Vol. 5 No. 50
December 20, 2004

Copyright © 2004
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - Jim RePass      Editor - Leo King
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

A weekly North American rail and transit update

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

* Now in our Fifth Year *

This page is best viewed at 800 X 600 screen resolution
IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition... 

The elves at Destination:Freedom are taking their year-end, two-week break. We’ll restart on January 3. A warm and fuzzy Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours. – Ed.

Amtrak California F59PH's

For NCI: Ryan M. Martin

Here is something you probably won't see again. A pair of Amtrak California F59PH's noses framing an ex-Southern Pacific GP38-2, now delegated to Union Pacific remote control service, on October 29. This was the last weekend stay for Amtrak at UP’s West Oakland, Calif. facility just before they opened the brand-new facility. The switcher, says Martin, is ex-SP 4805.


Ex-ARC members beat their drums

By Leo King

Some former members of the now-defunct Amtrak Reform Council reassembled on December 15 in Washington, D.C. to place their February 2002 recommendations for Amtrak reform back on the national policy stage, and to recommend what they described as “improvements in federal policies to attract the private investment into the nation’s network of railroad infrastructure they regard as essential to the nation’s economy.”

Gilbert E. Carmichael, former chairman of the council and a former Federal Railroad Administration administrator, said, “We are recommending steps that, taken together, would allow the nation to move forward with a reformed program for intercity rail passenger service based on the principles proposed by the Amtrak Reform Council in February 2002.”

The ARC, as it was called, sunset in December 2002. The former members met last week at the Discovery Institute in Washington.

The Bush Administration adopted several ARC concepts, “incorporating them into legislation submitted to the Congress in mid-2003 that has since languished,” Carmichael said.

“It is past time,” said Carmichael, “for a modern program to advance rail passenger service. In the three years since the Council sent its proposal to Congress, and in the 33 years since Amtrak was created, Amtrak has missed practically every opportunity to improve rail passenger service in this nation,” he continued.

“Even the much-heralded Acela Express has turned out to be an overpriced, under-performing liability,” said former council member Nancy Connery, “due to both the train and the infrastructure it travels on.”

National Corridors Initiative president and CEO Jim RePass of Boston agreed with some parts of the ad hoc committee’s ideas.

He said, “The former Amtrak Reform Council includes some of the very best and most dedicated people in the transportation firmament, especially former FRA chief Gil Carmichael and his ARC vice-chair Paul Weyrich, who is one of the most influential conservative thinkers in America. I think they are right that the states must come forward to support intercity rail service, but I do not agree that dismembering Amtrak would be a good way to achieve that. Making the national rail system dependent on state finances would be a recipe for failure, and would present serious capital, planning, and operational problems. It just makes no sense to Balkanize Amtrak.”

Paul Weyrich, the council’s former vice-chairman, noted, “Our proposal would remove Amtrak’s federal strangle-hold on rail passenger service and give the states, working in a federal framework, the authority to do the job.”

A press release from Tom Till, who worked with the council when it was formally constituted, said, “Since 2002, the Senate has been unable to confirm enough replacement members for the Amtrak board to make up a quorum, leaving the corporation in a governance quandary. Despite the efforts of perhaps its most adroit chief executive, David Gunn, Amtrak’s institutional flaws and difficult corporate culture have made real progress impossible.”

RePass suggested, “What is needed is a dedicated funding source at the national level, similar to that which now pays for the Air Traffic Control System or the Interstate Highway System and its state and local cousins.”

Council member Bruce Chapman, of Washington State offered, “The strong actions of key states, such as Washington and California, in mobilizing their own resources to improve passenger rail service” is “the only light on the horizon.”

They contended the national rail network has not made things any easier for passenger service, or for freight. Rapid growth in freight traffic has clogged key sections of the rail network, and the former council members shared a consensus that federal policies should be tailored to encourage economically sound private sector investment in the nation’s rail infrastructure.

RePass, who spoke to D:F via e-mail from his home, explained, “What is needed even more is a systemic approach to transportation infrastructure planning, construction and operation, so that what we get is integrated, intermodal transportation corridors, not simply modes competing at the federal trough. We need to change the gas tax into a transportation tax, instead of being forced by law to pave ourselves into more and more congestion. That, plus private sector participation in infrastructure investment and management, will give the country a workable, modern transportation system. The former ARC is right about this: the present system is completely inadequate and is unworkable.”

The assembly recommended that President Bush and the Congress to “move forward” based on recommendations proposed by the council, including reorganizing the National Railroad Passenger Corp., Amtrak’s formal corporate title, “as a small federal agency to hold the passenger franchise rights inherent in the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970 – the right to access to the freight rail network, at incremental cost, with priority, and with indemnity.”

They also recommended creating subsidiary corporations out of Amtrak’s train operations, and its rail infrastructure – principally the Northeast Corridor.

They would also transfer financial responsibility for operating losses of the corridor trains currently in the Amtrak system to the states, establish stable and adequate federal funding for the operating losses of long-distance trains, and introduce competition into the provision of services for both the short-distance and long-distance trains gradually over three to five years to improve financial performance and the quality of services.

The group said it would adopt a larger framework for rail transportation to improve and expand the national rail network and create a federal-state public finance program to fund the public benefits of rail infrastructure improvements through public-private partnerships, and provide financial incentives to the private sector to participate in joint investments.

They noted public benefit funding would support expanded rail infrastructure capacity for improved intercity rail passenger service where it is economically justified, and suggested special financing for investment in commuter rail-related renewal and improvement requirements on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) infrastructure, funded through the transit component of a surface transportation program.

Carmichael added, “This may not be the last you hear from us.”

Return to index
FRA’s Monro leaving agency

Facing two federal investigations of her agency’s oversight of rail safety, the acting head of the Federal Railroad Administration said Friday that she was stepping down, The New York Times reported Saturday.

The official, Betty Monro, who has led the agency for six months, told her staff in an e-mail message that she had decided to retire. She will leave at the end of the month, the agency said.

The narrower investigation focuses on certain regulatory questions, as well as her ties to Mary E. McAuliffe, chief lobbyist for Union Pacific. That report, by USDOT’S inspector general, is complete, officials said Friday, but they declined to release it.

Since President Bush appointed Monro deputy administrator in 2001, she has vacationed several times with McAuliffe. UP has said that they are longtime friends and that each paid her own way.

The results of the broad inquiry are to be released in stages. USDOT spokesman Brian Turmail said privacy rules prevented the release of any part of the inspector general’s first report now. Even so, Turmail said, IG Mead had found that certain “safety and inspection issues still exist” and that the inspector general had issued safety recommendations. Mr. Turmail said he was not permitted to explain the safety problems or the recommendations until the DOT, the FRA’s parent agency, fully reviews the report. Turmail added that the inspector general had deemed as false unspecified accusations against Monro by a disgruntled former employee.

The FRA declined to make Monro available for an interview. She issued a statement saying the inspector general had found that her agency had strengthened its enforcement actions, not weakened them, but she also acknowledged that the report raised concerns about her relationship with “a member of Union Pacific’s staff.”

“His conclusions,” she added, “support the fact that I have never allowed the relationship to influence my professional actions.”

In her message to the staff, Monro said she had planned to retire after the election but decided to remain “due to intervening challenges” which she did not describe.

The entire article is online at http://www.nytimes.com/

Return to index
Hastert plans to restore Istook’s cuts

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), moving to placate 21 angry House Republicans, has promised to seek funds next year for several dozen highway projects that were left out of a recently passed spending bill on orders of Rep. Ernest J. Istook Jr. (R-Okla.).

Istook, who chairs the Appropriations Committee panel that oversees spending on transit and roads, rejected the projects sought by the mainly Northeastern and Midwestern lawmakers after they defied him by signing a letter calling for a doubling of Amtrak funding in 2005.

Istook’s action infuriated the affected lawmakers, many of whom learned that their projects had been left out of the government-wide spending bill passed November 20 only after it was too late to make changes in it. GOP leaders are also unhappy with Istook, sources said, because many of those affected were from Congressional swing districts where the ability to bring home federal road projects can tip the balance to the incumbent in a close election.

“The Amtrak 21, “ as the group is now called, vented its grievances at a meeting with Hastert last Tuesday. Sources said the speaker asked the members to submit one or two projects that had been rejected so that he could find a way to include them in legislation next year.

Hastert “showed sensitivity” to the delegation, said his spokesman, but not all the aggrieved members consider the matter closed, according to The Washington Post.

Istook faces a grilling next month when he goes before the influential House Republican Steering Committee to plead his case for another two-year term as chairman of one of the 13 House Appropriations subcommittees.

“I’m not making serious threats against Ernie’s position,” said Rep. John M. McHugh (R-N.Y.), who represents New York on the Steering Committee and has one of 33 votes on it. “But we need to have a discussion on whether a subcommittee chairman has authority to make decisions” on the basis that Istook did. “Many of us say it was an inappropriate use of authority.”

Istook’s chief of staff, John C. Albaugh, said his boss “thinks it’s a good thing that members have to go and be accountable before the Steering Committee, and he’s looking forward to doing that.”

But Albaugh said “more members have congratulated him for what he’s done than criticized him.” Istook, a fiscal conservative, has called Amtrak “a costly gamble.”

The controversy has highlighted tensions between centrist Republicans from the Midwest and Northeast, and red state conservatives such as Istook, who control many key leadership posts and committee chairmanships.

Istook’s insistence on limiting Amtrak’s funding until fundamental reforms are made in the national passenger rail system is seen by some northern Republicans as suspect, given the close ties of Sunbelt conservatives to highway, oil and gas interests.

They point out that southern Republicans paid no price this year for holding out for more money for NASA than proposed by the House Appropriations Committee. The effort to overturn the committee proposal was led by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), representing the Houston-area space industry.

Several Republican aides said the uproar is a sign of rising resentment in House GOP ranks over the power of the Appropriations Committee. That could play out in the selection of a new chairman early next year to succeed C.W. “Bill” Young (R-Fla.). Three current cardinals, Reps. Ralph Regula (Ohio), Jerry Lewis (Calif.) and Harold Rogers (Ky.), are candidates.

Amtrak funding became an issue when the Bush administration submitted a $900 million request for 2005, a figure supported by Istook but deemed inadequate by the passenger rail system’s backers in the House and Senate.

In a letter in February to House colleagues, Istook suggested that there would be consequences for those seeking to expand Amtrak’s budget at the expense of other priorities in the annual transportation spending bill.

He warned that in “reviewing the transportation priorities for your district… please bear in mind that any request for Amtrak funding even if submitted in a separate document, must and will be weighed against your other requests, and I will consider it a project request for your district.”

In a subsequent letter to Istook, 21 GOP members called this “an unfair, dangerous precedent,” and they requested $1.8 billion for the rail system.

House-Senate negotiators increased funding for the system to $1.2 billion in the final version of the omnibus spending package that Congress approved Nov. 20. Good as his word, Istook did not include most of the road projects sought by the pro-Amtrak contingent.

Among the disappointed were Reps. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) and Rob Simmons (R-Conn.), who won hard-fought reelection victories in November. Both used their memberships on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to advertise their ability to bring home road projects.

Since Istook’s action, letters to several Connecticut newspapers have lambasted Simmons for failing to deliver. Not included in the spending bill, for example, was funding for improvements on Routes 11 and 85 near Salem. In a letter to those affected, Istook acknowledged he should have communicated better and promised to “do everything in my power to rectify this as promptly as possible and give your other requests every proper consideration.”

“I accept his apology,” McHugh said, but, he added, “I didn’t get a sense that it was an apology for de-funding our projects… That’s why it’s important for Ernie and I to talk.”

Return to index
‘Portal’ stays shut in tests

New Jersey Transit said last week the Coast Guard “has agreed to a second 90-day period of limited rush hour openings of the Portal Draw Bridge.”

An NJT press release stated the agreement came after NJT and Amtrak file a joint request for the action, noting “The agreement comes at an important time for travelers and shippers as river traffic peaks during the winter months.”

“Portal” interlocking and the multi-track bridges are six miles west of New York City’s Penn Station, and span the Hackensack River on the Northeast Corridor.

NJT stated that on a typical weekday, some 136,000 passenger cross the spans, and Amtrak trains carry another 19,000 people daily. It’s one of several movable bridges between Boston and Washington.

The U.S. Coast Guard first tested limited Portal Bridge openings last March.

Shippers – including as Amerada Hess, the Bergen County Utility Authority, Hornbeck Offshore and Moran Towing – were affected.

During the first 90-day test, the number of bridge openings decreased from 13 to one, and the length of train delays decreased from 20 _ hours to 54 minutes, compared to the same period in 2003.

“Limiting the number of bridge openings improves our performance and reduces delays to our customers,” said NJT boss George D. Warrington, a former Amtrak CEO.

The Coast Guard began its second 90-day test on December 13. The idea is to reduce the number of bridge openings between the weekday peak hours of 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. and between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Under current federal regulations, the bridge is not opened on weekdays between the hours of 7:20 a.m. and 9:20 a.m. and between 4:30 p.m. and 6:50 p.m. During the extended hours of the test, bridge openings will be limited to commercial vessels that face tidal conditions or other conditions affecting safety.

Coast Guard Solicits Feedback

The Coast Guard said it may permanently limit bridge openings during peak periods if the results and public feedback are favorable during the second test.

Return to index
Albany deal dead, says Amtrak

A plan for high-speed trains between Albany and New York City was built on so many false assumptions that a contract between the state and Amtrak is worthless, Amtrak officials contend in new court papers.

Amtrak made the allegation in the latest round of filings in a federal lawsuit brought in August by the state, which wants the railroad to put the mothballed trains back in service and make track improvements or pay the state $477.3 million.

The Albany Times-Union reported December 15 Amtrak contends that it had the right to terminate the contract, already has done so and is asking the court to declare it legally dead.

The high-speed rail program, which was intended to shave 20 minutes from the two-hour, 20-minute travel time from Rensselaer to New York City, began in 1998. Seven rebuilt 1970s-era Turboliner trains were to be the workhorses of the route, with extensive track work to enable speeds as fast as 125 mph, but the project ran into problems almost from the start.

Refurbishing the Amtrak-owned trains was complicated by the discovery of asbestos in the cars and other mechanical and engineering issues. Only three trains rebuilt at Super Steel Schenectady’s plant in Glenville were delivered to Amtrak. None of the track work was done.

Amtrak idled the trains last summer, citing faulty air conditioning and other concerns. They’re now parked in Delaware.

In papers filed Friday in U.S. District Court, Amtrak argues the contract with New York was so vague and dependent on future developments that it is unenforceable, ill-considered and “illusory.”

“Amtrak further contends that the parties were mistaken about fundamental facts upon which their bargain was based,” including the condition of the Turboliners, the costs and technical feasibility of upgrading them and “the capability of the contractor” hired by the state to rebuild the trains, the papers allege.

New York State DOT spokeswoman Jennifer K. Post declined to comment, citing continuing litigation.

Bill Carr of Super Steel Schenectady said it would be inappropriate to comment since his company was not specifically named in the papers. He said other contractors also were involved in the project.

In their own filings on Friday, the state’s lawyers repeated their charge that Amtrak failed to complete any of the promised track work, didn’t do its part in rebuilding the trains and misled state officials about their intentions.

Return to index
Wisconsin town irked with Amtrak

When a bomb threat forced almost 290 Amtrak passengers to get off in Portage, Wis., last summer, the community provided medical service, transportation to John Muir Elementary School, law enforcement services and more. Some county officials said Amtrak promised to reimburse the community but never came through, the Portage Daily Register reported last week.

“It’s a lot like a contract,” said Emergency Management Director Pat Beghin. “Amtrak didn’t honor that contract.”

County Board Chair Sue Martin sent a letter to Amtrak’s chairman, David Laney, in October, requesting almost $13,000 in compensation for various agencies and organizations but she received no response to her initial letter, so she recently sent a follow-up. She still has not heard anything.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari in Chicago said last week that Amtrak bears no responsibility for reimbursing the county.

“We maintain that we’re just a tenant on someone else’s property,” he said.

The property he referred to was Canadian Pacific Ry. Magliari said CP pays property taxes to Columbia County, which should cover situations like this.

However, according to county treasurer Deborah Raimer, CP is only on the rolls for one tax-exempt piece of property in the town of Newport.

State Railroad Commissioner Rodney Kreunen said railroads pay “evaluation taxes” directly to the state.

“Railroads do not pay anything on a county level,” Kreunen said. “All property taxes are paid to the state.”

Another issue is the restitution money Amtrak is due. Last month, Alaska man Michael Conwill was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for making the bomb threats.

He was also ordered to pay Amtrak nearly $30,000 in restitution, which some officials believe should partially go to the county. Sheriff Steve Rowe said he thinks the money would mean more to the county than to a large government-subsidized company.

“At the very least, (the restitution) should cover the expenses of the community,” Rowe said. “I guess it’s just our misfortune they stopped in Portage.”

Magliari said the restitution only partially covers the cost Amtrak accrued on July 6. He said Amtrak’s costs are “nearly in the six-digit range” for things like employee overtime and passenger compensation for overnight compensation and missed trains.

Magliari also said Conwill is destitute and has not paid Amtrak any restitution. Whether or not Conwill pays up, Beghin said Amtrak promised compensation for all county costs.

“On the day of the bomb threat, they told us to compile all our costs and send them in,” Beghin said. “If you’re not as good as your word, you’ve got a real problem.”

He also said the Red Cross, which was promised reimbursement for food they provided to stranded passengers, has not received compensation.

Beghin said county law enforcement would respond the same way to a future railroad bomb threat, but is not sure if private companies like Riteway would.

“(Riteway) had to call in drivers at home in the middle of summer and give them extra pay,” he said. “I’m not sure if private organizations will be so quick to respond next time.”

Martin said, while she is not surprised Amtrak is denying responsibility, she is disappointed.

“I really didn’t expect they would cooperate, but I think it’s a very bad PR move on their part,” she said.

Return to index
Snafu irks Providence fire fighters

The Providence, R.I. fire department is investigating why an Amtrak supervisor last month overruled his own dispatcher and allowed an Acela Express train to pass along a section of tracks where city firefighters were extinguishing a brushfire.

Four members of Engine Company 8 and their pumper, one of two engine companies that responded to the fire, —“were right near the tracks when the train came through,” Fire Chief David Costa said yesterday. “It was not a good situation. It’s absolutely a safety concern.”

The November 5 incident, which didn’t come to light until December 14 when the Providence Journal published a story, prompted the resignation of Amtrak dispatcher Stephen Roberts, of Franklin, Mass., who alleged that Amtrak officials not only improperly overruled his decision and allowed the train to pass, but doctored the official log of the incident and forged his initials.

An Amtrak spokeswoman in Washington said the log was changed for “typographical and grammatical errors” but that the facts had not been altered.

Tracy Connell said an Amtrak investigation placed blame for the incident on poor communications between the Fire Department’s dispatcher and its commander at the scene.

Connell said an Amtrak foreman and the fire commander had reached an agreement that it was safe for train traffic to resume at restricted speed through the area, where the tracks roughly parallel Huntington Avenue. “Restricted speed” is defined as 15 mph within interlocking limits and 20 mph outside those limits.

However, neither the commander nor the Amtrak foreman knew at the time that Engine 8 was around a bend, about a quarter-mile away and out of sight.

“The fire dispatcher failed to inform his incident commander that there was another fire company in the same area,” Connell said.

As far as Amtrak is concerned, she said, “the standard for emergency operations was followed.”

The incident began about 11:45 a.m. on the windy Friday when the Fire Department received a report that fallen limbs had taken down wires running along Huntington Avenue and caused a brushfire by the tracks.

Engine 8, with four firefighters, and Engine 11, with three firefighters, responded.

Engine 8 radioed to the department’s dispatcher that it wanted trains stopped, a request made to Amtrak a couple of times a year, Costa said. The fire dispatcher called Amtrak in South Station in Boston and spoke to Amtrak dispatcher, Roberts.

“I told him I would hold all the trains,” said Roberts, 51, who had worked for Amtrak for about three years and been in the train business for 25 years.

“When those public safety people call and ask that you hold the tracks, you hold the tracks. You don’t care if that train is late two minutes or two hours.”

Only the Acela train was caught in the track shutdown.

About 10 minutes later, however, Roberts said, his supervisor, chief dispatcher Ray Ciarlo in Boston, ordered the train through after speaking to an Amtrak foreman on the scene.

“He talked to a track foreman who said, ‘No one’s working along here. Let the trains go,’ and they did.”

Back on the tracks, Engines 8 and 11 worked out of view from each other, Costa said, dousing the brushfire and clearing the tracks of branches and wires.

Engine 8 worked near the tracks (Costa said the report never stated how close) while Engine 11 was a safe distance away, on the outside of the fence that runs along the tracks.

Costa said firefighters from Engine 11 saw the train coming, at about 25 mph, and radioed to Engine 8 to get off the tracks.

Soon thereafter, Roberts said, an irate Providence Fire Department dispatcher called him: “He said, ‘We had people on the tracks and you turned a train loose on us.”

Roberts said he called his supervisor, Ciarlo, and told him that the Amtrak foreman on the scene had no business giving the all-clear signal. Protocol required the trains remain halted until a Fire Department official called to release them.

Chief Costa said shortly after the incident that Amtrak’s Ciarlo did call the Fire Department and “took full responsibility for the fact that they had not done the right thing; that they should not have overridden [Roberts’ decision] and assured us that it would not happen again.”

Costa said he isn’t convinced.

He’s hoping his departmental investigation will “document exactly what took place and hopefully try to get assurances – preferably in writing – to prevent this from happening again.”

Return to index
BUILDERS LINES  Builders’ lines…

Bombardier fires CEO Tellier

Canada’s Bombardier Transportation, Inc. fired CEO Paul Tellier on December 13.

The news came as the Montreal-headquartered train builder shuffled its top management responsibilities amid deepening problems in both its railway and airliner divisions, The AP reported from Montreal, where the builder is headquartered.

Bombardier stock crashed to a record low on the news, plunging 65 Canadian cents or 25 percent to 1.90 Canadian dollars in early trading.

Tellier’s departure “was initiated on the recommendation of the human resources and compensation committee of the board based on Mr. Tellier’s stated preference to leave the corporation when his contract, which has only one year to run, expires,” the company said.

Tellier, 65, said in a statement, “I understand the board’s concern that I would not be there for the long term to develop and execute strategies, and the need to reshape the management structure at this time.”

He added, “I leave with the satisfaction of having done what needed to be done as a first step before the corporation could focus on developing new avenues of value creation.”

Tellier took the top job at Bombardier in January 2003 after transforming CN Rail following a career as a top-level civil servant. He was hired “as an agent of change and he has delivered,” stated executive chairman Laurent Beaudoin, son-in-law of company founder Armand Bombardier and head of the corporation’s controlling family.

Beaudoin, 66, will take the CEO title and head a new office of the president. That office will include his son, Pierre Beaudoin, president of Bombardier Aerospace, and Andre Navarri, president of the Bombardier Transportation rail-equipment division.

A railroad tunnel between Detroit and Canada was recently named in Tellier’s honor. He formerly was Canadian National Ry. CEO.

Later in the week, his former employer, Canadian National Ry., offered him a desk and a chair while he decides what to do next.

Canadian Press reported he won’t be working for CN, the company he left two years ago to take the top job at Bombardier, but “CN is providing, as a courtesy, to Mr. Tellier, a small amount of office space for him and his assistant to help him transition from Bombardier,” CN spokesman Mark Hallman said on Friday.

Tellier’s office will be on the executive row in the top floor of the railroad’s Montreal headquarters.

“He is not working for the company, he is not on the board of directors and there is no plan for that,” Hallman said.

Return to index
LABOR LINES  Labor lines…

House members join with labor’s TDD

Momentum is growing to stop a rail industry plan to suppress rail workers from speaking out on critical issues of working conditions, safety, and pay, Edward Wytkind, President of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department said on December 13.

The latest development was 120 U.S. Representatives jointly writing the National Mediation Board (NMB) in opposition to the agency’s plan that, according to Wytkind, uses a “pale ruse of new ‘filing fees,’” to stifle employee complaints about unsafe and unfair conduct by the railroads. The changes, which are being advanced by Bush appointees to the NMB, would apply only to workers, not to management. The NMB oversees labor-management relations in the rail and airline industries.

“Rail workers owe a debt of gratitude to Reps. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) and 118 other lawmakers for opposing a plan that demonstrates how out of touch the NMB is on this issue,” Wytkind said.

The labor leader added, “With all the safety and security challenges facing the railroads, it is both illogical and dangerous to make it harder for front-line workers to speak up and hold management accountable.”

Sens. Arlen Specter, Tom Harkin, and Edward Kennedy, all senior members of Congressional panels overseeing the NMB, have also sent letters in opposition to the proposal. In the recent Omnibus appropriations bill, Congress directed the NMB to hold hearings to, “examine any potential negative impact of the proposed fees.”

“This growing momentum on Capitol Hill is shining a light on the fact that government officials are doing the bidding of the giant railroad companies,” Wytkind said. “America’s rail workers won’t back down in this fight for fairness.”

TTD represents 35 member unions in the rail, aviation, transit, trucking, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries.

Return to index
COMMUTERLINES  Commuter lines...

Metra No. 152 on the UP

For NCI: Matt Lastovich

Metra’s 152 traverses Union Pacific’s Geneva Sub and departs the Elmhurst, Ill., station on October 30. the commuter train is heading toward Chicago.


‘Dummy’ moves keep riders off trains

The offender was easily identifiable by the white pants he wore, the umbrella he carried and most of all, the horrible judgment he displayed.

In addition, there was the telltale frown on his face when Chicago’s Metra train departed without him, wrote the Chicago Tribune’s Jon Hilkevitch in the newspaper’s December 13 edition.

It happened about 8:00 a.m. Tuesday in Elmhurst, Ill., as train No. 32 on Metra’s Union Pacific West Line approached the station. The engineer, alarmed by the individual perilously close to his 12 million-pound train, sounded quick bursts of the whistle and abruptly applied the brakes all the way when the man broke across the tracks.

The trespasser’s goal was to reach the platform and board the Chicago-bound train. He never made it – but he lived to ponder his foolhardiness and hopefully never to repeat it.

“We located the gentleman when the train pulled into the station and confronted him on the platform,” said conductor Wayne Evans, a 28-year UP veteran.

“He denied it, naturally, but other passengers pointed him out. We told him he would not be allowed to get on the train,” said Evans of St. Charles. “We left without him.”

Faced with the daily danger of pedestrians running across railroad tracks or under lowered crossing gates to catch their trains, Metra crews are increasingly fighting back by refusing to allow the violators to board the train.

The lawbreakers are given the option of waiting for the next train or, if the offenders insist on getting onto the train that almost hit them, going to the police station.

It seems that in many cases, the threat of making a commuter late to work is more effective than the prospect of a fine ranging from $250 to $500 for being on the tracks or jumping crossing gates when a train is coming, railroad officials said.

“We support our crews’ judgment to deny boarding to customers who put themselves in harm’s way,” said Metra spokesman Tom Miller. “We hope it would teach them a lesson.”

The cooperation of other riders, particularly the peer pressure they exert, is a big help, officials said.

“A lot of our regular riders have no hesitation of saying to the conductor, ‘He’s right back there.’ The best part is that it helps us, not in just a policing effort, but in a safety effort,” said Charlie Turner, manager of operating practices on the Union Pacific West Line.

“I have no problem fingering some idiot who can’t get to the station on time and plays Russian roulette with the train,” said Debbie Harris, 41, a commuter from Glen Ellyn. “I don’t need the stress of seeing somebody splattered.”

Denying boarding to commuters who foolishly dart in front of trains, or issuing fines, “tells these people that we care more about your life than your action just indicated,” said Chip Pew, a railroad safety specialist with the Illinois Commerce Commission.

Despite potentially tragic consequences, the message will invariably fail to get through to some people. Pew recalls an incident in Deerfield, on Metra’s Milwaukee District North Line, involving a commuter who became irate with a conductor because the man got grease from the train on his business suit.

“He wanted to file a damage claim against Metra and the conductor asked him, ‘How did you get the grease on your suit?’ The guy says, ‘I was climbing under the train’ (to get to the platform in order to board the train.) “The conductor denied him boarding,” Pew said.

Evans had a similar experience recently in Wheaton when a man and a woman in a hurry crawled under a Metra train momentarily stopped at the station.

“They were carrying suitcases, smiling and happy that they were going to make the train until I told them they couldn’t get on,” Evans said. “They said, ‘We didn’t know you couldn’t crawl underneath the train. We’re from Texas.’”

Return to index
Rail to follow in 2025

Texas begin corridor project in earnest

The Texas Transportation Commission selected a construction consortium that includes a San Antonio firm Thursday to build the first leg of the Trans Texas Corridor – launching what officials called the nation’s most important highway project since the 1950s.

Some statistics show that the first leg of the 50-year project will take 10 years to complete, will cost an estimated $6 billion, and will provide a four-lane toll road from San Antonio to Dallas, according to the December 17 edition of the San Antonio Express-News..

Cintra Corp. of Spain said it would invest its cash to construct the four-lane toll road, and relocate some Union Pacific tracks east of San Antonio and Austin.

Still to come, sometime after 2025, will be high-speed passenger rail service between San Antonio and Dallas, and highway toll lanes to the Mexican border.

The group, led by Cintra, will build and operate the corridor’s first segment of toll roads from Dallas to San Antonio. Zachry Construction Corp. is partnering with Cintra on the venture, promising greater mobility for drivers and profits for the operator.

“Today’s action by the Texas DOT will go down as one of the most significant days in the history of transportation,” said Gov. Rick Perry, who compared the project to the interstate highway system launched during the Eisenhower administration.

The highway department, after signing a contract with Cintra within the next two months, will pay $3.5 million to refine plans over the next year or two – but not a penny more. In fact, Cintra will pay the state $1.2 billion by 2014 for the right to operate the toll system, and the firm will shoulder the risk of bonds to fund the work.

Perry, who unveiled his dream of the Trans Texas Corridor almost three years ago, joined commissioners as they listened to Cintra officials lay out the terms of the deal.

“We’ve just seen the future and it is here,” he said. “This is powerful, powerful stuff.”

There will be a price to pay for the massive project.

The Trans-Texas Corridor is huge and costly. The $184 billion endeavor is eventually supposed to crisscross the state with 4,000 miles of 10-lane highways and rail lines in swaths up to a quarter-mile wide. Officials will have to charge tolls to finance bonds and pay for operations and maintenance. They’ll also have to confiscate farmlands and wildlife areas.

“This is just one of those things that is painful and there’s not an awful lot we can do about it,” said commission Chairman Ric Williamson.

Motorists now pay from 10 cents to 20 cents a mile to use toll roads in Houston and Dallas, and Cintra says that will be a starting point to decide its fees on the route it will build along Interstate 35.

Return to index
MBTA quits buying Breda Green Line ‘lemons’

The Boston Globe reported December 12 a quarter-billion dollar effort to provide sleek new trolleys for the century-old Green Line has collapsed in a tangle of breakdowns and recriminations, with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority halting all payments to the manufacturer and refusing to take delivery on 53 of 100 of the vehicles ordered nearly a decade ago.

The MBTA’s 47 Italian-made Breda cars, even after a derailment problem was fixed, are breaking down at three times the normal rate for subway vehicles, MBTA officials say. The braking, propulsion and electrical systems don’t always work, the air conditioning units leak, the doors sometimes don’t close all the way, or the on-board computer thinks the doors haven’t closed, keeping the brakes on.

“We bought a lemon,” said T General Manager Michael H. Mulhern.

The T has already paid $140 million of the $225 million contract with Breda and spent $9.5 million modifying Green Line tracks and altering the wheels of the cars so they won’t derail. Mulhern said last week he would take Breda to court to recoup the millions of dollars that continue to be spent on fixes.

Regardless, Mulhern said he may be forced to order new trolleys from a different manufacturer to avert a crisis for the 200,000 weekday riders on the Green Line, the system’s busiest. Without new cars to replenish the fleet, aging trolleys made by Boeing three decades ago will also continue to break down, possibly leading to extensive delays for riders.

Those delays will spoil the T’s effort to attract riders with reliable service, a major goal after January’s subway fare hike from $1 to $1.25 The system has not attracted many new riders despite widespread frustration with traffic, and Mulhern earlier this month indicated that the T’s ailing finances might require cuts in service.

“My approach has been, fix the problems first, and then have the legal fight later,” Mulhern said Thursday, “but I am very discouraged. Despite my best efforts to get their attention, Breda has not allocated the resources to fix the problems. They are losing money, and when your business partner is losing money, they lose the profit motive and the level of effort that’s required here.”

A spokesman for the company, which assembles the cars at a plant in Littleton, Mass., did not respond after requesting questions in writing, the Globe reported.

Depending on how things go in the next several months, Mulhern said he may propose using the $85 million withheld from Breda to pay another manufacturer, possibly the Japanese company Kinki-Sharyo, which finished second in the 1995 bidding that Breda won, to furnish trolleys as quickly as possible.

Those vehicles may or may not be so-called low-floor vehicles, he said. The T initially sought to buy new trolleys that would help the Green Line comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act by making it easier for wheelchairs to roll from station platforms onto the cars.

The experience with the Breda cars ranks as one of the worst purchases in the history of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

Return to index
Boston opens ‘Silver Service’

by Dennis Kirkpatrick
Staff Writer

It was 1918 when the Boston Red Sox won their last World Series game – until this year. That was also the year that Boston opened its last subway branch – until now. Now following the Red Sox’s win, Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority opened a section of the new rubber-tired Silver Line to the public on Friday.

The Silver Line, operating as a BRT (bus rapid transit) will eventually connect Dudley Square in the city’s Roxbury section to Logan International Airport when it is completed a few years from now. The MBTA has been opening sections of this service as they have been completed.

The first section already opened and serves riders from Dudley Square to a temporary end point in the city near the Downtown Crossing subway station. That phase of the project operates on a designated bus right-of-way, or “diamond lane,” where city streets are wide enough to accommodate it. Otherwise, it mingles with regular traffic. Extra-long articulated busses from Neoplan and compressed natural gas powered buses from NABI are currently used for this part of the service.

The section opening December 17 is underground and currently detached from the surface section. The new “subway” will run from Boston’s South Station, where it intersects the Red Line subway, MBTA commuter trains and Amtrak, and travels to Silver Line Way in Boston’s waterfront district. Additional stops in the tube are at the Moakley Federal Court House and World Trade Center. Various surface bus routes will be adjusted to mesh with this new service.

Phase III of the Silver line which is now in design will link the surface route to South Station. Eventually the line will service various points in Boston’s waterfront, the South Boston district, and Logan International Airport.

For now, the new underground section of the Silver Line will operate electric trolley-bus units or “trackless trolleys” borrowed from the MBTA’s service operating in Cambridge, Mass., and dual-power diesel-electric busses as they are delivered and accepted from the manufacturer. The service will run in continuous loop service with 5 minute headways between its two temporary end points.

Return to index
Virginia writes new transport plan

Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner announced plans December 9 for a one-time, $824 million boost in Virginia road and transit spending, but said he would not push for a comprehensive solution to the state’s transportation problems during his last year in office.

The Democratic governor said he will call on the Republican legislature to approve “smart, innovative” proposals to boost transportation efforts by private companies and local governments, help pay for Metrorail and train cars, and pay off long-standing debts on road projects. He acknowledged that his plan will do little to address Virginia’s need for billions of dollars of road construction and maintenance, The Washington Post reported.

Former Fairfax City mayor John Mason said the governor’s proposals represent a “cultural shift” toward more money for transit. The plan would provide $80 million to help purchase Metrorail and Virginia Railway Express cars.

“This will not, in the end, solve all of our transportation issues,” Warner said at a Richmond news conference. “It will be trying new ways to deal with transportation.”

Warner’s plan does not respond to pleas from transportation advocates to seek big, new sources of money for roads and rail. In 1999, former governor Gerald L. Baliles (D) urged resisting “the siren song – the Lorelei of Virginia politics – that we can just get along with an incremental fix here or a commission there.” In a speech last month, Baliles renewed his call for a comprehensive solution, saying politicians should “do something about Virginia’s growing transportation nightmare.”

Warner, who fought a nasty, protracted battle during the 2004 legislative session over taxes for state services, suggested Thursday that he has no interest in a similar fight on transportation when the 2005 session convenes next month.

“Are you looking to cancel your spring vacation one more time?” he joked to the reporters and lobbyists assembled at the Capitol.

Warner, who often says he bears the scars from the defeat in 2002 of transportation tax proposals in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, is not alone in his hesitance. Despite years of mounting pressure from commuters, business executives and freight operators, Virginia’s leading politicians have all but rejected proposals to raise the gasoline tax, restrict growth or revamp the state’s formula for distributing road money.

Return to index
Transit union fights cuts in TV ad

New York City’s transit union took to the airwaves one week ago hoping to drum up public support against plans to take conductors off two subway lines and close 164 token booths, the New York Daily News reported on December 14.

The television spot features the motorman of an F train that derailed earlier this month outside the 34th St. station.

“After my train derailed… my conductor and I safely evacuated 57 passengers,” motorman Kenneth Saunders said. He added, “It’s a good thing we were both there.”

No one was injured in the December 1 derailment, but the crew led passengers hundreds of feet through a dark and smoky tunnel to the Herald Square station. Transit Authority officials said a track work crew also helped in the evacuation.

“The MTA wants to take conductors off the trains and have computers run them instead of a person,” says the narrator of the spot, which aired on New York 1.

Transport Workers Union Local 100 President Roger Toussaint chimed in “The MTA also wants to close down token booths and remove station agents who keep us safe and secure. What are they thinking?”

The goal is to generate public pressure on officials to vote against the MTA’s budget, including cutbacks and fare hikes, which went before the full board Thursday and resulted in fare hikes.

The New York Times reported on Friday the Metropolitan Transportation Authority “approved a plan for fare increases and service changes yesterday that will raise the price of a monthly fare card by $6, to $76, early next year, increase suburban rail fares an average of 5 percent and close 164 station booths throughout the subway system.”

The plan calls for conductors to come off trains on the G and L lines.

Starting next year, trains on the L line increasingly will be run by computer, with motormen at their posts to override the system, if necessary.

Some 164 token booths are to be closed, though transit officials say the 600 clerks will be redeployed as customer service agents, helping people with vending machines.

TA spokesman Charles Seaton said that trains can operate safely with one-person crews and that closing the booths would not make riders more vulnerable to crime.

Return to index
Georgia Commuter rail gathers momentum

Slowly but surely commuter rail is becoming a reality, say Georgia transit officials. Rail developers reiterated their confidence in the success of commuter rail Tuesday evening at a public hearing in Jonesboro, Ga.

The project is set to begin service from Lovejoy in fall 2006, the Jonesboro News-Daily reported on December 15.

Not much has changed on the project since officials last updated their progress in September, said Christopher Kingsbury, a program manager for the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority, but the occasion was an attempt to steady public confidence on the $106 million project, said Clayton County Board of Commissioners member Carl Rhodenizer, who has led rail efforts for the county.

Commission Chairman-elect Eldrin Bell expressed his certainty over the rail in a lyric.

“I dream the dream, the dream was beauty,” he said. “I woke to find the dream was duty.”

Kingsbury said federal funds are programmed for the first three years of operation. Municipalities have promised to pick up the operating costs after the three-year period, he said.

In the Clayton County Administration building, poster boards contained maps showing the two alternate locations for stations in Lovejoy and Jonesboro, where developers expect boarding to be at its highest.

Earlier sites became unusable and were scrapped, said Doug Alexander, rail program manager with the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority.

Developers estimate the Lovejoy daily ridership to be 1,240 by 2030.

In Jonesboro, the station will be a platform in the center of the downtown area as part of the city’s revitalization efforts.

Fares, which include a MARTA transfer, will vary depending on where passengers board but a ride from Lovejoy will cost a commuter $5.60 one-way. In Forest Park, the fare decreases to $3.60.

Property acquisition is scheduled to begin this spring.

Return to index
In Arizona politics…

Two light-rail foes lead committees

As two Gilbert, Ariz. Republicans settle into their posts as heads of the state House and Senate Transportation committees, their goals have become clear: Watch light rail and watch it closely.

State Sen. Thayer Verschoor and State Rep. Andy Biggs, who represent District 22 in Gilbert and count anti-light-rail bankroller Dave Thompson among their constituents, were named to head their committees last month, The Arizona Republic reported December 14.

While Verschoor and Biggs were the most outspoken opponents of light rail leading up to the November 2 election, appearing at several news conferences and public debates, both conservative legislators say they will not make major changes to Proposition 400, the half-cent transportation sales tax that voters approved in last month’s election.

Instead, they say they accept voters’ approval of the light-rail component and want to make sure it and the rest of the freeway and surface street projects contained in Proposition 400 are implemented efficiently.

“If we’re going to do light rail, let’s make sure we do it right,” Biggs, 46, said.

Verschoor, 43, and Biggs, who carpool to the Capitol, agree that changing any form of the plan would send the wrong message to voters, 58 percent of whom approved the overall transportation initiative.

“As far as I’m concerned the voters have spoken and now we’re moving forward,” Verschoor said.

Biggs added that he does not want to “emasculate” those votes.

Both Republicans say they are pushing hard to establish a strong set of standards to judge the performance of light rail, which they have derided as slow, costly and the wrong solution to the Valley’s traffic congestion. That means devising a system to collect and examine data about safety, ridership, taxes and budget issues.

“I think a lot of people, when they heard the term (light rail), were thinking of… commuter rail, rapid rail,” Verschoor said. “What light rail is, it’s going to be 50-plus miles of trolley.”

Transportation officials say they look forward to working with the two legislators.

Eric Anderson, transportation director for the Maricopa Assn. of Governments (MAG), said he does not foresee butting heads with Biggs and Verschoor. MAG officials are expected to meet with the pair early next year, Anderson said.

Return to index
D.C. Metro adding deicers

After complaints about the Washington, D.C.’s subway’s performance – or lack thereof – in the snow, Metro officials said Monday they are ready this winter with better snow fighting equipment.

The transit agency, WMATA, plans to equip its coaches on the leading ends of trains with deicing equipment when snow and ice are in the forecast, The AP reported December 9. In the past, deicing was only done with a special snow train – and no coaches.

Metro has also treated the undercarriage of 200 additional cars to better protect the motors from snow ingestion and electrical problems.

Crews have replaced 8,000 feet of heater tape to keep ice off the third rail.

“We plan to stay way on top of it and treat the system ahead of time,” said Steven A. Feil, rail COO, who joined Metro in June. Feil has experience with snow, having worked for the New York City subway system.

Metro was criticized during repeated snowstorms in 2003. At one point that February, some 40 percent of the subway cars were either snowbound in yards or broken.

“It’s going to be better. How much better? It depends on the conditions,” Feil said.

Snow of eight inches or more will still be a problem. If that happens, Metro plans to run only underground rail service at 30-minute intervals.

Feil said part of the reasoning is not just safety, but risk to the equipment, which impacts how quickly Metro can return to normal service after a storm.

Twenty six-car trains will have the deicing equipment, and would also be equipped with flangers.

Metro officials said riders had criticized the old deicing trains because they slowed down passenger trains. They warned that the new deicing equipment will take up room in the front car, including two rows and the door area, but Metro management saw the equipment working in Chicago and Toronto, where they said riders didn’t mind giving up space if it kept the trains rolling.

Return to index
Sound Transit to add more service

Washington State’s Sound Transit says it has reached a “major milestone” to provide more commuter rail service between Everett and Seattle.

According to Sound Transit’s agreement with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Ry., (BNSF), the agency has acquired track and signal improvement permits necessary to run a second Sounder commuter train.

With the permits from the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Ecology in hand, BNSF can move forward with the track and signal upgrades, and Sound Transit can add a second Sounder run by the third quarter of 2005.

– The Herald of Everett, Wash., December 13.

Return to index
Austin picks commuter rail

Austin’s Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board of directors voted last week to approve commuter rail as the preferred option for the Austin-Leander transit corridor.

Local voters overwhelmingly endorsed a long-term transit program for Capital Metro in November that includes a commuter rail line.

The board’s decision confirms Capital Metro’s intent to establish passenger rail service for the initial Downtown-Northwest Rail Line as part of the All Systems Go long-range transit plan.

The board’s action is a requirement for federal funding, which will top $60 million for the initial phase. Capital Metro owns the rail line where the commuter rail would run and currently operates freight service on the line.

Capital Metro expects service to begin in 2008.

Return to index
Midwest plan gets high marks

A high-speed rail network radiating from Chicago’s Union Station through nine Midwestern states could carry 13.6 million passengers annually by 2025, according to a new report.

The AP wrote a Midwest Regional Rail System report released December 14, from Des Moines, confirmed the viability of a 3,000-mile rail network. Iowa transportation director Mark Wandro said stretching through Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin, trains would travel at speeds up to 110 m.p.h., cutting hours off trips between major cities.

The study, led by Transportation Economics & Management Systems Inc., a Frederick, Md.-based consulting firm, said significantly reduced travel times, increased frequency of service, improved reliability and connections to other forms of transportation would be a big draw to passengers.

Wandro said the network would be phased in over 10-years at a cost of $7.7 billion for new equipment, track and signal improvements.

“This is an incremental and phased plan for improved passenger rail service, however, it will require significant federal funding for it to be implemented,” Wandro said.

John Schwalbach, chief of the bureau of railroads for the Illinois DOT said the “hub-and-spoke” system would allow for passenger rail travel from downtown to downtown.

“You can go from downtown Chicago, to downtown St. Louis, to downtown Milwaukee,” he said. “You don’t have to worry so much about parking issues.”

Schwalbach said some track improvements already have been made in Illinois.

A stretch from Mazonia to Springfield has been upgraded to carry higher speed trains, and a new signal system is being installed, he said.

A planned route through Iowa would follow the current Iowa Interstate Railroad through Davenport and Des Moines. Other legs are proposed to connect Chicago with the Twin Cities and Detroit.

Return to index


APTA Highlights  APTA Highlights...

Here are some other transit headlines, from the pages of Passenger Transport, the weekly newspaper of the public transportation industry published by the non-profit American Public Transportation Assn. For more news from Passenger Transport and subscription information, visit the APTA web site at http://www.apta.com/news/pt.

Twin Cities’ Metro Transit Extends Hiawatha Line

Metro Transit in Minneapolis-St. Paul opened the last four miles and five stations of the 12-mile, $715 million Hiawatha Line light rail route on Dec. 4 – 27 days ahead of schedule. The Hiawatha Line extension provides service to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport; Bloomington, Minn.; and Mall of America.

Service on the completed Hiawatha Line kicked off with a day of celebration inside five heated tents at Bloomington Central Station, which began with a 10 a.m. civic ceremony featuring Minnesota Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau; U.S. Rep. Martin Olav Sabo (DFL-Minn.); and other government and community leaders. The other four new stations are at the airport’s Lindbergh and Humphrey terminals; 28th Avenue in Bloomington, which features a 600-space park-and-ride lot; and Mall of America.

The Lindbergh Terminal is located 70 feet beneath the airport’s runways, on a 1.8-mile stretch of underground track. Airport staff, rather than Metro Transit, is responsible for securing this part of the line.

Return to index
DiGuilio Retiring at Clallam Transit; Receives Statewide Honors

Dan DiGuilio, general manager of the Clallam Transit System in Port Angeles, Wash., since 1995, said he plans to retire at the end of this year, following a 30-year career in public transportation. He began his career as a law and justice and transportation planner for the Grays Harbor Regional Planning Commission, and in 1979 became the first director of the Pacific Transit System in Raymond, Wash.

In recognition of his support of rural transit in Washington State, DiGuilio recently was honored by Washington State DOT, the Washington State Transit Insurance Pool, and at the Washington State Transit Assn.’s annual meeting.

DiGuilio received Washington State DOT’s 2004 Achievement Award, and WSTIP recognized DiGuilio with a proclamation recognizing his public service career on behalf of pool members and directors.

Return to index
Transit Commuter Benefit Increases in January

Beginning in January, the monthly limitation for the transit commuter benefit increases to $105, a $5 hike above the current tax free benefit maximum.

With the benefits program increase – sometimes called “transit pass benefits” or “qualified transportation fringe benefits”—employers will be allowed to give their workers up to $105 per month to cover transit or vanpool commuting costs as a tax-free benefit.

Under the program, the employer’s cost of providing benefits can be deducted as a normal business expense. Unlike ordinary wage payments, employers also do not have to pay their share of federal payroll taxes on transit commuter benefits. For employees, they do not pay federal income or payroll taxes on transit commuter benefits, except on the amount (if any) in excess of the monthly limitation.

Return to index
STPP Study: Pedestrians Find Streets Are Becoming ‘Meaner’

A report released December 2 by the Surface Transportation Policy Project cites Orlando, Fla., as the U.S. metropolitan area with the “meanest” streets for pedestrians, with a pedestrian death rate that has increased almost 118 percent from 1994-1995 to 2002-2003.

The report, titled Mean Streets 2004: How Far Have We Come? Pedestrian Safety, 1994-2003, uses what STPP calls the Pedestrian Danger Index to determine the rate of pedestrian deaths relative to the amount that people walk in a given metropolitan area. STPP did note an overall decline in the raw numbers of pedestrian deaths over the covered 10-years, but added that rates of walking declined even faster during that time.

The new Mean Streets is the fifth edition of the report since 1996. It examines the trends of pedestrian safety over the past decade, focusing on the top 50 U.S. metropolitan areas.

Following Orlando, according to the report, Richmond, Va., had the largest increase in pedestrian deaths over the 10-year period, 70 percent, and Memphis, Tenn., showed an increase of 42.6 percent. In contrast, Salt Lake City showed a 44.2 percent decline in pedestrian deaths, followed by Portland-Salem, Ore., down 33.1 percent.

Return to index
Johinke Is New President of PB Consult

Bruce Johinke has succeeded Mortimer L. Downey as president of PB Consult, a Parsons Brinckerhoff subsidiary based in New York City that provides management consulting services to developers of infrastructure projects worldwide. Downey has been named chairman of PB Consult, and he will continue to participate in key consulting assignments with the company.

Johinke has more than 30 years experience working with multidisciplinary teams of developers, investors, banks, government authorities, and contractors. He has managed the planning, design, and construction of large-scale projects involving transit facilities, highways, airports, ports, and industrial facilities.

He joined PB in 1987, and has held senior management positions for the company in Asia, Australia, and Panama. Most recently, Johinke served as head of PB Consult’s international projects group. He also served as chairman of PB Power Asia Pacific, and senior vice-president of Parsons Brinckerhoff International.

Return to index
Montgomery, Ala., to Commemorate Bus Boycott

The Rosa Parks Library and Museum in Montgomery, Ala., has kicked off a year-long commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the bus boycott in the city, which followed Parks’ arrest for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man. APTA presented Parks with its first Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.

The bus boycott began four days after Parks’ arrest, on December 5, 1956, and lasted for more than a year. It brought the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to national prominence, and eventually led to federal court rulings against segregation of the city’s bus system.

As part of the commemorative effort, the Montgomery Area Transit System has refurbished a 1950s General Motors bus similar to the one on which Parks rode. The bus is owned by the city, which joined the Federal Transit Administration in supporting the renovation effort.

The museum is in the process of developing programs related to the bus boycott. The culmination of the year-long program will be the opening of a children’s annex to the museum, scheduled to open December 1, 2005.

Return to index


FREIGHT LINES  Freight lines...

A freight along GTW’s Flat Rock Subdivision in Delta, Ohio

For NCI: J. E. Landrum

Grand Trunk Western engine 5714 leads a freight along GTW’s Flat Rock Subdivision in Delta, Ohio on March 22, 1996. The northbound string is running on Delta Hill enroute to Flat Rock, Mich.


NS looks to cash in on boom

The new president of Norfolk Southern Corp., Charles “Wick” Moorman, said the company is ready to cash in on increased business – but he provided few details on how that could play out in terms of jobs, property and operations in Roanoke, Va.

Moorman was named president of NS this year, replacing longtime leader and Vinton native David Goode, who will retire in January at age 65.

Moorman said the Roanoke Valley is a junction of two key intermodal routes. NS has said it is considering the valley as a site for an intermodal yard, but Moorman told The Roanoke Times he did not know of any specific site under consideration.

Intermodal shipping is the fastest growing business for NS, accounting for 20 percent of revenue this year, up from 9 percent in 1993. Coal is no longer the railroad’s largest commodity – yet it generates 23 percent of the revenue, down from 27 percent in 1993.

A recovering economy has boosted intermodal business. The chronic shortage of truck drivers, rising fuel prices and fewer trucks has also helped NS.

“Trucks are our largest intermodal customers,” Moorman said. “We’re trying to position ourselves as a partner with trucking, not as a competitor.”

NS is optimistic about capturing new business, in part because of booming imports and congestion in West Coast ports.

China has become a major exporter to the U.S. Wal-Mart, accounting for 9 percent of all U.S. retail sales, imports many of its products from China, Moorman said.

NS wants to move a lot of that cargo to Eastern ports, he said.

“We see ourselves in a growth position, one we haven’t seen in a while,” said thee 52-year-old executive, but NS needs to improve its Heartland Corridor between Norfolk and Columbus, Ohio. The company wants to pursue private/public partnerships, he noted.

Virginia has no trust fund allocation for rail, according to a recent rail enhancement report that was submitted to Gov. Mark Warner on December 1. Most funding, 78.7 percent, goes to highways; 14.7 percent to transit; 4.2 percent to the Virginia Port Authority; and 2.4 percent to airports. The report also stated its goals. Among them was one to improve freight rail service to the Hampton Roads-Newport News ports.

A fundamental cultural and policy shift is needed before anything happens, the report stated.

“Public expectations for dramatic, near-term improvement in rail service should be tempered by the recognition that the rail mode of transportation had not enjoyed the public investment and policy support that has been accorded highways and aviation.”

Moorman said whatever happens in Virginia is just one piece of the broader solution because NS looks at its entire system, which reaches into 22 states and Canada.

“The more interesting thing to think about is what happens across the border at both ends,” Moorman said after his lunch presentation.

Moorman also told The Roanoke Times that discussion is ongoing with state officials about passenger rail service.

Return to index
CSX build a big bridge in Virginia

Richmond Times-Dispatch

A new railroad bridge has yet to rise above the calm blue waters of Quantico Creek, Va., near the mouth of the Potomac River.

Workers are pouring a concrete foundation while a towering crane prepares to start pile-driving more than 100 feet into the creek bottom.

Above them looms a single-track rail bridge crossing the creek, a structure infamous as the rail equivalent of the Capital Beltway: a major transportation choke point badly in need of relief.

With an average of 56 freight and passenger trains crossing the 1,750-foot-wide creek daily, trains must schedule “time slots” to make the passage, rail officials said.

“With that many trains, if anything happens, it begins to cascade across the system,” said Dale Zehner, chief executive officer of the Virginia Railway Express, the publicly owned commuter rail system in Northern Virginia. “This is the area we get the most delays.”

The hope of reducing delays on VRE trains linking Fredericksburg with Alexandria, along with improving passenger rail service on Amtrak, underlies Zehner’s exuberance about the bridge project. The new two-track bridge will be 30 feet wide, leaving room to add a third set of tracks later.

“The benefits to VRE are tremendous,” he said on a recent media tour. “We call it the bridge to more – more trains, more speed and more economic development.”

After the bridge opens in early 2007, Zehner said, the commuter railroad expects to see a 25 percent growth in traffic, or eight more trains a day. The VRE now operates 32 trains a day, serving about 8,000 passengers.

John Jenkins, a Prince William County supervisor and VRE board member, also touted the economic benefits of the $26 million bridge. He predicted better commuting options for residents of Stafford County and Fredericksburg who rely on the commuter rail to get to work everyday in the Washington area.

The project, which the VRE is managing, is financed with $20 million in federal funds and $6 million from a state rail grant.

The unseen partner in the project is CSX Corp., the owner of the track and the bridge known for choking up.

“The additional track will help,” said CSX spokesman Gary Sease at corporate headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla. “It’s a single track bridge in what is double-track corridor.”

CSX freight shipments are up nearly 2 percent this year over 2003, with 6.7 million car movements system-wide in early December. On the north side of Quantico Creek, CSX trains stop to deliver coal to the Dominion Virginia Power plant at Possum Point.

The bridge is one of seven ongoing projects with CSX that are covered under an agreement with the VRE and the state.

Return to index
CP wins coal rate debate

Canadian Pacific Ry. reported on December 13 a final offer arbitration on a rate to ship coal from one of Elk Valley Coal Corp.’s mines in southeastern British Columbia to the Port of Vancouver ended with a ruling in favor of CP’s final offer. The arbitrated rate, which applies only to coal shipped by CP from the Elkview mine, is confidential and is effective for one year, retroactive to October 5.

CPR said the ruling would not alter its previously expressed financial outlook, pending legal proceedings it has taken against Elk Valley Coal Corp. and its concurrent challenge of the validity of the final offer arbitration proceeding.

Return to index
BUSINESS LINES  Business lines...


Canadian Pacific Ry. Ltd. (CP) said last week it has declared a quarterly dividend of thirteen and one-quarter cents ($0.1325) Canadian per share on the outstanding common shares. The dividend is payable on January 31, 2005, to holders of record at the close of business on December 31, 2004.

Return to index
STOCKS  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: CBSMarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)46.1045.66
Canadian National (CNI)59.8557.96
Canadian Pacific (CP) 31.6030.22
CSX (CSX)39.2238.10
Florida East Coast (FLA)42.9543.17
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)27.2225.62
Kansas City Southern (KSU)16.7316.58
Norfolk Southern (NSC)34.8535.10
Providence & Worcester (PWX)12.3012.26
Union Pacific (UNP)62.4661.46

Return to index
Weekly AAR report:

Rail freight traffic continues to climb

Freight traffic on U.S. railroads was up again during the week ended December 11 in comparison with the corresponding week last year, the AAR reported Thursday.

During the week ended December 11, intermodal volume totaled 235,625 trailers or containers, the third busiest week on record and up 12.3 percent from the comparable week last year. Trailer volume was up 11.5 percent while container traffic grew by 12.7 percent from last year.

Carload freight, which doesn’t include the intermodal data, totaled 346,363 cars, up 3.6 percent from a year ago with loadings up 4.5 percent in the East and 3.0 percent in the West. Total volume was estimated at 32.6 billion ton-miles, up 4.2 percent from last year.

Eleven of 19 carload commodities registered gains from last year, with metallic ores up 20.4 percent; lumber and wood products up 11.8 percent; metals up 10.3 percent; and coal, up 6.3 percent. Among commodities reporting declines were farm products other than grain, down 44.3 percent; primary forest products, down 11.7 percent and coke, off 7.4 percent.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 49 weeks of 2004: 16,530,449 carloads, up 2.8 percent from last year; and total volume of an estimated 1.523 trillion ton-miles, up 5.0 percent from last year’s first 49 weeks.

On Canadian railroads, during the week ended December 11 carload traffic totaled 70,656 cars, up 5.2 percent from last year while intermodal volume totaled 42,278 trailers or containers, up 0.3 percent from last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 49 weeks of 2004 on the Canadian railroads totaled 3,309,490 carloads, up 6.9 percent from last year, and 2,065,739 trailers and containers, up 0.3 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 49 weeks of 2004 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 19,839,939 carloads, up 3.5 percent from last year and 12,498,277 trailers and containers, up 8.3 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that originated carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended December 11 totaled 10,021 cars, up 18.5 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 4,514 originated trailers or containers, up 37.5 percent from the 49th week of 2003. For the first 49 weeks of 2004, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 427,939 cars, up 3.5 percent from last year, and 186,288 trailers or containers, up 8.6 percent.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 88 percent of U.S. carload freight and 95 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 95 percent and 100 percent. The Canadian railroads reporting to the AAR account for 90 percent of Canadian rail traffic. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of U.S. intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.

The AAR is online at www.aar.org.

Return to index
Train chartered by candidates

For NCI: Jim Hamre, Editor, Washington Rail News

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D) of Washington State and gubernatorial candidate Christine Gregoire toured the state by train three days before November 2. The chartered train, operating from Spokane to Vancouver and Bellingham with an Amtrak P-42 on the point, made frequent stops along the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe routes. Private car Yerba Buena brings up the rear of the three-car train. Here it’s passing CP Stewart, just west of Puyallup. Murray was reelected, but the governor’s race is still being recounted – again

Return to index
WE GET LETTERS  We get letters...

Dear Editor:

Has anyone considered of late research comparing the various forms of government subsidies to transportation modes?

After that December 1 American Enterprise Institute panel on “Ending Amtrak’s Budget Problems” [or “Reforming Amtrak”] the uninitiated would be led to believe that only rail receives government financial assistance. No mention was made of the airline bailouts, local authority airports, the FAA, rural air service grants, or highway’s many subsidies, or the maritime, or...

Some years ago, the U.S. House named a special committee to look into this, but I can’t put my hands on that study right now.

Malcolm Taylor
NorthEast News Services
Holderness, N.H.

Dear Editor:

The Fitch article on 2005 (D:F, December 13, “Business lines”) shows railroads are not preparing for a huge capacity crunch, caused by several factors. Assuming even normal economic growth, the global economy (read China) will require more stuff to move to and from ports. Truckers cannot handle the projected growth (drivers, congestion, price of fuel), meaning rails will. The additional trucks we do get will cause more highway congestion, leading to government assistance to railroads.

Chop Hardenbergh
Editor, Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports
Yarmouth, Maine

Dear Editor,

In the December 13 issue of Destination:Freedom, you posted an article entitled “Dubai buys CSX terminal business”. In that article, you stated that the facilities operated by CSX World Terminals had a combined future capacity of 14.6 million teus, which you referred to as “Dubai’s currency.”

“TEU” is not the currency in Dubai, or anyplace else. TEU is an abbreviation for “Twenty-foot Equivalent Units,” which is the standard measure for container capacity used around the world.

Incidentally, the official currency of the United Arab Emirates (the country in which Dubai is located) is the dirham.

Tim Cole
Dublin, Ohio

Return to index
End Notes

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we’d like to hear from you. Please e-mail the crew at leoking@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write.

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

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

In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other rail travel sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives – state DOTs, legislators, governor’s offices, and transportation professionals – as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists.

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

|| Home Page || Destination: Freedom Past Editions || Contact Us || Article Index || Top of Page

This edition has been read by || || people since date of release.

Copyright © 2004, National Corridors Initiative, Inc. & Leo King.