Destination:Freedom Newsletter
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 3 No. 51, December 16, 2002
Copyright © 2002, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - James Furlong
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update


We wish you and yours a happy holiday, and a joyous new year. Our last issue of the year will be published on December 23. We will begin our fourth year (where does the time go!) on January 6, 2003.
The webmaster notes: During the holiday break NCI will be moving its web site to faster web servers with more storage capacity. During the migration period you may experience some features or pages that are unavailable. Like any other web site, we eventually experience growing pains. For the average viewer, changes will be transparent - DMK.


Judge bars New York City transit strike

New York State Supreme Court justice Jules L. Spodek in Brooklyn issued an injunction Friday night (December 13) that bars New York City’s transit workers from striking, while union leaders, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s and Gov. George Pataki’s negotiators worked toward an agreement on a new contract with transit workers. The judge issued the injunction as the union, representing the city's 34,000 subway and bus workers, was threatening to shut down the transit system at 12:01 a.m. Monday if no contract was reached with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

An earlier story leads “Commuter lines”.

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John Snow with George Bush

White House: Paul Morse

John Snow, who was nominated last week to be the Secretary of Treasury, listens to President George W. Bush's remarks in the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building on December 9. The President said, “In a varied and productive career, John Snow has shown consistent qualities of foresight and integrity and public spirit. He's led one our nation's largest railroads with skill and success. He knows firsthand how the economy works. His peers elected him to lead the Business Roundtable, where he was an articulate voice for pro-growth policies.”


CSX’s Snow to head Treasury

By Wes Vernon
Washington Correspondent

President Bush is bringing one of the nation’s top railroad executives into his inner circle as he tries to boost the economy for the second half of his term.

John Snow, Chairman and CEO of the railroad holding company CSX Corp., has been chosen to be Secretary of the Treasury. He replaces Paul O’Neill, fired by the President December 5 in large part because he strayed off the administration reservation again and again on economic and tax policy. While the president was pushing tax cuts, O’Neill was giving out interviews and statements hinting at a tax increase. He also ridiculed Wall Street, which the White House believes did not inspire confidence in the investment community.

The 63-year-old Snow is a veteran of the Ford administration where he served as assistant transportation secretary and as the department’s general counsel. During those years he played a role in the effort to deregulate the airlines industry.

“John Snow’s contributions to our company, the U.S. transportation industry and the global business community are well-known and highly respected,” said CSX Corp. President Michael J. Ward.

“As CEO of CSX Corporation since 1989, he has not only led our company through a critical period of growth and development, but has been a great friend and inspiration to us. The nation will be fortunate to have John at the helm of the Treasury Department.”

The Treasury Secretary-designate served as chairman of the Business Roundtable. He also served on the Kemp Commission, which in 1996 studied the tax code for ways to simplify and streamline it.

Editorially, The Wall Street Journal gave thumbs up on the latter, but thumbs down on the former. Just prior to the President’s announcement, the Dow Jones-owned paper had expressed a desire for some supply-side economist like retiring Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) or now-retired House Ways and Means chairman Bill Archer (R-Texas) for the top job at Treasury.

The Journal reported when he served on the Kemp Commission, Snow quietly showed interest in tax cuts and tax simplification. On the other hand, his background with the Business Roundtable was deemed less impressive simply because “such collections of big business CEO’s historically promote a kind of mushy moderation that follows the Beltway consensus rather than leads it…”

In an editorial titled, “A New Treasury?” the Journal said Snow deserves “the benefit of the doubt” for having made the railroad “a more modern efficient part of the national transportation network.”

Richard Rahn, a senior official of the Discovery Institute and adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute, in his own article in the Journal op-ed page is encouraged that “Snow and Friedman (Steven Friedman, Bush’s pick for White House economic adviser) have articulated the need for dynamic scoring of proposed tax changes (meaning the supply-side growth policy that many credit for the boom of the eighties and beyond)” and that “As a condition of being offered the jobs, both new men pledged to fully back the (president’s) growth package, and they are reported, even, to be enthusiastic about it.”

To add even more credibility to that notion, and thus possibly assuaging the fears of The Wall Street Journal editorial board that Snow’s connection with the Business Roundtable may have left him under the influence of “mushy moderation,” is the comment of former Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y). He headed the National Commission on Economic Growth and Tax Reform, of which Snow was a member.

Writing in the December 11 Washington Times, Kemp says the CSX CEO believes in growth economics “to the marrow of his bones.” He was “a strong voice on the commission,” said Kemp. Further, he added, Snow was “a strong voice on the commission and is totally committed to the commission conclusion it is time to replace the failed tax system with a new simplified tax code that taxes income only once at a much lower rate on both labor and capital.”

However, syndicated columnist Bruce Bartlett, writing on the same Times op-ed page, questioned whether Snow, for all his good intentions, will be able to accomplish much. Bartlett’s skepticism is rooted in a belief that the policy structure at the White House “is broken and needs to be reorganized.” Otherwise, he wrote, Snow is not likely to accomplish much more than his predecessor and “may eventually meet the same fate.”

The Washington Post reported Snow is known as “a glass-smooth salesman who doesn’t need staff members to provide him with details during interviews and meetings.”

That comports with this reporter’s close-up view of Snow during the Surface Transportation Board (STB) hearings back in 1998 on the CSX and Norfolk Southern carve-up of Conrail. In an interview, he came off as smart, amiable, and a man with a sense of humor and yet capable to peering over his desk in the executive suite to deliver some bad news to an errant subordinate.

In fact, that reportedly is exactly what happened a few years ago when a top CSX executive was eased out of his position after an FRA report that was critical of the condition of CSX tracks. The report said CSX’s deteriorating track had led to a 60 percent increase in accidents attributable to defective trackage. D:F reported on that at the time that Snow took over many of that “eased out” official’s responsibilities.

The $10 billion carve-up of Conrail between CSX and Norfolk Southern was not without its problems. Some analysts thought the price was too high. Secondly, the takeover, in its early months at least, was plagued with service disruptions that drove some customers away and resulted in a general meeting in Philadelphia between dissatisfied shippers and the railroads to work out the major “glitches.”

For all the problems, however, the Conrail deal seems to have worked out most if not all of its difficulties, but not before the uproar spooked the STB into effectively denying (by unacceptable postponement) what was arguably a well thought-out merger plan between BNSF and CN.

A December 10 Washington Post story, with the paper’s transportation specialist Don Phillips as one of the three by-lined writers, stated the following:

“Perhaps most important, Snow’s compensation and the ties between members of the company’s board of directors are akin to some of the practices that have aroused public fury at business executives’ behavior after a series of scandals this past year.”

The article cited a CSX report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) showing that an executive compensation program had lent Snow over $24 million as of 1996 so that he could purchase company stock worth $32.3 million. After CSX stock subsequently took a dive, the company forgave loans to Snow and other top executives of the company.

White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan told the Post the program “was available to a large number of [CSX] executives and was legal, appropriate and fully disclosed to shareholders at the time.”

Reuters News Service stated that Snow, who earned $1.2 billion last year plus a $1 million bonus, according to the most recent CSX proxy, “ has been a vocal proponent of corporate responsibility in the wake of scandals at Enron Corp. and other big U.S. firms and has argued for more reforms in setting executive compensation.”

Snow prompted favorable notice from the White House when he went on CNN last July to praise the speech President Bush gave on Wall Street on corporate responsibility. At the time, the CSX chairman said he would “respond to a call-to-arms that the President gave us to return to the ethical moorings of capitalism.”

On Monday, shortly after his nomination was announced, Snow released the following statement:

“Today, I notified the CSX Board of Directors of my intention to retire if confirmed by the Senate. I informed the Board that I will not accept any future compensation or benefits that were in my employment contract with CSX.”

He was entitled to monetary reward, stock options and the like, country-club membership, home security, physicals, and accounting services for the rest of his life. In his post-retirement, he would be entitled to “reasonable and occasional use” of the corporate jet for the rest of his days. All of this he forsakes in the interest of coming to Washington to help get the economy in shape through a program whose centerpiece will be tax cuts.

During his previous tour of duty in government, Snow gained a reputation for soothing whatever ruffled feathers may have bothered Capitol Hill potentates. No doubt, that was a major consideration when the White House tapped him for this assignment.

Reuters noted that since Snow became chairman of CSX in January 1991, “his company’s shares have lagged significantly behind his top competitors in the U.S. rail business. In nearly a dozen years with Snow at the helm, CSX shares have posted a rise of just about 7 percent compared with a 60 percent increase for the Standard and Poor’s railroads index.”

Many people who know Snow and understand the industry will say those figures need to be kept in perspective. Segments of the freight railroad industry have had some problems getting bank loans. Moreover, there has been an internal debate among the class I carriers over whether to accept government infrastructure subsidies as part of a package to upgrade both freight and passenger train service.

In a year-end interview for D:F of December 18, 2000, veteran rail lawyer and analyst Fritz Kahn told me that by the end of the 21st Century, railroads will occupy a considerably diminished role from that which they enjoy these days. Whether that pessimism proves out, the industry, for better or worse, has had to “slim down.” The railroads themselves have said the cutbacks, coupled with deregulation, have left them in a healthier state. Every professional railroader has vivid memories of the wrenching experience three decades ago, which was symbolized by a book, The Wreck of the Penn Central (by Joseph R. Daughen, Peter Binzen; paperback edition published February 1999, Beard Books).

As Snow prepares to exit the CSX executive suite and head for Capitol Hill for his confirmation hearings and then hopefully the Treasury Building, in-house speculation turns to the question of his successor.

A look at the list of corporate officers can be misleading. The Board of Directors, whenever it meets to decide on a new chairman after Snow is confirmed, will mull over many factors. Typically, selections of this kind in most corporations are driven not only by seniority and merit, but also considerations (corporate and general) that can be classed as “political.” It is also possible, of course, to pick someone from outside the corporation for the top post. For the record, however, here are the seven corporate officers next in the CSX pecking order, as listed by CSX:

Michael J. Ward, President, CSX Corp.

Paul R. Goodwin, Vice-chairman and financial officer.

Andrew B. Fogarty, Executive Vice President-Corporate Services.

Ellen M. Fitzsimmons, Senior Vice-President-Law and General Counsel

Robert J. Haulter, Senior Vice-president-Human Resources

Arnie Havens, Senior Vice-president, Government Affairs

Jesse R. Mohorovic, Senior Vice-president-Corporate Communications and Investor Relations.

All except Fitzsimmons and Mohorovic have a service record with the corporation going back into the 1970s.

Again, this may say nothing about who would succeed Snow at CSX. There is an impressive list on down the line, as well.

Because CSX hosts more passenger train operations (Amtrak and commuter) than any other Class I railroad, some passenger advocates wondered if Paul Reistrup, Vice President for Passenger Integration, might be in line for a top position. Others note that Reistrup, who was born in 1932, is not likely to be looking for that kind of expansion of responsibilities at his point in his life.

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At the Bowden Yard

NCI: Leo King

CSX, NS and FEC work together to move Florida freight. Here, CSX engines move through FEC’s Bowden Yard in Jacksonville, Fla., to get to the head end of a train. NS operates run-through “pigs” and containers to Miami.


Ward is likely to succeed Snow at CSX

CSX Corp. is expected to choose rail veteran Michael J. Ward to succeed its current chairman should John W. Snow win Senate confirmation to his Presidential appointment as the nation’s next Treasury secretary.

Ward, 51, is the No. 2 executive at CSX. He was named president last summer after leading the company’s rail unit through eight straight quarters of profitability. If he takes Snow’s post, he will also become CEO of the Richmond, Va.-based corporation.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported no decision had been made by December 12 by the company’s board of directors during a regularly scheduled meeting at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, CSX spokesman Dan Murphy said.

Ward has been groomed for the past few years to step into the chairman’s shoes after Snow’s retirement, which had been expected in 2004. The succession plan was derailed Monday when Snow, 63, was tapped by President Bush to replace ousted Treasury Secretary Paul H. O’Neill. Snow, CSX’s chairman and CEO, could leave as early as next month.

He has announced plans to retire if confirmed and not accept any future compensation or benefits in his employment contract. Once Snow steps down, CSX is likely to close its headquarters in downtown Richmond, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The corporate staff has shrunk from more than 100 in the late 1990s to 15 people working at One James Center at 901 E. Cary St.

Ward works at the railroad’s operating center in Jacksonville, Fla. He has been running the day-to-day operation at CSX for the past two years.

“I think he’s pretty much running things as president,” said John Gallagher, who covers railroads for Traffic World, a trade journal for shippers.

“Snow was out of the picture” for daily operations, Gallagher said. “I don’t think things are going to change that much.”

Ward began his railroad career in 1977 as a research analyst for CSX predecessor Chessie System Ry. in Baltimore.

He has been executive vice-president of operations, manager of Conrail merger planning, head of the railroad’s coal business unit and chief financial officer.

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Fleischer ducks Amtrak question;
McCain includes Amtrak in agenda

By Leo King Editor

Railroaders around the country were wondering last week why White House spokesman Ari Fleischer ducked a question regarding Amtrak at a daily news briefing.

On December 6, a reporter asked Fleischer a question regarding Amtrak’s financial condition.

The questioner asked, “The White House has taken somewhat of a standoffish attitude toward the imminent bankruptcy of United Airlines. I was wondering, with the new economic team coming in, will they be looking at problems like this collapse of a large chunk of our transportation grid? Also we have, going into 2003, Amtrak facing possible bankruptcy. Will they look at these with new eyes?”

Fleischer responded, “I think that you can expect that all people in the administration, whether they’re the current people or future people, will be guided by the law; and the law in the case of the airline industry created a fund that could be made available for finite and set purposes limited to law, which is to provide assistance and to make certain that the assistance went to organizations who would be able to use the taxpayer funded assistance in a way that would not lead to money that could no longer be reimbursed to the Treasury because the financial entity – in this case, the airline, – did not have, as the Transportation Board stated, a viable financial plan. So these matters are decided by this board, and per the criteria established by the Congress.”

Not a peep about Amtrak.

Elsewhere in Washington, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) last week told reporters what he described as “initiatives” for the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation is planning for the 108th Congress. He will be the new committee chairman.

He said hearing dates would be announced as they are scheduled, but in his tentative agenda, Amtrak will be in the mix.

He said Amtrak reform will be on the table.

“The committee will hold hearings on the future of intercity rail passenger service, including comprehensive reform of Amtrak, the introduction of competition for the intercity rail market, the extent and nature of the passenger network, state involvement, and long-term funding options.”

He also noted TEA-21 reauthorization will be a topic.

“The committee will hold a series of hearings to reauthorize the safety programs under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The committee also will consider legislation to reauthorize the Hazardous Materials Transportation Program, the Rail Safety Act, boating safety programs, and other federal transportation programs.”

Transportation security will be a topic.

“The committee will continue to oversee the security of our nation’s transportation system, including the ongoing implementation of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act and the Port and Maritime Security Act. The Committee also will consider legislation authorizing rail and bus security programs.”

Other topics the committee will look into include reauthorizing the Maritime Security Program and reform of the Title XI Maritime Loan Guarantee Program. Also, communications, ranging from the FCC to cable rates; aviation; consumer protection; and even climate change. The Committee will consider a proposal to establish an economy-wide “cap and trade” program on greenhouse gases and examine the impacts of climate change on the environment, the economy, and public health, and will consider changes to the corporate average fuel economy standards. The committee even deals with sports. The members will consider legislation to prohibit gambling on amateur sports and other topics.

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Funding battle remains ahead for Amtrak

Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) plainly thinks long-distance passenger train service is a failed experiment.

“America put forth its best effort, but I think you have to face up to an impossible situation... that there are only certain geographic locations which can support passenger transportation and that we ought to focus on those areas,” Virginia’s senior senator said recently. Asked whether he supports the elimination of Amtrak’s money-losing Cardinal that goes through Virginia on its way from Washington, D.C., to Chicago, Warner practically blanches. No way, the Republican said, would he ever propose such an unpopular idea.

Warner’s reaction typifies Congress’ ambivalence toward Amtrak: unhappy with the system in general but reluctant to do away with a program that serves constituents, no matter how few, Gannett New Service reported on December 8.

Next year, federal lawmakers and the Bush administration will have to resolve that dilemma. Amtrak’s reauthorization – or radical reconfiguration – will be the subject of fierce congressional debate.

Amtrak is looking for a record $1.2 billion subsidy from the federal government this year.

The November elections where the GOP gained control of Congress do not bode well for the quasi-governmental, 31-year-old passenger rail company. Republicans are generally less supportive of Amtrak than Democrats, particularly Sen. John McCain (see story above).

McCain said he wants to eliminate federal subsidies of Amtrak, especially for long-distance lines, and has proposed privatizing passenger rail service, but he admits overhauling Amtrak won’t be easy.

“Look, I’m not making any promises just because I’m the chairman of the committee,” he said. “I understand what the entrenched interests are that we fight, but we never give up the fight.”

Some of those interests include senior members of his own party. Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott has said he’s not willing to support a system serving the densely populated Northeast unless it goes through his home state of Mississippi as well.

“We’ve got to have a commitment by Amtrak that it’s going to be a national system,” agreed Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), who said the company devotes too much money and attention on the Northeast. “There’s got to be an evening out of the resources.” The Texas senator has been a staunch supporter of Amtrak.

Since its first trains chugged out of the station in 1971, Amtrak has been a creature of political design. Under various company presidents, it has tried to act like a private corporation while also trying to please Capitol Hill, and fallen short on both counts.

The Cardinal is a prime example.

During the 1970s, the train became known as the “Harley Staggers Special” because the powerful West Virginia Congressman provided Amtrak with the money to keep the service running daily. In 1981, after Amtrak cancelled the Cardinal and two other lines because of budget cuts by the Reagan administration, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), inserted special language to a transportation appropriations bill mandating that Amtrak “provide through rail passenger service between Washington, D.C. and Chicago, via Cincinnati.” Service to the Cardinal, the only Amtrak train mandated by law today, resumed within four months.

In 2001, the Cardinal lost $12.6 million, or more than $187 per passenger, according to the General Accounting Office.

Amtrak’s hiring earlier this year of respected railroad veteran David L. Gunn to be its president has been met with widespread praise, even by critics like McCain. Gunn has trimmed management, opened the company’s books and struck the kind of responsive, no-nonsense tenor that Capitol Hill likes to hear, but Gunn cannot overcome Amtrak’s inherent flaws, said Tom Till, former executive director of the now-defunct Amtrak Reform Council, which Congress created to monitor the company’s financial progress.

“Over the long term, the problem is not finding the perfect executive,” he said. “The problem is you don’t have a program structure to allow a reasonably competent administrator to perform their jobs without political interference.”

Gunn, who was lured out of retirement in May to become Amtrak president, wants the Bush administration and Congress to decide what to do about Amtrak: either get rid of it, or decide its role and fund it accordingly.

“It’s not stable the way it is,” Gunn said.

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Kansas City station reopens

It took 17 years for Kansas City’s Union Station to reopen, but last week the railroad began selling tickets from the made-over facility. People have line up already to get ducats to go here, go there.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be conducted at 11:00 a.m. in the Grand Hall tomorrow (December 17). Tours will be available of the new facilities, including a waiting room that contains restored wooden Union Station benches rescued from a Grain Valley barn.

From the ticket counter, travelers reach the trains through a recently finished $4.5 million walkway and boarding platform. The platform is at ground level, where the Southwest Chief, trains 3 and 4, call, scurrying between Chicago and Los Angeles. So does the Ann Rutledge, trains 303 and 304, heading east to Chicago or west terminating at Kansas City, along with the Kansas City Mule (Nos. 301/306) to St. Louis.

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Pennsylvanian won’t enter Ohio next year

Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian won’t be calling on Toledo anymore, starting on January 27. The train won’t even enter Ohio any more.

Amtrak’s Kathleen Cantillon, a corporate spokesperson in Chicago, said the train would revert to a New York-Pittsburgh schedule, after a little more than four years as a Philadelphia-Chicago train with stops in Sandusky and Toledo along the way.

The train’s cancellation ends daytime service between Toledo and such eastern destinations as Cleveland and Pittsburgh that was much celebrated when it began in November 1998, reports the Toledo Blade of December 10.

Area passenger-train advocates hoped at the time that the new train heralded a future of trains available in Toledo at several times throughout the day, not just the overnight hours that have typified Amtrak’s Ohio schedules.

For Amtrak, however, express freight shipments riding in boxcars behind the train’s three or four passenger cars were the main reason for the Pennsylvanian’s extension to Chicago. Amtrak President David Gunn, in office since mid-May, decided several months later to eliminate express freight, which never became the profit generator previous Amtrak managers had predicted.

“The growth has not materialized, and the train schedule we had to implement [to handle express freight] impaired the train’s performance,’’ Cantillon said.

Indeed, while Pennsylvanian ridership declined after the train’s extension, the supposed convenience of daytime service never translated into brisk business in Ohio.

Slow schedules and erratic on-time performance didn’t help either, a source said.

Two daily Amtrak trains in each direction between Chicago and the East Coast – the Lake Shore Limited serving Boston and New York City and the Capitol Limited serving Washington – will continue to stop in Toledo. All four stops are scheduled between midnight and 5 a.m. Amtrak also operates the Three Rivers train along a Chicago-New York route that includes Fostoria; stops there are during the wee hours, too.

Cantillon confirmed that other schedule adjustments are being considered, but would not occur right away. Amtrak normally makes major schedule changes in October and April, in concert with the seasonal transitions between Standard Time and Daylight Saving Time.

As to the adequacy of Amtrak’s current Toledo schedule, Ms. Cantillon said, “We need to think about the ridership on the entire train. The service is not ideal for every city on the route.”

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Where are the operating manuals?

New York delivers second Turboliner, but…

A second high-speed Turboliner was delivered on December 11 to Amtrak’s Rensselaer, N.Y., shop to begin final testing, state transportation officials said, but Amtrak still refuses to put in service the first trainset.

The trains are being reconditioned under a $74.4 million state contract with Super Steel Schenectady, and now the new equipment is starting to stack up – and New York transportation officials are getting impatient to see the state’s investment in action, reports the Albany Times Union of December 12.

“We’re going to send them down there so fast that they’re going to have to run them just to get them out of the yard,” state Transportation Commissioner Joseph Boardman said, apparently only half-joking.

Amtrak continued to balk at officially signing off on completion of the first of seven trains – including cars and locomotives – being produced at Super Steel’s plant, a move that could clear the way for the national railroad to put the train into service between Albany and New York.

The first train went to Amtrak’s Rensselaer shop in August for its final round of testing. While the state DOT continues to insist the train is ready to roll, Amtrak maintains there are problems still standing in the way.

An Amtrak spokesman said those include a lack of operations manuals, spare parts and training for employees.

“We expect to put the trainset in service at some point, but these details need to be worked out first,” said Daniel Stessel, an Amtrak spokesman in Washington, D.C.

“Give me a break,” Boardman said of the concerns expressed by Amtrak about the trains. “They seem to come up time after time with manufactured reasons not to put them in service... They desperately need equipment, and this equipment is a lot better than what they have.”

Stessel insisted the delay in accepting the first Turboliner and putting it into service is not related to Amtrak’s current financial crunch and potential national restructuring, but he did say Amtrak believes the Turboliners will be more expensive to run and are harder to expand from their normal five-car configuration.

The trains are designed to travel at speeds of up to 125 mph, but until tracks are upgraded, the new equipment is not expected to improve much on the 85-100 mph maximum speeds of current Amtrak trains in New York State.

Letters between state DOT and Amtrak officials last month hinted that the turbo trains and the track improvements expected as part of a $98.5 million state high-speed rail project could be getting caught up in the dense thicket of issues surrounding Amtrak’s future.

In a November 12 letter to DOT Assistant Commissioner John H. Guinan outlining Amtrak’s concerns about the first train, an Amtrak vice president stated, “As you are aware, Amtrak currently is losing a very significant amount of money on its Empire service operations. Amtrak’s board of directors is considering a policy that would require states to make up any losses generated by corridor service.”

Boardman said he is eager for Amtrak’s future to be settled, but he’s insistent that the federal government must get more actively involved in mapping out the game plan.

“Right now, that hasn’t happened,” he said. “I think the states are willing to be partners, but they’ve got to know what the rules are.”

In the meantime, Boardman said, he believes the Turboliners will roll.

“I presume they’ll go into service right here,” he said. “I hope Amtrak runs them.”

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FRA funds grade crossing programs

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is awarding some $5.4 million in grants to 10 states to enhance high-speed rail corridors safety at public and private highway-grade crossings.

Under the terms of the grants, all public and private highway-rail grade crossings along designated corridors are eligible for the funding of a number of hazard elimination activities including crossing closure, crossing consolidation or grade separation, installing or upgrading automated warning devices to include bells, flashing lights or gates.

Other targets include improvements to track circuitry, crossing surface upgrades, crossing sight distances or illumination, installing advanced train control or traffic control systems, and other related project development and engineering activities.

Fiscal Year 2002 allocations are:

California Corridor: $200,000
Chicago Hub Corridor:Minnesota$250,000
 Wisconsin $250,000
Gulf Coast Corridor:Louisiana$200,000
 Mississippi $1,417,000
Southeast Corridor:South Carolina$800,000
Empire Corridor:New York$1,500,000

FRA Administrator Allan Rutter said on December 11, “The Bush Administration remains committed to improving the safety of our nation’s highway-rail grade crossings, including those in communities along federally-designated high- speed rail corridors.” He added, “We look forward to working… to continue the collective advances in safety benefiting our nation’s railroad employees and the communities through which they operate.”

Rutter noted “a by-product of this grant program is our ability to incorporate new and innovative strategies for reducing grade crossing incidents and the deaths and injuries that so often accompany them.” He cited North Carolina DOT’s “Sealed Corridor initiative” (online at

The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) expanded the highway-rail grade crossing hazard elimination program, which began with the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA).

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Portland looks to buy rail yard

Portland, Maine, officials have negotiated a deal to buy 9.5 acres of former railroad land in the Bayside neighborhood from the Maine DOT for $1.9 million.

The land deal is the latest of several recent moves by the city that coincide with the state’s effort to extend passenger rail service through Bayside, along Interstate 295 and Marginal Way, to Freeport, Lewiston and beyond, reports the Portland Press Herald.

The land along Somerset Street, Kennebec Street and Marginal Way is considered critical to the planned redevelopment of Bayside as the city’s gateway district. Plans include extending Chestnut Street from Somerset Street to Marginal Way, creating more parking, building a bike trail through Bayside and developing other properties for commercial and residential uses.

Portland City Council is scheduled to vote on the proposal on January 6.

The former railroad yard on Somerset Street would be purchased with a $1 million federal grant. The city would borrow $400,000 to buy smaller parcels that run along Kennebec Street and Marginal Way. The remaining $500,000 would come from land and services swapped in future Maine DOT projects. The city also received a $500,000 federal grant to clean up surface fuel contamination on the former railroad land.

The land’s value has been appraised at $2 million to $2.5 million.

The state DOT plans to maintain control of a 26-foot-wide corridor through the rail property until federal authorities approve plans to run the passenger rail line along I-295, which is expected to take at least two years.

A fortnight ago, the council approved a plan to build a small passenger train station on Marginal Way, just west of Franklin Street, and maintain the city’s larger train and bus station at Sewell Street. The Marginal Way station would consist of a simple platform and passenger shelter with 69 parking spaces.

”We basically want it to be a convenience station for commuter rail passengers with short-term parking,” said City Planner Alexander Jaegerman. He said construction of the station would coincide with the opening of the passenger rail line.

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Beaumont fed up with alleged unsafe station

Passengers traveling aboard the Amtrak Sunset Limited are promised picturesque scenery and first class accommodations, as well as fine dining and entertainment. That may be the case once they get on board, but those catching the train from the Beaumont, Texas unstaffed depot will first have to survive nightmarish conditions – total darkness due to broken lights, broken windows, holes in the ceiling, urine-stained floors and often a homeless person or two sleeping in the shadows.

The Beaumont Examiner News reported on December 5 it is unsettling no matter how streetwise the traveler, and the sad thing is that it’s been that way for as long as most can remember. For more than 10 years, Amtrak has leased the depot from Union Pacific.

The newspaper stated both companies promised to make improvements, yet the condition of the Cedar Street station has only continued to worsen. Fed up with empty promises and unreturned phone calls, city leaders are now turning to code violations to end the fight.

“It’s unfortunate, but that’s what is in the works,” said Jim Rich of the Beaumont Chamber of Commerce, who was originally hoping to relocate the depot near Crockett Street. That now looks unlikely, Rich said, since Kansas City Southern Railroad is unwilling to grant Amtrak permission to use their downtown tracks.

Mayor Evelyn Lord said she first received letters regarding the deplorable depot shortly after taking office this summer and has been working with City Manager Kyle Hayes to rectify the dangerous situation before someone gets hurt.

“If they are not going to do something about it, then the city will,” she added.

Hayes said the city sent notices to Union Pacific regarding the unkempt lawn, litter and debris on the property several weeks ago and received no response.

“By law, we have to notify the property owner, give them a certain amount of time to abate it. If they do not – which they didn’t – we clean it up and then bill them for it,” he said. “We are in the process of billing them now.”

Twenty-five bags of trash were removed from the property on Monday, Hayes said. However, that evening more trash littered the depot and a homeless man loitered inside. Now the Clean Community department is working with the Fire Marshall’s office to see what building and fire code violations can be found.

“I think we are going to go at it that way to get them to clean up the building and secure it,” Hayes said. “It’s unacceptable the way it is. We are doing everything we can to go after them as far as violations are concerned. If they are not going to fix it, they should just close the building down. It is not serving the city well at all to have the location looking like that with a ‘Welcome to Beaumont’ sign on the side.”

Neither Thomas Mulligan, director of passenger operations for Union Pacific, nor Mark Davis, regional director of public relations, returned phone calls seeking comment on the situation. Pamela Loiacano, of the Clean Community department, said she has had the same problems getting representatives of the railroad to call her back.

“I’ve been trying to get something done since October. I’ve called the railroad, the railroad police. They moved me on to a detective in Fort Worth, who won’t return my phone calls,” she said. “I’ve dealt with the railroads on many occasions, and they are always very difficult to deal with.”

Loiacano said the situation is more difficult to resolve since the property involves an open business.

“When it’s a private, vacant structure, and it’s left open and accessible like that, we can force them to secure it. If they don’t, we can file charges against them,” she said. “The (depot) building doesn’t meet the dilapidated structure requirements in that it is structurally sound. The roof is not about to cave in. Legally, you’ve got to be careful of what you do when you go messing with people’s buildings. We can’t just go in and secure a building that is actually in use. I have to come up with some kind of violation to send them a letter first.”

Earl White, of the Fire Marshall and Arson Investigation office, said he is currently trying to schedule a time to perform an inspection of the property.

“I’ll meet a representative at the property, do an investigation and give them notice of violations,” he said. “They’ll then have 10 working days to take corrective action.”

White would not elaborate on what specifically would happen next if the property were not brought up to code after the 10-day period.

“We will take action and bring them under compliance,” he said. “It’s a difficult situation, and we’re trying to get it corrected.”

“Ultimately, it’s Union Pacific that owns the building and is responsible for the building,” Loiacano added. “If it persists and no one will get back to us, we’ll have to have our legal department handle it.”

Problems with run down, unmanned depots are nothing new for Amtrak. Due to tight budgets and years of operating losses, only five of Texas’ 31 Amtrak stations have attendants. Shortly after last year’s terrorist attacks, even the busy Houston Amtrak station was temporarily locked and unmanned on weekends in an effort to save the company money.

“It’s not an unusual situation,” Amtrak spokesman Kevin Johnson told the Houston Chronicle at the time. “More than half of our stations across our network are unstaffed.”

According to police records, there have been 16 calls in the past two years to report suspicious persons or activity at the local depot. City Attorney Lane Nichols said he hopes it doesn’t take a serious injury on the property to get the railroad companies to take some action.

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Oregon City closes crossing to open station

Oregon City commissioners agreed Wednesday to close the 17th Street railroad crossing, taking the city one step closer toward becoming an Amtrak whistle stop.

In a unanimous vote, commissioners approved plans to build a barrier to keep traffic from crossing the railroad tracks at 17th Street. The plan, which will be forwarded to the Oregon DOT for final approval, would allow drivers of emergency vehicles to move the barrier and cross the tracks if other routes were blocked.

The commission’s vote toppled one of the last obstacles slowing Oregon City’s efforts to build an Amtrak station at the northern edge of town near the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, according to the Portland Oregonian of December 6.

Union Pacific, which owns the tracks, asked the city to close the 17th Street crossing before building a station.

“Any railroad crossing is a hazard, and when you put one that close to a station, it creates a lot of erratic movement of the gates,” said Robert Krebs, state transportation’s intercity passenger rail coordinator.

Krebs said that accidents between cars and trains would be prevented by blocking the 17th Street crossing, which is only about 100 feet from the proposed station stop. According to the proposal approved by the commission, the passage will be blocked when Amtrak trains begin stopping in Oregon City by next fall.

The city is waiting for Union Pacific to sign an operation agreement with Amtrak and approve station construction.

With about $1 million in urban renewal funds, the city plans to build a simple concrete platform across the street from the interpretive center. When the platform is completed, four Amtrak trains will stop in Oregon City daily.

The city plans to accept bids for the platform’s construction in the next few weeks, said Nancy Kraushaar, Oregon City’s public works director. The next step would be to add a depot, on-site parking and possibly a ticket office, she said. The money for those improvements is not yet available, but the city plans to apply for federal grant money in coming months to finance the project.

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$4.6 million Stockton station facelift begins

Demolition has begun inside the old brick Southern Pacific depot, marking the beginning of a historic makeover that will enhance transportation and renovate the east side of downtown Stockton.

The agency that helps run the Altamont Commuter Express trains plans to restore the long-abandoned depot to its original 1930s glamour, reported the Stockton Record on December 9.

The depot renovation is the first of two planned transit projects that double as downtown revitalization efforts. The other project, a major bus hub for the San Joaquin Regional Transit District, is expected to begin construction in the spring.

The two transit centers are four blocks apart on Channel Street.

The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, which operates the ACE trains along with two Bay Area agencies, purchased the old depot in 2001 for $236,000. That cost and the estimated $4.6 million renovation price tag are covered by “Measure K”, a voter-approved half-cent sales tax that goes toward transportation projects.

False ceilings, temporary walls and bad paint jobs over the past several decades have covered much of the depot’s original beauty, said Brian Schmidt, director of rail services rail commission. Behind those façades there are still marble floors, high ceilings and decorative moldings common in the celebrated train stations built around the county in the early part of the 20th century.

“The goal is to bring the depot back to its historical grandeur,” Schmidt said.

The new depot, which will be named in honor of the late county Supervisor Robert Cabral, a rail advocate, will have 17,000 square feet of space. It will be used for rail commission meetings, offices, and a lobby for ACE passengers and riders of the Amtrak trains to and from Sacramento.

The depot should open by next fall, about 73 years after it first greeted Southern Pacific riders. The railroad stopped passenger service in 1972 and used the building as a storage site until abandoning it in the early 1980s, Schmidt said.

Today, ACE trains start at the Stockton station in the morning and two-and-a-half hours later reach renovated San Jose station. Those two stations could almost be used as a before-and-after picture, Schmidt said.

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New York transit strike looms;
talks continue between union, city

As our deadline passed at 5:00 p.m. Friday, round-the-clock contract talks had begun to avert a transit strike that would strand 7 million daily New York City riders on Monday morning. The State of New York asked a judge for an order that would subject workers to jail time for walking off the job.

State Supreme Court Judge Jules Spodek did not immediately rule, but he made clear that he wouldn’t stand by with the city’s 34,000 bus and subway workers poised to strike, The AP reported.

“A strike vote is not (free) speech anymore. It’s action,” Spodek said after the state asked him to block Transport Workers Union Local 100 from striking Monday.

Spodek said he expected to issue an injunction as early as Friday night, despite union lawyer Arthur Schwartz’s insistence that a court order was premature because the union had not actually called a strike.

Union membership voted last week to authorize its leaders to call a strike if talks faltered. Their contract is due to expire at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

As negotiations between the union and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority resumed Friday, union and transit leaders said they were far apart on wages, pension payments and the MTA’s disciplinary policies.

Preparing for a potential strike, Mayor Michael Bloomberg bought a $500 mountain bike Friday and declared, “Nobody’s going to shut down New York.” Bloomberg, who travels by subway to work, promised to bike to City Hall in the event of a strike.

Two subway workers were killed on duty last month, and the union claims the MTA has not properly ensured worker safety.

Public employee strikes are illegal under the state’s Taylor Law, which would fine employees two days’ pay for every day they are on strike. A court order banning the strike would also subject the workers to contempt citations and jail time.

The union is seeking 6 percent annual raises over three years, while the MTA is offering no raise the first year and possible raises the following two years tied to productivity increases.

The MTA is facing a billion-dollar deficit this year and is contemplating a 50-cent increase from the current $1.50 fare.

The city’s last strike, which lasted 11 days, was in 1980, when the buses and subways carried less than half the number of commuters it does today.

New York City’s contingency plan is online at

MTA is online at

Transport Workers Union is online at

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Connecticut quandary:

New trains or double-decker coaches?

Stamford, Conn., leaders are urging Connecticut transportation planners to order new trains immediately rather than wait for results of a study on double-decker cars.

In a letter to state Transportation Strategy Board Chairman R. Nelson “Oz” Griebel, Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell said new cars are needed now and should not be delayed by a study expected to verify the double-decker cars would be too costly and unfeasible for Metro-North Railroad’s New Haven Line, according to the December 9 Stamford Advocate.

“Additional rail cars are needed now to meet existing demand, support any growth in ridership and help mitigate congestion in the I-95 corridor,” Farrell said in the letter, endorsed last week by the full membership of the South Western Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, which represents lower Fairfield County’s eight towns.

The Connecticut DOT is conducting a study to determine whether double-deckers could be a solution to overcrowded trains.

The higher coaches can accommodate about 150 passengers; existing trains have a 110-passenger capacity. Double-deckers are used on the Long Island Rail Road but have not been used by Metro-North because they do not fit under the 16-foot tunnels of Grand Central Terminal in New York City. The DOT study is looking to determine whether double-decker cars can be modified to fit under the tunnels.

Farrell warned that any changes to the rail fleet could require costly infrastructure improvements that would have to be paid entirely by the state.

“Given the state’s current fiscal condition, it seems more prudent to invest in rail cars that are compatible with existing infrastructure than to significantly increase the cost of operating commuter rail in Connecticut by redesigning the fleet in such a way as to incur significant capital costs,” Farrell said.

Griebel had not received the letter by December 9, but said the TSB is considering expanding commuter rail service in the state. He said the board is looking at recommendations to provide interim relief until other questions can be answered.

“There are several technological questions we need to answer that could prove to give us more bang for our buck,” Griebel said.

The state recently took delivery of four new diesel locomotives and 10 new coaches at a cost of $35 million. No more rail cars are on order and commuter advocates say the state needs to act fast because it takes six to eight years for delivery of new trains.

The state’s almost 350-car rail fleet is about 30 years old and, according to DOT figures, about 15 percent – 50 cars – are out of service daily for repairs.

New York recently took delivery of half of the 1,266 cars it ordered in 1999 at a cost of $1.7 million each for use on the LIRR and Metro-North’s Harlem and Hudson lines.

“Obviously, time is of the essence in ordering new cars, given the lag time in getting them built,” said Jim Cameron, vice chairman of the Connecticut Metro-North-Shore Line East Rail Commuter Council. “In the long run, I think the bilevel cars might work, but we need cars desperately, and we need them now.”

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Romney not likely to cut Greenbush funds

In his quest to cut money from the state budget, Governor-elect Mitt Romney is more likely to look to the New Bedford-Fall River rail extension than the Greenbush rail line, transportation officials and policy analysts say.

State Transportation Secretary James H. Scanlan said restoration of the Greenbush commuter train between Boston and Scituate is on ‘‘an irreversible track,” according to a report in the Quincy Patriot Ledger of December 10.

‘‘Quite honestly, the Fall River-New Bedford project is way back behind Greenbush,” Scanlan said. ‘‘I would clearly say to the incoming governor that Greenbush is a very good project, it’s great for the South Shore. It has a legal commitment and it has good momentum. It would be a disservice to reverse that course.”

Charles Chieppo of the Pioneer Institute, a member of Romney’s advisory transition team on transportation issues, noted the state faces a legal requirement to build Greenbush. That was one of the conditions for going ahead with the Big Dig in Boston. There is no similar requirement to build the New Bedford and Fall River line.

‘‘I would think he’s much more likely to cut New Bedford and Fall River than Greenbush,” Chieppo said. ‘‘It’s much further along.”

Transportation officials said last month the Greenbush price tag would rise to $465 million, up by $30 million. That gave longtime Greenbush opponents another opportunity to call on Romney to shelve the Greenbush project altogether. Romney, facing a projected $2 billion shortfall in state revenues next year, is looking for cuts in the state budget.

‘‘It’s the tip of the iceberg in terms of cost overruns,” said Hingham resident John Bewick of Advocates for Transportation Alternatives. ‘‘They have not begun to address a number of modifications they are going to have to make.”

Transportation experts say the 17.7-mile Greenbush line is far less likely to be cut than the state’s other major rail project, the 43-mile extension from Stoughton to New Bedford and Fall River.

They say some $60 million has already been spent on Greenbush, not including the cost in salaries of MBTA officials and planners who have been working since 1984 on reviving a train line that has been dormant since 1959.

In addition, money to pay for Greenbush is already included in the MBTA’s capital budget, and major environmental permits have already been secured for the project’s go-ahead.

Two other long-closed branches of the Old Colony Railroad, from Boston to Middleboro and to Plymouth, were reopened in 1997. The Greenbush line will branch off from the Old Colony main in Braintree, and go through Weymouth, Hingham and Cohasset to end on the south end of Scituate near the North River and Marshfield.

Since summer, MBTA workers headquartered at the Greenbush field office just outside of Weymouth’s Commercial Square have been working with local officials to prepare for the Greenbush groundbreaking this coming spring. Workers have been clearing brush and pulling up old railroad ties, and test borings are being conducted along the Greenbush rail bed. Within the next week, rehabilitation work begins on about 15 of the bridges on the Greenbush line, Darrin McAuliffe, senior project coordinator, said.

The opening of the Greenbush line is targeted for spring 2005.

The state entered into a legal agreement in 1991 to build Greenbush along with the other two branches of the Old Colony line as a mass transit improvement as mitigation for spending so much money on the Big Dig highway project.

‘‘This thing is really far down the line,” said Toni Hicks of the Conservation Law Foundation, an environmental advocacy group. ‘‘It’s not something that you can just sort of yank because you have a new administration coming in.”

In contrast, the state is not legally obligated to build the New Bedford-Fall River rail extension, and far less work and money have gone into that proposal.

Some $14 million has been spent on bridge improvements in Fall River and New Bedford in preparation of the rail extension, transportation officials said, but unlike with Greenbush and its $252 million construction contract, the state has yet to enter any contracts to build the New Bedford-Fall River extension. Transportation officials say there is no firm date set for the project’s groundbreaking nor eventual opening.

In addition, the project’s $620 million price tag, already higher than the Greenbush cost, may swell to as much as $1 billion over the years, transportation officials say.

Romney, who takes office on January 2, has yet to make any decisions about which transportation projects to keep, his spokeswoman, Shawn Feddeman, said. His transition team will offer him advice on which projects make economic sense, she said.

‘‘His approach is going to be to rank those projects and see which ones merit the funds,” Feddeman said.

About 100 people work at the Greenbush field office on Commercial Street in East Weymouth, most of them employees of general contractor, Cashman-Balfour Beatty and engineering subcontractor STV Inc. Once the line is running, the building, a converted bowling alley, will be demolished to make way for the East Weymouth station parking lot.

‘‘We have invested a lot of money into this project,” said construction director Jim Eng.

While acting Gov. Jane Swift and her two predecessors – Paul Cellucci and William Weld – were strong supporters of the Greenbush restoration project, Swift said Romney is justified in reviewing all spending projects.

‘‘I think (Greenbush) is a very important infrastructure project, it was part of the agreement of mitigation of traffic as we built out the Big Dig,” Swift said, ‘‘but whenever a project encounters significant cost increases, it is only responsible to review a cost-benefit analysis. I believe the next administration should and will entertain that argument.”

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New Rhody station is still a question mark?

Rhode Island’s Supreme Court declined on December 10 to advise Gov. Lincoln Almond (R) on the legality of his approach to financing a $168-million commuter rail station near T.F. Green state airport.

Almond proposed to build a combined Amtrak station and airport rental car garage off Jefferson Boulevard, and to link the complex to the air terminal with an automated people mover, but Three justices said it would be “inappropriate” to answer questions of law that Almond’s lawyers posed on November 26 because they do not raise constitutional issues and would require the court to make findings of fact without a case pending, according to The Providence Journal.

In a dissenting view, Associate Justice Robert G. Flanders Jr. advised Almond that his administration’s view of the law is correct – that Almond can order a bond sale through the state Economic Development Corp. without General Assembly approval, and can repay the bonds by taxing all airport car rentals, not just those of companies agreeing to participate in the project.

It was unclear how the court’s mixed signals might affect the project. At the end of the day, a spokesman for Almond, Tom Kogut, said, “Right now we’re reviewing the ruling and considering our options in light of it,” according to the Providence Journal.

The administration had said previously it needed a favorable advisory opinion by December 4 to make a bond sale possible, and to win backing from Avis and Hertz, the two biggest car rental companies at Green.

Six other rental companies oppose the project and have sued Almond seeking to stop it. They had urged the state Supreme Court to remain silent on Almond’s questions while the lower court case is pending.

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Minneapolis light-rail project is on time

The Minneapolis metro area’s first light-rail line is 65 percent complete as winter takes hold and the second construction season ends. Officials report that the Hiawatha Line is on time and within budget, but money continues to be tight.

“The budget is a great concern,” said Ed Hunter, director of the project for the Metropolitan Council. “It’s always been a great concern” reports the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.

Work on the line is right on schedule, according to John Caroon, director of the construction project for the Minnesota DOT (MnDOT).

Rails have been installed along the route from Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis to 54th Street in south Minneapolis. An eight-bay maintenance building near East Franklin Avenue is finished and ready to receive its first coach in February or March, and crews are branching out from the maintenance facility, stringing the contact wire.

The budget came under renewed scrutiny last week when the Rail Transit Committee asked the staff to try to find $116,748 to add the Somali language to automatic ticket-vending machines that will serve the line and the coming northwest busway between downtown Minneapolis and Rogers.

Though it’s a relatively small amount compared with the project’s $675 million budget, Hunter said it’s difficult to find an extra $116,748 because the contingency budget for unexpected expenses was only 3.5 percent of the budget, when 10 percent is typical.

“We were skinny to start with. We’ve been against the wall from Day One on this,” he said.

Foes of light rail are closely watching its bottom line, and the legislature passed a law prohibiting the Met Council (which will own and run the line) and MnDOT (which is building it) from adding money to the budget. So even if both agencies could come up with money to solve the ticket-machine controversy, the law prevents them from doing so, according to Hunter.

Taking it from the project’s balance will be difficult because major cuts already have been made to stay within budget, he said. As of October 31, the project’s contingency budget totaled $10.9 million.

A worrisome June forecast predicted that contaminated soils, extra right-of-way costs and consultant fees threatened to put the contingency budget $9.5 million in the red upon completion of the line.

To address that concern, chief of staff Mark Fuhrmann took two rail cars and corridor landscaping out of the budget with the possibility that they could be added back in if the budget picture changes. He also scaled back the use of consultants from $34 million to $15.4 million and refused some design requests by Minneapolis and Bloomington. So Minneapolis and Bloomington paid for $3.8 million worth of enhancements that they wanted included in the project.

(Minneapolis’s contributions included $1.5 million for a redesign of the Lake Street rail bridge and $1.6 million to add a passenger vestibule and escalators at the Lake Street station. Bloomington put in $78,000 for additions to the Mall of America station.)

Fuhrmann reported last week that the adjustments will pull the contingency budget out of the red, but he doesn’t expect there to be contingency money remaining.

So where might money to add the Somali language to ticket machines come from?

Two Met Council members, Saundra Spigner and Frank Hornstein would like to take the estimated $117,000 from the project’s consulting budget.

The staff opposes that suggestion. In fact, Fuhrmann last week recommended adding money back into the consulting budget with URS Corp. and raising its contract from $15.4 million to $16.9 million by taking $1.5 million from the contingency fund.

He said it’s now clear that the consulting service they want to restore is critical to keeping the project on schedule because it would provide the technical expertise needed to set up the radio communication and electrical power systems on the train.

Although the line isn’t scheduled to start running until April 2004, Joe Marie has been hired by Metro Transit as the assistant general manager for rail operations. He directed rail service in Pittsburgh, for the Port Authority of Allegheny County, and is planning the start of service in Minneapolis.

Marie is in the midst of hiring staff to run and maintain the rail line and will direct testing of the first rail car when it arrives. The $2.5 million rail car, which was built more than 2,000 miles away in Mexico, will arrive on a low-bed truck.

In all, 24 cars have been ordered, and 22 will be needed to meet service schedules, Marie said. Initial tests of the first car will take months, and the second, third and fourth cars will not be delivered until tests on the first one are finished.

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Maryland cops ride rails hunting terrorists

The Maryland Transit Administration is offering free passes to plainclothes officers who agree to watch for terrorists and other troublemakers during their commute.

“Our goal is, with heightened concerns about potential threats from the al-Qaeda, or vis-a vis the sniper, to try and have some added eyes and ears out there,” Simon Taylor, manager and chief operating officer of the Maryland Rail Commuter system, said December 10 at the agency’s Point-of-Rocks headquarters.

The FBI warned in October that terrorists have considered targeting U.S. passenger trains.

Taylor said MARC has just one paid security officer covering its 200-mile system and is hoping enough people sign up to provide at least one undercover officer on each of its 86 trains.

The plan is based on a program the neighboring Virginia Railway Express commuter service implemented after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

A Virginia service spokesman, Mark Roeber, said the program has 68 plainclothes officers, including federal marshals and National Park Service employees, and 10 to 20 uniformed police officers.

The program costs VRE $40,000 to $45,000 a year, substantially less than the $65,000 to $70,000 in wages and benefits for a single security officer, Roeber said.

There have been no incidents requiring the undercover commuters to act, Roeber said.

Their obligation “is simply to be our eyes and ears on the train. If something were to happen, we hope they will be able to rise to the occasion and deal with the issue,” Roeber said.

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Maglev losing spark in Pittsburgh

Residents of two growing suburban Pittsburgh, Penn., communities have organized opposition to a high-speed maglev train proposed for their neighborhoods.

The Port Authority and the Pennsylvania DOT (PennDOT), government sponsors for the Pennsylvania Project, are posing difficult questions to their private partner, Maglev Inc., a group that has been chasing its dream for more than 12 years, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of December 1.

Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey is pushing for a decision about maglev, while Fred Gurney, president of Monroeville-based Maglev Inc., concedes increasing costs and opposition are presenting new challenges.

“We need to bring this whole question about maglev to some sort of conclusion,” Roddey said. “The longer we wait, the longer we delay other plans like pursuing a light-rail alternative” to Pittsburgh International Airport.

A draft environmental study, now under FRA review, is to be completed soon and made available for public review. Then hearings will be scheduled, tentatively in late January, to discuss the 54-mile line that would link the airport, downtown, Monroeville and Greensburg at stations called “magports.”

The futuristic system uses electromagnetics to levitate and propel trains to more than 240 mph on a mostly elevated steel guideway.

Because estimated costs for the line now exceed $3 billion, the project has been divided into phases.

The first phase would be built between the airport and downtown. It would cost about $1.6 billion for the guideway, three train sets, three magports and a maintenance facility; and would cut through the heart of Robinson, one of Allegheny County’s growing suburbs.

“At first, I thought this was a great idea,” said John Roseto, a Robinson resident who is a member of a local steering committee opposed to the alignment. “Then I find out the guideway will cause a 250-foot-long, 35-foot-deep trench to be ripped through the township.”

Robinson has hired a Washington, D.C., law firm to work with the group and township commissioners. Meanwhile, in Penn Township in Westmoreland County, consultants have been called in and one proposal calls for ending maglev in Monroeville.

Others wonder if the state and county and local investors can raise the money for Phase 1, even if The Pennsylvania Project beats the Baltimore-to-Washington, D.C., project in semifinal competition for $950 million in federal funds.

Those funds are not guaranteed.

“Our vision is to create a system eventually connecting East Coast cities and the Midwest,” said Gurney, an undeterred optimist.

“September 11 showed our vulnerability in moving people around. Here’s a system with viability up to 600 miles. Maglev is a special federal project. It’s going to happen somewhere.”

Even if Maglev Inc.’s stars line up, Gurney said, it would be at least 2009 before the project could whisk people between the airport and downtown in what is projected to be eight minutes.

“Regardless of who gets high-speed maglev, the manufacturing can still be done in the Pittsburgh region because of what Maglev Inc. has accomplished,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, (D). “The payoff comes when maglev becomes an alternative to 200-mile and 300-mile air flights.”

The Port Authority and PennDOT have been working with Maglev Inc. in the public-private partnership since 1999.

They have spent about $17.7 million in mostly federal funds, including $12.5 million, which has gone to Maglev Inc., an enterprise with 28 employees of its own. A request for another $1.2 million in federal funds is in the works – but the relationship has grown contentious.

The Pittsburgh newspaper said it obtained a series of letters sent over the past five months, including one to U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Maglev Inc.’s main political supporter.

Maglev Inc. complained “events transpiring are causing us serious concern.”

Maglev Inc. contended, in essence, that both the authority and PennDOT appeared to be cutting out or reducing their involvement with the project, “squandering public funds for its own consultants” and otherwise undermining the project.

In one letter, Maglev Inc. suggested that the Port Authority be removed as a public partner because maglev may someday span the state and will extend beyond the authority’s legal jurisdiction.

Gurney didn’t want to discuss the original letter to Specter. He said he didn’t want to create any ill will.

“Our success has come because we’re an industry-university-labor organization,” he said. “All of those people want to see this continue and they’re all playing a role.”

Port Authority CEO Paul Skoutelas and Rick Peltz, a PennDOT deputy secretary in charge of the department’s maglev involvement, said the letters were internal matters and would not discuss them.

“We’re fulfilling our obligation to put the best possible proposal before the FRA and trying to win the competition for federal dollars,” Skoutelas said. “At this point, nobody can say if there will be a project. The[Bush] people seem lukewarm about it, but if The Pennsylvania Project gets a go, we’ll do all that’s possible to see high-speed maglev through fruition.”

He added, “Yes, there are questions and concerns. Whatever it takes, that’s what we’re going to do.”

Peltz, who’s leaving PennDOT soon to take a federal position, said problems came with any infrastructure project as complex as high-speed maglev.

“I’m a builder,” he said. “The only way you learn about new technology is to build it. If maglev succeeds, it will have a multiplier affect on jobs and a multitude of opportunities in Pittsburgh and, eventually, other parts of the state.”

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‘TRAX’ turns three, ridership is up

Utah Transit Authority’s TRAX light-rail system is only three years old, but it’s growing up fast. Its trains have become a familiar sight in Salt Lake City. Revenue service on the Sandy Line began three years ago, on December 6, writes the Deseret News.

The north-south Sandy rail line officially began running December 6, 1999. Those who protested prior to its construction are now mostly silent. Its fans, however, are more vocal.

“This is one of the best things that ever happened to downtown,” said Richard Wirick. He has been running the Oxford Shop, a men’s shoe store, for 52 years. He is also an executive board member for the Downtown Merchants Association.

Downtown Alliance leaders are equally enthusiastic.

“It services events very well,” said Alliance events director Tracy von Harten.

Utah Jazz games, concerts and arts festivals have helped pack TRAX cars. Compliments came rolling in, she said, during the 2002 Winter Olympics when TRAX ran into the wee hours – and last year’s First Night New Year’s celebration downtown drew 20,000 riders.

Downtown Alliance executive director Robert Farrington said TRAX has made it easier for people to access downtown and has even staved off gridlock.

“Most business people would say it’s a good thing, better to have it than not,” he said. Over time, he said, TRAX will attract redevelopment along its lines. Though fewer in numbers these days, TRAX detractors still exist, including perennial critic Michael Packard, who would rather see light rail just go away. The reason, according to his research, is that TRAX pulls too many riders from buses and does not generate enough new transit customers to justify its existence.

Today’s bus system, Packard maintains, is run less efficiently and at a higher cost than ever, mainly because of TRAX.

“People have just abandoned the bus system.”

Though TRAX cars are often bursting with riders, Packard says it’s because people are no longer using buses, not even for rides to TRAX stations. He’ll have a hard time, though, convincing UTA general manager John Inglish that TRAX is anything but a raging success.

“We are carrying more than 27,000 people a day and would carry more if we had the capacity,” Inglish said. In fact, UTA is negotiating with a California-based transit authority for the purchase of up to 25 more cars at $250,000 each. “We’re putting more miles on our rail cars than anyone else in the country.”

The people keep riding and UTA keeps spending more money on more miles of rail line. Money spent or budgeted so far:

$312 million for the 15-mile Sandy-Salt Lake line, with 16 stations, funded 80 percent by federal money and 20 percent with a local match.

$118.5 million for the 2.5-mile spur to the University of Utah with four stations, also funded 80 percent by the government and 20 percent locally.

$89.4 million for a 1.5-mile spur (under construction) to University Hospital and Primary Children’s Medical Center with three stations, an expected completion date of late 2004 and a 60/40 federal and local funding split.

UTA is tallying higher-than-projected ridership numbers. UTA officials say they’re seeing more trips than expected by people who live downtown and use TRAX to travel south and those who ride TRAX for reasons other than getting to work, such as shopping and entertainment.

UTA is also trumpeting TRAX as a means toward economic development. Cities are planning for transit-oriented developments while UTA is marketing surplus land along its rail corridor for private development. A possible result: More people who use light rail will end up living closer to TRAX stations.

Five people have died in light-rail accidents in the past three years. Four of the fatalities were pedestrians; one was in an automobile.

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Texas’ DART grows unexpectedly

Richardson, Texas officials are celebrating the opening of the Bush Turnpike light-rail station six months after the city’s other three Dallas Area Rapid Transit stations opened. There was a time they didn’t know whether it would ever exist.

“We knew there was a need for a station somewhere between Galatyn Park and Plano’s station on 15th Street to pick up all that traffic from [the turnpike],” Mayor Gary Slagel said.

Plano and Richardson agreed the best spot would be just south of the turnpike, with parking under the lanes. There was lots of open land and room beneath the turnpike for a huge parking lot, according to The Dallas Morning News of December 8.

DART examined the cities’ proposal but labeled the station ”deferred,” saying it wouldn’t build it for several years. Construction was moved up when Hunt Petroleum Corp. donated the land.

Now, DART officials are evaluating Richardson’s request for a station at Main Street that is not on DART’s plan even as a deferred station.

“We start a major investment study early on to determine stations’ potential impact on traffic and development,” said Doug Allen, DART executive vice president.

“We end up with a plan for where the line and the stations will be, which will have parking and which won’t.”

Allen said DART didn’t immediately see a good fit. Officials reconsidered when they saw what could be accomplished at Galatyn Park.

Galatyn Park, too, was at first a deferred station, but Richardson officials worked with the landowner and developers to show they could make Galatyn Park a place where people would go.

When the station opened in July, Galatyn Park had a full- service hotel, a public plaza and a performing arts hall. A landowner plans to build office, retail and apartments on a large adjacent tract.

The same company, Hunt Petroleum, owns the property at the Bush Turnpike Station and plans a similar mix of uses there.

City officials have high expectations for the Hunt properties, though they aren’t developing as quickly as was hoped before the economy soured.

The city has considerably more control over development at the Spring Valley and Arapaho Center stations, leading it to undertake the city’s most extensive land planning exercise ever.

The city has hired consultants, brought together landowners and engaged residents in breaking the mold on ways public places can be assembled. Richardson officials want to mix things up and put homes, offices, stores, restaurants and entertainment all within walking distance of the stations.

These ideas may not take shape for a decade, but thinking forward has gotten DART’s attention.

“Richardson’s attitude with DART has been good from the very beginning. They’ve been out there making things happen,” said Ray Noah, who represents Richardson on the DART board of directors.

Mr. Noah said this is likely to earn Richardson the coveted Main Street station, across Greenville Avenue from the China Town shopping center. Richardson is planning for development in that area with all the fervor it’s aiming at the Spring Valley and Arapaho stations and has even obtained federal funding for construction.

“I’m optimistic the city and DART will be able to put that thing [the Main Street station] in place when the economy recovers,” Mr. Noah said. “DART will be receptive to helping good things happen in the rail corridor. If the city’s trying to put in a station, and they’ve got their act together, DART’s going to make that happen.”

Officials hope to revive the city’s old downtown with small-scale development. They see opportunities for large-scale redevelopment at China Town shopping center, Harwood International and Richardson Heights Village Shopping Center. They envision a public plaza at Main Street and Greenville Avenue and parking structures to alleviate congestion.

“Main may have some of the best components going for it of any station around,” City Manager Bill Keffler said.

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Folsom light-rail line’s cost rise

Extending light-rail service to Folsom will cost $46 million more than originally anticipated, according to a revised cost estimate. The cost overrun has prompted Regional Transit (RT) officials to search for additional funding and ways to cut back on the scope of the project, reports the December 6 Sacramento Bee.

Early estimates for the 10.9-mile new line, which would connect the existing Mather Field Station to downtown Folsom, had the cost at $209 million with RT budgeting an additional $3 million for possible overruns, but the latest estimate puts the price tag at more than $255 million, mainly due to higher than expected construction costs and enhancements, which included sound walls, pedestrian crossings and new stations that have been added over the years.

One piece of the project involves building a short connection from where the existing line begins on K Street to the Amtrak station in downtown Sacramento. To do that, RT must relocate and rebuild a brick sewer at Seventh Street, relocate a water line at H Street and purchase property at the station.

That 0.7-mile connection alone will cost $5.5 million more than projected.

“The original estimate was for a stripped-down version of the line and it has been upgraded significantly since then,” RT board member Steve Cohn said Thursday.

“Sound walls are very expensive, and we did not initially project the full scope of the sound walls that are now planned,” he added.

One thing that will not change, Cohn said, is the project’s timeline.

RT already has begun station construction, and officials expect to have the first leg, from Mather Field to the Sunrise station, running by early 2004. The final segment to downtown Folsom is forecast for early 2005. The line, which parallels Highway 50 east of Sacramento, is an alternative to the congested freeway.

“No one in the public should have any concern that we will have this line operating by 2005,” Cohn said.

Also unchanged is RT’s South Line project, a six-mile, $222 million line from downtown Sacramento to Meadowview Road. South Line service is scheduled to begin in September.

The Folsom line project, however, soon may be scaled back.

RT officials said their goal is to bring the cost under $240 million, and officials from Sacramento, Rancho Cordova and Folsom will meet over the next 45 days to decide what to cut.

The first leg of the current RT light-rail system also experienced cost overruns during construction in the 1980s. Estimated at $131 million, the transit project ballooned to $176 million by the time it was completed. The shortfall was mostly covered by the city of Sacramento, which chipped in about $30 million.

RT General Manager Beverly Scott said the agency likely will address the problem this time by eliminating some components of the line and by borrowing funds from other RT projects.

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New Las Vegas monorail grows

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) received a birthday present on December 2 from regional transportation officials: A look at the monorail under construction along the Strip, a system that Reid is working to expand with federal dollars.

The visit to the monorail construction site, reported the Las Vegas Sun, was the first in about six months for Reid, who has been a stalwart backer of federal funding for mass transit programs in Southern Nevada.

The monorail route under construction runs south from Sahara Avenue and will connect with the 1.5-mile monorail line linking Bally’s and the MGM Grand. Reid, Democratic Senate whip, is negotiating with the Bush administration in an effort to bring home $150 million more to extend the line north from Sahara to downtown.

The funding, if it comes, would provide much of the $350 million needed to bring the monorail downtown, transportation officials said. The rest would come from a government loan and sales of bonds, Regional Transportation Commission General Manager Jacob Snow said.

The $650 million privately funded line already under construction is scheduled to carry passengers in early 2004. The officials told Reid that test runs of the monorail could begin early next year.

“There will be a lot of tourists wondering why there are empty trains going back and forth for six miles” next year, said Tom Butterfield, monorail installation supervisor for Bombardier Transportation, the major contractor for the construction.

Reid, who turned 63 a fortnight ago, said the monorail and similar programs such as a proposed light-rail commuter train from Henderson to the south end of the Strip represent the future of transportation in the area.

“It used to be the belief that we could solve all our transportation problems by building more roads,” he said.

“That cannot be done. It is so good that we’re doing other things. If we’re really going to help people... we’ve got to do other things.”

He gestured at the dusty interior of the new control and power center at Sahara and Paradise Road.

“This is the state of the art in mass transportation today, right here all around us,” Reid said.

Progress on the grand vision of a monorail extends beyond the workers busy bringing together the steel and concrete.

The RTC’s Snow said he expects the federal government to open up for public comment this month a draft environmental impact statement on the monorail extension to downtown.

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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


‘Transit Vote’ tallies thousands of new voters

Transit Vote, a non-partisan effort to mobilize transit riders around the country to participate in the political process, reported registering 38,465 new transit-rider voters in 16 different states during 2002. In addition, Transit Vote was a significant part of broader get-out-the-vote efforts in nine states.

Transit Vote efforts grew from 10 states in 2000 to 16 states in 2002, with USAction affiliates organizing 12 of the programs. A national coalition of 11 organizations met monthly to discuss strategies for local coalition building, volunteer turnout, and media outreach. Coalition members included APTA, Community Transportation Association of America, American Association of People with Disabilities, League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, Sierra Club, Surface Transportation Policy Project, Amalgamated Transit Union, Transport Workers Union, United Food and Commercial Workers, AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department and USAction Education Fund.

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Pasadena Gold Line opens in July

California’s Pasadena Gold Line is expected to open in July.

One day introductory rides were offered to VIPs last November 15 following testing on a completed part of the new light rail line. The agencies provided community leaders a first ride on the test train between the Mission Station in South Pasadena and the Fillmore Station in Pasadena, a distance of about 1.5 miles.

The light rail project’s first segment is 13.7 miles long on a line that ultimately will cover 34 miles between the San Gabriel Valley and downtown Los Angeles. The line is being built by the Los Angeles-to-Pasadena Metro Construction Authority, and will be turned over to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority for operation once construction is completed.

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Harrison takes over CN;
Tellier leaves for Bombardier

E. Hunter Harrison is Canadian National’s new president and CEO, effective January 1.

He replaces Paul M. Tellier, who is leaving CN after 10 years to become president and CEO of Bombardier, Inc. CN’s directors disclosed the changes December 12.

Harrison, 58, was the railroad’s executive vice-president and COO since March 1998 and joined the company’s board of directors on December 6, 1999. Between 1993 and 1998, he was president and CEO of Illinois Central Corp. (IC) and the Illinois Central Railroad Co. (ICRR), and a director of both.

CN Chairman David G. A. McLean said: Harrison “is the best operating executive in the rail business, the man who designed and implemented the scheduled railroad at CN. Scheduled railroad practices – now being embraced by other major railroads – have made CN the service and efficiency leader of the North American rail industry and allowed it to grow its service-sensitive merchandise businesses at a healthy pace. The industry recognizes Hunter’s leadership and innovation – Railway Age magazine in January named him “2002 Railroader of The Year.”

McLean said the railroad’s directors were “ready for Tellier’s decision to leave CN.” He added, “It is with considerable regret we see Paul depart CN after so much he’s done for the corporation. In his 10 years as CN’s president and CEO, Paul revolutionized the company, turning what once was a bloated, money-losing Crown corporation into a nimble, customer-focused and profitable shareholder-owned enterprise

Harrison will be based in Montreal.

Harrison began his railroad career in 1964 as a carman oiler (laborer) with the St. Louis-San Francisco Railroad (Frisco) while attending school in Memphis. Following the merger of the Frisco and Burlington Northern, Harrison held a number of executive positions in transportation and operations.

McLean said, Tellier had strong commitment to shareholders, and “drove an almost 400 per cent increase in shareholder value since CN’s privatization in November 1995. The board of directors, on behalf of shareholders and employees, thanks Paul for a job well done and wishes him the best of luck in his new endeavor.”

Bombardier cited its sagging share prices and a need to improve its corporate governance practices as reasons for allowing CEO Robert E. Brown to resign.

Laurent Beaudoin, Bombardier’s chairman and a member of the family that controls the company, said that Brown, who had worked at Bombardier for 15 years, had “asked to be relieved of his functions, and the board of directors accepted his resignation at the same meeting.”

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NS to spend $798 million next year

Norfolk Southern Corp. reported on December 9 it plans to spend $798 million for capital improvements in 2003.

“We are continuing our solid commitment to safety and service during challenging economic times with spending levels designed to keep our system strong and our service steadily improving,” said David R. Goode, chairman, president and CEO.

“At the same time, we are improving the utilization of the assets we already have, which will allow us to handle increased levels of business in the future.”

The anticipated spending includes $499 million for track projects and $246 million for equipment.

In right-of-way improvements, the largest expenditure will be $383 million for rail, crosstie, ballast and bridge programs. In addition, there is $29 million provided for communications, signal and electrical projects and $20 million for environmental projects and public improvements such as grade crossing separations and crossing signal upgrades.

Other projects include $36 million for marketing and industrial development initiatives, including increasing track capacity and access to coal receivers and vehicle production and distribution facilities, and continuing investments in intermodal infrastructure.

Equipment spending includes $183 million to purchase 100 six-axle locomotives, upgrade existing locomotives and certify and rebuild multi-level automobile racks. Equipment spending also includes $47 million for projects related to computers and information technology, including allocations for additional security and backup systems.

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STB gives green light to Bayport line

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) December 6 issued its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) regarding the proposed construction and operation of a 12.8-mile rail line into Houston’s Bayport Industrial District by San Jacinto Rail Limited (SJRL) and The Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry. Co. (BNSF).

The go-ahead came from STB’s Section of Environmental Analysis (SEA).

A press release from San Jacinto Rail Limited partners stated the SEA is working with the NASA, the FAA and the U.S. Coast Guard as cooperating agencies to complete the environmental review process. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is participating as a reviewing agency.

Construction and operation of the new rail line is subject to final approval of the STB, which gave its conditional approval in August 2002 pending completion of the environmental review.

SEA will host two public meetings regarding the project – one at Pasadena Convention Center at 7:00 p.m. on January 14, and another at Cesar E. Chavez High School in Houston at 7:00 p.m. on January 15.

Persons wanting to speak at a public meeting should pre-register no later than January 7 by calling SEA’s toll-free number, (888) 229-7857.

The Corps will issue a separate Public Notice on SJRL and BNSF’s Joint Permit Application under Section 404/401 of the Clean Water Act associated with the proposed project.

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Intermodal gains; carloads down

Rail intermodal freight was up, but carload freight was down slightly during the week ended December 7, in comparison with the same week last year, the Association of American Railroads reported December 12.

Intermodal volume totaled 190,352 trailers and containers, up 4.8 percent from the comparable week last year. Container volume was up 9.1 percent from last year, while trailer loadings were down 5.0 percent.

Carload freight, which doesn’t include the intermodal data, declined by 0.4 percent from last year, totaling 335,354 cars. Carload volume was up 4.8 percent in the West but down 6.8 percent in the East. Total volume was estimated at 29.1 billion ton-miles, down 0.7 percent from the 49th week of 2001.

Sharp gains were registered in loadings of metallic ores, up 53.5 percent from last year; coke, up 31.9 percent; and chemicals, up 10.8 percent. Eight of 19 commodities were down from last year, with crushed stone, gravel and sand off 15.9 percent; motor vehicles and equipment off 11.5 percent; and primary forest products off 9.0 percent.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 49 weeks of 2002: 16,214,372 carloads, down 0.9 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 8,846,949 trailers and containers, up 4.3 percent; and total volume of an estimated 1.405 trillion ton – miles, up 0.7 percent from last year’s first 49 weeks.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 90 percent of U.S. carload freight and 97 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 96 percent and 99 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.

Intermodal freight was up but carload traffic was down on Canadian railroads during the week ended December 7. Intermodal traffic totaled 42,144 trailers and containers, up 18.5 percent from last year. Carload volume of 60,367 cars was down 3.4 percent from the comparable week last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 49 weeks of 2002 on the Canadian railroads totaled 2,934,430 carloads, down 2.7 percent from last year, and 1,917,777 trailers and containers, up 11.2 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 49 weeks of 2002 on 16 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 19,148,802 carloads, down 1.2 percent from last year and 10,764,726 trailers and containers, up 5.4 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended December 7 totaled 11,168 cars originated or received from connecting lines, up 11.9 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 3,944 trailers or containers, up 37.4 percent from the 49th week of 2001.

For the first 49 weeks of 2002, TFM reported cumulative volume of 521,043 cars, up 3.7 percent from last year, and 183,394 trailers or containers, up 10.5 percent.

The AAR is online at

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GM prepares to lay off 900 workers in Ontario

Nearly 900 workers at General Motors Corp.’s London, Ontario locomotive operations were given layoff notices on December 6, as orders for the railway units have dried up, according to a Canadian Press report that appeared in the Toronto Globe and Mail.

The move will slash the Canadian Auto Workers work force at the factory by 62 per cent, said Terry Mason, chairman of CAW local 27. Labor law dictates the company must give workers 16 weeks’ notice of a layoff of more than 500 people, but workers won’t be off the job until March 31, which gives GM’s Electro-Motive Division time to land more orders.

The southwestern Ontario plant, part of a GM complex that earned widespread attention for a $6-billion deal to supply armored vehicles to the U.S. Army, has had little success bringing in new work for EMD. There are no orders coming in to keep the rail line running past next spring, said Chris Dennett, a GM spokesman.

“Due to a slowdown in locomotive orders, we don’t have a choice but to announce layoffs,” he said, adding, “It’s a business decision, and the timing is very unfortunate.”

“We want to make the point we are very optimistic about our ability to bring in new business in 2003,” Dennett said. “We know we have the technology. We make the product the rail industry wants.” There is less demand for locomotives now because consolidation in the railway industry has left fewer companies to buy the units. The plant now employs a total of 2,878 people.

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Alstom gets Atlanta Metro overhaul contract

The Board of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) has awarded Alstom of Paris and Montreal a contract valued at $127 million to overhaul 120 cars of its existing rapid transit fleet of 248 cars. These cars were built between 1985 and 1988, and their refurbishment will extend their operating life by 15 to 20 years.

The contract also includes an option for Alstom to overhaul up to 118 additional cars for a contract value of $139 million (approx if exercised by MARTA. Alstom built the option cars between 1979 and 1981.

Work will be carried out at Alstom’s facilities in Hornell, N.Y. Deliveries are scheduled to begin at the end of 2004, at the rate of up to eight cars a month.

MARTA is the ninth largest transit system in North America, and carries about a half-million passengers daily.

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NJT to get 100 bi-level coaches

Bombardier Transportation reported December 12 that it received an order from New Jersey Transit (NJT) to build 100 multi-level vehicles for the commuter railroad.

NJT directors voted to contract with Bombardier, once NJT and the Port Authority agree.

The contract “includes options for up to 176 additional multi-level vehicles which, if exercised, would bring the total value of the order to $525 million (¤817 million).

The stainless steel carbodies will be manufactured at Bombardier’s La Pocatière, Quebec, plant with final assembly at the Plattsburgh, N.Y. plant.

The firm stated in a press release, “Six pilot cars will be delivered in July 2005, some 30 months after we receive a ‘Notice to Proceed,’ and will undergo a six-month test program. Delivery of the remaining cars will begin after the testing is completed.”

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Miami Rail museum gets engines

Miami Terminal Manager Clay Purvis tells D:F, “We picked up those three locomotives” for the Gold Coast Railroad Museum “from the FEC on December 4 and delivered them safely to the museum the same day.”

The three engines were an E-8 with fresh paint and looking very much like an FEC covered wagon of another era, an original Chicago, Burlington & Quincy E-9 freshly painted, and an ex-Army GP-7 painted in Atlantic Coast Line colors (See D:F December 9, “Bright colors return to Florida.”)

Carrie Heinrich, CSX’s new corporate communications person in Jacksonville passed on the word to us. She replaces Kathy Burns, who has moved on to the railroad’s safety office.

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Strikers halt Portugal’s railways

Striking workers halted Portugal’s rail network and the country’s two main oil refineries Monday ahead of a national stoppage called to protest against proposed labor law changes on December 9.

Locomotive engineers and workers at the state oil company downed tools as part of a nationwide strike called by the 800,000-strong General Confederation of Portuguese Workers (CGTW), Reuters reported).

The moves were the latest sign of discontent over the center-right government’s belt-tightening economic policies and the proposed revamped labor code, which would make it easier to fire and transfer workers.

The government says the labor law changes are part of crucial measures to revive Portugal’s slumping economy and make it more competitive in time for new countries joining the European Union in 2004, but unions say the proposals unfairly penalize workers, who are already among the lowest paid in the European Union, for structural problems like tax evasion and the underground economy for which they are not responsible.

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DB gets competition; ice delays trains

In dispatches from Germany, correspondent David Beale informs D:F that Deutsche Bahn (DB) is getting some competition, and its S Line has more troubles.

The private Nordwest Bahn Co. has gotten an okay to start express passenger train service between Hannover and Osnabruck, a route already operated with DB trains.

The Osnabruck-based company reported the news on December 9 and declared itself ready to begin after the decision came from the Eisenbahnbundesamt, similar in function to the U.S.’s FRA. The EBA had overturned a decision of Deutsche Bahn, which had refused to provide access for Nordwest Bahn to the DB rail network for the Hannover-Osnabruck service, citing insufficient capacity. Nordwest Bahn wants its Hannover-Osnabruck trains operated on a schedule, which is as fast as possible.

This will be the first time that DB has received direct competition from a private firm.

According to a DB spokesperson, the DB will likely appeal the EBA’s decision on several fronts, and will seek to delay start-up of the new service while the appeal process runs.

For two years, Nordwest Bahn has operated regional and local trains between Osnabruck, Oldenburg, Bremen, Wilhelmshafen and the North Sea coast on DB-owned tracks. Nordwest Bahn is a private firm formed by a consortium of the Connex-Gruppe Frankfurt, Stadtwerke (utility works) Osnabrück AG as well as Verkehr (traffic) and Wasser GmbH Oldenburg.

Hannover’s S-Bahn services have again been disrupted, and this time by freezing weather.

The problems inflicted on Hannover area commuters riding the ET 424 series EMU S-Bahn trains due to autumn foliage on the tracks are still a fresh memory – yet the S-Bahn trains are running well behind schedule with too few wagons, and in some cases, outright canceled. This time the excuse given is the recent cold snap with temperatures remaining in the -3C to -12C range since December 7. DB states there have been numerous mechanical and electrical faults due to the cold weather, which disrupt the traction control, automatic entry doors and interior lighting systems.

Regional government officials complained to the DB and to the manufacturer (Adtranz, now part of Bombardier) of the ET 424 class EMU trains that this is yet further proof that the two-year-old trains were not adequately tested prior to delivery and service start-up.

The state government in 1999-2000 purchased 40 of the four-car ET 424s for S-Bahn operation in the Hannover Region, which are operated and maintained by the DB Regio division of DB.

A spokesman at the DB’s Leinhausen repair depot states that the malfunctioning trains were repaired relatively quickly by removing and replacing certain electrical boxes and control units which are mounted in modular fashion inside and underneath the carbodies.

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ICE runs trials in France

Germany’s ICE train is venturing into the currently restricted competition for the French rail network. Haz of Hannover reports the latest version of the red and white Intercity Express, ICE-3, has started a comprehensive test program on the Lille-Calais high-speed route, according to a Deutsche Bundesbahn statement.

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Lott’s lot

It might not seem possible that the present controversy about the incoming Senate Majority Leader’s ruminations on a never-happened Strom Thurmond presidency of a half-century ago should impact the future of passenger rail in the United States, but it does.

Trent Lott has been a steady and reliable ally of intercity rail in America, most of whose customers are not – contrary to the myths put about by Amtrak’s enemies – luxury land-cruisers, but rather are working and lower income families traveling distances greater than their cars can travel, and farther than bearable by bus. Many of these same people are African-Americans, a fact easily determined by walking the coaches of any long-distance trains, as this author has done hundreds of times since 1955.

Make no mistake about it: Senator Lott’s thoughtless comments about a Strom Thurmond presidency were way out of bounds, and hurt and angered many Americans – white and black – who lived through that era and who would never, ever want to go back. Indeed, this nation is still facing the cancer of racism, which harms the practitioner as much as the victim, and weakens our great country in a way that it cannot, and must not, tolerate.

No one would rather have those careless comments recalled than Trent Lott.

There are many hundreds of angry editorials being written across the country, mostly by writers who are reacting only to the words he said, rather than the [fallible] man he is. That is only natural; but because we have met with, and worked with, Trent Lott on rail issues over the past decade-plus of NCI’s advocacy for passenger rail and transit, we want to tell you what we know from that experience with Trent Lott:

His word is good.

He understands that the nation needs intercity passenger rail.

He is not a bigot

There is no doubt that his words wounded African-Americans and others who understand how racism hurts this country. We do not believe for one moment that Trent Lott, in over-praising a retiring senator on his birthday, was doing anything more than what some of us have done, especially those of us in public life who often speak public: babbling on inanely when, in fact, we should sometimes just sit down and shut up.

Senator Lott is going to be a superb Majority Leader, as he was from 1995 until the Jeffords’ defection changed the party balance in the Senate, which the voters have now seen fit to restore. Perhaps this firestorm, though, will have a proper effect: to remind us all, not only leaders whose words can sometimes soar off-target, that America belongs to all of us, and that in no way would it be better to return to an era when a very large percentage of our fellow Americans faced insult and injury for no other reason than their ancestry. There is no going back. Thank God.

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More dialogue concerning electric trains

Dear Editor:

I read with great interest Uli Hertel’s article (D:F December 2) about railroad electric traction technologies and their inherent efficiencies over diesel locomotive traction. The author forgot to include a major factor in this argument that increases the energy source to traction efficiency. That is the use of combined cycle power plants by the U.S. utility industry, most notably where power demands fluctuate from hour-to-hour and day-to-day.

These combined cycle plants typically use a gas turbine engine fueled from natural gas (CH4) or refined petroleum distillate (similar to diesel fuel). The conversion factor (efficiency in converting chemical energy to electrical energy) for a typical coal fired plant is around 40-42 percent. These combined cycle plants recapture the waste heat in the hot exhaust gases of the turbine to heat water to steam for use in a steam turbine generator plant. These are typically 60-63 percent efficient.

Joining this efficiency with that of electric traction produces over twice as many ton-miles hauled per gallon of petroleum compared to a diesel locomotive. Combined cycle/electric traction combination is nearly three times as efficient as highway trucks, perhaps even more in mountainous territory.

Mark S. Bucol
Engineering Consultant
Bucol & Associates

Dear Editor:

Regarding the letter to the editor (D:F December 9) about the technical aspects of electric traction motors, etc. from Uli Hertel, it’s not every day that someone submits a PhD thesis as a letter to the editor.


I had no idea about all that electrical engineering stuff, but then again, I studied to be a civil engineer, got my P.E. in Mechanical Engineering and wound up as a maintenance engineer for jet motors.

The one explanation I got here locally in Germany about why the railroad uses 16 2/3 Hz AC, while the rest of the electrical grid in 50 Hz, was that back in the pre-World War II days, the electric locomotives in early German railroad electrification all were equipped with series wound (DC style) traction motors which tolerated running on AC but did not like it (I guess due to inductance or reactance issue Mr. Hertel wrote about).

The higher the AC frequency, the less power those series wound motors were able to deliver, but they (the railroad designers and builders) needed to have AC in order to use step-up and step-down transformers in the generating plants and locomotives respectively, so the lower frequency of 16 2/3 Hz was an engineering compromise at the time, as AC to DC rectifiers were not widely available nor reliable for high power back in the early 20th century.

Rectifiers for high power were not widely available until the 1950s. Germany (Deutsche Bundesbahn) stayed with 16 2/3 Hz power in the following years and decades after the first German rail lines were electrified due to the ”legacy” issue, i.e. all the newer trains and locomotives can be easily designed and built to use 50 Hz (or 25 Hz or 60 Hz or DC) in theory, but the all the fixed plant such as the transformers, sub-stations, circuit breakers, etc. installed over the past years and decades are capable of only one frequency that they were designed and manufactured for, namely 16 2/3 Hz.

Dániel György Kemény wrote concerning problems with running freight trains on high-speed passenger lines. Another reason the Deutsche Bundesbahn does not do this (express freight over high-speed passenger routes) any longer was that there was a problem in the tunnels on the Hannover-Würzburg high-speed line.

When a high-speed Intercity Express train and a freight train passed each other going in opposite directions in any one of the many tunnels on that route, the air pressure wave and wake turbulence between the two trains was so much it very often sucked or dislodged containers, automobiles, logs, boxes, piggy-back truck trailers, etc., off the freight train and onto the opposite tracks (or on a couple of occasions into the side of the passing ICE train).

Dave Beale
Haste, Germany

Dear Editor:

Good article (D:F November 9, “Bright colors return to Florida”), but I have to set the record straight. I am not an FEC engineer, even though I wouldn’t mind being one with good friend Dave Shelley [who is an FEC engineer]. That’s how I got in the cab of that E-8 [for the photo out of the front cab window]. I must admit though, I like the ring of “veteran engineer David Ogle.”

David Ogle
FEC MP 115.5
Daytona Beach, Fla.

I make amends for my error in fact. – Ed.

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January 11-15

National Railroad Construction & Maintenance Assn.
Annual exhibit, technical meeting

Weston Mission Hills
Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Contact Giovanna Bauguess at

January 25-29

APTA General Manager’s Seminar

Tampa Marriott Inn

Contact Tom Urban,

February 9-11

APTA Legal Affairs Seminar

Savannah Marriott Riverfront
Savannah, Ga.

Contact: Kristen O’Grady,

Looking Ahead...

June 4-9

APTA International Rail Rodeo

San Jose, Calif.
Hotel to be announced

Contact Anitha Tharapatla,

June 8-12, 2003

APTA Rail Transit Conference

Fairmont Hotel
San Jose, Calif.

Contact Heather Rachels,

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0780 at Boston, circa 1950

NCI: Leo King collection: NYNH&H

Alco PA 0780 and companion 0736 – still in orange pant with silver stripes – may have been very close to South Bay Jct., but dollars to donuts, the buggy was still in South Boston Yard. We don’t know where the train was headed in this ca. 1950 photo, but we do know it would run along the Dorchester Secondary for about nine miles until it would diverge at Readville either down the hill to The Transfer Interlocking, or continue straight ahead to Walpole and the Franklin Secondary... but hard to say where it would go from there.

End Notes...

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