Vol. 7 No. 49
November 27, 2006

Copyright © 2006
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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A weekly North American rail and transit update

The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative Inc.

Publisher - James P. RePass
Editor - Molly McKayWebmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick
European Correspondent - David Beale

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

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

  News of the week…
Seattle area sets example of going forward on its own
Policy signals shift in approach to maintenance
  Commuter lines…
San Francisco’s BART system tube getting a $1.3 billion seismic retrofit
MBTA assigns $332 million to infrastructure
  Safety lines…
Tunnel waterproofing expected to thwart winter icing woes
  Select railroad stocks…
  Off the main line…
Popular action heroes featured in special Amtrak comic book
  We get letters…
  End notes…

NEWS OF THE WEEK... News of the week...

Seattle area sets example of
going forward on its own

By DF Staff and from Internet Sources

(Editor’s note: The following article is of particular interest to NCI and is supporters as it proceeds with work to form a regional entity to address and help act upon transportation needs in New England, upstate New York, and the Eastern Canadian provinces, which would plan, govern and fund infrastructure projects in the New England states and northern New York. We will be following the developments in Seattle closely as well as in California where there is broad regional coordination.)


SEATTLE --- A Regional Transportation Commission for the entire Puget Sound area of Washington, authorized by the legislature and signed in to law by Governor Christine Gregoire in March 2006, has launched its mission to evaluate how the region’s transportation system is governed and funded.

At 66,582 square miles Washington State is nearly the size of all six New England states combined (71,997 square miles); the four counties that are part of the Central Puget Sound Regional Transportation Commission Washington have, by themselves, 6,290 square miles, larger than the state of Connecticut.

The Commission is a citizen advisory group with nine voting members from the four counties that make up the Central Puget Sound Region: King (2,100), Pierce (1,790), Snohomish (2090) and Kitsap (396) or a total of 6,290 square miles. It is headed by former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice and John Stanton, founder of Trilogy Equity Partners. Washington State Secretary of Transportation Douglas MacDonald also participates as a non-voting member, reports the Seattle Times.

As a core of its mission, the RTC must do a critical evaluation of Sound Transit’s resource consumption and performance results for regional public transportation services. (Sound Transit services all four counties in the Central Puget Sound Region.) RTC must also assess the current roles of the region’s transportation agencies and their current finance structures, and then develop recommendations that may include the consolidation of agencies; improved investment strategies; adjustments to boundaries for agencies or investment districts to address future transportation needs, and; improved strategies for coordination between regional investments and federal funds.

Their recommendations must include at a minimum a provision for the formation of a regional transportation governing entity with directly-elected members. It must also include available revenue sources and the scope of planning authority for the new entity, the Times reports.

From “General Comments” about the Commission on their web site, one can also surmise that they see themselves as having a broader, more global role of bringing to the region examples of solutions being used around the world that could be of great advantage to Washington taxpayers:

“Current transportation organizations are generally reluctant to examine major innovations in the transportation field. What is needed is some governmental support for research, development, and demonstration focused on promising concepts that are being developed around the globe… Taxpayers could eventually benefit from being able to purchase high performance, lower cost solutions to their enormous and growing traffic congestion and pollution problems.”

Tolls, user fees in lieu of taxes

One of their first recommendations was that tolls, other user fees and possibly public-private partnerships should be considered as ways to pay for the region's transportation needs. “We do not believe the answer is to simply raise more taxes — voters will not support them,” the commission said in its 171-page report.

Regional “mega-agency” recommended

The commission also said that the region's six separate transit agencies — Sound Transit, Metro, Pierce Transit, Kitsap Transit, Community Transit and Everett Transit — should possibly be merged into one mega-agency.

The commission recommended that the State Legislature, possibly next year, create a regional transportation-governance agency to prioritize, plan and finance regional projects.

The Regional Transportation Commission says the six separate agencies represent 66 billion dollars in funding requirements over the next two decades and should be under one agency to plan and finance projects.

New England too follow suit?

One of the major projects of the National Corridors Initiative is the creation of a regional New England/Northeastern entity, including the Eastern Canadian provinces, to create the kind of integrated transportation system that Washington State is creating in its most populous region, the area around Puget Sound where 55% of the state’s population lives.

“We have been concerned for years on the gradual economic decline of the New England/Northeast region compared to the rest of the United States, due in part because a fractured and poorly maintained transportation system discourages businesses from locating here and even drives away business,” said NCI President Jim RePass in commenting on the Washington State regional transportation commission. “I have visited Seattle a number of times and seen the kind of can-do spirit that exists there. I hope New England is smart enough to realize that other states aren’t going to wait for New England to get its act together, transportation-wise. They’ll just keep on attracting our businesses – and residents – to their neck of the woods.”

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Policy signals shift in approach
to maintenance

Source: Amtrak Ink.

The adoption of a new corporate maintenance policy this summer signals a shift in maintenance practices designed to utilize resources and manpower more efficiently, while improving the reliability and availability of the company’s equipment and infrastructure.

Two important points are worth noting about the adoption of the policy. First, it’s the first time in recent history that a standard corporate maintenance policy that applies to both the Engineering and Mechanical departments has been instituted. Second, it initiates a shift in philosophy to Condition-Based Maintenance (CBM), in a manner very similar to that used by the U.S. Navy and NASA.

Photo: Amtrak Ink  

Senior Vice President William Crosbie (L), Talgo Maintenance Supervisor Richard Vila and President and CEO Alex Kummant tour the Seattle Yard, as part of a look at West Coast and Pacific Northwest operations in October

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Condition-Based Maintenance is an approach to maintenance that stipulates that work is performed only when there is evidence of need, while making sure that safety, operational readiness and equipment reliability are managed in a cost-effective manner. The rules of evidence are contained in a body of knowledge called Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM).

The evidence of need is determined by performing a Reliability Centered Maintenance analysis, which makes the best use of legitimate tasks and eliminates unnecessary scheduled maintenance requirements.

“Think of RCM as how CBM is actually carried out on the shop floor. What RCM does is ask whether a specific maintenance task ‘benefits the hardware’ and is actually ‘worth doing’ — given the safety, operational and economic consequences of the failure that the maintenance task is trying to prevent,” said Ken Jacobs, deputy for Reliability Centered Maintenance.

The policy is not solely grounded in philosophy; it signals forthcoming changes in processes, procedures and support. Condition-Based Maintenance will be incorporated into current and future maintenance programs of the Mechanical and Engineering departments, utilizing the Reliability Centered Maintenance rules of evidence.

Initially focusing on Mechanical maintenance requirements, the approach to implementing RCM-based CBM to engineering maintenance requirements will be developed in concert with engineering department leadership.

The first RCM-validated maintenance program will be implemented on the shop floor in High Speed Rail in January 2007. RCM-validated maintenance programs for all other rolling stock and facilities will be developed and implemented over the course of the next two to three years.

Because the RCM review process inherently requires the participation of those who actually perform the work, Mechanical and Engineering employees will be involved in performing RCM analyses in their area of expertise.

The first of any Amtrak group to practice RCM in a formal way, the High Speed Rail Division has submitted a revised, RCM-validated Inspection Testing and Maintenance (ITM) Plan to the FRA for approval. The revised ITM, planned for implementation on Jan. 1, 2007, is the result of RCM reviews that took place this summer. Implementation of the revised ITM is expected to result in an increase in availability of High Speed trainsets from 75 percent to 85 percent, while preserving safe and reliable operation of Acela service.

“Using RCM ensures that we’re not wasting time on maintenance that doesn’t need to be done and using the time gained to focus on the things that really matter. It also allows us time to address chronic problems in a more targeted way — we’re just working smarter,” said High Speed Rail Master Mechanic Dave Schramm.

The corporate maintenance policy is published in Section 3.3.0 of the Amtrak Policy and Instruction Manual, which is available on the Intranet, under “How We Work.”

COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

San Francisco’s BART system tube
getting a $1.3 billion seismic retrofit

By DF Staff and From Internet Sources

SAN FRANCISCO --- The Transbay Tube, a key section of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) System, is getting a seismic retrofit to protect against earthquake damage, according to a story by MediaNews staff. The project, which is well under way, calls for sinking 180-foot-long and 10-foot-wide piles into the bottom of San Francisco Bay to protect the rail tube.

The BART System, centered around a rail-dedicated tube connecting San Francisco with the East Bay area, was first proposed in the early twentieth century and then more seriously in the post-World War II-era. Real planning began in the 1950’s. It opened for service September 11, 1972, after more than a decade of design and construction, and has been expanded several times since.

Initially nine California counties were part of the planning process, but all but three dropped out as projected costs rose. However, the pressure from automobile congestion overcame cost obstacles as voters repeatedly voted approvals to tax themselves to pay for the system.

Unlike the Interstate Highway System, which was 90% Federally-funded with dedicated “highway trust fund” dollars and Federal legislation ordering construction, transit systems have been forced repeatedly to go to voters to get local approval, and then seek Federal support, slowing the process by decades. Typically Federal assistance has been 50 per cent of the total cost (BART got 64% Federal help for its first segment), despite legislation authorizing “up to” 80 per cent funding.

The BART Board has approved an $81million, four-year contract extension for Bechtel Corp. so the company and its subcontractors can continue working on the transit system's project. Although this is an increase in cost, it is not expected to affect the project’s overall $1.3 billion price tag, said BART spokesman Linton Johnson, reported MediaNews.

The contract originally cost $105 million, but a 2002 Bechtel study found that the elevated track system and the 3.6-mile underwater Transbay Tube needed upgrades. So in 2004, voters approved a $980 million bond so that the project could continue.

The contract extension and the additional money will keep Bechtel and its 103 subcontractors working on the project through 2013, reported MediaNews.


At left - SF BART Route Map - Bay Area Rapid Transit

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MBTA assigns $332 million
to infrastructure

One Goal: The Best Customer Service

Source: MBTA and DF staff

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has rolled out ‘an ambitious yet carefully crafted’ plan for major service and infrastructure improvements. Funded through a five-year Capital Investment Program, many of the proposed projects are specifically designed to not only remedy some existing problems, but also provide the customer service enhancements necessary to attract new riders to the MBTA.

In releasing the plan to the public for review and comment, MBTA General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas said the proposed $332 million in new investments place a strong emphasis on accessibility, reliability, and safety. “Some of the projects may not be glamorous, but they’ll certainly help position us as a modernized public transit system delivering convenient and dependable services,” said Grabauskas. More than 90% of MBTA capital dollars are to be re-investment in the transit system’s existing infrastructure.

The announcement comes at a time when the MBTA is in the midst of a crisis in its ability to pay its existing debts, which have grown since it was required by the Massachusetts legislature to cease its practice of spending money, and then sending the bill to its constituent towns. The T as it is called, the oldest and one of the largest transit agencies in the nation, has recently announced plans for its second fare hike in two years

The list of new projects and initiatives to be funded in the MBTA’s ‘rolling’ five-year Capital Investment Program include:

Regular riders of the MBTA are already aware of ongoing efforts to modernize the system in numerous locations. These include the replacement of the Airport station on the Blue line and ongoing construction to lengthen platforms to allow Blue line trains to operate with additional cars in each consist. Along the Red line, stations between Ashmont and Savin Hill stations are being replaced or rebuilt from the ground up. On the Orange line signal upgrade efforts are already taking place.

The effort has not been without its growing pains which has seen a substantial amount of “bustitution” (alternative bus service) during select nights and weekends so that work can progress unencumbered from passing trains or the presence of dangerous high voltages.

The T has also broken ground to move Lechmere station on the Green line to land adjacent to their north side commuter rail line with an extension of that line into Somerville and Medford in the offering.

To review the entire the Fiscal Year 2008 - Fiscal year 2012 Draft Capital Investment Program, customers are encouraged to visit www.mbta.com. The Authority will be soliciting comments on the plan during nine public hearings between November 29th and December 14th at sites through out the MBTA service district. Comments are also welcomed at cipinfo@mbta.com.

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SAFETY LINES...  Safety lines...

Tunnel waterproofing expected to
thwart winter icing woes

Source: Amtrak Ink

Photo: Amtrak Ink  

Contractors apply a final coating of a waterproofing compound to the ceiling of one of  
two East River tunnels in Queens, NY.
Winter operations require that equipment, facilities and structures be prepared for inclement conditions. To that end, waterproofing work completed near the east portals of the two inbound East River Tunnels in Queens and one inbound North River Tunnel in New Jersey is designed to prevent a barrage of weather-related problems as the winter weather season sets in.

The work, which began in late summer and was completed this fall, should result in fewer problems, particularly power failures and train delays as a result of icing that often occurs in the tunnels when temperatures plummet.

With average low temperatures in the 20s in the New York City area during winter, ground water seepage from excessive rains or melting snow gets into the tunnels. Trains traveling through the tunnels drag cold air from the outside and freeze the seepage in cracks within it, causing a buildup of ice and icicles, which may reach the catenary wire. This contact causes the train’s pantograph to hit the ice, tripping the breakers and resulting in a power failure. Power failure delay train traffic through the tunnels, often for hours, until electricity can be restored.

To prepare for the waterproofing, Electric Traction, Bridges and Buildings, Communication and Signal and Operations crews all worked to put the tracks out of service, shut down the power and move waterproofing equipment into and through the tunnels to enable waterproofing contractors to perform their work.

Using a liquid polymer mixed with Portland cement to form a flexible waterproof coating, the contractors covered a six-foot wide area (like an umbrella) over the catenary wire. This will divert any water or ice toward the sides of the tunnel and out of the path of trains, drastically reducing or eliminating power interruptions and train delays caused by icy conditions. In addition, it will reduce costs for electrical equipment that needed to be replaced as it was getting worn out from frequent power interruptions.

Although the number and length of the power interruptions varies greatly depending upon the severity of the winter, this project should benefit the system for many winter seasons to come.

“We expect that the work we did to waterproof the tunnels will significantly improve train traffic through the area,” said Project Manager, Engineering Ken Heintz. “Without this effort, problems associated with icing and power outages in these tunnels would have caused significant problems for train traffic during the winter. Hopefully this will reduce the number of delay incidents and save the company money, equipment, repairs and replacement,” stated Heintz.

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)76.4576.46
Canadian National (CNI)47.4946.39
Canadian Pacific (CP)56.6155.51
CSX (CSX)36.2236.38
Florida East Coast (FLA)60.5860.33
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)26.7926.62
Kansas City Southern (KSU)27.7627.57
Norfolk Southern (NSC)49.7751.09
Providence & Worcester (PWX)20.8620.38
Union Pacific (UNP)91.4591.35

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OFFTHEMAINLINE...  Off the main line...

Photo: Amtrak Ink  

Popular action heroes
featured in special
Amtrak comic book

Source: Amtrak Ink


Look for Spider-Man® and the Fantastic Four® in a special a 20- page Marvel Comic book developed for children exclusively for Amtrak. The comic book will be distributed to children in grades two through six in 1,200 schools in designated market areas along the Northeast Corridor. Also, during a special appearance by Spider-Man at “The Amazing Station” model train exhibit at New York City’s Citigroup Center on Nov. 24 – 25, the comic book will be given to patrons while supplies last. The exhibit will be on display from Nov. 24 – 29.

Through the pages of the comic book, children are introduced to the adventures of train travel. The comic also includes a kids ride free coupon, allowing for one free child fare (ages two through 15) with the purchase of one full adult fare.

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We get letters...

Dear Editor,

Is there any organized effort to get the buffing strength rules for American passenger equipment to be the same as those in Europe. The excessive weight caused by these rules makes high speed rail almost impossible. Check the weight of Acela versus the weight of the TGV / ICE / Pendolino /etc. The axle load and overall weight exacts a track maintenance and power consumption penalty at best and for what seems to be dubious benefit. European casualty figures seem to be at least as good as those of North America. European equipment seems to do as well in grade crossing collisions. At high speeds, the forces involved will overwhelm either buff strength requirement.

Clark Morris

Editor replies - The strength regulations are a long-standing point of discussion in many circles.

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NEWS ITEMS...  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 editor at editor@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster at webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

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

Photo submissions are welcome. NCI is always interested in images that demonstrate the positive aspects of rail, transit, and intermodalism, as well as of current newsworthy events associated with our mission. Please contact the webmaster in advance of sending images so we can recommend attachment by e-mail or grant direct file transfer protocols (FTP) access depending on size and number. Descriptive text which includes location, train name, and something about the content of the image is encouraged. We will credit the photographer and offer a return link to your e-mail address or web site.

Journalists and others who wish to receive high quality NCI-originated images by Leo King and other photo journalists should contact our webmaster@nationalcorridors.org for additional information.

In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other transportation initiative sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives – state DOTs, legislators, governor’s offices, and transportation professionals – as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. If you have a favorite link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) our webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

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