekends – we don’t know if we have the ridership to support, but we will look into it,” she added.


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D.C. collision stirs controversy in
New York over automated trains

Transit officials should slam the brakes on plans to roll out computer-operated subways in New York City in the wake of a Washington, D.C. train wreck that injured 20 people, union leaders charged, according to New York Daily News.

An automatic train, similar to the subways destined for New York’s underground, rolled backward on November 3 in the D.C. Metro, hitting another train packed with passengers.

Pointing to the nation’s capital, New York City transit union leaders are insisting that computerized trains are dangerous and should not come to the city as planned next year.

“If this crash could happen on the D.C. Metro, a contemporary system designed for this technology, much worse could happen in New York, where the MTA is trying to stick unproven 21st Century technology onto 100-year-old railbeds,” said Roger Toussaint, president of Transport Workers Union Local 100. The union represents conductors, who could be rendered obsolete by computerized trains.

Transit Authority spokesman Paul Fleuranges blasted Toussaint for being irresponsible.

“The system we are about to begin operations on is a very safe system,” Fleuranges said. “They are trying to scare the riding public. This is proven technology used around the world, and we would not put a system in place if it was not safe.”

The TA plans to start using computer-run trains on the L Line next year.

Computers would set train speeds, apply the brakes and do other functions now performed by motormen.

A motorman would still be aboard each train to override the system if necessary, and dispatchers in a control center also would be able to override the controls.

The project is costing the TA $288 million, and the plans to expand the technology system-wide would cost billions of dollars. The TA maintains the upgrades will let trains run closer together and more frequently.


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Late Metro-North trains bring howls

For most of his career as the manager of schedule planning at Metro-North Railroad, Walter T. Brett has toiled in obscurity, dealing behind the scenes in the algorithms of train frequency and ridership.

Beginning a fortnight ago, however, his life as an anonymous cog in the bureaucratic machinery came to a sudden end when he received a flurry of phone calls from disgruntled passengers complaining about a spate of tardy and overcrowded trains along Metro-North’s Harlem Line.

His telephone number, and that of the Metro-North customer service center, had been written on homemade signs posted at the Goldens Bridge station, apparently the work of an upset passenger who had embarked on a guerrilla advocacy campaign.

The rider was presumably one of tens of thousands of passengers snarled in delays that coincided with a new schedule that became effective on October 31. There were 27 late trains last November 1, a Monday, 14 on Tuesday, 18 on Wednesday, 14 on Thursday and at least 37 on Friday, a Metro-North official said.

“Under normal circumstances I get zero,” Brett said of the dozen or so calls he received over two days, a mere trifle compared with the hundreds who deluged Metro-North’s customer service line. He had answered every call, including messages left on his answering machine.

Many of the calls came from commuters in northern Westchester, where slow-moving and over-packed trains were arriving behind schedule, particularly in the morning.

“We have had an extraordinary number of complaints about the schedule,” said Marjorie Anders, a Metro-North spokeswoman. “At the same time, we’ve had a rough week in terms of on-time performance.”

On an average day, she said, only one or two Harlem Line trains arrive late at their final destination; Metro-North’s overall on-time percentage is 96 percent.

“The trains have been late at least 10 to 15 minutes,” Mark Skluth, a garment industry sales executive from Goldens Bridge, said one morning at Grand Central Terminal moments after arriving on a train more than 25 minutes late. He said he was one of the passengers who had blitzed Brett.

Metro-North officials said the delays and overcrowding were caused by a convergence of factors.

There was a signal failure at the height of the commuter rush on Monday morning, which backed up 27 trains. Friday’s spike was partly attributable to a tree that fell in high winds and damaged a track – but the constant throughout the week was the seasonal problem of wet autumn leaves, which is particularly severe this year. When pulverized by the trains’ wheels, leaves can form an oily slick on the rails, causing a condition known in the business as slippery rail. Even a nightly high-pressure spraying of the tracks – an autumn tradition – could not prevent the problem.

Because of the leaves, trains have had to go slower than usual. In some cases, trains have been forced into skids, causing another condition known as “flat spot.” This is when a wheel is flattened at the spot where it skids.

“One long skid ought to do it,” Anders said.

Coaches suffering this condition must be taken off the track while their flat-spotted wheels are trued, leading to fewer cars in service and more people standing. There is currently a backlog of wheels waiting for a turn on Metro-North’s three wheel-truing machines.

The Harlem Line, which runs through a valley, has been particularly susceptible to slippery rail and flat spot, Anders said. Those problems were amplified by a schedule change.

While the changes were minimal, Anders and Brett said, they have forced passengers to make adjustments to their finely calibrated schedules, particularly in the morning. Schedule changes occur periodically and are intended to improve service and accommodate railroad construction, Ms. Anders said.

In the case of the Goldens Bridge commuters, the 7:28 a.m. out of Southeast has been canceled. A 7:37 a.m. that used to originate in Goldens Bridge now begins further north in Southeast – meaning that Goldens Bridge riders are now having to fight for seats on a train where they once got their pick. A train from Southeast that used to stop at Goldens Bridge at 7:47 now stops at 7:49.

“One woman said to me today, I can’t sit with my husband anymore, there are all these people on the train,” Brett recalled.

“I don’t blame her,” he noted.


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Commuter stations help grow real estate
market, draw people to commuter lines

The last thing Alex Thacher wanted was to jump from the frying pan into the fire, from the molasses of Washington, D.C., traffic to an even more gut-churning commute in California, so Thacher found an apartment in Pasadena next to a light rail station. He leaves his building, steps onto a train and walks into his downtown Los Angeles office 40 minutes later.

That’s a bit longer than driving but stress-free and cheaper – parking costs $200 a month, but his firm reimburses for rail fares. Thacher and his wife, Tiffany, stroll two blocks to one of the region’s trendiest shopping and entertainment districts, Old Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard.

“We hated the commute in D.C. It was awful,” says Thacher, 29, a lawyer with PriceWaterhouseCoopers. “Now I get on the train and read the paper or do some work. From what I understand, all around here is just a miserable commute.”

He’s got that right. Greater Los Angeles has some of the nation’s nastiest congestion. Traffic on the Pasadena Freeway - Thacher’s route if he drives – crawls at rush hour. The future looks worse because the region can’t add freeway capacity fast enough to handle 6.3 million new residents expected by 2030, experts say.

Thacher and many others are surprised to learn that driving is no longer the only option here. Since the 1980s, Los Angeles has quietly built a mass-transit network of subways commuter rail, light rail and rapid bus that are slowly taking strain off roads. Development around that network is taking off. New housing near transit hubs is in sharp demand by commuters like Thacher.

Shifting housing demographics are stoking interest around the USA in development near transit, according to a study for the Federal Transit Administration released last month. City living draws singles, aging baby boomers, minorities and young couples more than suburban families with kids. And those groups are growing faster than suburbanites.

“Suburbs want to remake themselves around transit to capture that demographic, and urban communities are suddenly becoming desirable again,” says Hank Dittmar, the study’s author and president of Reconnecting America, a non-profit group focused on transportation and community issues.

Los Angeles isn’t alone. The study predicted that by 2025 nearly 15 million U.S. households will want to rent or buy near transit, double today’s number. Demand will be highest in regions that have extensive systems like New York City, Boston and Chicago – and those with large growing systems like Los Angeles.

Many other cities are converts. Portland, Ore., has been a leader in creating density around transit. San Diego is investing heavily next to rail. Denver’s downtown redevelopment focuses on transit. The Miami regional transit agency’s new chief is a developer pushing projects close to commuter rail stations. Salt Lake City’s light rail is attracting developer interest.

A project on Dallas’ light-rail line near Southern Methodist Univ. mixes entertainment, dining, high-end retail and housing. At least five cities on a rail line between San Francisco and San Jose are planning “transit villages.”

From Hollywood to Long Beach to Pasadena, this megalopolis of 17 million is one of the nation’s hottest centers of development linked to mass transit. Across the region, more than 40 projects worth nearly $6 billion are underway or have opened since 2000.

“The myth everyone believes is that L.A. – from Randy Newman to the Beach Boys – is all about cars. The place where the freeway was born, where you drive to the house two doors down,” Dittmar said.

That image is changing. The metro area is running out of places to spread more subdivisions. Housing must be packed more densely into Los Angeles and adjacent cities if growth is to be managed. Developers see the potential of turning scores of aging strip malls and random real estate into housing. Pair those trends with clogged freeways and smog, high gas prices and the lifestyle costs of tedious commutes, and transit gains appeal.

Tinseltown isn’t exactly Transit-town – yet. Trains and buses provide just 5 percent of the region’s trips, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said, but transit’s share is rising, and even small shifts in L.A.’s travel habits can pay huge dividends. MTA estimates, for instance, that boosting car-pooling from 1.1 occupants per car to 1.3 would eliminate most freeway congestion.

The gold standard for residential development near transit stations is Arlington County, Va., across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., urban planners say. In the 1970s, Arlington decided to concentrate development along its 3-mile subway route to maintain the character of suburban neighborhoods. That was novel and controversial at the time.

The results are impressive: 35,000 residents living in 18,000 houses and apartments, 75,000 jobs, 1,900 hotel rooms and 17 million square feet of office and retail space within walking distance of subway stations. The half-mile-wide corridor contains just 7.6 percent of Arlington’s land but generates a third of its tax revenue, keeping residents’ property tax bills lower than anywhere else in the region.

Neighboring Fairfax County opted for massive parking facilities around its subway stations and shunned the housing-office-retail mix. A result was more sprawl throughout the county. Now plans at two stations for clusters of residential towers have sparked neighborhood opposition over traffic. Only 30 percent of the newcomers would commute by subway, studies show.

“In Arlington, three-fourths of people walk to the train,” Dittmar said. “In Fairfax, two-thirds drive. The difference is just dramatic.”

Pedestrian-friendly spaces are critical, planners say. Arlington learned from early mistakes that buildings had to open onto sidewalks and invite walking. If a goal is to cut car trips (only a fourth of all trips are work trips) give residents fewer reasons to drive by mixing shopping, housing and entertainment, planners say. It will lead to fewer cars per household.

Offer housing choices — apartments, condos, townhouses and single-family homes. Single uses such as office buildings make for dead after-hours downtowns. Mixing uses creates 24-hour villages and more transit ridership.

Barely a decade ago, Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood was economically stagnant with aging housing and limited retail stock. Today, it’s one of metro Washington’s hippest areas. Bars and restaurants hum late into the night. Commuters rushing home pack upscale groceries for gourmet dinner dishes.

Atlanta took a bold crack at a transit village, Lindbergh City Center, but overstuffed it with office space and parking structures, then isolated housing between a rail line and a freeway. “It’s essentially a suburban office park,” Dittmar said. “The neighborhood completely freaked out.”

The entire USA Today article can be found at http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2004-11-08-transit-cover_x.htm


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Study says diesel engines attack health

Many of the trucks and buses rolling up and down New Haven, Connecticut’s city’s streets continue to release heavy-duty diesel fumes, endangering the public’s health, according to an environmental group’s new study.

Students from New Haven schools and environmental experts made the results possible by setting up monitoring equipment at seven sites throughout the Southern New England city last May, the New Haven Register reported on November 8.

Railroads are guilty, too, the study reported, but not as much.

The study noted diesel Amtrak and Shore Line East trains idling at Union Station cause high particulate matter levels near a housing complex across the street. The study recommends curbing train idling and requiring use of the better fuel and emission controls.

Amtrak officials are waiting to see the study before commenting, but Shore Line East spokesman Peter Richter said it tries to shut down its locomotives when possible. He said the state would buy electric equipment to replace diesel within five years.

Although federal officials recently set rules requiring diesel engines sold after 2007-08 to meet higher particulate standards, Michael Stoddard noted this won’t clean up earlier models, “and diesels last for three to four decades,” he said.

Stoddard, who is deputy director for Environment Northeast, a nonprofit research and advocacy group, said, “About one-third of our toxic air is coming from diesel.”

The main conclusion of the Environment Northeast study is “New Haven is home to significant heavy duty diesel traffic.”

Stoddard gave an early copy of the report to the Register, and he is showing the results to state legislators for possible remedies.

Although Stoddard applauds recent initiatives by state and federal government agencies to improve the air, such as installing equipment on New Haven’s public school buses to cut emissions, he says more can and should be done.

“Apparently ConnDOT thinks they’re doing just about everything they can,” Stoddard said. “I submit this will turn out to be an overstatement, and one that could have detrimental consequences to the people of New Haven for years to come.”

He noted 18 percent of the city’s school-age children suffer from asthma, and New Haven has the highest asthma hospitalization rate in the state.

Stoddard said elevated levels of diesel particulate matter may trigger asthma attacks, contribute to respiratory problems and increase the risk of heart attacks.


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Where’s the plan?

Bay State solon looks for transit plan

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney says he needs more time to plot an orderly lineup of MBTA expansion projects as the state faces a possible lawsuit over its failure to improve the transit system as required under the approval for the Big Dig.

The Bay State’s lone representative on the House Transportation Committee, U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, said the Romney administration needs to put together a definitive plan quickly or risk losing federal money, the Boston Globe reported on November 10.

“My job to fight for Massachusetts is made more difficult when the state cannot determine what projects should move forward,” Capuano wrote in a letter to the governor, citing a Boston Globe report on several projects that have fallen behind schedule.

An environmental group, the Conservation Law Foundation, says it will file a lawsuit in January alleging that the state has failed to meet the commitments in a 1990 agreement to improve the transit system, as a condition for building the Big Dig.

When first asked about the lawsuit after a news conference Monday, Romney said he was not familiar with it. When told it concerned expanding the transit system and asked whether he supported that, the Republican governor said, “The answer is yes, but it’s a question of timing.”

He said all future transportation projects would be spelled out in a “25-year plan” that the administration is putting together.

“Governor, your administration has been saying for well over a year now that a list of priority transportation projects is being developed… meanwhile, deadlines come and go, and the question of how the state will help pay for future transit projects remains unanswered,” Capuano, a Somerville Democrat, wrote in the letter, dated November 8.

“A long-term plan for prioritizing our state’s transit needs is long overdue. When will this plan be finalized and released?”

State Transportation Secretary Daniel A. Grabauskas said that a draft of the long-range plan should be ready by early next year.

“We’re doing something that’s never been done – a statewide, multimodal transportation plan,” Grabauskas said.

“I make no apologies for being deliberate in coming up with a thoughtful draft. To criticize the administration for [not] achieving that goal based on someone else’s time line is just counterproductive.”

Under the 1990 agreement, which was updated in 2000, the state was required to modernize the Blue and Orange lines, submit an environmental impact report on the Urban Ring, and provide Silver Line bus service to Logan Airport before the end of the year. The state won’t meet any of those deadlines.

The state is also legally bound to build the Green Line extension to West Medford and a Red-Blue line connector underneath Cambridge Street in Boston, and to restore trolley service on the Arborway line in Jamaica Plain – but Grabauskas said those projects need to be revisited to determine whether they are worth doing.


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‘Charlie’ returns to Boston

Joined by the musical group The Kingston Trio, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney last week kicked off a public education campaign promoting the new “Charlie Card,” an automated fare collection system that will be added to the oldest subway system in America.

The plastic Charlie Card, which will make its first appearance in 2006, will automatically debit the cost of the passenger’s ride at the turnstile or fare box.

To mark the debut of the new system, Romney and The Kingston Trio performed a rendition of the group’s 1959 hit Charlie on the MTA, which inspired the name of the new fare card.

In the late 1950s, The Kingston Trio sang about the saga of “Charlie,” who was fated to “forever ride underneath the streets of Boston” on a transit system because he did not have the required nickel exit fare. The song was originally written for the 1948 Boston mayoral race to protest a candidate who advocated collecting an extra five cents as people exited the system. In those days, the transit system was “The Massachusetts Transit Agency.”

“Boston is a world-class city, with a world-class public transit system,” said Romney.

“The introduction of these new automated fare cards will increase the MBTA’s efficiency and make life much easier for countless commuters and visitors every day,” the governor added.

Transit riders will be able to add value to the card at machines located at MBTA stations. The new Charlie Card will be preceded by the “Charlie Ticket,” a paper version of the card, which will be used as the MBTA phases in the automated fare collection system.

The new technology is currently in use in Washington D.C, Chicago, Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore and London.


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‘T’ Blue Line gets upgraded

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) says its contractor, Barletta Construction, will begin the State Street Station Rehabilitation Modernization Project this month. The upgrades began on November 3 and should be completed by New Year’s Eve.

The project is part of the Blue Line Modernization Project, which includes expanding the Blue Line platforms so the “T” can upgrade service to 6-car trainsets, constructing new entry and egressways to the station, and new elevators and escalators that will bring the station to American With Disabilities Act standards. As part of the construction, extensive relocation and upgrades of existing utility lines on Congress, Court, and State streets will also take place.


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Sprinter rail unloaded in Escondido

Workers in Escondido pulled 1,600-foot-long sections of rail from a 28-car rail train last week and piled them in a neat row for later use on the Sprinter light rail line. The delivery, which cost $1.6 million, was the first of nearly five trainloads that delivered more than 22 miles of rail, enough to complete the $375 million Sprinter light rail line from Escondido to Oceanside.

– San Diego North County Times


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APTA HIGHLIGHTS...  APTA Highlights...

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


Benson Dies; ‘Father’ of Seattle Waterfront Streetcar

George Benson, 85, a longtime Seattle city councilman and the “father” of King County Metro’s Waterfront Streetcar in downtown Seattle, died October 25. King County Metro named the streetcar line in Benson’s honor in 1992, and offered free rides on the line in his memory in Oct. 30.

Benson was inducted into the APTA Hall of Fame in 1997.

He served on the Seattle City Council from 1974 to 1993, and on the former Metro Council before the agency merged with King County. In those roles, he took the lead in supporting countywide bus service, and construction of the Downtown Seattle Bus Tunnel. He initiated Sunday bus service connecting Seattle’s major parks, Pioneer Square and the ship canal locks. He also played a key role in negotiating an agreement with the former Urban Mass Transit Administration to rebuild and expand Metro’s electric trolley system in Seattle.

In a statement, King County Metro described Benson’s support of the Waterfront Streetcar Line: how he tracked down vintage streetcars in Melbourne, Australia, and bought them for $5,000 each; recruited hundreds of volunteers to restore and transport the cars across the Pacific Ocean; and kept everyone “on track” when they faced obstacles. The 1.6-mile line entered service in 1982.

The system also noted Benson’s hands-on connection to the streetcar line. For years, he would make weekly trips down to the waterfront, walking the streetcar route to pick up litter or do little things like touching up the paint on one of the cars.


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John Bergerson Dies; Earth Tech Senior Vice-President

John Bergerson, P.E., 59, senior vice president at Earth Tech Inc., died on October 26 from heart failure. He was a key executive in the company’s Transit/Railroad sector, where he was mainly responsible for marketing the firm’s services for transit and railroad projects worldwide. He was based in Oakland, Calif.

Bergerson joined Kaiser Engineers in 1967, following his graduation from the Univ. of Washington. Earth Tech acquired Kaiser Engineers in 2000.

During his career, Bergerson managed a variety of transportation assignments, including some of the world’s most complex light and heavy rail projects. Most recently, he had been responsible for Earth Tech’s Program Management Oversight contract with the Federal Transit Administration.


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San Diego Trolley Receives FRA Approval to Modify Freight/LRT Plan

San Diego Trolley Inc. has received approval of a plan providing operational flexibility for joint light rail transit/freight service under certain special circumstances.

This arrangement will permit, for the first time, a variation from the strict temporal separation that has been part of the system’s existing operation for many years. The Federal Railroad Administration’s Railroad Safety Board gave approval July 14 to the final portion of the waiver request.

San Diego Trolley is one of only a few LRT systems in the country-sharing track with freight services. Other systems with similar temporal separation plans include the Maryland Transit Administration in Baltimore, the Utah Transit Authority in Salt Lake City, and New Jersey Transit Corporation’s River Line.


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Dickerson Named Acting Administrator of Md. MTA

Lisa L. Dickerson, assistant transportation secretary with Maryland DOT, has been named acting administrator of the Maryland Transit Administration, succeeding Robert L. Smith.

Dickerson will serve as the agency’s CEO, responsible for the overall vision and direction of the 3,000-employee transit agency. The MTA operates light rail, subway, MARC commuter rail, commuter bus, and paratransit service in the Baltimore metropolitan region, and is responsible for transit planning statewide.

In addition to her transit experience with Maryland DOT, Dickerson has an extensive transportation background in the private sector. For 13 years she was president and CEO of AMI Inc., a major airport ground transportation business in the Washington metropolitan area.


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Albuquerque Prepares to Introduce Commuter Rail

The Mid-Region Council of Governments in Albuquerque, N.M., is joining with New Mexico DOT to introduce the first phase of commuter rail in the fall of 2005. The initial 46-mile route will run from Belen to Bernalillo, N.M., along a route that includes Albuquerque. Stations along the line will include Belen, Los Lunas, South Valley, Albuquerque, North Valley, and Town of Bernalillo.

Lawrence Rael, executive director of the MRCOG, noted that the commuter rail project is being completely funded by the state government, and that the trains will operate on existing Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad tracks through the entire corridor. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has signed a preliminary agreement with BNSF regarding using and improving the tracks.

MRCOG and NMDOT have placed a firm order with Bombardier Transportation to provide 10 bi-level commuter rail vehicles, six cab cars and four coaches, at a total value of approximately $22 million; the contract includes design, manufacture, and delivery of the cars. The vehicles will be built at Bombardier’s facility in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and the first deliveries are expected in the summer of 2005.


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Andoh Leaves Palo Verde Valley

John Andoh, transit manager for the Palo Verde Valley Transit Agency in Blythe, Calif., for almost two years, joined Community Transit in Snohomish County, Wash., as a transportation service planner on November 1.

Andoh successfully implemented new fixed route and dial-a-ride transit services for PVVTA, Riverbank-Oakdale Transit Authority, and the California cities of Ceres and Escalon.

Blythe City Manager Les Nelson, who is also PVVTA’s general manager, will continue in that position. George Colangeli, project manager for Transportation Concepts, will manage Desert Roadrunner operations, which include fixed routes, dial-a-ride, mileage reimbursement, and taxi service.


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BUILDER'S LINES...  Builders’ lines...

Moody’s downgrades Bombardier rating

Moody’s Investor Services slashed its credit rating on Bombardier with a “negative” outlook Thursday, citing weak cash flow in the Canadian transportation giant’s aerospace operations.

The downgrade, to “Ba2” from “Baa3,” affects $6 billion of senior unsecured debt at Bombardier, Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiary Bombardier Capital, CBS MarketWatch.com reported on Thursday.

Under Moody’s categories, the affected debt securities are now considered “junk,” or below investment grade.

Moody’s said the move, which raises the company’s cost of doing business, was prompted by continued weak cash flow due to “ongoing poor operating performance and financial returns in the company’s aerospace unit.”

Moody’s provided a slightly more upbeat assessment of the company’s transportation division, which has gone through an extensive restructuring, but warned the division’s order backlog had fallen to $22.1 billion in late June from $23.7 billion at the end of January, and was unlikely to generate enough cash to merit an investment grade rating.

Bombardier’s transportation division is one of the world’s biggest makers of railroad cars.

Montreal-based Bombardier said it was disappointed by the downgrade but believed it would have no significant effect on its operations.

“While we take Moody’s announcement very seriously, we still believe we have the right plan in place to achieve our objectives, and with $4.9 billion of liquidity at the end of October, we have the resources to address the situation,” said Chief Executive Paul Tellier.

“We have renewed and increased our bank facilities, confirming the company’s continued access to credit capacity,” he added.


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

UP Trinity River Bridge under repair'>
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For NCI: Bob Smith

Union Pacific Trinity River Bridge collapsed on the Lufkin Sub in Urbana, Texas on February 25. It’s the former SP Rabbit route. Progress on piers, boats and floats were everywhere and orange winter coveralls abound. Dynamite blew up most of leaning support that caused problem. UP stories are below.

 

Conflict of interest:

Railroads, FRA get too cozy

The New York Times reporter Walt Bogdanich, in a continuing indictment of railroad practices, wrote last week there is a conflict of interest between the Federal Railroad Administration and the nation’s freight railroads. – Ed.

 

Federal inspectors were clearly troubled by what they had been seeing in recent years at Union Pacific. According to their written accounts, track defects repeatedly went uncorrected; passenger trains were sent down defective tracks at speeds more than four times faster than were deemed safe; and engines and rail cars were dispatched in substandard condition.

Soon, the inspectors from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) began talking tough: bigger fines and more of them – but as they began to crack down on the railroad, they found themselves under fire from an unexpected quarter: their boss, the agency’s deputy administrator, Betty Monro.

Monro demanded to know why agency officials had not pursued the less punitive “partnership” approach that she favored, according to a July 2002 memo from her and the agency’s chief at the time, Allan Rutter. A year later, in a senior staff meeting, Monro rebuked her subordinates as being “overly aggressive” toward UP, according to one person present.

Monro, who now runs the railroad agency, was in a position to know just how unhappy her inspectors were making officials at UP. She and the railroad’s chief Washington lobbyist, Mary E. McAuliffe, are longtime friends and have vacationed together on Nantucket several times since Monro joined the agency in 2001.

The railroad industry and its federal overseer have long been closely intertwined. Increasingly, like many other federal regulators, the FRA has emphasized partnership as the best, quickest way to identify, and fix, safety problems from the roots up, but the story of its recent oversight of Union Pacific – spelled out in a series of internal memorandums from agency officials and inspectors – raises questions about whether this closeness has actually served to dull the agency’s enforcement edge.

Critics of the agency say that it has, over the years, bred an attitude of tolerance toward safety problems, and that fines are too rare, too small and too slowly collected. Those concerns have been underscored recently by a number of major UP derailments in Texas and California, including one in which the release of poisonous chlorine gas killed a woman and her daughter in their home near San Antonio.

The ties between industry and regulator are many-layered.

Another big railroad company, CSX, offered the agency’s chief safety official a job potentially worth $324,000 a year, with bonuses and stock options, while he was visiting railroad headquarters to discuss safety problems. After the official, James T. Schultz, accepted the job several days later, a federal watchdog asked that agency officials be instructed on the ethics of discussing job offers.

The agency promotes the rail industry on its website, calling it “safe, fuel efficient, environmentally friendly.” It has lent millions of dollars to struggling railroads and has helped finance the industry’s nonprofit educational campaign, which emphasizes the responsibility of motorists – and not the railroads – in avoiding grade-crossing accidents.

The industry is a rich source of campaign contributions, mostly to the Republicans, with UP as the biggest giver. Its corporate political action committee was among the top 10 donors to Republican candidates for this election cycle, and McAuliffe is the treasurer of the company’s PAC. The railroad’s chairman, Dick Davidson, is identified by the Bush campaign as a “Ranger,” having raised more than $200,000 for the president. Until he became Bush’s running mate in 2000, Dick Cheney was a member of the UP board.

George Gavalla, who was the FRA’s associate administrator for safety at the time of the efforts to crack down on UP, said in an interview in August that at times he felt pressured by his superiors to go easier on the railroad – something Gavalla said he refused to do.

“Every time we do some significant enforcement, particularly on Union Pacific, I would be called in and asked why,” said Gavalla, who has since left the agency.

The FRA, asked about why he left, would only say that he resigned this fall.

The agency also vigorously denied that it tried to get Gavalla, or anyone else, to let up on UP.

In separate statements, the agency and UP said the railroad has worked diligently to improve its safety record, and any accusation of favorable treatment, the FRA said, is disproved by the fact that over the last four years UP “has been inspected more times, has received more violations and has paid more in fines than any other railroad.”

UP said it paid $4.1 million in fines last year.

The FRA declined through a spokesman to make Monro available for an interview, but her former boss, Rutter, defended her vacations with McAuliffe, saying they were not only proper but beneficial to regulators.

“Frankly, the business intelligence that we could gather helped us in understanding how our enforcement method was being perceived,” said Rutter, now deputy executive director of the North Texas Tollway Authority.

Charles Lewis, who runs the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit watchdog group in Washington, said the vacations merely underscored “the level of incestuousness between the railroad industry and the regulator.”

Recent derailments have caused some government officials to question the FRA’s oversight of UP. After five derailments in five months near San Antonio, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, asked for a federal investigation into the company’s operations in the area. Two of those derailments occurred near a high school; in another case, two engines plunged into a creek, spilling diesel fuel. “People are asking now, ‘What’s going on?’ “said San Antonio Mayor Edward D. Garza.

In California last month, a UP train derailed east of Los Angeles, damaging two houses, spilling fuel, cutting off electricity to 100 houses, and forcing the evacuation of 24 homes. A little more than a year earlier, in the same county, a runaway train raced through residential neighborhoods at speeds up to 95 miles per hour before derailing, injuring 13 people and damaging or destroying eight houses.

Kathryn Blackwell, a UP spokeswoman, said the most recent derailments were still under investigation but added that derailments had been declining since 2001.

“We have a lot more at stake in preventing derailments and accidents than does the FRA,” Blackwell said.

The FRA began to emphasize its partnership approach in 1995.

“We start with the assumption that railroads and their employees want to promote safety for their own benefit, not just because a law or regulation requires it,” the FRA would later explain.

Supporters of this approach, called the Safety Assurance and Compliance Program, say it has sharply reduced accidents by focusing on big-picture problems, rather than minor rule infractions; but, according to longtime critics of the FRA, the industry and its overseers have sometimes taken the concept of cooperation too far.

In October 1997, the FRA’s associate administrator for safety, James T. Schultz, visited CSX’s corporate headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla., to discuss serious safety problems at the railroad. During his visit, CSX officials on three successive days discussed employment possibilities with him, according to an inspector general report.

Several days later, Schultz accepted CSX’s offer to be the railroad’s vice-president and chief safety officer. The federal watchdog found “no evidence that Schultz violated any criminal conflict of interest statute.”

A CSX spokesman said Schultz, who has since left the company, helped to make the railroad safer.

Some rail-safety advocates say the agency suffers from a reluctance to impose punishment, which has made it less willing to investigate problems. The agency acknowledges that it levies fines for roughly 2 percent of all violations that it finds. The New York Times recently reported that the FRA last year investigated fully just four of about 3,000 grade crossing accidents and that the agency had failed to enforce its own rules requiring that railroads promptly report grade crossing fatalities.

“There are a lot of really good people in the FRA who are concerned about safety, but they unfortunately are not making the command decisions,” said Paul F. Byrnes, who worked as a lawyer with the agency from 1998 to 2001 and now consults for a law firm that sues railroads. The agency’s leadership, Byrnes said, had for a time referred to the railroads “as our customers.”

To read the complete article, point your browser to http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/07/national/07rail.html.


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Texans angry at UP following deaths

A man inside a building died November 10 when a freight car smashed into a warehouse, San Antonio officials said. Another worker was injured. It was the fifth train derailment in the city since May, all involving Union Pacific Railroad trains, and the second involving fatalities, The AP reported.

Roger Bruening, 39, was killed in an office at Crystal Cold Storage when the car crashed into the corrugated metal building.

“It appears that the train was backing up to hook onto cars, but it pushed them too far back and they went over the rail stop and into the wall,” said police spokesman Sgt. Gabe Trevino.

Another Crystal employee sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

Rash of deaths

Acting FRA administrator Betty Monro issued a safety message last week regarding a rash of switching accidents, according to Gene Anirina, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Safety Liaison in the New York District.

Monro stated a review of FRA’s accident and incident data “demonstrates that overall safety of rail transportation continues to improve, but within 59 days of each other, seven railroad employees died while on duty, and six of the seven were engaged in switching operations.”

Monro said they included a September 2 BNSF incident when a 26-year-old switchman died when he fell from the leading end of a tank car as it derailed during a switching move in Clovis, N.M.

Eighteen days later, on September 20 and the Ann Arbor Railroad in Saline, Mich., a 44-year-old brakeman died when he was crushed between a piece of track equipment and the rail car he was handling.

On October 4, a 57-year-old BNSF machinist died as a result of an injury he sustained September 29 when he was struck in the face by an object that was ejected from a hydraulic press.

On the same day, on Norfolk Southern in Harrisburg, Pa., A 58-year-old conductor was struck and killed by a shove move being performed by another crew when he stepped in front of the leading end of the move.

Three days later, on the Union Pacific, a student trainman was killed when the cars he was walking beside derailed, fell on their side, and crushed him in Springfield, Ill.

Also on October 7, a 60-year-old BNSF trainman was killed when the cars that he was standing between moved. His was the only crew working at the yard at the time in Teague, Texas

Finally on November 1, a 47-year-old conductor was killed when he was struck by a passing train in Bowdoin, Mont.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff decried what he described as a too-close relationship between railroads and federal regulators. He said he would go to Washington, D.C., this week to meet with the FRA and lawmakers. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and U.S. Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D) are making the trip.

Asked what message he would deliver, Wolff snapped, “Get more inspectors out here, and stop being so damn cozy with (the railroads).”

Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Steve Kulm said since 2000 his agency has expanded its nationwide staff of inspectors, and that they have done far more inspections and more than doubled the amount of fines assessed.

John Bromley, spokesman for Omaha-based UP, said investigators would arrive in the Texas city on Wednesday.

Trevino said about 200 gallons of diesel fuel spilled, but was contained.

“Union Pacific has been inspected more times, has received more violations and has paid more fines than any other railroad,” Kulm said.

Last month, Hutchison asked for a federal investigation into the UP crashes.

“Today’s accident highlights why it is important to have a top-to-bottom review of San Antonio’s railroad corridor,” she said.

Bromley said a railroad investigation team had been dispatched to the accident scene. The investigators will interview crewmembers, review their actions and examine the train for any signs of mechanical failure, he said.

Bromley said a UP crewmember was supervising the operation on the short spur leading to the cold storage structure. He said the conductor was in radio contact with the train’s engineer.

The other four Union Pacific crashes in San Antonio occurred on mainline tracks. In one, on June 28, a UP train traveling at 40 mph struck a Burlington Northern and Santa Fe train that was diverting onto a siding. The collision split a tank car carrying chlorine gas, creating a huge toxic cloud that killed a UP conductor and two women who lived near the crash site. Two other people suffered badly burned lungs, and several more people were injured in the crashes.

Texas Rep. Charles Gonzalez is upset over the recent crashes and derailments in the An Antonio area. In a letter to the FRA acting administrator Betty Monro, the San Antonio Express-News reported Gonzalez wrote to her regarding a UP waiver request.

Ho pointed out “UP is requesting a waiver of compliance from several safety standards and requirements as noticed in the Federal Register on October 26, 2004 (Waiver Petition Docket Number FRA-2004-18746). I am writing to express my strong opposition to UP’s request.”

He added UP requested the waiver from several safety provisions, including (Section 232.205) Class I Brake Test-Initial Termination Inspection, (Section 232.409) Inspection and Testing of End-of-Train [devices], (Section 215.13) Pre-departure Inspection and (Section 229.21) Daily Inspection.

He explained “UP has requested that it receive a waiver from these provisions so that its trains originating in Mexico can enter the United States at Laredo, Texas without having to stop and be inspected on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border. If this waiver is granted, the trains will then be inspected in Mexico by the Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) and UP would then keep the necessary records readily accessible on the U.S. side of the border. I am extremely concerned about this proposal due to the fact that trains will be coming from Laredo, Texas to my district in Bexar County and other communities, without the benefit of proper safety inspections.”

He also described the UP derailments that resulting in three deaths.

“In light of UP’s involvement in so many recent train accidents, including the fatal June 28 accident, now is not an appropriate time for the FRA to grant UP a waiver of any safety regulations. Instead, regulations to protect the health and safety of residents along railroad routes should be re-evaluated, updated and improved.

He added, “The requested waiver would represent a backward step contrary to recent representations by the railroads that all possible efforts are being made to ensure rail safety. FRA must not create a regulatory climate that fails to impose the strictest responsibility on the railroad industry when it comes to safety.”


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UP yet again in derailment hot water

Three weeks after a derailed Union Pacific freight train smashed the calm of their neighborhood near Whittier, Calif., residents met with railroad and government officials on November 6 to express their concerns about the accident, its aftermath and their safety, writes the Los Angeles Times.

On October 16, 11 cars and four locomotives streamed off the track and pitched cargo containers, debris and packages into their backyards. Two dozen families were evacuated, though most were able to return soon after.

According to longtime residents, the neighborhood, which is hemmed in by railroad tracks, the 605 Freeway and the San Gabriel River, had experienced a train crash years before.

On Saturday, about 45 people, including U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano (D), Whittier City School Supt. Carmella Franco and representatives from UP crowded into an auditorium at Mill Elementary School, just a few miles from the crash site.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who called the meeting, told residents that she, Napolitano and other elected officials sent letters to UP and the National Transportation Safety Board calling on the railroad to increase safety in the area and conduct more sophisticated tests of the rail lines.

UP officials said the tracks near the homes are regularly inspected using a variety of tests, some of which were conducted just two days before last month’s derailment – but the cause of the derailment a defective joint bar, could not have been detected by existing technology, they said.

Many residents expressed distrust of the railroad’s routine maintenance record. They questioned whether inspections had been conducted at all and demanded that the railroad release its maintenance records for the six months before the crash.

“This has been a problem there for a long time,” said resident Gilbert Fierro. He added, “They are constantly tightening up those bolts.”

Fierro said that he had heard a “stomping noise” coming from the rails in the days before the crash. “This is not something that just occurred on that particular day,” he added.

Railroad officials promised to look into those assertions.

Other residents expressed concern about their safety living so close to a rail line. They demanded that the railroad build a wall between the track and the homes and that train speed limits be reduced in residential areas. The train was traveling at 57 mph when the accident occurred, just under the corridor’s 60 mph speed limit.

Angel Fregoso asked whether UP would be willing to purchase the homes along the rail line.

“We will be living there with a lot of fear,” he said.

“Only God can answer us if this will or won’t happen [again]. My life, and my family’s life, are worth more than my house,” he said.

Railroad officials said they were dealing with each resident’s claim on an individual basis and were trying to resolve those claims as quickly as possible. Union Pacific said it would donate the most severely damaged property to Los Angeles County for a park. Railroad officials said residents of that home said they did not want to return to the area.

The railroad’s promise of a quick resolution brought an angry outcry from many residents at the meeting. Some said that they had submitted claims weeks ago, for food lost because of power outages after the crash, and had yet to receive compensation. Others said they had more complicated concerns about whether their property had been irrevocably devalued by the crash.

“It is a month later,” Molina told the railroad officials. “These people should not be waiting to resolve these issues.”

At her urging, railroad officials promised to return to the school today prepared to issue checks for some claims and to fast-track the resolution of others.


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Three CO&P trains spill; no injuries

Three trains have derailed on the Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad since the first spill on October 26. The latest went on the ground at Cow Creek, Ore., west of Riddle, prompting the railroad to examine its tracks for defects.

“It’s very unusual,” said General Manager Dan Lovelady of the consecutive derailments. One occurred Sunday in Drain, Ore., and the other occurred a fortnight ago near Wolf Creek. Both trains were carrying wood products. No one was injured in either of the derailments, the Roseburg, Ore. News-Review reported on November 10.

In the October 26 crash, a dozen cars derailed, rupturing a fuel tank and spilling 4,300 gallons of diesel onto the bank and into Cow Creek about 17 miles west of Riddle. Most of the spill was cleaned up and trains were running by the afternoon of October 31.

There were no contamination problems with the two more recent derailments.

Lovelady said railroad officials will run an X-ray test along the rails, which detects cracks and breaks that are not apparent from a visual examination of the track.

It will be the second test this year, following one in May. Normally the company runs one test per year, but Lovelady said they may have to consider running more frequent tests.

He said all three derailments were apparently caused by internal defects in the rails, however, the test cannot find all defects.

Trains will run through the weekend to catch up, he said.

“We’re doing everything we can to prevent this from happening. It’s costly for us and it’s difficult for our customers and that’s why we’ve got everyone out here,” he said.


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NS spills 20,000 gallons of suds

Norfolk Southern derailed 14 cars of an 83-car train late Wednesday evening near a Chilhowie, Va. industrial park, leaving the area smelling like a brewery.

About 20,000 gallons of beer leaked from three cars of the Roanoke-bound train, said railway spokesman Robin Chapman. No one was injured when the suds-laden cars left the tracks about 10:30 p.m., Chapman said.

Investigating officers said the leak did not contaminate any nearby water sources nor affect any highways.

“Everything was contained away from the creek,” said Jack Tolbert Jr. of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

Authorities were investigating the cause of the derailment. All trains scheduled to use the tracks through Chilhowie were held until they were cleared Thursday evening.

Bristol Herald Courier via The AP.


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Trucks could spell more competition –
and more concrete being poured

It’s a local lawmaker’s dream: freight trucks lumbering along a 100-mile, three-lane toll road from Chehalis, Wash., to east-west Interstate 90, bypassing the congested Seattle area.

A new study commissioned by the Washington state legislature suggests the roadway – a goal of state Sen. Dan Swecker – might work, The AP reported last week.

The proposal is a far cry from Swecker’s 2002 vision of a 710-foot-wide “commerce corridor” for cars, trucks, trains, power lines and natural gas pipelines from Southwest Washington to the Canadian border.

The $500,000 draft study by WashDOT says the utility corridor “is too long, has too many components and is too complex.” Many groups north of Seattle strongly opposed the corridor’s northern half, saying it would hurt rural communities and the environment.

Instead, the study suggested a road to move freight trucks on the 100-mile stretch between I-90 and Chehalis, a section that has five times as much truck traffic as Interstate 5 between Seattle and Canada.

The toll road along the base of the Cascade mountains would be financed by and reserved for truckers.

Swecker, a Rochester Republican and co-vice chairman of the Senate Highways and Transportation Committee, is delighted with the idea. He’s been pushing for a new highway north from his district since he was appointed to the state Senate in 1994.

As envisioned, a private entity would build the route and collect tolls. The public might have to help buy rights-of-way, Swecker said.

If just half of the 22,000 trucks that roll down I-5 south from Seattle each day used the toll route, at 60 cents per mile, or $60 for a one-way run, its $5 billion cost might pencil out, the study suggests.

“Based on existing and projected volumes, there is some potential there,” said Barbara Ivanov, director of freight strategy and policy for the state DOT.

However, she said, the department does not know if the trucking companies and manufacturers would be willing to pay the rates involved.

The I-5 corridor has so much capacity that it’s fairly cheap for trucks to haul products up and down the coast, Ivanov said. The main north-south rail line through Chehalis can barely compete with trucking except on very long trips, she said.

As Swecker sees it, the revised commerce corridor would be three lanes wide, one in each direction and some type of passing lane, and for long-haul freight only. Only a limited number of exits would be built.

“It’s almost like a railroad, but you put trucks on it instead of train cars. They get in a line and stay in a line and just go,” he said.

Opponents say his analogy shows the need to improve the railroad system instead.

“Do you want more trucks and more pollution? It seems to me that the mandate we should be looking at is getting trucks off the road and onto rail,” said transportation consultant Preston Schiller, a part-time instructor at Western Washington Univ. in Bellingham.

“There’s a lot of long-distance freight that’s just moving through our region, damaging our roads, creating a lot of pollution,” said Schiller, who has tracked various proposals for bypassing the Seattle area.

“It’s a lot more... cost effective to improve our rail system than to expand airports or highways,” he said.

Public meetings on the freight-road proposal are scheduled for November 10 in Bellingham and November 23 in Chehalis.


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Trucking plan afloat in Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s DOT reports its residents want improved roads, high-speed train service and separate freeway lanes for trucks. What the folks don’t want is building more roads and charging tolls. That’s how Wisconsin residents view transportation priorities, according to a survey for the state DOT.

The department hired Real World Research of Madison, Wis., to poll 1,100 residents to help develop “Connections 2030,” the state’s latest long-range transportation plan, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel of November 8.

Unlike previous plans that outlined the need for specific roads or airport upgrades – coming up with numbers such as $20.4 billion over 21 years for state highways – the new plan will focus more on general policies to guide transportation improvements, said Casey Newman, the department’s strategic planning chief.

Asked for their top priorities, 79 percent of residents said having well-maintained state roads, highways and bridges was “very important,” followed by 68 percent for safe sidewalks and pedestrian crossings, 66 percent for improving safety and 64 percent for safe bike and pedestrian routes to school.

When asked to make trade-offs between transportation projects, residents said it was better to repave some highways than expand others; better to expand an existing road than build a new one; better to cut the cost of a road project than to reduce inconvenience during construction; and better to focus on roads that need work instead of spreading projects around the state.

They were almost evenly split, however, on whether it was better to provide more options for people who can’t drive or to make things easier for drivers, and on whether it was better to enhance the environment or hold down transportation spending.

On specific transportation concepts, the state poll found building centers that bring together different forms of transportation won 64 percent support. The state is building a new Amtrak station at Mitchell International Airport and plans to remodel Milwaukee’s downtown Amtrak station to handle intercity buses as well.

Expanding passenger rail service to include high-speed trains received 63 percent support. Amtrak is pushing to upgrade its Chicago-Milwaukee service and expand it with a 110-mph line to Madison, eventually providing high-speed service to the Twin Cities and at least regular-speed service to Green Bay, as part of a $4.2 billion, nine-state plan.

Another notion is to create separate truck lanes on busy highways, which picked up 61 percent support.

Several other states have looked into the idea. Trucking and toll advocates also have floated the concept of truck-only lanes that would allow both double and triple trailers, walled off from regular traffic and financed by truck-only tolls.

Gov. Jim Doyle vows he’ll never allow tolls, but toll advocate Kevin Soucie said he was heartened the idea even got 34 percent backing.


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CN, CP, NS write service improvement
plan for Eastern Canada, U.S.

Canadian National, Canadian Pacific and Norfolk Southern Railways reported on November 8 they have reached an agreement that is expected to “significantly improve freight service” between Eastern Canada and the Eastern U.S.

The arrangement will give CN and NS “a seamless, direct north-south routing over CP’s lines south of Montreal that will slice as much as two days’ transit time off some 20,000 annual shipments,” according to a CN press release. It will also increase freight traffic density and revenues on CP’s wholly owned subsidiary, the Delaware & Hudson Ry., which operates between Scranton, Pa., and Rouses Point in upstate New York.

The new interconnectivity is scheduled to begin on Friday.

CN and NS traffic destined for the Eastern U.S. will move in CP trains on CP’s line between Rouses Point and Saratoga Springs, N.Y., under a freight haulage arrangement between CP and NS. This CN-NS traffic will then move in NS trains over CP’s line between Saratoga Springs and the NS connection near Harrisburg, Pa., under a trackage rights agreement between CP and NS.

The new agreement will cut 330 miles off the current routing used by CN and NS, which sees freight traffic handled more circuitously through the Buffalo, N.Y., gateway.

E. Hunter Harrison, CN president and CEO, said, “This three-railroad agreement will offer CN’s existing merchandise carload customers in Quebec and the Maritimes quicker access to important consuming markets in the Eastern U.S., and it will enable the participating railroads to improve the utilization of their networks and locomotive and car fleets.”

David R. Goode, NS chairman and CEO, said, “We continue to identify and implement efficiencies benefiting shippers throughout North America. This agreement demonstrates our commitment to aggressively pursue opportunities to improve service,” and Rob Ritchie, CPR president and CEO, said, “This is an important initiative that takes costs out of the rail industry by placing freight traffic on the most efficient routing without regard to ownership. It also creates a significant source of new earnings for our Delaware and Hudson subsidiary and is another major milestone in improving the profitability and value of this part of our network.”


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Davies leaving KCS

Kansas City Southern executive vice-president and COO Gerald K. Davies will retire from the railroad at the end of 2004. KCS said Davies would continue with the freight carrier after his retirement on a consulting basis to support the railroad’s efforts to acquire full ownership of Grupo Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana, S.A. de C.V. (Grupo TFM).

Also, subject to the approval of the STB of KCS’ control of the Texas Mexican Ry., Davies will also help facilitate the seamless integration of that property with Kansas City Southern Railway.

Meanwhile, KCS said it is searching for a senior executive candidate to manage all U.S. rail operations and expects to have the position filled around year’s end.


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SANTA SPECIALS...  Santa’s specials...

CSX, CP, D&H, prepare to haul jolly old
elf on his rounds around the lines

Santa Claus is delegating his North Pole duties to a team of elves so that he may make his annual railroad trip through Appalachia. On Saturday, November 20, the jolly old elf will launch the holiday season by riding the Santa Special, a CSX train that brings joy to children in the remote areas of Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee.

Santa’s special guest on this year’s train will be Grammy award-winning country star and Arista Nashville recording artist, Rebecca Lynn Howard. The Kentucky native was nominated for the 2003 Academy of Country Music’s “Song of the Year” award for “Forgive,” which she co-wrote, and for the “Top New Female Vocalist” of the year award. Born and raised in Salyersville, Howard will help Santa and his elves distribute gifts to thousands of children.

“Having grown up in the hills of Kentucky, I understand just how meaningful this Christmas tradition is,” commented Howard. “It warms my heart to be able to be part of this very special holiday event.”

Now in its 62nd year, the Santa Special will distribute more than 15 tons of gifts to children at 15 designated stops along the 110-mile route. The train begins in Shelby, Ky., with stops in Marrowbone and Elkhorn, Ky., and the Virginia communities of Toms Bottom, Haysi, Clinchco, Fremont, Dante, St. Paul, Dungannon, Ft. Blackmore, Speers Ferry, Kermit and Waycross, before arriving in Kingsport, Tenn.

The Santa Special is co-sponsored by CSX and the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce. The special train gives Kingsport merchants a chance to thank area residents for their business throughout the year. CSXT believes the tradition is a way for the railroad to make a positive contribution to the communities through which its freight trains pass every day.

For more than 60 years, this tradition of giving has brought happiness to the young and young at heart, and in more recent years, the generosity of people and organizations has allowed the Kingsport Chamber to establish a scholarship fund. Each year, one or two graduating high school seniors living along the train’s route are selected to receive a four-year, $5,000 scholarship. Since 1989, 19 students have received scholarships.

Old-timers may recall the Clinchfield Railroad. The Santa Special’s route is part of the Carolina, Clinchfield and Ohio line, formerly known as the Clinchfield. Today, the train operates on CSX’s Central Region, and its employees are proud to continue this tradition. CSX has about 6,300 employees in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

The Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce is a membership organization focusing resources and efforts to enhance the Kingsport area business environment.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has accredited the Kingsport Chamber for 25 years. People interested in supporting the Santa Special through funds, new toys or new clothes may send their donations to the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce, attention: Santa Special, 151 East Main Street, Kingsport, Tenn., 37660.

Meanwhile, farther north and west, this holiday season will be a little brighter for Midwesterners who rely on food banks and food shelves in more than two dozen Upper Midwest communities. Canadian Pacific Ry.’s 2004 Holiday Train is set to roll in support of food banks.

From December 9 to December 16, the U.S. Holiday Train will make 26 stops in the Upper Midwest following a weeklong journey in Pennsylvania, New York and Ontario.

The Upper Midwest portion of the U.S. Holiday train will begin December 9 in Franklin Park, Ill., on the outskirts of Chicago, and will stop in Gurnee, Ill. Other stops include Brookfield, Wis., outside of Milwaukee; through central Wisconsin to La Crosse, Wis., and up the west bank of the Mississippi River to the Twin Cities where CP’s U.S. offices and locomotive maintenance base are located and 1,200 employees work.

From the Twin Cities, the Holiday Train heads across central and western Minnesota, up to Thief River Falls, Minn., and back down and across North Dakota from the southeast corner of that state to Minot.

The bluegrass John Cowan Band, Canadian country singer and songwriter Beverley Mahood and Santa will ride the 11-car train, which will be illuminated with thousands of multicolored Christmas lights.

The entertainers will perform a live holiday music show from a boxcar stage at up to four stops a night, while Santa and CPR employees distribute train whistles to children in the crowd. Food shelves and food banks will collect cash and nonperishable food items and load them into trucks for local hunger relief efforts. The donated items and money will remain local.

This is the sixth year that CPR’s Holiday Train will be taking to the rails for local food banks, where its message of hope and community support continue to grow each year. Since its beginning in 1999, the Holiday Train program has raised closed to 213 tons of food and more than $1.5 million (Canadian) for North American food banks. CP will donate money to local food banks in addition to the food and money collected along the way.

While the U.S. Holiday Train is making its way across the Northeast and Upper Midwest, a second Holiday Train will be stopping in more than 50 communities in Canada raising awareness and collecting donations for hunger relief.

The complete schedule is posted on CPR’s website at http://www.cpr.ca


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Railroad man awarded $7.5 million

A Scotland County, N.C. jury returned a $7.5 million dollar verdict for a retired CSX employee suffering with a deadly asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. Raymond Williams, 60, retired from CSX in 1999 after working for the railroad 38 years. In 2002, he was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma.

In a press release from the North Carolina law firm Martin & Jones, published in Press Trust of India, lawyers said, “The illness is an almost always fatal cancer whose only known cause in the U.S. is asbestos exposure. Williams was regularly exposed to asbestos on boilers, pipes and construction materials used by the railroad during his career with CSX.”

The lawyers, Forest Horne and Spencer Parris, did not state how much they or their firm earned.

Railroad workers do not receive workers’ compensation, and in order to recover for injuries they must file a lawsuit against their railroad employer under the Federal Employee’s Liability Act (FELA) and prove that the railroad’s negligence caused their injuries.

The jury in Raymond W. Williams vs. CSX Transportation, Inc. determined that CSX was aware of the dangers of asbestos dust beginning in the 1930s and further was aware of precautions that could be taken to protect railroad workers from asbestos dust, but CSX chose not to protect or warn their employees for nearly 40 years – until sometime in the late 1980s. The jury further found that the railroad knew asbestos could cause lung cancer in the late 1950s and mesothelioma in the early 1960s, but again chose not to take any measures to protect its employees or warn them about asbestos. CSX continued to use asbestos containing products until the late 1980s.

Two years into his retirement, Williams was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma and underwent a radical surgery to remove his entire left lung. Due to complications from the surgery, Williams required a second surgery to remove his stomach, which had migrated into his chest cavity. He has undergone three separate courses of chemotherapy, but the cancer has metastasized into his lymph nodes. Williams continues to fight his cancer.

CSX denied that Williams was exposed to asbestos during his employment with CSX and also denied that his illness was caused by asbestos exposure. Rejecting CSX’s denial of responsibility, the jury found CSX negligent and liable for Williams’ condition.


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QUARTERLY REPORTS...  Quarterly reports...

Greenbrier

The Greenbrier Cos. (GBX) said last week it will pay a quarterly cash dividend of six cents per share, payable on December 15 to stockholders of record as of November 19.


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P&W

Providence and Worcester Railroad Co. (PWX) on Friday reported its results for the third quarter of 2004.

The company’s net income for the third quarter of 2004 was $1.3 million compared to net income of $694,000 in 2003. Diluted income per common share for the third quarter was 28 cents compared to 15 cents in 2003. Other income in the third quarter of 2004 includes a gain of $948,000 that the company earned when it gave up a portion of an inactive branch line acquired by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by eminent domain. Included in operating expenses for the quarter is $95,000 of profit-sharing expense directly related to that gain.

Operating revenues for the third quarter of 2004 were $7.0 million, an increase of $362,000 or 5.4 percent, from $6.7 million in the third quarter of 2003. The higher revenues for the quarter are attributable, among other things, to increased carloadings of metal products and certain other commodities, as well as an increase in intermodal containers handled.

Diluted income per common share for the nine months ended September 30, 2004 was 23 cents on net income of $1.1 million compared to diluted income per common share of 13 cents on net income of $577,000 in 2003.


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Wabtec

Wabtec Corp. (WAB) declared on November 8 a payout of one cent as its regular quarterly dividend per share, payable on November 30, 2004, to holders of record on November 15.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: CBSMarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)44.5043.90
Canadian National (CNI)56.2055.68
Canadian Pacific (CP) 29.1728.97
CSX (CSX)37.9536.87
Florida East Coast (FLA)41.8139.89
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)28.0026.96
Kansas City Southern (KSU)16.8016.57
Norfolk Southern (NSC)34.9134.83
Providence & Worcester (PWX)11.9012.24
Union Pacific (UNP)64.6964.95


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Most rail freight gains continue

Freight traffic on the nation's railroads continued to run well ahead of year-earlier levels during the week ended November 6, the AAR reported on Thursday.

Carload freight totaled 343,427 units, up 2.4 percent from the comparable week last year, with volume up 3.7 percent in the West and 0.8 percent in the East. Intermodal freight, which is not included in the carload data, totaled 233,559 trailers or containers, up 11.2 percent from last year. This was the second highest weekly intermodal total ever, trailing only the week ended October 30. Total volume was estimated at 32.2 billion ton-miles, up 2.5 percent from a year earlier.

Thirteen of 19 carload commodities registered gains from last year, with metallic ores up 15.2 percent; metals up 14.5 percent; nonmetallic minerals up 12.5 percent; and coal up 3.7 percent.

Among commodities showing declines were motor vehicles and equipment, off 13.8 percent; primary forest products, down 11.5 percent, and grain, off 3.7 percent.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 44 weeks of 2004: 14,834,314 carloads, up 2.9 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 9,307,696 trailers or containers, up 9.7 percent; and a revised total volume of an estimated 1.364 trillion ton-miles, up 5.2 percent from last year’s first 44 weeks.

On Canadian railroads, during the week ended November 6, carload traffic totaled 71,026 cars, up 2.5 percent from last year while intermodal volume totaled 43,797 trailers or containers, down 3.7 percent from last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 44 weeks of 2004 on the Canadian railroads totaled 2,957,926 carloads, up 7.4 percent from last year, and 1,849,672 trailers and containers, up 0.2 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 44 weeks of 2004 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 17,792,240 carloads, up 3.6 percent from last year and 11,157,368 trailers and containers, up 8.0 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that originated carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended November 6 totaled 9,781 cars, up 18.4 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 4,020 originated trailers or containers, up 18.6 percent from the 44th week of 2003. For the first 44 weeks of 2004, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 384,251 cars, up 3.5 percent from last year, and 165,381 trailers or containers, up 7.3 percent.

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

The AAR is online at www.aar.org


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ACROSS THE POND...  Across the pond...

The TW2000

For NCI: Dave Beale

Silver Arrow TW2000 stops in Hannover. Overheating bearing may require removal of all 144 copies of the Siemens and LHB Alsthom consortium rolling stock.

 

Overheating bearing bring woes to Üstra

By David Beale
Special to Destination:Freedom

Puzzling defects in Silver Arrow model TW2000 light rail vehicles from a Siemens and LHB Alsthom consortium are placing Hannover, Germany’s light rail transit and city bus operator Üstra under pressure. The Silver Arrow light rail cars, in service in Hannover since late 1997, have experience several overheated axles.

Between October 26-29 and November 8, Hannover newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung reported Üstra will be forced to remove all of its fleet of 144 Silver Arrows from service to replace all axle bearings if engineers cannot identify what is causing the random events of overheated axles, stated Üstra chairman Rainer Schülmann.

If left unchecked, an overheated axle may lead to either loss of a wheel or wheel lock-up, and either event could then lead to a train derailment.

Schülmann added that emergency measures to route the Silver Arrow light rail cars for an inspection of their axles and main bearings every five hours of operation is not practical for much longer. Currently, the only way to find a heat-damaged bearing or axle is to bring the vehicle into one of Üstra’s maintenance shops, where Üstra’s vehicle inspectors can view the axles and bearings of the wheel trucks while the light rail vehicle is positioned over a pit, where the inspectors view the vehicle from underneath.

Üstra is performing 140 such inspections of its Silver Arrow cars daily. That results in removal of the vehicles from service at one of two depots in the Hannover light rail system during peak hours, with passengers transferred to replacement trains, or in some cases, replacement buses.


Schülmann said that it should be possible in the future to install heat detectors along the tracks of the city’s light rail network, at least in the tunnels in the city center; otherwise heat detectors could be mounted on the vehicles themselves.

Üstra is looking at the technical aspects of each approach to decide which solution to implement.

Siemens is also investigating the problem, along with the British wheel bearing manufacturer. Siemens and Üstra hope to have the problem resolved within two to three months.

In the meantime, Üstra said it will reintroduce 170 remaining 1970s vintage TW6000 vehicles to substitute for Silver Arrows during the inspections and future retrofit program. Üstra has been slowly phasing the approximately 30 year-old TW6000 vehicles out from service and selling a number of them to light rail operators in Holland and Hungary.


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End Notes...

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

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