Happy  Holidays

Destination:Freedom Newsletter
Destination:Freedom
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 4 No. 47, December 1, 2003
Copyright © 2003, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - Jim RePass
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update

 

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


Acela crossing to Boston's South Station

NCI: Leo King

Which will be the next region of the country to get high-speed rail service? South Carolina’s Senator Hollings has a plan.

 

‘Shoot for the moon’

Hollings deploys long-range strategy

By Wes Vernon
Chief Washington Correspondent

Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings (D-S.C.), who plans to retire in another 13 months after 38 years in the “world’s most deliberative body,” apparently has decided he might as well try to make his last year in Washington interesting.

As Thanksgiving travelers were preparing for major traffic congestion to reach their loved ones for the holiday and airports were filled beyond capacity, the senator put into legislation his belief that where long-neglected rail service is concerned, 2004 would be an ideal time to give new meaning to the admonitions “follow your dreams,” “shoot for the Moon,” or whatever.

Just before Congress shut down for the holiday, Hollings, with five cosponsors, introduced legislation providing for a six-year, $42 billion investment allowing the railroads to play catch-up with the highway and airway modes.

Dubbed the American Railroad Revitalization Investment and Enhancement Act – and creating the acronym “ARRIVE 21” – the bill aims at strengthening Amtrak, developing new passenger lines, and improving freight service.

ARRIVE (S.1961) would create a private-public partnership to issue $30 billion in tax credit bonds to fund rail infrastructure development. The partnership would award grants to states and to Amtrak to help pay for new high-speed train service, and projects for the freight industry.

The South Carolina lawmaker said if passenger rail is to be successful, the watchword is “infrastructure,” just as has long been the case for highway and air travel.

“It is designed to change the way we think about financing passenger rail service,” the senator told his colleagues.

Here is the bill’s agenda as his staff has broken it down.

The $30 billion tax credit bonds would be issued by RIFCO—a newly created Rail Infrastructure Finance Corp.

RIFCO could award discretionary capital grants to the states and Amtrak for high-speed rail and infrastructure projects and state formula grants for freight capital projects.

Eligible freight and passenger rail projects include planning and environmental review, rail line rehabilitation, upgrades and development, safety and security projects, passenger equipment acquisition, station improvement, and intermodal facilities development.

It provides the funding necessary to fill the gap in a $5 billion annual shortfall in U.S. rail infrastructure investment cited by AASHTO (American Association of State Highway Officials) “Bottom Line Report” without involving the Highway Trust Fund.

A 20 percent non-federal match would be required, with proceeds deposited in a bond repayment fund.

So much for the basics of the bill.

Hollings emphasized his plan would provide improved security for both freight and passenger rail, including “emergency safety improvements in tunnels, etc.”

Among the economic benefits, he cited revitalization of the rail supply industry, putting more people to work. The senator’s working paper on the bill quotes DOT Secretary Norman Mineta as saying every $1 billion invested in transportation infrastructure projects creates 47,500 jobs.

As a long-time skeptic of so-called “free trade” agreements, the South Carolina Democrat would stipulate a “buy American” provision – in his words – “to ensure high-quality American manufacturing.”

Amtrak highlights include $1.5 billion each year over six years for capital and operating expenses, over and above what RIFCO provides.

It would increase accounting transparency, something Amtrak CEO David Gunn says he has already implemented. This would write it into the law as a mandate

ARRIVE would provide “for new service quality metrics.” Since most Senate offices were closed for the Thanksgiving Day weekend, we were unable to get an explanation of exactly how that would work.

Parity would be required between Amtrak and all states for cost sharing on short distance services, and Treasury and DOT would collaborate in “restructuring and redeeming Amtrak’s outstanding debt.”

There would be a study of new methodologies to determine Amtrak routes and services.

Beyond all that, the bill attempts to define the national passenger rail system based on existing service and high-speed rail corridors. The federal government would develop a “50-year Intermodal Blueprint” to promote an efficient transportation system, add a new voluntary state rail planning process, and create a rail cooperative research program through the National Academies of Sciences.

As is the case today, operating costs on long-distance trains would be covered by Amtrak’s annual appropriation, while states would share in the costs with Amtrak for operations of short distance (inherently regional) corridors.

Hollings said this will create “greater fairness into the current system,” presumably a reference to oft-heard complaints that while service in two or three highly urbanized corridors enjoy frequent service, the same cannot be said for many other areas of the country. This is largely the result of an accident of history, but the bill’s sponsors say now is the time to straighten it out.

The senator, whose bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Me.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), and Joe Biden (D-Del.), said the proposal is designed “to grow our passenger rail system into the world-class system it should be.”

No one doubts this comprehensive program would face an uphill battle at best. For all the generosity the legislation showers on Amtrak, it is by no means certain that the passenger corporation itself would view it as a totally unmixed blessing. In the past, David Gunn has been cool to other bonding plans for Amtrak, asking, “Who would buy the bonds?” and “How would they be paid off?”

Gunn was out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday, but Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black in our national capital told D:F that the Hollings plan – albeit with a couple of GOP co-sponsors, is basically a Democratic counterpart to a Republican bill (previously reported in this space) introduced a few weeks ago by Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Me.) Both would significantly upgrade infrastructure for rail service, with some important differences.

“The reauthorization bill will begin in the Senate,” Black said, and added, “The first 60 senators that sign on will [make that] the one that goes forward.”

Congress has just granted Amtrak a record $1.2 billion for the current fiscal year, and getting just that much was like pulling the proverbial eyeteeth.

A Reuters dispatch notes the bill’s provisions to “give states and the private sector a bigger cost-sharing role and make Amtrak more accountable to Congress and transportation planners reflects some of the themes of a controversial Bush administration plan to overhaul passenger rail,” albeit that the Hollings bill is far more generous and far-reaching than anything envisioned by the White House.

One can speculate that in addition to “shooting for the moon” in his last year on Capitol Hill, Hollings is adopting the old adage that “the best defense is a good offense.” If such Amtrak enemies as Senate Commerce Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) and House Transportation Appropriations Chairman Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) are leaning in one direction, Hollings and his allies could well have decided to row the boat in the exact opposite direction.

This is the latest in a long parade of “drawing boards” for an ideal rail passenger system in the U.S. Whether any or all of it actually goes anywhere, it should make for an interesting Senate hearing on “what could be.”


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Amtrak train adds Wallingford

Amtrak has added Wallingford, Conn. as a stop for another train on its Inland Route between Springfield, Mass., Hartford and New Haven, Conn.

Jim Dinehart, marketing manager for Amtrak in New England, said adding No. 476 evens out the Wallingford schedule on the New Haven-to-Springfield, Mass., line, adding a sixth daily northbound stop to the six southbound ones already in effect, The New Haven Register reported on November 26.

Dinehart said the addition was as much in consideration of talks with the state as in tidying up the schedule.

“The state has expressed interest in improving Metro-North service, and New Haven-Springfield commuter service,” Dinehart said. “Plans for the new stop probably began several weeks ago in our scheduling office in Washington, D.C. We’re interested in serving the corridor as best we can.”

No. 476 originates in New Haven (NHV) at 5:15 p.m. and arrives Wallingford (WFD) at 5:27 p.m.

Wallingford Mayor William Dickinson said he welcomes an extra convenience for people traveling to or from town, he also noted the potential implications could be promising.

“Hopefully, this is an indication of a long-term, big deal shot in the arm,” he said but “Maybe not. More and more, there is an awareness in the state that we need to pay attention to congestion on the highways and how to deal with it. The Transportation Strategy Board is encouraging better mass transit.”

He said, for example, that the state and Metro-North have worked together to encourage more use of the rails to relieve traffic on I-95 while the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge in New Haven undergoes a 10-year reconstruction.

“They projected that they could add more trains with more frequent stops to give commuters an option during construction,” he said, “and they have seen an increase in ridership.”

Dickinson said transportation issues, like anything else, come down to what can be supported financially. Like Dinehart, he cited the state’s parallel efforts to improve service on the New Haven-Springfield run, and said an extra stop in Wallingford could have a larger impact should increasing numbers of people take advantage of it.

“It sounds to me like this is a step in the right direction,” he said.


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Texas ramps up for fast trains

Texas is going to invest in a statewide high-speed rail system.

The concept is called the “Texas T-Bone Rail System.” The route would connect Dallas, San Antonio, Kileen, Houston, Beaumont and Port Arthur, according to KSAT San Antonio of November 26.

“If you have a high-speed train that can get you to those cities, many people would not be driving their cars. If you have ever driven I-35 or I-45 up and back from San Antonio to Dallas... it’s a nightmare,” said Kenneth Mayfield, Dallas County commissioner.

Promoters said the T-Bone high-speed train would travel more than 200 mph and reach 70 percent of the Texas population.


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Global Rail challenges decision

Global Rail Consortium, the losing bidder for the contract to design, build and operate a proposed Florida bullet-train line connecting Orlando and Tampa, has filed a protest, declaring that the winning proposal by Fluor-Bombardier is “fundamentally flawed.”

Global Rail, a South Korean-based partnership of nearly 30 firms, should be awarded the contract to construct the constitutionally mandated high speed rail line, said Tallahassee attorney Paul Sexton on November 21, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The Florida High Speed Rail Authority rejected Global Rail’s bid in October to build the line, which is estimated to cost as much as $2.6 billion. The authority said it liked the consortium’s technology better but was leery of its finances.

Sexton alleged that Fluor-Bombardier failed to meet the requirements set forth in the authority’s request for proposals. He also said the authority didn’t respond to Global Rail’s protests that Fluor-Bombardier’s bid was inadequate.

“We could see from the very minute that we got out of the gate that other guy should’ve been disqualified,” Sexton said, “but (the authority) just kept letting the process go forward. The outcome was inappropriate.”

Sexton’s office filed the protest Monday with the Florida DOT.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

PATH stops at WTC – again

“The PATH train lurched around a bend and emerged from the darkness of a cast-iron tube into the morning sun. Reaching for her husband’s arm, Carol Webster, 60, turned to face the exposed guts of ground zero for the first time,” wrote The New York Times reporter Michael Luo on November 25.

Together, Mrs. Webster and her husband, Morris, took in the slurry wall and the tangle of equipment on the floor of the pit as the Port Authority train inched past the World Trade Center platform. All around them, other rush-hour commuters craned their necks to gape. Webster, who had tagged along with his wife to lend moral support, whispered a reassurance to her, “When you fall off a horse, you have to get right back on.” She nodded but kept her hand on his arm.

On November 24, a morning that proved at once painful and uplifting, downtown workers streamed into the heart of the former WTC site for its first rush hour since the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001.

For more than two years, Mrs. Webster, assistant director of admissions at Alliance Theological Seminary, avoided ground zero, even though her office is just blocks away in Lower Manhattan. The last time she was there was when she stepped off the PATH station escalators to the concourse just as the first plane slammed into the north tower. With a stampede of others, she ran for the exits, dodging cascading debris and panicked people. The memories of what she saw outside – people burning, pieces of airplane falling from the sky – haunt her.

When the PATH trains began running to the WTC again on the 24th, it flooded back as she returned to the rebuilt station, which officially opened on Sunday.

“I didn’t expect the openness of it,” she said. “I thought I could walk upstairs and choose to look at it or not.”

The station is only temporary. The concourse level that used to bustle with stores is cavernous. It is enclosed by latticework and semi-opaque sheeting, adorned with inspirational quotations, that only partly obscure the surrounding trade center “bathtub.” Although many commuters said that first day’s rush hour was a step toward normal life in Lower Manhattan, many also said normal was close to impossible there.

As workers charged up the escalators and out of the station, a woman in the concourse gripped a latticework wall and wept. Outside, a woman waited patiently for her husband to arrive on the next train, because they never ride the same train to work anymore.

At 6:30 a.m., before the main rush began pouring through, the station was mostly deserted. A gaggle of police officers stood watch on the mezzanine level, and Maria Gutierrez, manager of the Hudson News, bustled about readying newspapers and tidying up her store. For two years, she has been working elsewhere, but this morning she was back home, around the same spot she where had worked for four years.

In stages, Port Authority workers switched on the array of escalators in the bank known as “PATH Hill.” By 7:30 a.m., all eight were moving, groaning and creaking as they delivered growing numbers of commuters to the concourse, where they were greeted by the beeping of construction vehicles at the site.

As the Websters wandered through the concourse a half-hour later, Sean Coughlin, 40, got ready to board his train in Hoboken with a mixture of dread and anticipation.

A lawyer for Citigroup Global Markets, Coughlin managed to flee to New Jersey on September 11 aboard the last PATH train to leave the city that morning. After the attack, he joined the thousands who lined up for ferry service in Hoboken. He later switched to a New Jersey Transit Midtown Direct train, which meant a subway ride downtown. Both options were significantly slower than his old PATH route. He lives in Montclair, N.J.

After disembarking, he walked slowly up the stairs, absorbing everything.

“It’s all the same layout,” he said. “Wow. The same, same thing.”

Coming up to PATH Hill, he swiveled his head to look around, clearly stunned. At the top, like many others, Coughlin was taken aback by how exposed everything appeared.

“I worked right over there,” he said, pointing off to his left, where 7 World Trade Center once stood.


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FREIGHTLINES...  Freight lines...

Canadian National crossing at Canoe River BC

CN

A Canadian National freight train traverses Canoe River, B.C. The railroad is buying British Columbia Ry. for $1 billion (Canadian).

 

CN buys BC Rail for $1 billion
Up to 430 jobs may be lost; new shops coming

Canadian National Ry. reported on November 25 from Vancouver, B.C., it has agreed to buy province-owned British Columbia Ry. It will pay the B.C. government $1 billion ($763 million in U.S. dollars) in cash to acquire the outstanding shares of BC Rail Ltd., along with the right to operate over BC Rail’s tracks under a long-term lease.

BC Rail’s right-of-way will remain in public hands, with CN assuming responsibility for rail transportation and infrastructure maintenance.

Some 430 jobs may be lost following the transaction.

Excluding 115 employees who are already inactive, BC Rail currently has a workforce of 1,380 employees. CN’s operating plan will require a workforce of 950, including 95 employees who would be surplus were it not for the company’s plan to perform new mechanical work at BC Rail’s Prince George shops, and 60 employees to be relocated within CN’s system in Western Canada. CN estimates 250 BC Rail employees are eligible for early retirement, and that the remaining 180 job reductions will be accomplished by attrition or severance.

E. Hunter Harrison, CN’s president and CEO, said, “CN is pleased that the B.C. government has selected us to partner with BC Rail. Our financial strength, operating excellence, and investment in the future of BC Rail will create lasting economic value for all of B.C.”

Harrison stated, “Purchasing the BC Rail franchise is a strategically important initiative for CN, one that will strengthen our forest products business and that has significant scope for shareholder value creation.”

He also noted CN is a single line-service to key markets, but the option of routing traffic to other railways at the Vancouver gateway will be “at lower average rates than those now charged by BC Rail.”

Harrison said added CN will “locate our B.C. North Division office in Prince George and inject new work into the city’s BC Rail shop complex.”

He asserted, “These initiatives will assure local decision-making and a highly responsive work force to meet the needs of BC Rail shippers, and help mitigate the employment impact of new rail efficiencies.”

He also declared CN “is committed to grow freight volumes in the Northwest Corridor in cooperation with the Port of Prince Rupert.”

He expects to actively support “new and exciting train tours over BC Rail between Vancouver, Whistler and the B.C. North. CN and BC Rail will soon request proposals from qualified companies to select third party operators for these trains.”

Harrison said CN plans to invest $1 million in a new state-of-the-art wheel shop at BC Rail’s Prince George Shop complex, and will in-source wheel work currently contracted out, and assign CN system freight car and locomotive work to the facility.

Harrison said “CN has extensive experience in working with Aboriginal groups, supports the treaty process and will respect existing agreements and protocols with BC Rail.”

The integration of CN and BC Rail operations will be conducted in step-by-step fashion over three-years.

“We will do our utmost to work with BC Rail communities to pursue growth opportunities and to find creative ways to lessen the impact of our operating plan on employment levels,” said Harrison.

CN had been competing for BC Rail against Canadian Pacific Ry. Ltd. and a coalition of U.S. rail firm Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. and private shortline operator OmniTRAX, Reuters reported.

BC Rail, a major forest products hauler with about 1,450 miles of mainline track, is one the last mid-sized railways in North America to remain independent or government-owned.

CN expects the combined CN and BC Rail networks “to generate revenue gains from market share captured from trucks, and to produce cost synergies from new operating efficiencies and greater asset utilization. CN will finance the transaction with debt and expects it to be accretive to its earnings per share and free cash flow in the first year of BC Rail operation,” the firm stated in a press release.

Harrison said CN is a “shareholder-focused company. Since the company’s initial public offering in November 1995, CN’s share price has grown by almost 500 per cent.”

The B.C. government will enact legislation to effect the partnership with CN. The transaction is subject to approval by Canada’s Competition Bureau and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2004.

Information on the partnership and maps of the combined networks are available at www.cn.ca/BCRailpartnership, or click on the CN-BC Rail icon on CN’s home page, www.cn.ca.

BC Rail recorded an operating profit in its last fiscal year, but has struggled under a debt of more than $380 million. British Columbia acquired the railway in 1918.

Under the deal, CN will potentially be able to use BC Rail’s past write-offs “pooled” by the province as a C$250 million offset on federal taxes. If Ottawa rejects that plan, the price of the deal could be reduced.

Premier Gordon Campbell denied he broke a campaign promise not to sell BC Rail because the province will still own the tracks, and he said the government was simply allowing an experience operator to run the operation.

“We have maintained the most critical assets... and I believe, in the long term, that serves the needs of every British Columbian,” Campbell said in a joint news conference with Harrison.

BC Rail is CN’s only direct competitor in parts of British Columbia and shippers use it to access three other larger railways, CP, BNSF and Union Pacific. CN has agreed to structure its tariffs for five years to allow shippers to continue doing that.

BC Rail’s Council of Trade Unions had fought the proposed sale and vice-chairman Lance Yearly said the unions may fight the deal when it goes before the federal Competition Bureau.

Besides the job cuts, CN expects to cut management and eliminate BC Rail’s yard and repair facilities in North Vancouver and Squamish.

CP and OmniTrax both said they were disappointed by the province’s decision.

“We believe we put forward a really strong bid that fully addressed the criteria that had been established and would have enhanced rail competition in the northern Interior,” CP spokesman Paul Clark said.


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Prince George to be new division office

CN will make Prince George home to its new British Columbia North Division office and invest $1 million in a new state-of-the-art wheel shop as part of its partnership with BC Rail.

CN said it also plans to move most of its switching activities from its downtown yard to BC Rail’s yard, freeing up significant city real estate for potential commercial, light industrial and recreational development.

“Furthermore, CN’s partnership with BC Rail will generate new municipal tax revenues for the city. CN plans to work closely with city officials to phase in proposed land use changes,” the firm stated in a press release.

Prince George-area shippers stand to gain improved market access following CN’s partnership with BC Rail, the railway claimed. Both carriers will generate “a critical mass” of freight traffic to introduce a new Chicago Express train for forest products on a schedule of 90 hours, or less than four days.

“This schedule is much faster than the current CN-BC Rail schedule and those of competing railroads,” the firm stated.

David Edison, CN’s corporate vice-president and based in Vancouver, said, “Prince George will become a key administrative and maintenance center on CN’s network in our new partnership with BC Rail. We will strengthen BC Rail’s mechanical forces here, and we are ready to work with the city on ways to redevelop CN’s downtown yard. These efforts should provide lasting economic and social benefits for Prince George.”

CN’s new B.C. North Division office will be responsible for all B.C. operations north of Lillooet and west of Dawson Creek. Transportation, customer service, engineering, mechanical and general management employees will be located in Prince George.

The new wheel shop at the BC Rail mechanical complex will allow CN to bring back in-house wheel repairs that it currently contracts out to U.S. suppliers, and to repatriate BC Rail wheel work that is now outsourced in Tacoma, Wash. CN will perform wheel work from its Western Canada operations in Prince George, while its Eastern Canada wheel work will continue to be done in Winnipeg.

CN’s operating plan calls for a combined CN/BC Rail workforce of 580 in Prince George by the third year of its operation of BC Rail, resulting in 25 BC Rail lobs lost.

Under the sales agreement, CN would retain its mainline and several storage tracks at the yard to stage traffic to and from Prince Rupert, and service would be maintained for existing customers abutting the yard. There is also potential for new rail customers to locate in the vicinity of the yard, in appropriately zoned areas.

All other CN operating functions would move to BC Rail’s yard, leaving surplus CN rail yard land available for commercial development in the downtown core along First Avenue and for light industry to the north, consistent with the city’s official plan and zoning.

VIA Rail Canada’s station, which currently occupies a city-owned building, may need to move to a nearby location in the downtown area to accommodate new development along First Avenue.

CN would donate part of the yard to the city to expand the scenic Cottonwood Park and expand the area’s recreational system.

A smaller CN yard would reduce the city’s cost to build a new crossing of the Nechako River. Currently, the preferred route calls for a bridge to span the width of CN’s Prince George Yard.

CN has 1,300 route miles of track and 1,400 employees in British Columbia. BC Rail shippers get the shortest and fastest route to key NAFTA markets, which is 700 miles less to Toronto or Memphis than competing carriers, and 650 miles less to Chicago.

CN will acquire 600 new centerbeam flat cars and upgrade 1,500 boxcars to accommodate anticipated truck share gains in the forest products segment. Fleet capacity will also increase as a result of expected improved car cycles.

Elsewhere in the region, CN reports it is actively working on a potential new container terminal at Prince Rupert port to move traffic from Asia to Eastern Canada and Chicago. CN says it is prepared to “invest up to $15 million in rail infrastructure improvements to accommodate double-stack container trains on its BC North line.”

With increased traffic anticipated in the new deal, “CN is committed to reopen the link between Dawson Creek and Hythe to facilitate grain movements from the Peace Region.”

CN says it will work with the B.C. government to facilitate upgrading the Sea-to-Sky Highway and ensure rail alternatives for a successful 2010 Winter Olympics.


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Poughkeepsie may get trains again

A plan to restart rail freight service in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. is still on track, but the city’s mayor is opposed to the idea.

Eyal Shapira, a developer of short-line railroads, has bought rights from CSX Corp. to operate the defunct four-mile “Hospital Industrial Branch” which he’ll call New York & Eastern Ry. LLC, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal of November 25.

The route extends from Metro-North tracks along the Hudson River through the city into the Town of Poughkeepsie to the Hudson River Psychiatric Center, and then back into the city to the Smith Street Yards.

“The deal closed on September 10,” Shapira said, and added, “The deal is well and alive.”

It’s a lease he expects will ripen into ownership, leading to his investing $1 million in fixing tracks and finding customers, and in the process, creating some “good blue-collar jobs.”

He also said Mayor Colette Lafuente has been giving him grief.

“Where he wants to go in the city, it has been improved significantly and it’s residential, and all he is going to do is create an intermodal truck transport system and it would be very damaging to the City of Poughkeepsie.”

The big concern, she said, is “all those trucks going in and out of there.”

There would be, mainly to the Smith Street Yards, in what has been for generations a mostly industrial section. Cargoes would be transferred between trucks and freight cars.

Lafuente said the trend has been toward homes.

Shapira said neither Lafuente nor any other local government could stop him because federal law gives powerful rights to railroads, and he disagrees with Lafuente’s point.

“Look at developing jobs for the community,” Shapira said. “It’s better to bring the raw material by rail than trucks because you take the trucks off the highway.”

Lafuente isn’t sure the city can block it, but is looking into truck load limits.

Shapira said he has customers but “cannot mention the names until the choo-choo is going to move out there.”

Jack Effron, chairman of EFCO Products, can’t say yet whether he’d use rail, though he’s talking with Shapira about it.

Harold King, executive vice president of the Council of Industry of Southeastern New York noted, “It might be a nice economic development tool.”


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RailAmerica buys Central Michigan

RailAmerica, Inc. said on November 26 that it is acquiring the assets of the Bay City, Michigan-based Central Michigan Ry. Co. (CMGN). CMGN operates 100 miles of track between Midland and Durand. The line moved about 30,000 carloads and had revenue of approximately $11 million in 2002. The transaction, which is subject to regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions, is expected to be completed within 60 days. No sale or purchase price was disclosed.


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NS Redeems preferred shares

Norfolk Southern Corp (NYSE: NSC) reported on November 24 that NS would redeem some shares on December 29. The railway will redeem all publicly held shares of its $2.60 Cumulative Preferred Stock, Series A (CUSIP No. 655855203) for a redemption price of $50 per share plus accrued and unpaid dividends thereon to December 29, for an aggregate redemption price of $50.2066 per share. The redemption agent will be The Bank of New York. The dividend, scheduled to be paid on December 15, is not included in the aggregate redemption price and will be paid to holders of record as of November 7.


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Intermodal sets yet another record

Intermodal traffic on the nation’s railroads set another weekly record during the week ended November 22, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) on Friday.

Intermodal volume of 211,337 trailers or containers broke by 100 units the record that was set just five weeks ago. The total represented an 11.9 percent increase over last year, with trailer volume up 12.4 percent and container volume up 11.8 percent.

The ten busiest weeks in intermodal history for U.S. railroads have all occurred during the 11-week period that began with the week ended September 13.

Carload freight, which does not include the intermodal data, totaled 345,169 cars, up 0.5 percent from last year with volume up 1.6 percent in the East but down 0.4 percent in the West. This is the second highest carload volume for any week this year. Total volume was estimated at 31.2 billion ton-miles, up 2.3 percent from last year.

Fifteen of 19 carload commodity groups registered gains from last year, with coke up 43.4 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel up 12.8 percent; waste and scrap up 10.7 percent; and grain mill products up 10.5 percent. Loadings of metallic ores were down 14.8 percent while coal volume was off 3.6 percent.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 47 weeks of 2003: 15,380,327 carloads, down less than one-tenth of one percent from last year; intermodal volume of 9,034,456 trailers or containers, up 6.8 percent; and total volume of an estimated 1.36 trillion ton-miles, up 1.3 percent from last year’s first 47 weeks.

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. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of the nation’s intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.

Carload freight was up but intermodal was down on Canada’s railroads during the week ended November 22 compared with the corresponding week last year. Carload volume totaled 71,990 cars, up 9.1 percent, while intermodal traffic totaled 43,023 trailers or containers, down 6.1 percent from last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 47 weeks of 2003 on the Canadian railroads totaled 2,950,437 carloads, up 0.3 percent from last year, and 1,968,909 trailers and containers, up 6.2 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 47 weeks of 2003 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 18,330,764 carloads, up less than one-tenth of one percent from last year and 11,003,365 trailers and containers, up 6.7 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 22 totaled 8,424 cars, down 7.2 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 3,457 originated trailers or containers, down 4.7 percent from the 47th week of 2002. For the first 47 weeks of 2003, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 395,865 cars, down 2.5 percent from last year, and 163,039 trailers or containers, up 12.9 percent.

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)29.7729.31
Canadian National(CNI)59.3558.23
Canadian Pacific(CP)27.2427.05
CSX(CSX)33.8933.05
Florida East Coast(FLA)30.5030.04
Genessee & Wyoming(GWR)25.2625.20
Kansas City Southern(KSU)13.3013.28
Norfolk Southern(NSC)21.4121.03
Union Pacific(UNP)63.6863.06


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ACCROSS THE POND...  Across the pond...

Germany runs heaviest freight train

Special to Destination:Freedom

After initial difficulties last week and quick arrangements with crews involved, Germany’s heaviest test freight train ever ran its first trip on November 25.

With 6,000 tons of gross load, the train, with three 151-series electric locomotives with combined power of over 24,000 HP and 39 six-axle “Faals” type railroad cars, rolled through the countryside.

Behind the scenes of the test run was a complex logistical operation.

In order to supply the steel plant of the Salzgitter AG in Salzgitter with iron ore, it was required to shuttle traffic between Hamburg and Hansaport, where the ore from all world arrives, and the steel mill.

Fully automated train loading marks the beginning of the logistics chain, and thereafter lie approximately 124 route miles, over which eight trains eventually will travel daily – four in each direction – on a fixed schedule.

When loaded, the trains will reach about 50 mph, but on the return trip they will travel at about 75 mph.

Until now, the trains operated at 5,400 tons of gross load. Previously, the trains ran over the route with axle loadings of 25 tons.

Should the tests run successfully, Stinnes AG will take over the 6,000-ton service. No start date has been publicly stated yet.

The test route is from Hamburg to Hansaport via Lueneburg, Uelzen, Celle, Lehrte, and Peine toward Salzgitter Beddingen.

Hansaport is the largest port for dry mass bulk materials – iron ore and coal – in Germany.

– Dave Beale


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WE GET LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor

While the editors of Mobilizing The Region may feel a yard is needed, most of the Port Jefferson branch apparently doesn’t. The LIRR has expressed virtually no interest in electrifying the line, despite constant demands from riders for it – and since the flawed DM-30s arrived, they’ve shown even less interest.

It’s hard to see the need for a yard of any type along the line. One (albeit small) exists east of Huntington, and the existing Port Jefferson yard is quite underutilized. With full electrification, a mid-line yard makes zero sense, as there will be no need to store trains - they can run to Port Jefferson instead.

Many people in the region are looking to NIMBY this to death because they want an all-electric Port Jefferson line, not more of the poor diesel service the LIRR offers now.

In any case, capacity increases won’t be able to happen until the much needed third track to Hicksville finally gets out of the planning stages and into reality.

Despite direct questions, the LIRR still refuses to answer why they don’t want to respond to customer demands and simply electrify the line to Port Jefferson.

People in Huntington are right to oppose this yard - it brings little service improvement, yet will create yet another noise and pollution source. The LIRR refuses to shut off stored locomotives, and the DE/DM-30 series locomotives are exceptionally loud - you can hear them idling as far as a mile away. In contrast, a full line electrification would remove a large source of noise and pollution from the Port Jefferson area, eliminate train changes, increase speed east of Huntington, and position the railroad for more service when the third track to Hicksville gets built.

Philip Nasadowski


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THE WAY WE WERE...  The way we were...

2 Steams in posed image

NCI: Leo King Collection

In a 1915-era monograph published by the Mentor Assn., Inc., the photo was captioned, “Past and present -- the William Crooks and the modern type locomotive.” That “modern type” engine appears to be a 2-8-8-0, and we’re guessing it was Union Pacific property. Can anyone set us straight?

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.

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

Journalists and others who wish to receive high quality NCI-originated images that appear in Destination:Freedom may do so at a nominal fee of $10.00 per image. “True color” Joint Photographers Group (.jpg) images average 1.7MB each. Print publishers can order images in tagged image file format (.tif), and are nearly 6mb each. They will be snail-mailed to your address, or uploaded via file transfer protocol (FTP) to your site. All are 300 dots-per-inch.

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 rail travel sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives - state DOTs, legislators, governor's offices, and transportation professionals - as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists.

If you have a favorite rail link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) to the webmaster in care of this web site. An e-mail link appears at the bottom of the NCI web site pages to get in touch with D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI's webmaster in Boston.


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