Thanksgiving Table

Stop & Shop

Thursday is a day for families to gather. We hope you take an Amtrak train to get there, but no matter how you get to “grandma’s” house, we wish you and yours a Happy Thanskgiving.

 


Vol. 5 No. 44
November 22, 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 *

This page is best viewed at 800 X 600 screen resolution

 

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

           ______________________

Amtrak gets $1.2 billion

By Leo King
Editor

Amtrak got much of the cash it wanted for Fiscal Year 2005 over the weekend. The House passed its final bill on Saturday, and the Senate finished it off late Saturday. The Federal Transit Administration did okay, too.

Amtrak’s FY 2005 began on October 1 but has been surviving on continuing resolutions as have many other federally funded programs.

The Associated Press reported yesterday, “Congress reached final agreement last night on a $388 billion spending bill funding 13 government departments and dozens of domestic agencies in 2005, after last-minute objections from abortion rights advocates threatened to delay or derail the entire measure,” but House passage came on a vote of 344-51. Later in the evening, the Senate gave its approval, 65-30.

The wire service noted, “Although a few favored agencies, such as Amtrak and NASA were spared cuts, the measure bears evidence of a new austerity in domestic spending, brought about by soaring budget deficits and the rising costs of war and counter-terrorism programs.”

Amtrak received $1,217,773,000.00 while the FTA received $7.26 billion.

The bill now goes to the White House for President Bush’s signature.


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Changing the wheels

Two photos: Amtrak Ink

Los Angeles machinists Vic D’Agustino, at left, and Paul Malumian prepare to change the traction motor wheel assembly for a General Electric P-42 diesel locomotive. Thin rims were discovered during a quarterly inspection. The story is below.

 

Transit bill still alive, but…

Lawmakers were working furiously last week to reach agreement on a fiscal 2005 omnibus spending package and the ground rules on legislation to increase the statutory debt limit by $800 billion.

GOP leaders were considering a weekend session, if necessary, to complete work on spending bills.

“I’ve suggested to the speaker and the majority leader that there be no breaks, no weekends, until we get this done,” House Appropriations Chairman Bill Young (R-Fla.), said November .

CongressDailyPM reported before the fiscal 2005 Transportation-Treasury spending bill can be added to an omnibus, lawmakers must bridge disagreements over funding for Amtrak and the Postal Service. Solons are trying to close a $300 million gap that will determine whether Amtrak funding will be maintained at current levels or cut next year. The Senate approved $1.2 billion for Amtrak, while the House version included $900 million. “There is no give or take right now,” said a House appropriations aide. A Senate appropriations aide said the two sides were closer than $300 million.

Senate opposition continues over House language to require Amtrak to repay $100 million to USDOT loaned the carrier in 2002, while also requiring Amtrak budgets to be approved by administration officials. The Senate aide suggested that in exchange for agreeing to the Senate funding level and removing the budget requirement, the Senate could ensure that at least a portion of the DOT loan is paid. The House aide said, “Everything is for sale at this point.”

CongressDailyPM is online at http://www.govexec.com/


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Council urges Congress to fund Amtrak

“Plagued by continued under-funding of critical infrastructure needs, Amtrak’s status as an important component in the New England regional transportation system is again threatened,” said James T. Brett, president and CEO of The New England Council, as he urged Congress on November 17 to support the system as they debate an omnibus appropriations package last week.

“Rail service is very important to the New England economy,” Brett said. “Any loss of service will have a deleterious impact on the movement of business and leisure passengers along the east coast and the ability of the economy to grow.”

According to Amtrak, the system is in the middle of a five-year capital improvement plan designed to bring its equipment and infrastructure to a state of good repair.

The New England Council is the nation’s oldest regional business organization, and promotes economic development and a high quality of life in the six-state region.

“In order to continue this essential capital program, Amtrak is seeking $1.5 billion in funding from Congress in Fiscal Year 2005. Congress is expected to make a final decision on Fiscal 2005 funding for Amtrak this week. In the Senate version of the bill, about $1.2 billion was included. The House bill offers $900 million in funding,” Brett said.

Amtrak management has stated that if the $900 million funding level were enacted, they would be forced to shut down.

According to Amtrak, some of the most significant infrastructure needs are in New England. Their survey cited three movable bridges in Connecticut – the Thames River Bridge, the Niantic River Bridge and the Connecticut River Bridge – which are all at least 85 years old and in need of replacement.”

He explained, “These bridges frequently open and shut to allow ships to pass through. If that mechanism fails, service between New York and Boston would be severed. Forty Amtrak trains run over these bridges daily and maintain a vital link of business and leisure passenger service on one of the most heavily traveled rail corridors in the nation.”

Amtrak owns and operates 400 miles of the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston. The corridor is one of the busiest and most technically-advanced track structures in the world, utilized by more than 1,700 trains a day, including freight, commuter trains and high-speed rail service.

A shutdown of Amtrak would also mean the shutdown or degradation of service for eight commuter railroads that operate over Amtrak-owned or operated infrastructure throughout the Northeast. More than 750,000 commuters use the service daily.

“The New England Council has taken a leading role in the newly-formed Amtrak Business Coalition, which includes more than 50 business groups and companies from up and down the East Coast,” he said.

“We believe that it’s important for the business community to be heard on this issue,” Brett said.

“A debate can and should take place on the future of Amtrak. Its structure and how it will be funded need to be addressed in a fiscally responsible fashion, but before the federal government can even consider drastic changes it must ensure, at a minimum, that Amtrak’s infrastructure is in a state of good repair.”


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California regulators eye fuel standards

California air regulators are considering adopting fuel standards for locomotives and watercraft – another entry by California into areas that have generally been reserved for the federal government.

The Air Resources Board has been trying to cut auto emissions by requiring manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency, precedent-setting efforts the industry has fought in court with the support of the Bush administration, writes The AP from Sacramento.

The board on Thursday will consider similar efforts for diesel-electric locomotives and both commercial and recreational boats that use diesel fuel, expanding on existing diesel regulations that govern land-based vehicles and stationary diesel engines.

“These (pollution) sources are almost totally regulated by the feds,” said board spokesman Jerry Martin. He said, “It would be the first time we’ve ventured in to try to set regs for railroads and watercraft. We can’t regulate their emissions – but we’re going to try to regulate their fuel.”

So far, little opposition has surfaced, with railroads and refiners telling the board they’re staying neutral.

To sidestep the federal-state jurisdictional battle, the standards would apply only to locomotives and marine vessels that never leave the state, for instance locomotives that shift cars within yards, and harbor vessels. There’s a practical consideration as well, Martin said: interstate locomotives could simply refuel beyond state boundaries.

Even with the limits, the proposed diesel standards would reduce emissions “by a significant margin,” Martin said.

The board estimates airborne particulates would be reduced by about 25 percent, and nitrogen oxides (NOx) by about 3 percent.

Sulfur oxide emissions would drop a projected 78 percent. That’s not as significant as it sounds because rail and water vessels aren’t a major overall contributor, but it’s a big improvement for some sensitive individuals.

“If you live near a railroad yard or train track or something, this is a huge cut, because sulfur is a trigger for asthma,” Martin said.

The state has regulated the sulfur content of diesel used in motor vehicles since 1993. It lowered the allowable content last year beyond federal requirements, but exempted locomotives and watercraft. The regulations set for consideration last week would end the exemption five years earlier than similar federal standards for locomotives and watercraft that are set to take effect in June 2010.

The federal regulations do not require the same eventual reduction in particulates and nitrogen oxides.

“It’s a good product. It’s done a really, really good job of cleaning up the air,” Joe Sparano, president of the Western States Petroleum Assn., said of the California-formulated diesel. “The devil’s in the details.”

His organization wants to make sure the board considers whether there is enough diesel to go around, and whether the growth in refineries or imports will be enough to handle growth in demand – but he and the board say many intrastate trains and watercraft already use diesel that meets the California requirements.

The standards would take effect in 2006 in the south coastal region, and statewide in 2007.


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Truing a wheel

Quality Assurance expert Paul Storbakken sets up a computer to true a single wheel on the Seattle facility’s wheel truing machine – a Simmons Under Floor Wheel Profiling Machine.

 

Earning the AAR certificate

Oakland crews bring facility up to speed

Jim Morris and Gil Bruno
contributed to this story

Knowing how to true wheels takes specialized knowledge – and that includes getting them perfectly round, smooth, tire the correct width and flanges the proper depth – and that’s only the beginning.

We learned recently, through the pages of Amtrak Ink, the passenger railroad’s monthly newspaper for employees, that the carrier’s newest maintenance facility in Oakland, Calif., is taking steps to earn the Association of American Railroad’s (AAR) highly sought-after quality assurance certification. When they succeed, in December, Oakland will join Amtrak’s nine other wheel-truing facilities and two wheel shops that have attained the AAR M-1003 Quality Assurance Program certification.

This rigorous process is important to Amtrak because that particular certification “ensures Amtrak facilities and shops maintain the highest standards for all processes associated with removing wheel defects and maintaining wheels in optimum condition,” a company spokesman said.

The AAR’s certification is a quality assurance program that is similar to the International Organization for Standardization ISO-9001 Quality Management System used by other industries to ensure quality assurance. These standards define benchmarks for many industries to help guarantee that quality products are produced.

Because the AAR’s program is a railroad-specific standard, the program includes product-specific requirements for wheel truing, an important process that removes defects, keeps wheels in optimum condition, extends wheel life and ultimately improves ride quality for passengers.

Amtrak mechanical facilities holding the AAR quality certificates for wheel truing are in Chicago at 14th St., and 16th St; Los Angeles, Seattle, Hialeah, Boston, Albany, N.Y. and Washington’s Ivy City. Also at Ivy City, high-speed trainsets are trued on a machine that is equipped to cut both sets on the truck at the same time.

The breadth of Mechanical’s Quality Assurance Program has also opened the door to outside income. Amtrak wheel truing locations are listed in an AAR quarterly letter distributed to all registered members and private car owners, which provides Amtrak opportunities to take in work from third parties.

In addition to wheel-truing facilities, Amtrak’s Beech Grove, Ind., and Wilmington, Del. wheel shops also hold certificates. The shops build new wheel sets by mounting the wheels, brake discs, and bearings onto axles. They also receive scrap wheel sets from the field, to be remanufactured – also according to AAR standards.

The AAR, one of the nation’s oldest trade associations, represents Amtrak, some commuter railroads, and major freight railroads of the United States, Canada and Mexico. AAR is involved in all matters that require cooperation between railroad entities to provide an efficient, safe and interlinked system. The non-profit organization creates and sets many railroad standards and regulations, and its oversight of technical regulations has evolved from publishing the standards and regulations, to providing inspectors and auditors to review, observe and ensure compliance.

Amtrak wheel shop compliance with AAR technical standards has been a requirement for many years, but in the early 1990s Amtrak’s Wheel and Axle Committee determined that wheel shops and wheel true operations should have the M-1003 Quality Assurance certification as additional assurance that regulations and high standards were being met.

In the case of Amtrak’s wheel operations, this means that not only is there a required AAR audit of the quality program requirements at Amtrak, but also a physical inspection by an AAR inspector, who closely examines wheels produced, and observing the processes, whether building wheelsets or truing wheels.

Amtrak developed procedure manuals for wheel shops and wheel truing operations, and set out to achieve 100 percent certification for all of its wheel shops. The manuals address all 24 specifications. Included with the manuals are local work Instructions that clearly define how all of the processes are to be performed and documented.

Mechanical people inspect wheels each day at every initial terminal before departure.

The railroad spokesperson said, “It has always been Amtrak’s policy to exceed FRA regulations with respect to the inspection and servicing of rolling stock.” So, “If a defect is found or if the wear on a wheel exceeds limits, the defect will be recorded and the wheel set shipped to one of the nine wheel truing facilities or two backshops to be re-profiled or remanufactured.”

Everyday operation can lead to various wheel conditions that require special attention. Conditions range from thin or chipped flanges and shelled tread, or spalling (chipping or flaking) of the tread surface caused by wheel-to-rail wear and debris strikes; to flat spots caused by heavy braking and failure of the anti-slide system, which is similar to anti-lock braking systems found in automobiles.

Wheel specialists inspect the wheels to determine their overall condition. Any defect or condition is verified and the wheel is spotted, or placed, on the wheel true machine. The wheel true machine shaves layers of material off the wheel to correct the defect or restore the correct wheel profile.

There are many factors that affect the time involved in the process and the number of wheels trued per train. These variables include the types of defects being cut as well as the severity of the defect.

Every effort is made to ensure that the wheels are trued within the car’s scheduled layover time to prevent delays.

Last year, the Seattle Wheel Truing Facility was the latest Amtrak facility to earn the M-1003 certificate. The Seattle mechanical shop’s wheel truing machine is a computer-controlled Simmons Under Floor Wheel Profiling Machine (UPM) that automatically probes all of the critical parameters in order to determine how much re-profiling needs to be done.

Seattle’s UPM is one of the only machines that has the capacity for servicing every piece of rolling stock in Amtrak’s inventory. For example, the UPM accommodates Amtrak Cascades Talgo-built equipment used in the Pacific Northwest. Talgo’s independent wheel set – wheels that are set on a split axle – with the wheel assemblies working independent of each other — is repaired using the UPM.

Because of the unique and sophisticated design of the Seattle wheel-truing machine, Amtrak’s quality assurance program did not apply.

In addition to bringing the Seattle facility in compliance with Amtrak’s quality assurance program, work was also begun to attain AAR certification. With the help of Amtrak’s Equipment Standards and Compliance department, led by Manager Jim Morris, the Seattle group, including General Foreman Bill Skok, Quality Assurance Designee Paul Storbakken, and Ollie Cone, a wheel truing machine consultant and retired Amtrak employee, took steps to expedite the AAR certification.

Assisted by Quality Assurance Inspector Bob Rapp, they acquired materials, disseminated documentation, established processes and record-keeping systems and ensured all aspects of the unique wheel truing operation were fully compliant with existing Amtrak and AAR standards.

Their efforts paid off when the Seattle facility received AAR M-1003 certification following its very first audit and inspection.

The AAR Wheel and Axle committee provides manuals, forms and work instructions for all wheel true operations. Recently, Chicago wheel shops developed a tracking program using the Amtrak Work Management System (WMS) to document all of the wheels that have been processed through the 14th Street and 16th Street facilities.

Using the equipment or unit number, wheel position, and traveler number (provided by Beech Grove) the wheel shop can track wheels entered in the WMS system to study trends and overall life cycle of the wheel.


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New 45 mph switch in Michigan City

Amtrak Ink

Leading up to the Michigan City, Ind., open drawbridge, a new switch, installed by Amtrak’s engineering forces, enables trains to travel at 45 mph instead of 30 mph.

 

Better speeds at Michigan City

Amtrak’s engineering forces completed upgrading 2.2 miles of an Amtrak-owned siding in Michigan City, Ind., in October. It serves one freight train and eight Wolverine trains daily. The track is 136-pound continuous welded rail. Two switches, one at each end of the siding, allow trains to operate up to 45 mph.

A computer-based interlocking control system was also installed that enables train directors in the Chicago Operations Center to monitor and initiate signal and switch changes. The improvements provide passengers with a smoother ride, and increase speeds through the siding from 30 mph to 45 mph.

After working since the spring to complete the project, track and signal employees performed the final series of Amtrak and FRA tests to allow train travel over the newly completed siding on October 22.


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Slimbock Takes New York’s throttle

Lenore Slimbock is the New York Division’s new general superintendent. She took over the post after Walter Ernst retired on October 1. Slimbock has held several positions within New York division. Most recently, she was Superintendent of Passenger Services for the Mid-Atlantic division. Slimbock was selected as general superintendent because of the solid reputation she’s established over the last two decades, Amtrak stated.

Before the clean-up

Two photos: Amtrak Ink

Materials, scrap and debris litter the B and B compound of Philadelphia’s Penn Coach Yard before the cleanup and materials recovery effort began in January.

 

Penn Coach Yard cleans house

It took nearly a year to get the job done, but Amtrak’s Penn Coach Yard in Philadelphia is no longer an eyesore for passengers on passing trains and railroaders alike – and especially the folks who work there.

A new material control facility went up during the summer and opened in the fall. The railroad will use the facility to store newly acquired equipment and materials. All that after 10 months of aggressive cleanup and recovering maintenance-of-way materials.

Vice President of Procurement and Materials Management Mike Rienzi oversees this now-centralized department.

“Getting this issue under control is a big priority for the railroad,” said Rienzi.

“We knew that we could achieve cost savings as well as keep expenses down as a result of putting this department in place. Since centralization we have recovered inventory in excess of $35 million.”

“Because all of our capital work is programmed, we have a pretty good sense as to what we need, enabling us to make decisions about inventory, rather than ordering on an ad-hoc, project basis. Having an inventory system and the facilities in place, like the one now at Penn Coach Yard, makes planning easier and facilitates the efficient work of the crews,” he added.

It’s easy to write about the cleanup in a few words, but the words don’t adequately explain the sweat that went into transforming the yard. The effort included selling 45 “Connex” boxes – large steel shipping containers – and removing 32 sheds and trailers along with two old freight cars, all of which were used to store materials.

In addition, 338 gross tons of scrapped track materials – including switch materials, like spikes, bolts, plates, points, frogs, joint bars; 186 gross tons of miscellaneous scrap steel were removed and sold, and two obsolete baggage cars were sold for $72,000. Another $220,000 worth of material was recovered and returned to inventory.

Starting last January, the yard improvement plan first required massive cleanup of the area, and recovering materials that were spread throughout the yard.

Four Materials Management employees and 11 Maintenance-of-Way employees combed through the yard, identifying materials to be stored for future use, redeployed to another Amtrak facility, scrapped or sold.

The team worked with each department to determine the usefulness of items retrieved and to find “homes” for displaced tools and materials.

For example, cables from deteriorating reels were re-reeled onto useable reels, and some excess cable were sent to a Perryville, Md., facility; C&S items, such as relays, were delivered to the C&S warehouse in Lancaster, Penna.; and four central instrument houses (bungalows) – aluminum sheds equipped with air conditioning and heat to protect delicate electronic signal equipment – were transferred to Sunnyside Yard.

All track materials that were scrap, obsolete or surplus were removed, empty cable reels were sold, and all excess concrete ties removed and sent to other facilities to be reused.

The grounds were tested for toxicity, resurfaced and paved with crusher run, a fine stone mix. New lighting and security fencing will be installed throughout the yard once the construction is complete.

While a contractor rehabilitated and built the structures, engineering department employees contributed to the structures designs so that the facilities met the needs of work gangs. The department also reviewed and submitted comments on all of the plans.

“We worked as a team toward common goals,” said Material Control Manager Harvey Short.

“The crews at the yard were enthusiastic about this project – their home base was a mess and it required a dedicated team and dedicated funds to make it right.”

The dysfunctional state of the yard, and many like it across the Amtrak system, was due to a number of factors, including the lack of a secure warehouse and yard storage capacity. There was also no provision for construction debris, material returns, assembly area or other functional space to perform these tasks.

“We must provide our employees with the support they need to work as efficiently as possible,” said Chief Engineer David Hughes.

“Penn Coach Yard is now a much more user-friendly place to get work done. We really appreciate Mike Rienzi and the Procurement department for taking the lead to get this project off the ground.”

The new facility, which is administered by the Materials Management staff, eliminates waste and disorganization. “Reorganizing the grounds has vastly improved the previously disheveled yard that became an uninspiring work environment,” reported Amtrak Ink, the railroad’s monthly newspaper for employees.

The area also became an eyesore to passengers traveling to and from Philadelphia; a glance out of the window provided a view that left a poor impression of Amtrak.

The cleaned-up space
The same B and B compound is now wiped clean of scrap and debris and is home to a new materials control building and two others being constructed.

 

The major facility improvement is four new buildings, a rehabilitated building, known as Building K.

Building K, which was previously used solely as a Bridges and Buildings (B&B) facility, now houses working materials for each discipline – Track, Electric Traction, B&B and Communication and Signals (C&S).

The new structures began to rise in October, and the last of the three new buildings will be completed late this month. As each structure is completed, it is furnished with required supplies and put into operation.

Building No. 1 houses material control inventory, materials acquired for specific capital projects that are planned for the year. Building No. 2 stores gasoline-powered tools and flammable material, and Building No. 3, a large three-sided storage shed, will accommodate large items, including cable reels and electric traction insulators.


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Amtrak October on-time performance

 
Service
 
Operated
 
Late
On Time
Percentage
Goal
Percentage
Acela Express75017277.194.0
Auto Train623346.870.0
California Zephyr623740.370.0
Capitol Ltd. 624232.370.0
Capitols6847489.285.0
Cardinal271255.670.0
Carolinian624035.585.0
Cascades3367777.185.0
City of NO621674.270.0
Clocker/Keystone6208186.990.0
Coast Starlight622166.170.0
Crescent621083.970.0
Downeaster248996.485.0
Empire Svc71015378.585.0
Empire Builder1243968.570.0
Heartland Flyer621182.385.0
Hiawatha4045386.985.0
Hoosier352042.985.0
Illinois/MO31013257.485.0
Lake Shore Ltd1219025.670.0
Metroliner1343077.694.0
Michigan30916646.385.0
Pac Surfliner7197689.485.0
Pennsylvanian622854.885.0
Piedmont622854.885.0
Regional164335278.690.0
San Joaquins3725086.685.0
Silver Service18413825.070.0
SW Chief621575.870.0
Sunset Ltd27270.070.0
Texas Eagle622067.770.0
Three Rivers621969.470.0





ALL8563207163.485.0


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MEDIA LINES...  Media lines...

Traffic World gets redesign

Traffic World is getting a new look – and is adding content.

Commonwealth Business Media, Inc. stated in a press release on November 15 that the company’s weekly logistics magazine will debut a new look and expanded editorial content beginning December 6.

Peter Tirschwell, vice-president for magazines, said “The purpose of the revamping is to deliver additional value to logistics professionals who seek vital information related to supply chain management.”

He added, “Traffic World will offer more broad-reaching editorials, sharply written stories, and clearly presented statistics – vital information necessary for implementing real-world logistics strategies.”

Tirschwell offered, “The market has relied on Traffic World since 1907, a fact we are proud of. However, we understand we cannot rest on our laurels,”

Paul Page is Traffic World’s editor.

The new magazine will include more graphs and charts, and several sections have also been added.

Surface Transport will provide weekly updates in the areas of trucking and rail/intermodal. Several other sections dealing with other modes are included.

The magazine’s companion web site, at http://www.TrafficWorld.com, is also being redesigned “to coincide with the magazine’s new look,” the press release stated. A new web feature will include breaking news with up to 10 daily updates, and fresh, unduplicated information and content not found in the print edition.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Track upgrades begin in Nashville

One-quarter of a mile at a time, contractors have begun laying new, heavier rail between Lebanon and Nashville, Tenn., over the Nashville & Eastern Railroad Authority, owners of the public shortline. The Music City Star is getting closer, and it marks the impending arrival of mass transit for weekday commuters.

Regional Transit Authority (RTA) spokesperson Allyson Shumate said, “We’re upgrading the track and signals so we can operate at higher speeds,” WKRN-TV Nashville reported last week.

The RTA said it expects service to begin late in 2005 on the Music City Star, Tennessee's first commuter rail system, originally on a corridor between downtown Nashville, Mount Juliet and Lebanon, Tenn.

80,000 feet of new track will eventually carry commuters from the heart of Wilson County to Downtown Nashville over the $7.6 million project, awarded to Queen City Railroad Construction, Inc.

Lebanon mayor Don Fox said, “I’m excited about it. I think it’s probably the best thing we’ve done as a region since I’ve been mayor, and I’m ending my 11th year now as mayor.”

The American Public Transportation Assn. noted on its website on Friday that eventually the commuter trains will connect several communities in middle Tennessee to downtown Nashville via five corridors. The first corridor to be completed is the East Corridor, which will connect Wilson County commuters to downtown Nashville starting in late 2005. The 32-mile, single-track line was selected as the first corridor of the Music City Star due in part to the opportunity to partner with the Nashville & Eastern.

Some double-decker coaches are already in Nashville, purchased from the Chicago Transit Authority for $1 apiece. Yes – one dollar.

Officials hope by the end of next year, the Music City Star will be making the run between the two cities. It took years to get this far, but those involved believe they are still 20 years ahead of the game.

“We hope to not and probably will not suffer the gridlock that some of the other cities have because it’s a major step forward at the right time,” said Fox.

That is, if commuters hop on for the 53-minute ride.

“It’s a myth southerners will not abandon their cars,” said Fox.

Mayor Fox believes once there’s a train station here and the interstates become more and more congested, people will start riding the rails.

“We can’t continue widening lanes on the interstate, and do you want to get over into lane 37 to make a right turn into Watertown when you get to Lebanon? No, we can’t get there,” he said.


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65-mile New England commuter line
moves a step closer; hearings coming

A proposed New Haven, Conn. to Springfield, Mass. commuter rail line would cost $263 million to establish, including about 16 miles of new track and three new stations along the 65-mile route.

The trustees of the Plan for Progress, a blueprint for economic development for the Pioneer Valley, got an overview November 18 of the commuter rail study commissioned by the Connecticut DOT and the Connecticut governor’s Transportation Strategy Board.

The strategy board has not voted on a recommended strategy but is conducting public meetings in Connecticut towns that would be served by the rail line based on the option that would run 16 trips a day – eight northbound and eight southbound – between Springfield and New Haven, leaving every half-hour during peak commuting hours.

The one-way fare from Springfield to Hartford was projected at $4.50, or $95 a month; to New Haven, it would be $9.50, or about $200 a month, said Kari E. Watkins, senior transportation planner with Wilbur Smith Associates, which developed the proposal.

The preferred option would build about 16 miles of track in Connecticut where the Amtrak line narrows to one track, and build new stations in Enfield, Newington and North Haven.

The commuter rail service would be in addition to Amtrak’s eight trains a day.

All 12 stations on the line would get high-level platforms so passengers could step onto the train at car floor level, rather than climbing two or three steps, as well as pedestrian facilities so that passengers would not have to cross any tracks.

The proposal would include shuttle bus service to Bradley International Airport from the Windsor Locks station.

Watkins’ study projects about 2,400 passenger trips a day, annual operating cost of $10 million, with $1.2 million in annual revenue.

While the initial cost, along with the projected annual operating deficit of $8.8 million, gave some trustees pause, Timothy W. Brennan, executive director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, pointed out some benefits.

Getting more cars off the road, both in terms of pollution and highway maintenance, would be a plus. Congestion on Interstate 95, which funnels much of New England’s transportation links into the New York City metropolitan area, could eventually necessitate a hugely costly fix of some sort, Brennan said, so expanding mass transit could help to alleviate that cost.

He said Western Massachusetts residents should note that “every day we’re paying for MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority) service” in metropolitan Boston.

“This is a strategic investment that could change the complexion of three major metro areas (Springfield, New Haven and Hartford) for the better,” Brennan said.

After the public meetings in Connecticut, a final proposal is scheduled to be delivered to Connecticut’s governor in early 2005.


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Warwick, R.I. creeps toward commuter
trains; track, station designs coming

A Warwick, R.I. commuter rail station with a rental car garage and people mover connecting the complex to T.F. Green Airport is still a go, although it may not be before 2007 or early 2008 before the first train stops there.

“We’re finally coming to terms with every element to run the train service,” James Capaldi, director of the Rhode Island DOT said on November 15.

“I think it’s coming to the front burner,” Amtrak spokesman Clifford Black, told the Warwick Beacon at midweek.

Capaldi reported that following a series of meetings with Amtrak and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority the parties have worked out a program that would enable MBTA trains to serve the station. Issues being discussed include using Amtrak tracks in a lease arrangement, crossover locations and their design on the double-track Amtrak main, and MBTA operational costs. The station would be designed so that Amtrak trains would also be capable of making stops in the future.

Black said that the engineering aspects of the station involving its positioning and sidings have been ironed out and that now agreement needs to be reached on “access fees” to Amtrak’s northeast corridor. He said that Amtrak has been working closely with RIDOT, the governor’s office and both senators – and he is optimistic an agreement can be reached “reasonably soon.”

U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R), who, as mayor several years earlier initiated the concept of linking a station with the airport, is expected to brief Mayor Scott Avedisian and other local officials this week on the status of the station project.

Chafee said last week he has talked with Amtrak CEO David Gunn and that issues over maintenance and operational costs need to be resolved. He said his main concern at this time is that “any decisions don’t preclude Amtrak stopping there [at a Warwick station].”

The issue now, Capaldi said, is what operational costs the state would face. Capaldi anticipates those details will be worked out by the end of this year, at which point construction could start.

With Amtrak refusing to have trains stop on either of its two tracks at a Warwick station, the “third rail” designed as a freight line to connect Quonset and the Providence & Worcester Railroad has become a key component to the project. Intended to accommodate container freight trains, the added track is now being looked at as the station track for MBTA trains. As the third rail, or Freight Rail Improvement Plan (FRIP), is under construction, Capaldi said revisions could be made now at significantly less cost to provide for the station. He said the track needs to be lowered by one foot, eight inches to accommodate catenary. That would put the station platform on the Jefferson Boulevard side of the tracks.

When the DOT learned last May that Amtrak did not want trains stopping on its rails for fear of delaying high-speed rail service, it was estimated an additional $50 million to $51 million would be needed to make the Warwick station a reality. That was the cost for building two sidings with appropriate switches and platforms for both Amtrak and MBTA trains.

Capaldi said that estimate hasn’t changed, but that a station with MBTA service can be built within the $165 million projected for an intermodal facility envisioned several years ago. He said with the elimination of the Amtrak platforms and a reconfiguration of the station, designers expect to save the $16 million needed for switches and to build the MBTA platform on the FRIP.

“This is not a safety issue as much as a congestion issue,” Black said of Amtrak’s aim to keep its rails clear. “We don’t want to have to slow down express trains. If we are to be competitive with aviation we need to improve our speeds.”

The project is still a way from being on track, so to speak.

While Capaldi said issues such as vehicle refueling in the rental car garage that would serve as a component of the station have been resolved, the Rhode Island Airport Corp. has not finalized agreements with rental car agencies over use of the facility. Such an agreement is critical to financing the project as well as constructing an elevated people mover to the Bruce Sundlun Terminal. Without the garage and its consolidation of rental car agencies, the station alone would not justify the construction of the people mover.

Avedisian remains an advocate of the station, although opposed to the extension of Green Airport runways. Contrary to viewing the station and its airport connection as creating greater demand for an expanded airport, he sees the facility as a means of providing airport access to Massachusetts’ residents, thereby relieving local traffic and congestion.

“We know we have all these people coming here. We should be looking at ways to make it more efficient,” Avedisian said.

The mayor also remains committed to the Warwick Station Redevelopment District, 70 acres between the terminal and the proposed station, although he is disappointed with the company selected to coordinate that redevelopment.

“Bulfinch [Company of Needham, MA] has been on this almost five years and they have not purchased a single parcel,” he said. Avedisian said another series of developers have contacted him about development within the area, adding, “I think there’s tremendous amount of opportunity there.”

Chafee is also anxious to see some movement within the district. He said he wants to hear why Bulfinch hasn’t progressed.

Michael Grande, chair of the redevelopment agency, however, empathizes with Bulfinch. He said he is in contact with the company on a weekly basis and understands until the intermodal project is finalized it is difficult for them to market a development plan.

“They need to know the footprint. Is there going to be a garage…a people mover? There are still too many variables,” he said. “It comes down to bottom line, what’s going on?”

As for other developers being interested in the area, Grande said there is nothing preventing them from being involved in a joint venture with Bulfinch.

Capaldi said initial MBTA service to Warwick and further south to Wickford Junction calls for eight round trips daily.

Also, with the rental car agencies based in the garage, the state can justify the use of customer facility charges (CFCs) to help pay for the project. The charge of $3.75 per day is levied of all cars rented by passengers arriving at Green. Since its enactment by the legislature in July 2001, the funds have been used to partially pay for the design of the station/garage/people mover project.

Another aspect of the project – almost $40 million in federal funds – poses another issue. Those funds are earmarked for bridge projects that are not applicable to Rhode Island. Chafee introduced an amendment to the Federal Highway Bill that would free the money for the intermodal project. Congress still hasn’t approved the bill and hence the funds can’t be counted on, although Capaldi is confident they will become available.

Capaldi is as anxious to have a Warwick station as one in Wickford. With development in South County, Capaldi said the Route 4 and Interstate 95 interchange with 175,000 vehicles daily ranks as the 233rd busiest interchange in the country.

“We need to bring this to Wickford,” he said.

As part of the agreement with MBTA, Capaldi said the state will help pay for a $14 million trainset. He said the state would provide 20 percent of the cost of an engine and seven coaches through a grant from the Federal Transit Authority.


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Streetcars coming to nation’s capital

District of Columbia officials broke ground last week for Anacostia Light Rail, a $55-million streetcar system that will make it easier for Southeast Washington residents to travel and may stimulate the community’s economy.

Wielding shovels across the street from the Anacostia Metro station at the site of what will be the Anacostia light rail station – one of six stops on the line – Mayor Anthony A. Williams, Metro General Manager Richard White and other officials hailed the new beginning, the Washington Times reported.

“It’s a great day for the neighborhood,” said Dan Tangherlini, director of the District of Columbia DOT.

“After a 42-year hiatus, we return streetcars to the city, and we will begin the process of reconnecting our neighborhoods,” he added.

The initial Anacostia Light Rail line, budgeted at $50 million to $60 million, will run for 2.7 miles along the right-of-way of the existing CSX Shepard Branch industrial spur from Pennsylvania Avenue, south of the John Phillip Sousa Bridge, to Bolling Air Force Base. Officials hope its six stops will open by fall 2006.


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Artist rendition for Miami

Miami Intermodal Center

Miami’s new Tri-Rail station gets an award – and it isn’t even built yet.

 

New Miami Tri-Rail station design receives award

The design for the Miami Intermodal Center (MIC) Rail Station’s first phase was recognized on November 16 by the Miami Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for an award in the “Unbuilt” category. Produced in the Earth Tech Miami Architecture Studio headed by Steven Thompson, and under the design leadership of Ricardo Fernandez, the design is for a component of the MIC Central Station.

A project of the Florida DOT, the station is now in the final phase of structural engineering for a curved, tri-cord truss roof, a specialty component of the design. The bricks-and-mortar station will be north of an existing Tri-Rail station. Upon completion, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority will be relocated.

The station will accommodate Tri-Rail, including the station platform. There will be adjacent surface parking and facilities for car and bus drop-offs, ticketing, concessions and restrooms. Subsequent phases will provide additional tracks and platforms for Amtrak and local Metrorail rail service.

“The MIC Rail Station is the start of the new dynamic transportation grid being built that will connect South Florida’s existing and future transportation systems,” said FDOT District 6 Secretary John Martinez.

“We are taking a regional approach and focusing our efforts on transportation solutions that accommodate South Florida’s expansion, trigger economic development and enhance the quality of life.”


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SEPTA improves timekeeping

Following some slippage in July and August, Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority reports its on-time performance rebounded to 92.4 percent in September. It’s the best result in more than three years, and the first month in that period that the railroad was able to meet its goal of 92 percent.

Peak trains scored even better at 94 percent, reports the Delaware Valley Rail Passenger Assn., (DVARP) but the improved overall figure is still below the performance of most of SEPTA’s peers.

The 12-month moving average is now approaching 88 percent on-time, showing a steady gain over last year, when the figure was below 85 percent and DVARP sounded the alarm over the railroad’s shoddy performance.

Amtrak-related delays were the biggest cause of late trains in September. Among the worst-performing lines on the system were Trenton (83.5 percent) and Wilmington (88.7 percent), with the R7 Chestnut Hill East (88.3 percent) suffering as a result of the Trenton woes. Chestnut Hill West also recorded an 88.7 percent on-time figure, in part due to construction projects and in part due to Amtrak. The standout performers were Media and Cynwyd. Both lines topped 97 percent for the month, putting them in a league with top-scoring railroads like Metro-North and Metra.


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No vote taken

     Rail plan gets yellow flags

Restrictions on the favored site for a commuter rail station off East Spit Brook Road are the latest wrinkle in the plan to return train service to Nashua, N.H.

Aldermen on the Planning and Economic Development Committee had more questions than support for a special taxing district to pay the city’s required $14 million portion of the project, as committee members opted not to vote on the resolution. “There’s just a lot of unknowns,” said Alderman-at-Large David Rootovich.

The Nashua Telegraph reported on November 17 Rootovich said he would like to see guarantees that the city won’t be responsible for millions of dollars of project expenses, if the federal government does not come forward with the money.

However, Alderman President Brian McCarthy said the committee is asking for specific details that cannot be answered yet.

The city has to show there is support to move forward first, triggering responses from state and federal leaders to answer those detailed questions, he said.

The resolution only establishes a policy, saying the city backs the resolution, but it does not mean anyone can spend city money, he said.

Others said the project is so big with large ramifications, city leaders need to ask questions up front.

The resolution calls for the establishment of a tax district to pay for a rail station; building high-density, mixed-use, transit-oriented development; the New Hampshire DOT is responsible for operating commuter rail; and a transit authority to govern the rail system.

Plans for commuter rail would connect Nashua with Boston by extending the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and would cost an estimated $70 million. Approximately $24 million has been received from the federal government.

Also, advocates for the rail service are also nervously watching the calendar. A January deadline approaches when a state committee decides whether to use the lion’s share of designated federal funds for projects along Interstate 93 or keep it reserved for commuter rail.

Stephen Williams, executive director of the Nashua Regional Planning Commission, said the state DOT has marked the $21 million for both the rail project and interstate highways.

In January, an advisory committee will suggest to Gov.-elect John Lynch which project should get the money. One factor will be how much progress the rail project has made, he said.

On the favored site, Dow Chemical closed its plant on East Spit Brook Road and is selling the property. Transportation consultants and community planners have eyed the southern 10 acres for a possible station, along with other uses, but Mayor Bernie Streeter and Community Development Director Kathy Hersh said the chemical company recently indicated it is not interested in selling the property for residential use.

Seven aldermen have endorsed the resolution, along with Streeter.


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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.


DART Extends Light Rail Service to Victory Station

American Airlines Center – home of the Dallas Mavericks pro basketball team, the Dallas Stars pro hockey team, and a wide variety of musical events – also became home to Victory Station, the newest stop in the Dallas Area Rapid Transit light rail system, on November 13.

DART celebrated the station opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on November 12 featuring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), and Super Saturday and Super Sunday customer celebrations during the weekend. Thousands enjoyed live music, DART safety presentations, and children’s entertainment by being among the first to take the train from West End Station in downtown Dallas to the new stop.

Victory Station serves both DART Rail and Trinity Railway Express commuter rail, with four platforms. While DART’s familiar gull-wing canopies top the platforms, the supporting columns are unique to Victory with rich terra cotta brick.


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Transit Scores Additional Wins in Tight Ballot Races

Public transportation has emerged with additional ballot initiative wins in communities where the results were not finalized immediately after the November 2 election. Final vote totals show success for transit-related measures in Colorado and Florida; however, ballot counting continues in California, where a two-thirds majority is required for the passage of sales taxes for transportation purposes.

Since the beginning of 2004, a total of 53 transit-related initiatives appeared on ballots across the country during 2004; 18 additional measures received approval before November 2. The Center for Transportation Excellence said the number of approved measures was a record for ballot initiatives.

Among the tight races for transportation initiatives, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority in Aspen, Colo., gained support for a bus system outside Aspen’s city limits. The residents of New Castle voted 587 to 535 in favor of Referendum 1A, joining the RFTA, and supporting it with a 0.4 percent sales tax and a $10 vehicle registration fee to subsidize the regional bus service.

57 percent of voters approved Referendum 4B, which increased RFTA sales and use taxes by 0.2 percent in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, unincorporated Eagle County, and Basalt. The existing RFTA sales and use taxes in these communities range from a low of 0.4 percent in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale to a high of 0.7 percent in Basalt. In Pitkin County, 77 percent of voters approved the dedication of 0.165 percent of an existing county transit tax to RFTA.

Two other municipalities, Silt and unincorporated Garfield County, rejected measures to join RFTA and impose a 0.4 percent sales and use tax and a $10 vehicle registration fee, meaning the loss to RFTA of approximately $500,000 in projected revenue. RFTA said it believes it can offset this amount through corresponding expenditure reductions.

Voters in Miami-Dade County, Fla., approved a non-binding referendum in support of the BayLink light rail trolley system, with 13,718 votes (55 percent) in favor and 11,456 opposed. The BayLink system will connect downtown Miami with the South Beach area of Miami Beach.


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GO Transit Opens Newest Commuter Rail Station

The newest commuter rail station on GO Transit’s Bradford Line opened in ceremonies November 1. Ontario Minister of Transportation Harinder Takhar and GO Transit Chairman Gordon Chong were among the dignitaries on hand to greet passengers when the first trains moved through the East Gwillimbury Station that morning.

The $7.5 million (Canadian) station, located in the northern suburbs of Toronto, is the first of nine new commuter rail stations to open as part of GO Transit’s 10-year Growth Capital Plan. It an intermediary station between Bradford and Newmarket in the York Region, where riders can access GO trains and buses as well as York Transit buses.


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Floyd Is Permanent Head of Antelope Valley System

The Board of Directors of the Antelope Valley Transit Authority in Lancaster, Calif., has named Randy Floyd as the agency’s executive director. Floyd had been serving as the interim executive director since June.

Before taking the interim post, Floyd served as AVTA’s planning manager for three years. Prior to that, he worked for the city of Palmdale as the senior analyst, where he also served on AVTA’s Technical Advisory Committee.

He has also served the Southern California Assn. of Governments as the sub-regional coordinator in the Budget and Grants Division.

Floyd was named to the interim position after Jeffrey O’Keefe, the board’s replacement for retiring executive director Bill Budlong, resigned prior to beginning work, citing health reasons.


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HARTline Selects Miller as Executive Director

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority Board of Directors in Tampa, Fla., has selected Raymond Miller, executive director of the Delaware Transit Corp., to be its next executive director. He will succeed Sharon Dent, who has headed HARTline for the past 14 years, and is expected to begin his duties in January.

Miller has 25 years of experience in public transportation management. He joined DART First State in 1999 after serving the Central Ohio Transit Authority in Columbus as assistant general manager, director of marketing and service development, and director of marketing.


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Triangle Transit Awards Contract for DMU Rail Cars

The Triangle Transit Authority Board of Trustees in Research Triangle Park, N.C., voted October 27 to award a contract of up to $90.1 million to United Transit Systems, a consortium of Sojitz Corporation of America and Rotem Company, to supply up to 32 Diesel Multiple Unit rail cars for TTA’s Regional Rail Transit System.

The 12-station, 28-mile Regional Rail Transit System from Durham to the Research Triangle Park, Cary, and Raleigh, N.C., is scheduled to begin operation in 2008.

Sojitz Corp. is headquartered in Tokyo, and Rotem Co. is headquartered in Seoul. Since 1964, Rotem has manufactured more than 32,000 railroad vehicles including both passenger and freight vehicles for U.S. clients.

UTS will provide a minimum of 24 FRA-safety compliant railcars, configured as 12 married pairs, and an option for eight additional vehicles configured as four additional married pairs. If the full contract is exercised, the TTA DMU fleet provided by UTS will consist of 32 railcars, configured as 16 married pairs. Each married pair can carry 160 passengers seated.


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Utah Leaders Approve Resolutions for Additional Transportation Funding

Board members of Utah’s two largest Metropolitan Planning Organizations, the Wasatch Front Regional Council and Mountainland Assn. of Governments, met October 26 to approve unanimously a joint resolution identifying a recommended funding package to build major transit and highway projects. The joint meeting was the first held by the two boards in more than 20 years.

The resolution states that transportation system plans and funding must be based on a “shared solution” that includes highways, transit, and alternative transportation.

The two MPOs, recognizing that the region’s mobility needs are growing much faster than the ability to meet them, developed a funding scenario that will provide $6 billion over the next 10 years for highway and transit projects. They noted that the population of the Wasatch Front is projected to double in the next 20 years, with 75 percent of that growth coming from within. More than 80 percent of Utah’s residents live along the greater Wasatch Front.


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

CN and CP Map

CN and CP

CPR will be able to move eight trains a week of bulk commodities over CN’s line 44.39 between Edmonton, Alberta and CPR’s network at Coho, B.C., near Kamloops. The 550-mile stretch is the longest in the new agreement. Two other joint operating agreements are 300 and 100 miles long.

 

CN, CP create new networks

Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railways reached agreement on November 16 on three new network initiatives that will improve railway transit times and asset utilization in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

In the East…

Under a new freight-hauling arrangement between three railroads meant to improve service in eastern North America, an under-used rail line in northern New York will get more traffic.

Canadian Pacific will haul Canadian National Railway and Norfolk Southern freight from eastern Canada to the eastern U.S. on its rail line between Rouse’s Point and Saratoga Springs in northern New York.

That’s expected to cut up to two days from about 20-thousand freight shipments annually that currently move through the Buffalo gateway.

Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas told the Plattsburgh, N. Y. Press-Republican that alleviates concerns about the underused rail line along the western side of Lake Champlain and justifies continued investment.

Rail officials said the latest initiatives provide for “a slot-sharing arrangement allowing CPR to move eight trains a week of bulk commodities over CN’s line between Edmonton, Alberta and CPR’s network at Coho, British Columbia, near Kamloops,” some 550 miles. Under the arrangement, which the railways have tested for the past several months, trains are equipped with CPR locomotives and operated by CN crews.

At Coho, CPR trains enter already-established directional running trackage that sees all westbound trains of both railways move through the Fraser Valley on CN’s line and all eastbound trains move on CPR’s line.

The carriers are also using directional running over about 100 miles of parallel CPR and CN track in Ontario between Waterfall, near Sudbury, and Parry Sound. Both railways will operate eastbound trains over the CN line and westbound trains over CPR’s line, improving network fluidity in this corridor;

A haulage arrangement now sees CN freight moving over about 300 miles of CPR track in Ontario between Thunder Bay and a junction with CN at Franz using CPR’s route north of Lake Superior. This arrangement will permit the rationalization of about 200 miles of CN secondary track in Ontario between Thunder Bay and Longlac. CN will maintain transportation service to affected shippers.

CN president and CEO E. Hunter Harrison, said “With these new arrangements, CN and CPR are unlocking efficient ways to improve service, increase track capacity and maximize railway infrastructure utilization.”

CPR’s president and CEO, Robert Ritchie, said the “initiatives are the product of an extensive review that showed opportunities in eastern and western Canada for quick improvements” in using the rail infrastructure. He added, “Along with our Port of Vancouver agreements to make rail operations more efficient for port freight traffic, these new initiatives again demonstrate that the highly competitive railway industry can work in a spirit of co-operation to respond to shipper needs.”


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UP replaces San Antonio boss

Union Pacific Railroad replaced its superintendent in southwestern Texas on Friday, where five accidents since May have killed four people and spilled hazardous materials.

The new San Antonio superintendent, Shane Keller, 35, will be responsible for safe operation of more than 1,500 miles of track, The AP reported. He made significant safety improvements when he served in a similar position in the St. Louis area in 2002 and 2003, the freight railroad said.

Keller replaces Gary Davidson, who had overseen the San Antonio service unit for several years, railroad spokesman John Bromley said. Davidson is being transferred to Omaha, Bromley said Friday.

As for why Davidson was replaced, Bromley said only, “We felt Shane was the right guy to handle that service unit at this time.”

UP, the nation’s largest freight railroad, serves 23 states across the western two-thirds of the country, and the San Antonio area is at the crossroads of the freight carrier’s Texas network, with trains running east and west, as well as north and south from Mexico.

Three people died in June when two Union Pacific trains collided in a rural area southwest of San Antonio and released a plume of toxic fumes. In November, a man died when a freight car smashed into a San Antonio warehouse.


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FRA steps up UP exams

The FRA is stepping up safety enforcement at Union Pacific after several crashes and derailments that killed seven people in Texas and New Mexico over the last year, agency officials said November 15.

The regulators made the announcement to a delegation of Texas officials who traveled to Washington to express concern about railroad accidents in the San Antonio region, one of which released poisonous chlorine gas and killed three people, The New York Times reported the following day.

The FRA said it had signed a “compliance agreement” with UP, under which the railroad promised to repair “notable deficiencies” that regulators found when they inspected its operation in southern Texas. UP crews had not been following the railroad’s own safety rules, the officials said.

Under the agreement, the FRA will send 10 additional inspectors to the region and require managers to have added safety training. Federal authorities are still investigating some of the accidents.

The agency could have ordered the company to repair the problems, but officials said the compliance agreement was a way to begin attacking the problems without first holding a hearing. That approach received a mixed response from the Texas delegation, which included Mayor Edward D. Garza of San Antonio, U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, (R), who chairs the Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Subcommittee.

“The agreement now in force can be not only monitored by the F.R.A. - and there will be more inspectors - but it can be enforced in court,” she said. Hutchison sought a federal inquiry into the railroad’s operation in the San Antonio region.

Gonzalez asked whether the accord went far enough.

“I really think that you can only cut people so much slack,” he said. “It’s nice to have an agreement on paper, but what are you getting?”

UP said in a statement that it was fully cooperating and had begun repairing the problems.


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Oregon helps fund private railroad spur

Oregon funding to promote rail development will help build a private railroad spur that will save fuel shipment costs to Central Oregon.

Ed Staub & Sons Petroleum, in Bend, Ore., will be able to eliminate some tanker truck shipments with the new spur, saving about $50,000 a year, said Kent Hicks, plant manager for the Redmond fuel distributor.

“Rail shipping saves us about 7 percent in costs,” Hicks told The AP via Bend’s The Bulletin.

“One railroad car holds three truck transport loads. It’s not just the cost of fuel, it’s the equipment we don’t have to have on the road, and we don’t have to have employees in other areas.”

About 75 percent of the construction costs, or $87,000, will be paid for by the state, thanks to a program aimed at boosting economic development in Oregon by funding the creation of rail spurs.

Like Ed Staub and Sons, other businesses in Central Oregon and across the state are expressing a renewed interest in potential cost savings with rail shipping.

“We’ve seen a 10 percent growth in rail traffic in the last year on this line and we are looking at 10 trains traveling through Bend each day,” said Gus Melonas, a spokesman for the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad.

On the Oregon Trunk line, which runs from the Columbia River to Klamath Falls, Melonas said the company has invested $6 million in capital improvements.

“Many observers think of railroads as being obsolete. However, it is the complete opposite,” Melonas said.

Bob Shive, principal broker with Shive & Associates, who helped Ed Staub and Sons find its new location, said he has had a number of inquiries from businesses looking for rail access.

Shive said that while more people are looking at rail as a cheaper way to ship large volumes, a number of access points to spurs in the Redmond area have been eliminated by rerouting U.S. Highway 97.

“Finding property is extremely difficult,” Shive said.

In 2003, the state legislature approved $8 million in Oregon Lottery-backed bonds for the industrial rail spur Program, in hopes of attracting new industries and expanding existing businesses.

Currently, the funds are being used on 12 projects across the state, including the Staub’s spur in Redmond, and a spur at an existing quarry near the town of Gateway.

“I think any type of enhancement to the infrastructure is going to mean enhancement to the economic picture,” said Mac McGowan, a spokesman with the Oregon DOT’s rail division.


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NYRR gets Balfour Beatty contract

New York Regional Rail Corp. said last week Balfour Beatty Construction Co., Inc. has named New York Cross Harbor to move freight cars containing bridge beams and supports for the continuing construction of the Sikorsky Bridge over the Housatonic River.

The railroad company did not state how much the contract was worth.

The bridge beams, some as long as 120 feet and as high as 16 feet, are fabricated in Washington State and shipped by rail across the country. Balfour Beatty said in a press release it chose NYCH because it can move railcars on barges to waterfront locations.

The steel beams are transferred from flat cars to specially outfitted barges and then taken directly to the construction site where they are lifted on to the bridge span.

The Sikorsky Bridge, being built for Connecticut, is a link in state route 15, the Merritt Parkway.

Elsewhere, NYCH is moving fresh produce destined for the Brooklyn marketplace. Transporting the produce allows transloading closer to the final markets, and avoids congestion found at the Hunt’s Point Produce Market in the Bronx. What started out with potatoes from the West Coast expanded to onions, and now includes apples. Again, no word how much the carrier is earning from the moves.


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BUSINESS LINES...  Business lines...

G&W completes debt refinancing

Genesee & Wyoming, Inc. reported on November 15 that it has closed on a five-year, $182 million unsecured senior credit facility, and has also completed a seven-year, $75 million private placement of unsecured 4.85 percent fixed rate senior notes.

GWI stated in a press release it will use the proceeds from the $257 million financing to repay approximately $110 million of debt outstanding at its U.S. and Canadian subsidiaries as of September 30. The remaining unused borrowing capacity will be available for general corporate purposes, including acquisitions.

The new credit facility is composed of a $150 million revolving loan and a Canadian $38.5 million (U.S. $32 million) Canadian term loan, both of which are due in 2009. Initial borrowings were priced at LIBOR plus 1.0 percent, compared with LIBOR plus 2.0 percent under GWI’s former credit facility.

Bank of America, N.A. was sole lead arranger and administrative agent for the new credit facility, while JP Morgan Chase Bank was syndication agent. Other participating lenders were LaSalle Bank, Key Bank, National City Bank, Citizens Bank, Sovereign Bank, BB&T and Comerica.


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QUARTERLY REPORTS...  Quarterly reports...

FEC

Florida East Coast Industries, Inc. (FLA)(FECI) directors declared a quarterly dividend of five cents per share on all issued and outstanding common stock, payable on December 16 to all shareholders of record as of December 2.


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UP

Union Pacific Corp. (UNP) directors declared a quarterly dividend of 30 cents per share on its common stock, payable January 3 to stockholders of record on December 8.


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Rail intermodal again up sharply;
some carload freight declines

Intermodal traffic on U.S. railroads was up sharply again during the week ended November 13, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on Thursday.

Railroads originated a total 0f 233,788 trailers or containers during the week, up 11.7 percent from the comparable week last year. Trailer volume rose 12.1 percent from last year while container traffic grew by 11.6 percent. It was the second highest weekly intermodal volume ever recorded.

Carload freight, which doesn't include the intermodal data, totaled 346,089 cars, up 0.9 percent from a year ago with loadings up 1.2 percent in the East and 0.7 percent in the West. Total volume was estimated at 32.5 billion ton-miles, up 1.2 percent from last year.

Ten of 19 carload commodities registered gains from last year, with crushed stone, sand and gravel up 14.9 percent, metallic ores rising 14.2 percent and nonmetallic minerals gaining 10.7 percent.

Loadings of primary forest products declined 10.1 percent while motor vehicles and equipment were down 9.8 percent and grain volume was off 8.5 percent.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 45 weeks of 2004: 15,180,403 carloads, up 2.9 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 9,541,484 trailers or containers, up 9.7 percent; and total volume of an estimated 1.397 trillion ton-miles, up 5.1 percent from last year’s first 45 weeks.

On Canadian railroads, during the week ended November 13 carload traffic totaled 71,886 cars, up 4.9 percent from last year while intermodal volume totaled 43,420 trailers or containers, down 0.7 percent from last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 45 weeks of 2004 on the Canadian railroads totaled 3,029,812 carloads, up 7.4 percent from last year, and 1,893,092 trailers and containers, up 0.2 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 45 weeks of 2004 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 18,210,215 carloads, up 3.6 percent from last year and 11,434,576 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 13 totaled 9,104 cars, up 12.5 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 4,419 originated trailers or containers, up 27.8 percent from the 45th week of 2003. For the first 45 weeks of 2004, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 393,355 cars, up 3.7 percent from last year, and 169,800 trailers or containers, up 7.7 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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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: CBSMarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)44.3944.50
Canadian National (CNI)55.0356.20
Canadian Pacific (CP) 30.4529.17
CSX (CSX)37.5537.95
Florida East Coast (FLA)41.1041.81
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)27.2728.00
Kansas City Southern (KSU)16.4116.80
Norfolk Southern (NSC)33.1534.91
Providence & Worcester (PWX)12.3511.90
Union Pacific (UNP)66.1164.69


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

Australian Tilt Train on its side

Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Evidence indicates the Queensland Rail Tilt Train was traveling 30 mph faster that it should have been.

 

Tilt Train was speeding, QR says

Police and Queensland Rail (QR) of Australia have confirmed that the Tilt Train involved in a derailment in central Queensland last week was traveling more than 31 mph above the speed limit when the accident happened.

The Tilt Train came off the tracks north of Bundaberg, injuring 120 people on board, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

In a joint statement, police and Queensland Rail said the train was traveling at 70 mph along a section of track where the limit is 37 mph.

Queensland Rail chief executive Bob Scheuber says preliminary investigations show the train was going too fast.

“I believe that the train was traveling in excess of the speed for the 60 kph curve,” he said.

‘That’s a view that we’ve ascertained from looking at some of the information that has come through. Clearly the event recorders are absolutely crucial in determining that speed.

“Just from the observations when you look at where the train is and that sort of thing, you sort of form a view that speed was a contributory factor.

“I don’t know to what extent. I’m not going to speculate. I’m just going to be honest with you and say that’s an obvious thing we are considering.”

Scheuber says it is not known for certain if speed was the only cause of the crash.

“At this stage we can’t be absolutely sure of that,” he said.

“It would be one of the contributing factors. I can’t be absolutely sure as to whether speed alone has caused that. I’m not discounting that it could be speed alone, I just don’t at this stage know.”

The speed limit on the straight section of track before the curve where the crash occurred is 150 kph, or 93 mph.

Rail officials are still investigation the wreck.


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Network Rail aims to raise £1 billion

Network Rail, the United Kingdom railway infrastructure operator, offered its first new bonds since making its debut in the market last March.

The company plans to raise at least £1 billion by selling bonds with maturities of 2015 and 2035, according to market sources.

The 11-year tranche was offered 25-27 basis points above the comparable Gilt, and the guidance on the 2035 issue was 26-28 basis points above the UK government bond.

The transactions will be the first from the group’s £20 billion funding program for the next five years. The Strategic Rail Authority, ensuring the highest credit rating from the three main agencies, backs the group.

Network Rail made its debut in the bond market in March this year, raising about £6.5 billion in four tranches and three currencies.

Barclays Capital, Citigroup, Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS are managing the sale.


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

Actor Costner wants Deadwood connection

Movie star and Deadwood, Calif., casino owner Kevin Costner no longer is seeking a railroad to run between Whitewood and Deadwood, but instead backs a plan to run a rail line between “Exit 17” and the gambling town, according to his father. The railroad would be three-foot gauge Black Hills Transportation.

It’s where?

Deadwood is some 75 miles southeast of Stockton in Central California near Nevada. It’s also within Stanislaus National Forest. The Old West town is largely abandoned during the winter. It’s in Trinity County and has one road – 2WD. It’s also about seven miles east of Lewiston. The turnoff is a dirt road one-quarter mile before the fish hatchery in Lewiston. Follow the road about seven miles, then take road split to right. An old stamp mill and out buildings decorate the town as well as the new casino. The mine was called “The Brown Bear Mine” and at one time was home to about 10,000 miners. This was the mine that Black Bart used to rob the stage between Deadwood and French Gulch. The community also had its own post office.

Bill Costner told the Northern Hills Railroad Authority and the Black Hills Pioneer of his son’s wishes on November 12.

Exit 17 is set for development by Denver real estate developer Daryll Propp. His representative, Pat Wyss of Wyss and Associates of Rapid City was on hand at the rail board meeting in Belle Fourche Friday morning to note Propp’s interest in having a railroad go between his proposed development and Deadwood.

Wyss said one meeting with landowners has been held, and Propp has agreed to continue to investigate the potential for a rail operation to tie in with his development. Further steps will be based on whether the landowners can agree. Propp has no interest in taking further steps, such as a formal feasibility study on a narrow gauge rail operation between Exit 17 and Deadwood, without support from the landowners, said Wyss.

Property owners along the right-of-way had issues with the board, which it contends it controls from Deadwood to Whitewood.

Brady has made repeated statements that he is currently negotiating with landowners to clear up any right of way issues, finding success in talks and contracts with some and continuing to invite others to respond to his offer to come to his office or contact him by phone or mail to open talks.

Bill Costner said he was not acting as his son’s official representative. Lisa Bryan of Kevin Costner’s Tatanka attraction in Deadwood was indicated to be the official contact. Bryan appeared before the rail board in May on behalf of Costner to express his thoughts that he did not want to be part of confrontation with local landowners along the right-of-way.

She said Costner, at that time, did not want to be part of displacing landowners and urged, after listening to more than two hours of board discussion with landowners, better communication be put into place to attempt to solve any differences.

Railroad Authority Chairman Vern Bills noted that three meetings had been set with Bryan since that May meeting, but Bryan had only been able to attend one of the three. Bills said this led to a sense of difficulty on the part of the board in getting direct information about Kevin Costner’s position on a rail project via Black Hills Transportation.

After the meeting, Bill Costner said he would only make one statement, repeating that his son has lost interest in a Whitewood to Deadwood railroad and favors an Exit 17 to Deadwood project.

One person stating he was present to represent Costner’s interests before the board, Jan Van Tassel of Deadwood, said the movie star is not interested in any project that threatens to put people out of their homes or off their property.

The rail authority has said in recent months, primarily through authority attorney Tom Brady of Spearfish, it would not waive any right to use imminent domain and condemnation, given to rail authorities under state and federal law, to accomplish the goal of building an operating railroad.

Costner is also an owner of at least 50 percent of Black Hills Transportation, according to Van Tassel. This is a company formed by Costner’s previous employee Terry Kranz who headed up the Dunrail project that was to accompany Costner’s dream resort the Dunbar.

Previously, Kranz has refused to identify the exact relationship he and his company have with Costner other than to say that Costner is a “stock owner.”

Bills told Bill Costner that the rail board has been meeting based on his son’s plans but that has changed over time. “This board has been meeting for over 14 years over his dream… but that has become more of a regional dream now,” said Bills.

Bills said the mission of the rail board is to deal with the right-of-way between Whitewood and Deadwood and “put it back into one piece again,” whether for use in a railroad project or some other use, such as a rails-to-trails project.

On the issue of a narrow gauge railroad going to Exit 17, Bills called that plan “wonderful,” noting “we have never thrown cold water on it,” but said he was waiting for “an official representative to come forward (to the board),” to discuss such a plan if it is to become a reality or needs the cooperation and help of the rail authority.

He said Daryll Propp has called him “a couple of times.”

“Kevin wants the railroad but does not want the land owners to feel they have been mistreated. That is his word

“He feels bad about it,” said Van Tassel of Costner’s thoughts on the rail authority and Kranz’s dealings with local residents involved in right-of-way issues.

On the issue of Black Hills Transportation’s work with the authority, Kranz was to complete business dealings with a Minneapolis financial firm to issue bonds to finance the multi-million dollar project, but fell seriously ill before that could be done. Now dealing with the project is Ralph Justen, who introduced himself as a long-time business acquaintance of Kranz with extensive experience in railroading.

Along with many other accomplishments, Justen noted he had served as executive director of the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wis. In that position, Justen said, he had significantly increased the physical plant of the museum as well as visitorship and revenues.

He told the board he foresees the planned rail project from Whitewood to Deadwood becoming one of the top three such attractions in the country. Asked after the meeting how long it could take for the rail line to become a reality, he said it could be up and running, if all goes perfectly, by July 2005. However, Justen noted, “This is not an issue of if it will be built. It is a matter of when this project will be built.”

Justen said he would be meeting with the same bonding firm Kranz was meeting with prior to his illness with that meeting scheduled for November 23. After that meeting, Justen said, he will have more answers on the work needed to be done for bonding to take place and financing for the rail project to be put into place.

At the present time, the bills for the operation of the board is being paid by Black Hills Transportation which took over the role Dunrail had prior to Costner dissolving the relationship between the authority and Dunrail as part of the cessation of the Dunbar project and Kranz going to work on his own with his new company.

The board set no meeting date as it awaits a call from Justen to let the board know when he needs to meet with the membership for rail business.

Justen said he will be setting up offices in Deadwood after having come from Chadron, Neb., where, on behalf of Black Hills Transportation, he finished setting up a lease for a roundhouse where railroad cars and engines can be renovated for use in the Northern Hills rail venture.

He said the present business plan is to go in three phases with the first being to utilize a diesel train between Whitewood and Deadwood including “streamline” cars and an engine. When that operation is up and running, a steam engine and period cars will go into operation on that run and the diesel streamline train will start traffic between Whitewood and Rapid City.

He told a reporter it is critical for any small tourist railroad to have access to the national rail system so that engines and cars, as well as other equipment, can go to sites along that huge system for interchange. Without that access, he said, those facilities have to be duplicated within the small rail lines and that would cost millions.

Charles Brown, owner of a tunnel that is critical to the path of any railroad through Whitewood Canyon, filed a lawsuit against the rail authority, Brady noted, but that was suddenly pulled back. Brady encouraged Brown to move forward with his suit so that the issues he raises can be settled.

Brown said the title being used by the board to claim control of the right-of-way for the railroad is based on only quit claim deeds from many entities including the State Department of Game, Fish and Parks. All of these, Brown said, are useless, observing he wondered why the Game, Fish and Parks officials had not also conveyed a quit claim deed to the rail authority for “the Eiffel tower.”

Brown urged the board to stop what he characterized as its tactics of requiring each individual property owner to hire their own lawyer to fight the authority over individual property rights and maintaining an approach that is not as fair and equitable as it should be.


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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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