Vol. 7 No. 48
Copyright © 2006
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Political leaders at all levels of government
In this edition...
News of the week...
Railroad leader notes election results;
Stresses long-term bipartisan support
WASHINGTON, DC --- Edward R. Hamberger , the respected long-term CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), noted this past week that transportation remains a bipartisan issue and addressing the enormous logistical challenges the nation faces will require a united and concerted effort by Congress, the Administration, the rail industry, its customers and employees.
Said Hamberger in a post-election statement, The demand for freight transportation is predicted to triple over the next decade. This will mean more freight traffic on our nations already crowded highways, ports, and railroads. If we dont add capacity soon, we will be faced with overwhelming gridlock that has the potential to paralyze our national economy.
As bad as that might sound, Hamberger was understating the crisis, according to other transportation experts, who have predicted that the freight industrys inability to raise sufficient capital for needed capacity improvements will force almost all of the growth in freight traffic to the highways, already badly overburdened by traffic volume and by new, heavier trucks that cause massive damage to highway infrastructure, especially bridges, while paying tolls that cover less than 1/10th of the cost of repairing the damage.
The nations freight carriers are committed to continuing to do their part to expand rail capacity. Over the past decade, the railroad industry has invested $64 billion in its infrastructure, a rate that far exceeds that of most other industries. In 2006 alone, the rail industry plans to invest a record $8.3 billion in track, locomotives and other capital equipment, said Hamberger.
Over the next six years, stated Hamberger, the railroad industry will create 80,000 of the best-paying jobs in the country; jobs that are located here in America; jobs that will stay in America. We look forward to working with Congress to build and expand the American economy through freight rail transportation.
Ed Hamberger has been a frequent speaker at NCI and other major infrastructure conferences over the last decade, and appears frequently before Congress in support of his industry.
New on the AAR Web Site
North American Railroads Customer Forum
Political Leaders and the News Media Laud Rail Industrys Security Plan
Railroads, Smithsonian Honor Pullman Porters
Popular Mechanics Praises Freight Rail Innovations
Washington Examiner Editorial on Staggers Act
Changes in leadership in Congress as a result of the elections have dramatically shifted the landscape in favor of expanding travel options for the public.
Minnesota Representative Jim Oberstar will be Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has jurisdiction over highways, transit, Amtrak, aviation and many key environmental statutes.
Mr. Oberstars background makes him a natural to steer this powerful committee. Before being elected in 1974, he served as a senior Congressional staffer to a former chair of the T&I Committee for ten years, giving him broad experience in all issues handled by the Committee. He has been a leader in supporting the principles of the 1991 ISTEA law and has been a strong advocate for restoring and expanding intercity passenger rail in the U.S.
Under Republican leadership, Oberstar was ranking member of the T and I Committee for ten years. In 2004, he argued against the heavy cuts in the transit program put forth in the Republican Budget Resolution. Under TEA 21 we significantly increased transit funding by guaranteeing $36 billion for transit. As a result of this increased investment, transit ridership has added 1.6 billion riders more than 900,000 new riders each day over the last five years. This transit renaissance could be threatened by these cuts in transit funding.
Now looking forward to taking the reins of the committee, he commented on his feelings about his tenure as ranking member. He said [Now I understand how] Moses felt wandering in the desert for all those years.
He supports increased funding for Amtrak, recently announcing that one of his first priorities is to meet with the new president of Amtrak to discuss the railroads needs.
Other priorities on his to-do list: the Water Resources Development Act, which authorizes projects such as flood control, environmental restoration, shoreline and ecosystem protection and navigation improvements; and the SAFE Port Act, signed by Bush in October, but which needs a funding mechanism, said Oberstar. He has suggested charging a fee for every container that is shipped. The act authorizes the development of inspection equipment and strengthens security measures, and it also requires radiation technology at 22 ports by the end of next year.
Representative Oberstar has also been a leader in promoting non-motorized travel options. He authored the Safe Routes to School program in SAFETEA-LU and the non-motorized pilot program.
Oberstar is a strong believer in bi-partisan cooperation. It is noteworthy that the current 75-member panel is the largest in Congressional history. Currently, there are 41 Republican Members and 34 Democratic Members, a ratio that presumably will be retained in the 110th Congress, with the Democrats holding the majority share of the seats. Unlike the Senate where power is shared with other Senators, Rep. Oberstar as T&I Chair will exert tremendous influence over the panels staff and the agenda of the Subcommittees.
NOVEMBER 9 -- Amtrak is proposing a demonstration project for Vermont that could save the state money and increase ridership on the Vermonter passenger route that runs between New Haven and St. Albans.
The proposal is for Vermont to buy new, smaller passenger cars called diesel multiple units that require smaller crews and use less fuel. The Federal Rail Administration would loan the state the $17.5 million to buy five cars but not require any payment for the first three years the duration of the demonstration. It would be a 20-year loan at 4.5 percent interest.
Currently, Amtrak operates two big locomotives and train cars with seats for 400 passengers for its run to St. Albans because that configuration is needed on the southern end of the line as it travels to New York and Washington. Under the demonstration project, passengers for the Vermont leg of the trip would switch in New Haven, Conn. to the smaller cars. The self-propelled car and the trailer each seat 60 passengers.
About 52,000 people rode the Vermonter in the 12-month period that ended June 30. Amtrak predicts 20,000 more people would ride the train with the new, faster cars.
Vermont Agency of Transportation has said they would like to purchase the cars but the State Legislatures Joint Fiscal Committee has put off making a decision until January.
Spokesperson available for
November 17, 2006
On Wednesday, November 22, Amtrak media representatives will be available for interviews about the busy Thanksgiving travel season. Media representatives will be available for live or taped interviews about the availability of seats, pace of rail travel and the plans in place to accommodate the large number of travelers.
Amtrak expects to see an 80% increase in ridership nationwide this day over a typical Wednesday, in addition to a 30% increase from the Tuesday before to the Monday after Thanksgiving compared to a typical week.
Representatives will be available at the following train stations:
Please contact the appropriate Media Relations office, listed above, during regular business hours (8:30 am-5:00 pm local time) to book interview times with media representatives. Bookings for live interviews will be taken until 12:00 noon Tuesday, November 21. Taped interview requests can be made until Wednesday but will be subject to the spokespersons availability.
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Off the Main Line...
WASHINGTON Amtrak is teaming up with Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Home Video for the launch of an exciting new holiday movie promotion with the Unaccompanied Minors Amtrak Getaway Sweepstakes.
Now through December 31, Amtrak passengers can enter for a chance to win four Amtrak round-trip coach tickets to anywhere Amtrak travels and a Warner Home Video DVD library consisting of 15 Warner Bros. Home Video titles. If you miss out on the Grand Prize, there is still a chance to win one of five First Prizes of an Acela Express model train set or one of 10 Second Prizes, consisting of an Amtrak duffel bag, cap and an Amtrak Red Cap teddy bear. To enter, visit www.unaccompaniedsweeps.com.
About The Movie
Its Christmas Eve and a huge blizzard has shut down the airport. Among the stranded travelers, five Unaccompanied Minors are determined to max out their holiday by running wild inside and outside the airport. Without a parent in sight, the rambunctious five outwit and outrun an uptight airport official and his gullible assistant. The kids turn Christmas at the airport into holiday pandemonium and, along the way, prove that the holidays arent about where you are, but who youre with. Unaccompanied Minors will be in theaters December 8.
Federal transportation aid is structured in many ways to help states that help themselves. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut would do well to keep an eye on the fact that areas outside the northeast are voting for measures to raise large amounts of local revenue for mass transit and road infrastructure with increasing frequency. If the states making up our region dont address transportation funding more directly, other parts of the country will become increasingly poised to out-bid us for both federal aid and the quality of life that attracts capital and skilled people.
Recent funding action here has largely been a matter of catch-up. New York passed a $3.9 billion general obligation bond issue for transportation in 2005, the first major transit revenue action since Governor Pataki was elected in 1994. The bond act and several other tax measures enacted to launch the MTA and NY State DOT 2005-2009 capital programs did not fully fund those programs, although a hike in the downstate Mortgage Recording Tax has yielded greater than expected returns. Connecticut has moved to raise transportation revenue after cutting it in the 1990s and bringing systems like the New Haven Line close to collapse. New Jersey has maintained its capital programs by finding ways to dig an ever-deeper hole of debt.
California passed an interesting statewide measure to fund infill and transit-oriented development. California county governments continued the recent western trend of raising significant new funds for mass transit expansion, as did counties around Salt Lake City and in Washington State. The City of Seattle also approved its own funding measure.
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign was formed as a response to mounting economic and environmental costs of automobile and truck dependence, including the destruction of open space by highway-driven sprawl development.
© 2006 Tri-State Transportation Campaign
350 West 31st Street #802, New York NY 10001 212.268.7474
Santa Train 2006
KINGSPORT, TENN. - The Santa Train made its 64th annual run through Appalachia on Saturday and bluegrass singer and musician Alison Krauss was there to help hand out the toys and supplies.
Santa, Alison and other volunteers on the C-S-X train handed out 15 tons of school supplies, clothes and toys as the train stopped in 13 small towns on its 110-mile run through southeastern Kentucky, western Virginia and into Kingsport,Tennessee.
Past participants include Naomi Judd, Patty Loveless, Travis Tritt, Kree Harrison and Rebecca Lynn Howard.
Organizers say Krauss' participation was especially fitting because her musical roots are so steeped in the traditions of Appalachia.
Greenbush commuter rail line survives
opposition but not without cost
BOSTON, NOVEMBER 17 -- Community opposition to the Greenbush commuter line in several suburban towns has finally been mollified and folks are beginning to see that the service will actually do what it is supposed to do give a long awaited alternative to highway congestion along the South Shore, reported Mac Daniel in a story for the Boston Globe.
Photo: NCIOne of many new stations that will be available on the Greenbush line, this one in Weymouth, MA.
A long list of concessions has added considerable costs to the project but that didnt dampen the spirits of MBTA General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas as he stood at the expansive Greenbush station at the terminus of the line last week.
There are a lot of government services that people would like to eliminate, but what weve seen time and again is that people clamor for public transportation, he said.
Despite promises that the line would carry 8,400 riders per day and relieve congestion on Route 3 and the Southeast Expressway and reduce air pollution, residents in Hingham and other South Shore communities vociferously opposed the project and went to court to try to stop it.
Some of the concessions, though costly, are of historic and aesthetic value to the communities, such as the black, cast-iron fencing installed in historic districts in HIngham, Scituate and Cohasset, and black chain-link fencing in other areas, which costs $10 to $20 more per foot than standard fencing. Also, extra funds were spent to assure durability which should cut down on costs of maintenance. Nothing lasts forever, and we assumed that maintenance might eventually be a problem, so the more solid the better. Its both a maintenance issue and historically appropriate, said Alexander Macmillan, Greenbush coordinator for the town of Hingham.
Also, the projects conservator is requiring the MBTA to paint signal bungalows forest green, instead of their usual metallic silver, a request by locals to have the boxes better blend in with the suburban surroundings.
Another extra cost was for tunnels placed under the tracks to allow endangered spotted turtles to reach nearby pools.
In Cohasset, the town asked that parking spaces at the station be made wider to accommodate larger sport utility vehicles. T officials said they were able to accommodate the town without increasing costs.
In 2004, after much resistance, the MBTA agreed to use four-arm barriers at some of the street crossings, which cost an additional $2 million.
Town officials say the gates are necessary because train horns were ordered silenced to appease neighbors. Unlike typical crossing gates, which block two lanes of traffic, these gates extend across the entire road at all four corners of the railroad intersections.
One request puts a splash of humor in the hard fought battle: one resident wanted the T pay for Prozac for her dog, who she said would be traumatized by the train noise! The womans claim was denied.
There were also 18 legal challenges to the line, all of which were won by the T but cost the agency hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
All in all, the projects price will jump from an early estimate of $479 million to approximately $515 million at completion.
Selected Rail Stocks...
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RailAmerica sells to Fortress Investment Group
BOCA RATON, FL --- RailAmerica, Inc., owner of more than 40 short-line American freight railroads and 7,800 miles of track in the United States and Canada, including the New England Central Railroad, has agreed to a private buy-out by an affiliate of Fortress Investment Group.
Comprised largely of former executives and managing directors of Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Union Bank of Switzerland, and other sophisticated Wall Street money managers and investors, the acquisition firm is part of a group with extensive holdings in cell-phone towers (11,000 in the United States and Canada) and other industries.
An affiliate of Fortress will pay RailAmericas shareholders $16.35 in cash for each share of Rail-Americas common stock, 32% over the November 14, 2006 New York Stock Exchange closing price of $12.38. The total value of the transaction, including the refinancing of RailAmericas existing debt, is approximately $1.1 billion, according to the announcement.
A leading short line and regional rail service provider with 42 short line and regional railroads, operating approximately 7,800 miles in the United States and Canada, RailAmericas railroads operate in 26 states and three Canadian provinces.
Fortress Investment Group specializes in private equity, institutional asset management, and alternative investments such as hedge funds. The company focuses on acquiring distressed companies in the financial services, real estate, transportation, energy, media, and telecommunications sectors. It manages about $26 billion of equity capital for institutional investors and high-net-worth individuals. The company also manages publicly traded real estate investment trust (REIT) Newcastle Investment Corporation, as well as closed-end funds in the US, Canada, and Europe. Fortress Investment Group is planning an IPO.
It is headed by Wesley R. Edens, a principal and the Chairman of the Management Committee of Fortress since co-founding the Company in May 1998. Mr. Edens is responsible for the Companys private equity and publicly traded alternative investment businesses. He is Chairman of the board of directors of each of Aircastle Limited, Brookdale Senior Living Inc., Eurocastle Investment Limited, GateHouse Media, Inc., Global Signal Inc. and Mapeley Limited and a director of GAGFAH S.A. Mr. Edens is the Chairman..
One official with connections to RailAmerica did not believe the Fortress statement would work with existing management to grow the business, according to Chop Hardenburghs newsletter, Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports e-bulletin: If the short lines were going to do well, then the existing management would not have sold the company.
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