Happy  Holidays

Destination:Freedom Newsletter
Destination:Freedom
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 4 No. 50, December 22, 2003
Copyright © 2003, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - Jim RePass
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update

 

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


JetTrain gets a paint job

File photo

The first photo Destination:Freedom ever published was Bombardier’s developing test bed that came to be known as the JetTrain. The cutline stated, “Acela look-alike – FRA’s 5,000 HP gas-turbine locomotive shell gets its paint applied at Bombardier’s upstate New York plant.” The photo came from Bombardier via the FRA, and was snapped in 1999.

 

Destination:Freedom’s birthday

By Leo King
Editor

It’s hard to believe Destination:Freedom will soon begin its fifth year as an online electronic magazine – an E-zine, as the technically hip say. After the holidays, we’ll restart on January 5.

We published our first issue on January 3, 2000. It was a monthly for the first five issues, but in June, we became a weekly.

Wes Vernon, our ace reporter in our nation’s capital, was aboard. His first story for the fledgling publication’s Volume 1, No. 1, was headlined, “Sure, Acela beats Metroliner, but this is only the beginning.” Wes spelled out what was a hot topic in those days.:

“Two hours and 15 minutes, New York to Washington!

“That promise came from Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) while introducing his High-Speed Rail Investment Act.

“With Amtrak’s chairman, Gov. Tommy Thompson (R-Wis.) and board vice chairman, former Gov. Michael S. Dukakis (D-Mass.) standing by his side, Lautenberg announced bipartisan legislation authorizing Amtrak to sell $10 billion in rail bonds over ten years to develop “Corridors of the Future” nationwide.”

The story described how the Acelas would improve rail travel in the Northeast. Things changed, but not in those directions.

Some other topics we covered in that first issue included how catenary installation was nearly complete between New Haven, Conn., and Boston, and how Acelas would challenge the airlines. We also reported top Amtrak managers were moving around into different jobs.

That first issue was lengthy, at least for the first time out. We ran it in two sections. The second section covered the “Latest news,” as we labeled it, and Wes wrote a piece headlined, “Bill would enhance access to freight lines; could lead to more high-speed passenger trains.” The “Bill” did not refer to then-President Bill Clinton, but to pending federal legislation “to grant commuter rail authorities the same unfettered access to freight railroad rights-of-way enjoyed by Amtrak’s intercity service.” Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.) put the bill in the hopper.

We also had a scoop. We wrote, in a single, terse paragraph, “First through electric train expected this month. We have learned that Amtrak’s first ‘in service’ Acela Regional train is scheduled to make its first through run from Washington to Boston on Jan. 17, 2000. The consist will be an AEM-7 with six Capstone refurbished Amfleet cars. Details were not available at press time.” We were right. That’s always a good thing in the news business.

We also reported in that first issue that shiny new Surfliner coaches were en route from Alstom, which was building six double-deck intercity coaches for Amtrak in an order worth more than $14 million. The $100 million contract, originally inked in 1998, provided for eight five-car, double-deck trainsets that would be heading west for Pacific Surfliner trains, replacing 30-year-old equipment on the San Diegans.

We also noted Penn Station in New York City was nearly back to normal five days before Christmas following a fire in a switch and signal control bungalow near track 18. Amtrak’s Karen Dunn told us, “‘Trains were delayed 10 to 15 minutes by 8:30 a.m.’ during the Monday morning commute.” Some trains had been annulled while others were diverted to Grand Central Station.

One other item we took note of – Moody’s Investment Services raised Amtrak’s credit rating to A3 during the week of December19. “A3” means a “stable outlook,” Amtrak said. We learned later that that was Moody’s first rating ever given to the railroad.

Even on day one, we were publishing photos, but the next month we started adding more photos. After all, if you’re going to prepare a weekly magazine – certainly more than a simple newsletter – photos are required to show as well as tell. We adapted the philosophy very early that a picture is worth a thousand words, even though we’re all wordsmiths.

Most of the pictures came from our own staff, but in recent months we’ve reached out to other sources. We still welcome photos from outside sources – and we still can’t pay anyone; after all, we are a non-profit organization (incorporated in Rhode Island). We do all our business from our home computers in Massachusetts, Florida and Maryland. The exception is the web server space we lease (from 1Host). That’s somewhere “out there.”

In our second issue, NCI’s president and CEO Jim RePass weighed in with his first article. It was a piece noting “Rail is Real” was coming to railroaders and suppliers. Jim informed us “There can be little doubt, for those of us who believe in a balanced national transportation system, that the world is moving in a new direction for rail in America...”

Jim outlined three significant events that had promoted passenger rail, and Amtrak in particular.

He noted that in July 1999, NCI hosted its tenth anniversary conference, “The National Corridors Movement: Ready For Prime Time,” which provided its audience with some of the most interesting thinkers on rail and transportation, including Mike Dukakis, Gil Carmichael, Paul Weyrich, and many others. For the first time, NCI gained national news coverage for the corridors movement it had been championing.

In November 1999, Railway Age magazine held its important “Passenger Trains on Freight Railroads” conference which featured Norfolk Southern’s David Goode, “not in the traditional freight-is-good-passenger-is-bad mode, but as a sworn convert to the idea that intercity passenger rail is here to stay,” Jim informed us.

Jim also told us, “Yesterday (January 31, 2000), Amtrak commenced fully electrified service on the Northeast Corridor with a “press extra” in an event that is of truly historic proportions.”

Destination:Freedom, which we usually simply abbreviate to D:F, became a weekly e-zine by mid-year. By then, the formats had changed somewhat, and we were beginning to define ourselves into what eventually became “Commuter lines,” “Freight lines,” Labor lines,” and other subdivisions.

In all this, though, where would we be without our webmasters?!

Sherm Frost of the Univ. of Texas was our first. He helped Jim RePass get this thing organized and off the ground. It was Jim’s idea, by the way, to name the e-zine, Destination:Freedom.

Later, Vince Wadhwanni, who lived in California at the time, did the project for us for several months.

Our current webmaster, Dennis Kirkpatrick of Boston, has been handling the chores since October 2000, and has worked hard to brighten the pages. You see the results of his efforts every week.

Our good friend Jim Furlong (we called him “the furry one,” a play on his name) was our publisher for a couple of years, but he left us in October 2003 to pursue environmental concerns in his home state of Connecticut. Jim is a retired Wall Street Journal editor, and was certainly an asset for us.

So, here we are, on the cusp of year five. What’s in our future? Not a clue. We will plod on, reporting the news in the railroad industry as best we can, with accuracy always topmost in our considerations.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy New Year... and we’ll see you on January 5, 2004.


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Derailment knocks out Amtrak

Kristi King/WTOP Radio, Washington

Nineteen freight cars on CSX Q41016 derailed on December 18, knocking out Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express south of the national capital.

 

CSX derailment knocks out Amtrak

CSX freight train Q41016, bound from Richmond, to Philadelphia, derailed 19 of its 96 cars at 5:45 a.m. on Thursday just south of Alexandria near Business Center Drive and Quaker Lane, blocking both main tracks and forcing Amtrak to cancel most service south of Washington, D.C., disrupting rail service for thousands of commuters and travelers.

Trains moving again on Sunday

Service resumed on Sunday in Virginia at the site of Saturday’s derailment near Richmond on CSX tracks.

One track in the triple mainline area was restored to service early Sunday. A second track was back in service around noon on Sunday. Repairs on the third track continued through Sunday.

Saturday’s departures from the Northeast to Charleston, Savannah and Florida were held north of the derailment site but are now moving.

On CSX, the Q173-18 is expected into Jacksonville approximately 24 hours behind schedule. Q175-18 will be approximately 30 hours late.

Southbound trains carrying traffic originating Saturday night and Sunday in Worcester, South Kearny, Philadelphia and Baltimore will operate, but CSX advised customers to expect delays of up to 12 hours on arrivals into Charleston, Savannah and all Florida points.

Northbound trains which were held Saturday in South Carolina began moving Sunday morning, but were delayed 24 to 36 hours into their final destinations.

CSX officials said the derailed cars blocked three tracks, WTOP Radio in Washington reported.

Amtrak and the Virginia Railway Express were forced to suspend service through the area. VRE later planned to run one southbound evening train on each of its two lines, starting from points south of the accident scene.

By Friday morning, only VRE’s S Line was operating. Amtrak was still shut down south of Washington, except for the AutoTrain, which leaves from Lorton, Va., 12 miles south of the derailment site.

The derailment cause early morning delays on Metro's Blue Line when service from King Street to Franconia and Springfield was shut down for nearly 90 minutes. Service was restored at 7:20 a.m.

“There were two trains on the line when the derailment occurred and both of those trains headed back to the yard, dropping the people off back at their stations,” said Dale Zehner, VRE's acting chief operating officer. No trains made it to Washington's Union Station.

On Friday, VRE planned to run an abbreviated schedule on the Fredericksburg and Manassas lines. Trains from the suburbs were to go only as far as Metrorail stations.

Amtrak canceled several regional trains Thursday and bused some passengers around the derailment.

The freight train had three locomotives, 57 loads, and 39 empties. The derailment started with the 29th car from the head-end. No one was injured, and while there were 12 hazardous materials cars in the consist, none were breeched. Six of the hazmats were empties, CSX spokesman Adam Hollingsworth said. A hazardous-materials crew determined the derailment posed no environmental threat, fire officials said.

Five switches and 1,200 feet of track have to be replaced.

Amtrak service north of Washington was not affected. Passengers traveling on northbound trains headed for Washington were bused around the derailment.

Regional Virginia service (trains 76, 77, 84, 85, 86 and 93) were canceled, as were trains 79 and 80, the Carolinians.

Train 91, the southbound Silver Star, did not operate on Thursday between New York City and Richmond, Va., but originated from Richmond Thursday evening.

Train 90, the northbound Palmetto, did not operate north of Rocky Mount, N.C., and train 89, the southbound Palmetto was annulled between New York and Rocky Mount. It originated from Rocky Mount that afternoon.

Passengers on train 19, the southbound Crescent, were transferred to Metroliner 119 to Washington and bused to Manassas, Va., where the Crescent originated on Thursday. Trains departing Miami northbound operated on schedule.

Online site SERails contributed to this report from http://www.railspot.com/serails/


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Downeaster waits departure in Boston

File photo

The inaugural Downeaster was assembled and ready to roll from Boston’s North Station on December 14, 2001. Straight ahead are the Charles River bridges.

 

Downeaster still draw riders

When Amtrak’s Downeaster service entered its third year of operation on December 15, rail officials were looking at ways to boost ridership, such as adding more trips and shortening the time it takes to travel between Portland and Boston.

While weekend trains are mostly filled, there are plenty of empty seats on the weekday trains, especially during the off-season, reports the Portland, Maine, Press-Herald.

Ridership and revenues are significantly down from the service’s first year, when it benefited from what officials call a “bubble of curiosity.”

There hadn’t been passenger service between the two cities since the Boston & Maine Railroad dispatched its last passenger train on January 3, 1965.

Officials last week said ridership figures are now settling down, and they have a more realistic sense of how people are using the service.

“This thing was just a dream for so long,” said Patricia Douglas, the marketing and development director for the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.

“Now that it’s finally here, and we have a couple years worth of data, we can look at what we’ve done and see what makes sense,” she said.

Last October and November were the first months to show increases in ridership over the previous year, but while fall ridership improved, revenues went up only slightly in November and fell 4.5 percent in October, because ridership between Portland and Boston – the trip that fetches the most expensive ticket – was down.

For October, the most recent month for which statistics are available, ridership from Portland was down 12 percent.

Meanwhile, ridership originating in Exeter, Wells and Saco all increased more than 12 percent, but tickets for those trips are cheaper.

Rail officials are trying to figure out how to increase ridership. It’s hard to improve the service because it is already operating at a high level, apparently. The train’s on-time record is one of the best in the Amtrak system. In October, it was on time 96.4 percent of the time.

Also, according to Amtrak surveys of frequent rail travelers, the Downeaster’s customer satisfaction rate is among the best in the nation. About 95 percent of those surveyed said they liked the experience and would ride the train again.

Wayne Davis of Train Riders/Northeast, the citizen group that advocated for the service, said the one sure way to increase ridership and revenues is to speed up the train. Right now, the maximum speed is 60 mph. The Surface Transportation Board has ruled it can travel as fast as 79 mph, but Guilford, which owns the tracks between Portland and Massachusetts, has appealed the decision.

“This is not the train that we were promised,” Davis said. “We were promised an 80 mph train.”

Because the train stops at stations and slows down in other places, such as on curves, the average speed for the trip is actually 41 mph.

Guilford’s appeal should be resolved soon, said Ron Roy, director of passenger transportation for the Maine DOT.

Roy said it’s possible to reduce the trip time to Boston by 15 minutes - and make it a 2 _-hour trip, even if the train never goes faster than 60 mph.

Guilford has also proposed that Amtrak make some track improvements that would allow the train to get to Boston quicker, such as passing sidings. Amtrak is now reviewing that proposal.

Also, the MBTA, which operates the tracks in Massachusetts, plans to make improvements that would allow the train to go faster, Roy said.

Rail officials said they are also looking at the feasibility of buying another train and adding train trips. Right now, the service operates only four trips a day. They are also planning to extend the service to Freeport and Brunswick by 2007, and that should boost revenues.

The service has proved itself as the superior way to travel in snowstorms. In the most recent storm, air and bus travel between Portland and Boston were canceled, and automobile travel was foolhardy.

The Downeaster made the trip on time, packed with passengers who had no other choice.

“It was the only thing moving,” Davis said.


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Many crossings at grade
may become silent memories

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published a proposed new rule last week that would allow local communities to quiet train horns at some 150,000 railroad crossings nationwide – if important safety requirements are met.

Mineta’s notes

Mineta told reporters the FRA had been working on the loud locomotive horn problems for several years “in a way that improves quality of life for nearby residents without sacrificing safety for motorists at railroad crossings.”

Trains horns are important safety devices, Mineta said, “but they can also be a nuisance for residents. This rule means less noise for millions of Americans living near railroad crossings.

He said “It gives thousands of local communities the tools they need to quiet train horns while improving safety at highway-rail grade crossings, and provides communities with existing whistle bans the framework for maintaining those prohibitions. I look forward to working with communities as we move to implement this rule next year.”

The agency’s “Interim Final Rule” describes specific standards local decision-makers can use to silence locomotive horns and whistles, while improving safety at public highway-rail grade crossings, and allowing many communities with existing whistle bans to maintain those prohibitions.

The FRA published the proposed rule on December 17 online at www.fra.dot.gov and at http://dms.dot.gov.

“Horns are important safety devices, but they also can be a nuisance for residents,” said USDOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.

The Cabinet member added, “This rule means less noise for millions of Americans living near railroad crossings.”

Assistant administrator Allan Rutter noted, “Research has shown that locomotive horns provide an important warning to motorists in advance of highway-rail grade crossings, however, we have sought to respond to the many communities which have continued to press for relief from unwanted train horn noise. This rule will provide new flexibility in creating quiet zones, while maintaining safety at highway-rail grade crossings.”

Under the rule, local governments will have the opportunity to establish quiet zones in certain areas where there is a low risk of collision, or to make specific upgrades meant to lessen the risk where the hazards are greater. The upgrade options include installing crossing gates that block both lanes of traffic in both directions, or some type of approved median divider to prevent drivers from crossing lanes to go around a lowered gate, temporarily closing a crossing, or creating a one-way street with gates and lights.

The rule also allows using an automated horn system to be installed at the crossing as a substitute for the train horn.

“Our challenge has been to ensure the highest level of public safety possible, while recognizing communities’ legitimate interest in seeking relief from unwanted noise,” Rutter said.

For communities with whistle bans, the rule outlines specific steps local jurisdictions can take to maintain those restrictions, provided they notify FRA of their plan to create a “pre-rule quiet zone” and take the steps required to qualify them as such.

“By employing a risk-based approach, communities with ‘grand-fathered’ whistle bans can maintain the quality of life they’ve become accustomed to while ensuring public safety at highway rail-grade crossings,” Rutter said.

By law, the final rule will take effect December 18, 2004, one year following the date of its publication (on Thursday), but communities with existing whistle bans will have at least five years to implement the requirements. The rule will pre-empt existing state and local laws governing blowing locomotive horns.

The FRA stated in a press release it” will not require that locomotive horns be sounded at private highway-rail crossings, but instead leaving those decisions to the states.”

The Federal Railroad Safety Authorization Act of 1994 required the USDOT secretary to issue regulations that require locomotive horns be sounded on approach to and while traveling across public highway-rail crossings except under specified conditions.

Copies of the Interim Final Rule, Final Environmental Impact Analysis and related documents are online. Comments on the Interim Final Rule may be e-mailed via the USDOT’s online Docket Management System at http://dms.dot.gov.


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Are some trains too quiet now?

While the USDOT was making plans last week to keep train whistles quiet, Massachusetts is wondering if its trains should make more noise.

The Boston Globe reported on December 14 in more than two-dozen cities and towns hugging the tracks that snake outward from Boston, train whistles are ghosts of the past.

No one can remember a time when the whistles blew as trains zipped through railroad crossings in these communities, many clustered on the North Shore, but a deadly accident and lost records from decades ago may jeopardize the quiet.

State officials, weighing serenity versus public safety, are reviewing 29 communities where no records can be found authorizing the original whistle bans.

The FRA also released proposed new rules on train whistles, nine contentious years after the agency began writing new guidelines (See separate story).

For some people who live along the quieter stretches of tracks, the possible return of the whistles is annoying.

“I’ve always thought that blowing a whistle is kind of an archaic, caveman approach,” said David Neill, a former selectman who lives near the commuter rail line in Hamilton, a town with a now-questionable whistle ban.

“The way we make railroad crossings safe is to make as much noise as you can and hope you can scare people away,” he said.

Although much has changed in more than a century, this has not: the bitter debate over train whistles. In 1873, a Brookline man offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who invented a less disruptive alternative to the railroad horn. No one did.

Boston’s ban on train whistles within city limits dates to 1875, when the state’s Railroad Commissioners heard from hundreds of sleep-deprived residents. In some neighborhoods, trains passed as often as every three minutes.

The commissioners mused that it was remarkable that the incessant whistles had been tolerated for so long. In some crowded neighborhoods, the commissioners wrote in their report, the whistles had become “practically unendurable.”

They urged the railroad companies to stop blowing whistles “within the limits of the city of Boston and other crowded neighborhoods,” except in emergencies. State officials suspect that some of the undocumented whistle bans in communities outside the city may date to that report, which doesn’t name specific suburbs.

In the 29 cities and towns now under review, the state Department of Telecommunications and Energy cannot find proof of the original whistle bans, either from its records or those of the state legislature. Telephone queries to those communities also didn’t turn up any official records.

“A lot of these are historical bans that have been in existence for many, many years,” said Timothy Shevlin, executive director of the DTE, which regulates railroad safety.

The DTE will examine each of the 107 separate railroad crossings at issue in 29 communities and ultimately decide whether whistle bans are warranted, said Brian F. Christy, director of the DTE’s transportation division. The Massachusetts Municipal Assn. has agreed to help those communities, which may have two dozen or more trains pass each day, go through the process.

Those who support train whistles argue that they protect public safety.

Michael Mulhern, the general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, argues that at most commuter rail crossings, whistles pose little discomfort to nearby residents. Many towns in Massachusetts have no whistle bans.

“I don’t think there is any safer practice on the railroads than blowing whistles,” he said. “I feel strongly that we should be blowing whistles on all of our railroads, unless there is a hardship which is compelling enough to outweigh the safety concerns.”

Without records showing the origin of the old whistle bans, he said, it is impossible to know whether they were rightfully granted. “Was it a wink and a nod between the agency and the municipality?” he asked.

According to the FRA, there have been 54 accidents, causing five deaths, on railroad crossings in Massachusetts since January 2000. (The numbers don’t include accidents along the tracks at other locations.) Nationally, 357 people died last year at railroad crossings, according to the agency’s statistics.

The FRA often cites a 1990 study which found that nighttime accidents at Florida railroad crossings increased 300 percent after whistle bans were instituted.

Local supporters of whistle bans argue that the densely populated Northeast, where trains are more likely to carry commuters than corn ears, cannot be compared to Florida. Drivers are more inclined to dodge the warning gate and try to beat the train, they say, in places where they might otherwise wait a half-hour for a long freight train to pass by.

They also argue that trains already are adequately signaled.

“When you come to a crossing, you have a gate,” said Nancy Tavernier, a former Acton selectwoman who helped her town get a whistle ban from the legislature.

“You have a flashing light. You have bells. What else do you need to know a train’s coming?”

When Acton held public hearings on whether to seek a whistle ban, she said, residents testified that they hadn’t slept through the night in years. When town officials measured the strength of the whistle blast, she said, it was 115 decibels.

All across the country, trains are required to blow their horns every time they approach a spot where the railroad tracks cross roads. In Massachusetts, cities and towns can seek exemptions from that rule in one of two ways: a direct appeal to the DTE, which rarely grants whistle bans, or a town meeting vote that would then require legislative approval.

The bans prevent trains from routinely blowing their whistles, but they can still sound them in an emergency.

The state review of whistle bans began after a fatal accident in North Andover last year. Two elderly women driving to their weekly bingo game were killed instantly when their car crashed into an approaching train. The driver apparently became confused and turned her car onto the track, breaking through the wooden railroad crossing gate.

The MBTA had been observing a whistle ban at the crossing. When state officials investigated, they found the ban dated to the days of a now-defunct freight line. The intersection, which is not in a residential area, has become more dangerous as both the number of daily trains running and cars crossing the tracks increased, Christy said.

“It didn’t make sense that they would continue to maintain a whistle ban,” he said. The state reversed the ban, and trains now whistle as they approach the crossing.

After the accident, the MBTA asked state officials to research all of the whistle bans it was observing in greater Boston. Among the 37 communities with whistle bans, the DTE could find no records for 29 communities.

Residents of Manchester-by-the-Sea who feared that the new federal guidelines would end the town’s whistle ban formed a group several years ago to keep their neighborhoods quiet: Halt Outrageous Railroad Noise, or HORN. The group filed a 400-page report with the FRA, asking the agency to affirm whistle bans in communities that already have them.

Neil Chayet, a member of the group and a lawyer, argued that the state should not now respond to the lost records by deciding anew whether communities should be able to keep their whistle bans.

“They should reaffirm this,” he said, “and it should be done with a minimum of heartache.”


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California trains get high marks

California reports the state’s “successful intercity passenger rail program” is continuing, “following voter-approved referenda around 1990 to provide some $3 billion of state funds for the capital improvements to passenger rail service.”

Capitol Corridor’s Gene Skoropowski reported “A substantial portion of the capital funding went to the intercity rail program, primarily into track and infrastructure and the purchase of state-owned rolling stock.”

He also noted “The federal government has not yet provided any funding for capital or operations of state-supported intercity passenger service,” and that California alone has made the investments.

Amtrak is the contract operator of all three state-supported services.

Skoropowski, who is the managing director for the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, said the Pacific Surfliner recorded 176,572 passengers in November, up 9.2 percent compared to the same period one year earlier. It was a record for the month. Ticket revenue rose 12.2 percent, and totaled $2,853,950.

San Joaquin trains carried 61,386 passengers, up 4.6 percent, and also a new record for the month. The service earned $1,784,214 in ticket revenues, up 19.8 percent.

Capitol Corridor trains carried 93,409 passengers during the month setting another new record, up 0.7 percent, and earning $1,064,190 in ticket sales, up 9.9 percent – the highest monthly ticket revenue in the history of the service.

This makes 15 months in a row of new ‘record high’ ridership on the Capitol Corridor.

All services benefited from the Sunday after Thanksgiving falling in November this year compared to December last year.


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Losing bidder withdraws protest

Global Rail Consortium, the losing bidder to construct Florida’s proposed high-speed rail network, last week withdrew its protest over how the contract was awarded to Fluor-Bombardier.

GRC, a South Korean-based partnership of nearly 30 firms, found the estimated price tag of $250,000 too daunting to see the protest through, director Katherine Beck said December 16, according to an AP report.

“It would not have been worth it, not with the status of the project at this point,” Beck said.

The protest was officially withdrawn Monday afternoon, Beck said.

Global Rail had claimed Fluor-Bombardier’s winning bid was “fundamentally flawed, failing to meet the requirements set forth in the authority’s request for proposals. The consortium also said the authority didn’t respond to its protests that Fluor-Bombardier’s bid was inadequate.

Fluor-Bombardier’s bid to design, build, operate and maintain the rail system’s first leg, linking Orlando and Tampa, came in at more than $2 billion.

The authority awarded the contract on October 27.

Global Rail still wants a role in bringing bullet trains to Florida, as required by the voters’ approval of a Constitutional amendment in 2000 – but Gov. Jeb Bush (R) opposes high-speed rail, and funding still must be found for one of the largest public-works projects in state history.

“We looked at all those things and we just said, ‘We’re smarter at this point to sit back, wait and let this process happen, and see if we can facilitate and help this project,” Beck said.

According to the Constitutional amendment, construction should have begun in November.


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STATION LINES...  Station lines...

So long, GASF:

Call it ‘Reconnecting America’

Don’t call it the “Great American Station Foundation” any more.

Like a leopard, it has changed its spots.

The problem is, there isn’t much urgency to save old railroad stations these days, partly because the most imperiled have been rehabbed and brought back to life. For example, a prairie style station in Skokie, Ill., that now houses a Starbucks coffee shop.

So, the former “GASF” of Las Vegas, N.M., has a new name – and a new mission.

Now it’s called “Reconnecting America.”

It’s still a non-profit group dedicated to converting old train stations into intermodal hubs, reports the Chicago Tribune, but it’s now a place where passenger train riders can easily get to buses, taxis or other transit systems to get to their final destinations.

The vision is one ticket to cover all modes of transportations (taxi, bus, train, plane, car, etc). You can buy a ticket that will cover the cost of an airplane trip from the U.S. to Paris, and use the same ticket to take a train to Brussels.

“After September 11, when the air transportation network was virtually shut down, we realized that Amtrak was a critical part of the security network,” says Hank Dittmar, the group’s president and CEO.

“We’re working on a federal policy to get railways to airports.”

In Chicago, Reconnecting America is working with city officials to get an improved Metra connection into expansion plans for O’Hare International Airport.

The group wants to extend the People Mover closer to the O’Hare Transfer Metra stop or make it a stop on a high-speed Amtrak line.

The group also is lobbying for the CTA’s Blue Line from the Loop to O’Hare to offer express trains like what’s available at London’s Heathrow airport.

They hope to shave 20 to 25 minutes off the trip.

“There you can take the regular tube [subway], which makes every stop,” he said. “It’s very cheap and slow, or for 15 pounds you can take the express from Paddington Station to Heathrow and get there in 15 minutes.” Another model is at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, where airplane passengers can board high-speed trains in the terminal basement. The trains go as far as Brussels and Amsterdam.

There are similar set-ups in the U.S., he said. Passengers at Newark, N.J., airport can board trains. San Francisco now has rail into its airport, an arrangement that took 15 years to create because one of the airlines and a local casino felt they were losing space, Dittmar said.

It’s critical to get support from different sectors for airport intermodal hubs. “You need financing from different sources: the airport, the public and private investors to make it happen,” he said.

The other part of Reconnecting America’s mission is to boost transit-oriented development that creates hubs where buses and rail systems meet. That’s easier to do in big cities such as Chicago.

“Transit-oriented development was never really forgotten in Chicago,” he said. “Bucktown/Wicker Park is a great example.” It has a highway, buses, a subway and a Metra train [Clybourn] within blocks of each other.

A transit hub is being constructed at Lake Street and Pulaski Road in the Garfield Park neighborhood (and will connect to the Chicago Transit Authority’s Green Line). The new transit building will provide day care and retail.

Several commercial building owners in the area have said they will fix up their property when the hub is built, says Scott Bernstein, president of Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology, a non-profit urban policy organization that works to remove barriers to transit-oriented development nationwide.

The Pulaski-Lake Street hub could spur construction of a new Metra stop a block away on Kedzie Avenue, he said, bringing more development to the area.

“There’s a lot involved in a new stop, even where there’s a need,” said Metra spokesman Tom Miller. “It’s a very detailed process.” That includes working with local officials to figure out parking, zoning, etc.


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Richmond celebrates ‘new’ station

Samuel H. Pryor stood on the sidewalk outside Main Street Station in downtown Richmond, Va., on December 17 and gazed up at the restored downtown landmark.

“Beautiful, beautiful,” the 66-year-old longtime Richmonder said.

“They did a great job. I’m so glad they brought [rail service] back downtown,” he told a Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter.

After years of planning and work, the station that survived floods, fires and even conversion into a discount mall reopens for passenger service today. The first Amtrak train to call on the renovated station, No. 77, departed around 10:37 a.m. on its way from Washington to Newport News.

About 300 officials and others gathered at the 102-year-old station to celebrate the first phase of a $51.6 million renovation. The event had an early-1900s flavor, with station workers in period clothing and jazz ensembles playing such songs as I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.

Standing on the platform, the crowd cheered and a few blew train whistles as a southbound locomotive rumbled into the station at 10:39 a.m. – two minutes late by a reporter’s watch. As the engine broke through a red, white and blue streamer hung across the track, confetti shot from barrels onto the crowd.

About 15 minutes later, a train heading north from Newport News got a similar reception. The trains carried municipal officials and other dignitaries, including U.S. Sen. George Allen, Rep. Robert C. Scott and former Gov. Linwood Holton.

“We all know that Richmond is right on track for a great future,” Mayor Rudolph C. McCollum Jr. shouted enthusiastically to the crowd. “Happy days are here again!”

The station’s revival is a key part of Richmond’s revitalization and transportation plans. City Manager Calvin D. Jamison predicted the station would spur investment in Shockoe Bottom, strengthen the region’s transportation network and promote tourism.

“That’s not bad for phase one,” he said. “The building doesn’t just have a history. It is our history.”


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Schenectady station plan fades

With a new $5.9 million Saratoga Springs passenger train station set to open within weeks and a $53.1 million showpiece in its second year greeting rail passengers in Rensselaer, it might seem that the next stop on the expansion express should be Schenectady – but it is not.

Electric City civic leaders say an ambitious plan for a $33 million revitalization project with a new intermodal bus and train station at its centerpiece, unveiled four years ago, has lost whatever steam it once may have had, and even regular users of the little Amtrak-owned station – an Amshack built in 1979 – say it’s functional and adequate, if rather dismal in its aesthetics, reports the Albany, N.Y. Times Union of December 17.

“It would look nice, but in my opinion, it‘s a waste of money,“ Herb Penske of Scotia said of the intermodal idea as he and his wife, Glendon, kept a friend company while she waited for a late Lake Shore Limited (Nos. 48/49).

“We have a bus station. We have a train station that works fine,“ he said.

A far higher priority than a new station for Schenectady, said the Penskes and Schenectady leaders, is better service – faster, more frequent and more reliable.

One key to accomplishing that, a long-promised second track between Schenectady and Albany to end a bottleneck where freight and passenger trains must take turns on one track, is looking more uncertain than ever.

The additional track was part of a complex high-speed rail contracts involving the state, Super Steel Schenectady and Amtrak, but cash-strapped Amtrak has told the state New York DOT it must withdraw from that agreement.

“I think that before we pursue anything like (a new station), we need to make sure we get the second rail in between Schenectady and Albany,“ said Schenectady Mayor-elect Brian Stratton. “You have to have a reason to invest in that kind of a transportation center.“

“A second track is going to drive the usage,“ said Chuck Steiner, president of the Chamber of Schenectady County, formerly the Schenectady County Chamber of Commerce. “It has everything to do with the scheduling of trains, and getting them between here and Albany in a safe fashion.“

An Amtrak spokesman said Tuesday the railroad no longer intends to do the second track, though a state DOT spokesman said the agency‘s position is that the agreement with Amtrak still stands and Amtrak remains obligated to install the additional Albany-Schenectady rail line.

Meanwhile, ridership through Schenectady continues to decline. Fewer trains to and from New York City, and the relative convenience of the Rensselaer station, which offers 10 Empire Service round trips to New York City each day, along with seats on other through trains like the Maple Leaf and the Adirondack, are among the likely reasons cited by Schenectady residents and Amtrak.

The Empire State Passengers Association thinks ticket prices also are a factor.

“We would like to see higher ridership numbers for service west of Albany,“ said ESPA President Bruce Becker. “We would push Amtrak to look at fares.“

Even without a new station or a second track to Albany, travelers can expect improvements at the Schenectady station.

Amtrak is in the midst of about $15,000 worth of structural and cosmetic work, including paint, new signs and concrete repairs, said Phillip Larson, the railroad‘s Rensselaer district manager.

The chamber and the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp. also are talking over some ways to improve the look of the current station, said chamber President Chuck Steiner.

Outdoor planters with flowers will be part of downtown streetscape improvements planned for 2004, Steiner said, and discussions have begun with the Schenectady Museum about exhibits that might be installed in the waiting area.

A mural by volunteer artists is envisioned for the retaining wall between the station and Lafayette Street, Steiner said.

In general, Steiner said, the chamber and downtown merchants are refraining from any grand visions for a new station. “Reality is speaking here,“ he said. “Because it‘s owned by Amtrak, you have to recognize Amtrak‘s overall financial situation. It‘s easy to say we would love to have a new station, but it‘s not in the cards, so you work with what you have.“


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Warwick station notion still alive

The long-proposed intermodal Amtrak station to serve T.F. Green Airport is “still alive,” but “it’s too soon to say things are going to go swimmingly,” Michael Cheston, says the executive director of the Rhode Island Airport Corp.

On December 13, at Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian’s request, the key players in the project met to discuss its status and give him some idea of where, if anywhere, it’s going.

Former Gov. Lincoln C. Almond’s vision for the Amtrak station included a “people mover” linking it to the airport and a parking garage for the fleets of rental cars serving the airport. Much of its cost, initially estimated at $168 million, would be paid with an added fee that would be charged by the car rental companies that use T.F. Green, but the rental companies balked at committing to the project.

In January, Gov. Donald Carcieri directed the RIDOT to plan on building the Amtrak station, at least, and the DOT shortly after said it was designing a station that would be complete in itself but also would be suitable for later expansion.

Since then, little has been said about the project. “No decisions of any sort were made” at the most recent meeting, said Carcieri spokesman Jeff Neal, who added that the governor has not yet decided what the ultimate shape of the project would be. Neal said that the potential cost of the project and possible financing sources were discussed.

While the meeting produced few answers, Avedisian said it was significant because it brought all the players to the table and let them see where one another stood.

“The frustration level had hit a point where everyone started to get annoyed with one another because the project wasn’t going anywhere,” Avedisian said.

He said he was optimistic that the project is on the move, and “I think we’ll have a decision about what the train station’s going to look like in the next couple of weeks”

The agencies involved will spend January updating the fiscal information, and getting an accurate picture of what the cost of the various versions of the project would be. The figures being used are now about two years out of date.


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West Oakland depot finds
multiple uses, but no trains

It’s hard to imagine the bleak landscape around the old Southern Pacific railroad station was once a bustling hub, teeming with travelers and commerce.

Now, Alameda, Calif. developers are planning to bring life back to the abandoned station at 16th and Wood streets, and to the empty blocks surrounding it, according to the Alameda Times-Star of December 15.

A $400 million Central Station plan would create a mini-city of at least 1,500 market-rate homes on 28 acres surrounding the depot. The centerpiece would be the restored station serving as a museum honoring the railroad’s historic contributions to transportation and the African-American community.

Oakland’s railroad terminus was the entry for many new residents who flocked west with the railroad. It served as the birthplace for the black labor movement through the efforts of Pullman car porters.

The 1912 Beaux Arts building, which has historic landmark status, was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and closed permanently not long after. Squatters took over and looters destroyed and stole everything that wasn’t nailed down and most of what was.

Emeryville-based developer Rick Holliday bought the station and 26 linear acres surrounding it more than three years ago. His plans have ranged from a high-tech campus surrounded by live-in and work lofts to big-box retail to a catering center to an auto mall.

Through every iteration, the station was always going to be renovated, and he has met several times with the community to get their feedback. Under the plan unveiled last week, the development team announced they intend to seek public funding to help pay for the estimated $8 to $10 million restoration.

Holliday has sold much of the property, including the station, to “BUILD,” a for-profit affiliate of nonprofit BRIDGE Housing, Inc. BUILD is constructing the bulk of the for-sale housing units, using a $15 million investment in infill development from CalPers, the state employee retirement system.

Another parcel was sold to Andrew Getz of HFH Ltd. of Emeryville. Getz plans to construct about 450 rental apartments, the only rental units in the entire development. Aside from the train station and adjacent switching station, only the old icehouse building at 11th and Pine streets will be saved and turned into lofts.

The project will take at least five years to complete, with parcels four, two and three going up first, in that order.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Mike Dukakis and John Businger

File photo

John Businger, right, has reconstituted a coalition to get the North-South Connector built. The project is doable, the former state House member says. Two years ago, Businger and former governor and Amtrak board vice-chairman Michael Dukakis rode the inaugural Downeaster from Boston to Portland, Maine. Both are working to get Gov. Mitt Romney to get the tunnel back onto the state’s table.

 

Bay State transit activists
move ‘Rail Link’ forward

By Jim RePass
NCI CEO

Boston, December 22 – A proposed rail tunnel linking Boston’s two major transportation hubs that would be the keystone to a New England regional rail network moved a step closer to reality this week, even as Boston’s massive Big Dig highway project was moving toward completion.

Working intensely since last fall, former state Rep. John Businger (D), a director of the National Corridors Initiative and its vice-president for the Rail Link project – along with other transit allies, including former Gov. Michael S. Dukakis (D) – have secured the support of 121 Bay State senators and representatives. They comprise a majority in both houses, and are asking Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) add the project to the state’s long-term transportation plan.

Rail Proposal route

Sierra Club, Massachusetts Chapter

The North-South Rail Link is gathering steam, and has the blessing of the Sierra Club.
In supporting the project, Dukakis said, “Continuing to try to run a regional commuter rail system that has to turn its trains around when they arrive at either end of downtown Boston makes absolutely no sense. This is a project that will add a lot of capacity to the existing system, take 60,000 cars off the road every day, and will be more cost-effective and efficient than other projects supported by the governor.”

This was done in the face of hostility or indifference from some members of the state’s gubernatorial leadership, and a bogus cost estimate for the project cooked up the waning days of the Swift Administration that more than tripled the original figure of $2.4-$3.8 billion.

Similar rail tunnels in Europe and Japan have been built for a fraction of even the low estimate given for the Rail Link.

Strong support for the letter to Romney came from Massachusetts state Reps. Anne Paulsen, Martin Walsh, and Paul Demakis, and from state Sen. Jack Hart, all of whom helped draft the letter with Businger and communicate its importance to their fellow solons.

Under the plan first proposed more than a century ago, and then again in the 1980s and 1990s, North and South stations would be linked by a two-track, 1-_ long tunnel, with a central underground station located at State Street, extensive underground shopping malls and pedestrian links throughout downtown Boston, and station platforms underground at North and South stations.

While creating a new kind of “underground” Boston that would help make the city a winter destination, much as Montreal has successfully done with its extensive underground facilities, the main impact of the North-South Rail Link would be creating a New England rail network that would boost the region’s economic attractiveness to business and tourism by improving travel access, and lowering the costs of transportation throughout the region.

Proponents of the Rail Link, including Businger, point to the extensive, region wide benefits of linking the so-called Northeast Corridor – Amtrak’s high-speed rail line to New York and Washington – with New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Canada. Providing a “one seat ride” would, they say, boost rail usage and reduce highway congestion.

They also see direct regional benefits such as fast suburb-to-suburb commuting, which would effectively increase the employee pool for employers locating in cities and towns served by the MBTA’s commuter rail system.

The “Purple Line’s” many branches would all connect through the Rail Link, allowing commuting between such city-pairs as Franklin-Lynn, Worcester-Braintree, Lowell-Providence, and other daily commutes which are now impractical on the highways because of extensive and growing road congestion around Boston.

It would also lower the costs, and increase the efficiency, of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority commuter rail and subway systems, since trains would run through the system end-to-end with passengers, instead of starting and stopping at South Station and North Station.

The Rail Link was originally to have been built at the same time as the Big Dig project now nearing completion, but was knocked out of the project on the grounds that it could not fit in the same “alignment” profile or pathway.

A committee headed by the Rail Link’s first great advocate, Guy Rosmarin, secured a commission from then-Gov. William Weld to study the Rail Link’s potential alignments, proved that assertion wrong. Rosmarin’s task force proved that the Rail Link would indeed “fit,” and Central Artery project design engineers were ordered to leave room in their work for the Rail Link’s alignment.


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Dulles rail:

Back to the drawing boards?

By Wes Vernon
Washington Bureau Chief

The effort in the Washington area to get badly needed rail service to Dulles International Airport continues, notwithstanding a recent setback.

The snag developed when the town council of Herndon, Va. (See D:F for December 8 and 15) noted that there was no guarantee that the trains would ever reach its jurisdiction, and then voted to opt out of a financial commitment to fund its portion of a carefully crafted plan.

That led to the sharks spotting blood in the water, so to speak.

Within hours of the Herndon action, a Virginia trial lawyer sued to stop the project because of his belief that it would “suck up” the money for badly needed roads.

Days later, the incoming chairman of the Metro Board, Robert Smith, announced that his state of Maryland – which he represents on the multi jurisdictional WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) Board – would not pay anywhere near the full amount of its share for the new line, and would instead pay only the lesser amount that would be required for a bus system to the airport.

Smith had the rug pulled out from under him by Maryland’s Transportation Secretary Robert Flanagan who said the state does not intend to interfere with Virginia’s right to set up its own rail transit projects.

This past week, Fairfax County, Va., where most of the Dulles line would operate, swore in its newly elected supervisor, Gerald B. Connolly, who has vowed to seek a way to get the trains to Dulles.

Meanwhile, Roger K. Lewis, a practicing architect and transportation consultant, said the root of the problem lies in the fact that a large project of this type depends on so many different jurisdictions signing off on it. It’s like building blocks. Remove one and the whole thing collapses.

Writing in the Washington Post, Lewis says WMATA “should be empowered to build” the Dulles rail line, and its cost “should be fairly shared by taxpayers across the region.”

The consultant, who is also a professor or Architecture at the Univ. of Maryland, acknowledges that he has “little hope that will happen soon.”

As a matter of fact, the Washington area had this debate and conversation decades ago when the Metrorail system was in its planning stages. Trying to get an agreement between Washington D.C., the states of Maryland and Virginia and jurisdictions within their borders is extremely difficult. It took years to put a sharing agreement together.

Best solution, Lewis said, is to “convince citizens and their governments throughout the region that a Metrorail line to Dulles would be an asset for everyone, not just for a few.”

The fact that the line is of great interest to the regions – not just Virginia or Fairfax County – is obvious, said Lewis.

Consider that it would provide the connectivity enabling people in D.C, and Maryland as well as in Virginia “to get to Dulles without enduring traffic.”

That is why Lewis believes that “Metro expansion and improvement should not depend on a taxing strategy so focused on a single geographically circumscribed group.”

The idea of giving WMATA its own taxing authority is not new. For years, it has been discussed and gone nowhere. Trying to convince all the jurisdictions in the Washington metropolitan area to adopt it is on a par with opening the proverbial can of worms.

So, back to the drawing boards.


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Schumer sees Manhattan-JFK rail link

New York Sen. Charles Schumer (D) last week proposed building a direct rail link from Lower Manhattan to Kennedy Airport, using part of the $20 billion aid the federal government gave the city after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Schumer said the project, which would cost up to $4 billion, would not require dipping into city or state coffers, Newsday reported on December 16.

“The real problem with downtown...(is) it has a very weak transit system,” Schumer said in an interview one day earlier.

With the new system, Schumer said: “I see business people going out to Kennedy. I see residents going out to Kennedy. And lots of Long Island people going into the city.”

The announcement came as Port Authority officials prepared for last week’s opening of the AirTrain rail link to Kennedy Airport. The train connects JFK with the Jamaica and Howard Beach subways, requiring Manhattan passengers to transfer. Schumer’s plan would link AirTrain to a new line directly from lower Manhattan.

Schumer’s announcement caught off-guard the office of Gov. George Pataki, who shares control of the Port Authority with New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey.

One official said that while the Pataki administration had expressed interest in a Lower Manhattan-Kennedy route, the governor also was interested in other transportation projects, like the redevelopment of West Street.

Nonetheless, a Pataki spokeswoman, Mollie Fullington, said, “We’re pleased the senator is joining the governor in support of direct airport and Long Island access from Lower Manhattan.”

Schumer said he favors a route starting at the new federally funded Fulton Street transit facility and then through a tunnel under the East River, which would be the most costly element of the plan.

The tunnel would end at the Atlantic Avenue Long Island Rail Road terminal, and then the train would continue on the tracks to Jamaica Station, where it would link with the AirTrain route.

Schumer said of the $20 billion promised after September 11, $1.7 billion is available for transportation funds and $1.2 billion for economic development. He said additional cash could be found in money garnered through unused tax breaks.

Asked why the federal government would fund a regional project, Schumer said, “It’s not new money. Everyone agrees we’re supposed to get $20 billion, and thus far there’s been a great deal of flexibility.”

John Feehery, a spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said the project “does look like it is not part of the intent of what the 9/11 money was all about.”

The current AirTrain cost $1.9 billion and was funded by a departure surcharge on airplane travelers and Port Authority funds.


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APTA HIGHLIGHTS...  APTA Highlights...

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


AirTrain JFK Launches Airport Connections

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey introduced service on its new AirTrain JFK rail system on December 17, the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ historic first flight.

AirTrain JFK provides fast, reliable, and convenient transportation to, from, and around John F. Kennedy International Airport, with connections to MTA New York City Transit subways and MTA Long Island Rail Road.

Passengers can ride free among the six stations in the airport’s Central Terminal Area loop for easy connections among all terminals; the Lefferts Boulevard Station for long-term and employee parking; and the Federal Circle Station for car rentals.


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Sen. Shelby, Rep. Rogers Visit NABI Headquarters

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) were among the dignitaries who visited the headquarters of North American Bus Industries in Anniston, Ala., December 1 for ceremonies including the launch of NABI’s CompoBus line.

The program titled “Innovation in Public Transportation” included the rollout of prototype 45-foot CompoBuses for rapid bus service in Los Angeles and Phoenix. Roger Snoble, chief executive officer of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and Ed Zuercher, deputy city manager in Phoenix, participated in the program.


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Final Transit Funding Action Awaits New Session of Congress

With Congress adjourning for the year without completing action on the omnibus funding bill, the federal public transportation program will continue to operate under a continuing resolution that funds transportation programs at Fiscal Year 2003 levels.

The House passed the omnibus appropriations package December 9 by a 242-176 vote; however, the Senate is now expected to take up the measure January 20, the date Congress is due to begin its new session. It is also the day President Bush delivers his State of the Union address.

Under the omnibus bill, transit would be funded at $7.266 billion, an increase of $40 million above the Administration’s request, and $87 million over FY 2003 levels. In addition to the Transportation-Treasury appropriations bill, the omnibus measure contains six other unfinished funding bills for the fiscal year that began October 1.

Since then, transportation programs have been funded under a series of continuing resolutions, with the current CR set to expire January 31.


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FTA Kicks Off ‘United We Ride,’ Seeks Award Nominees

The Federal Transit Administration recently announced “United We Ride,” a new five-part initiative designed to break down the barriers between transportation programs and to create local partnerships. U.S. DOT is introducing the program in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Education.

FTA kicked off the program at a December 1 event in Fairfax, Va., showcasing the human services transportation success stories of Fairfax County’s Fastran agency. Fastran is a public-private partnership founded in 1986 to coordinate human service transportation in a single agency, including service to senior facilities, mental health treatment and medical appointments, rehabilitation centers, and employment for adults with mental retardation.


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Ed Gallagher Dies; Longtime Employee of American Seating

Edward Paul Gallagher, 68, of Berwyn, Pa., a longtime sales employee of American Seating Co., died November 26.

Gallagher joined American Seating in 1970 as a regional manager in the Transportation Products Group. He was well known among his customers at transit agencies and tour and charter motorcoach companies on the east coast.


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U.S. DOT Releases $2.85 Billion to Restore Transit in Lower Manhattan

U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta announced December 3 that U.S. DOT would release $2.85 billion to restore public transit in lower Manhattan in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

New York Gov. George E. Pataki and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg joined Mineta for the announcement, which took place at the temporary Port Authority Trans Hudson Station at Ground Zero in New York.

“The important thing for all taxpayers and the lower Manhattan recovery is that these funds are available as needed for the grantee to expedite the development and completion of these critical public transportation projects,” said Mineta.

The grants released by U.S. DOT are:

A $1.7 billion grant for the World Trade Center Permanent PATH Terminal, a terminal under the World Trade Center site to serve the PATH subway system and provide pedestrian connections on the east to the Fulton Street Transit Center and on the west across West Street (Route 9A) to the World Financial Center and World Financial Center Ferry Terminal. Prior to September 11, the WTC Terminal served more than 130,000 commuter trips daily.

A $750 million grant for the Fulton Street Transit Center, a rehabilitated, enhanced, multi-level underground complex of stations to serve 12 different subway lines and over 275,000 commuter trips daily.

A $400 million grant for the South Ferry Subway Terminal, replacing the functionally obsolete station adjacent to and under Battery Park. The project will transform the single track, five-car station that serves the 1 and 9 subway lines with a three-track, 10-car, stub end two-platform terminal, and will be located immediately adjacent to renovated Staten Island Ferry.


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Bowman Named General Manager in Peoria, Ill.

Ella Bowman, director of planning and development with the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority in Birmingham, Ala., recently was named the new general manager of the Greater Peoria Mass Transit District (CityLink) in Peoria, Ill. She succeeds David Braun, who left CityLink in October to become general manager of the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky in Fort Wright.

Bowman is a 2001 graduate of the Leadership APTA program, and an employee of First Transit. She was general manager of Pueblo Transit in Pueblo, Colo., before joining the Birmingham system, and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in organizational management.


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

Support for bill by state

ASLRRA

As of December 11, 239 House members had signed on to support HR 876, the Local Railroad Rehabilitation and Investment Act of 2003.

 

Serving rural America

Short lines may get federal help

By Wes Vernon
Washington Bureau Chief

America’s 545 short line railroads may get the help they’ve been seeking for years.

Richard Timmons, President of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) struck a confident note in addressing the Transportation Table at the National Press Club December 12.

239 members of the House (a comfortable majority) have signed on to HR876, the Local Railroad Rehabilitation and Investment Act of 2003, to come to the smaller railroads’ aid. Right now the measure is pending in the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee whose chairman, Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), has not joined the signatories to the legislation.

Ways and Means spokeswoman Christin Tinsworth explained to D:F that the chairman typically does not sign on to legislation before his committee unless he is heavily involved with it or is one of the bill’s main sponsors. In short, Thomas has taken no position one way or the other, she said.

The tax-writing committee would deal with the legislation because unlike previous bills aimed at achieving the same purpose, HR876 seeks to help the small railroads with generous tax credits, rather than outright grants.

In answer to D:F’s question at the Press Club, Timmons explained that “the grant concept” proposed last year ran afoul of bitter controversies over the Davis-Bacon Law, requiring “prevailing [union] wages” to be paid to workers on federally funded projects.

That “no win” controversy kept last year’s bill dead in the water because the Democrats would not approve a bill without Davis-Bacon, and the Republicans would not back legislation that did include it.

“We struggled hard with that and tried to figure a way around it,” he told us, “and ultimately [congressional supporters] counseled that we ought to [find] a way to [deal with it]. Now what we’re using is the tax credit approach [so as to get] around Davis-Bacon.”

Further, he added, there are no “significant detractors from that,” notwithstanding the Davis-Bacon controversy could conceivably also figure in deciding whether to give the carriers tax credits.

It is “not as objectionable” because “it is a credit approach, rather than an appropriation approach,” according to ASLRRA.

Timmons said the large Class I railroads are on board for this bill. The tax credits would enable the mainline roads and the regional rural lines to interchange the newer 143-ton freight cars that have evolved in recent years.

Moreover, he added, “keep in mind that the Class I railroads make anywhere from 14 to 24 percent of their bottom line revenue from the [business they do] from the short line and regional railroads.”

Given those figures, it is hardly surprising that the major freight railroads back the bill. As their spokesman Obie O’Bannon put it in an e-mail to D:F, “AAR [Association of American Railroads] understands the infrastructure needs of our short line partners and fully supports the passage of HR876 and [its companion in the Senate] S-1703.

Simmons quoted AAR President Ed Hamberger as having spoken “forcefully on this a number of times.”

Quite a few of the short line and regional railroads are former branch lines of the same Class I carriers with whom they now do business. During the latter days of their former major railroad ownership, their infrastructure needs were of secondary priority to the focus on the main trunk lines. Today, it is in the interest of the Class I carriers and their partners in Classes II and III to keep the physical plant in condition for seamless exchange.

HR876 provides a $10,000 per mile tax credit for money a given railroad spends on rehabilitation and maintenance. The credit would be available each year for five years.

Many short lines don’t have enough taxable income to use the credit, so the bill allows them to transfer the credit to a third party, specifically “to a shipper or other company with which the short line does business,” Timmons explained.

Just so there is no misunderstanding: ASLRRA members still intend to pay most of the tab for the upgrade. The total is estimated at about $7 billion.

Of that, the bill would provide, in Timmons’ words, “$1.75 billion to upgrade 35,000 miles of track. He compared that with $900 million, more than half the amount pegged in HR876-for just one bridge alone, the Wilson Bridge over the Potomac River in Washington.

The CEO of one of the 11,500 shippers served by the short lines, Plum Creek Lumber Co. in Pablo, Mont., said, “While I am not an expert in national transportation matters, it seems to me that the federal government has placed far too little emphasis on the transportation needs of small town America.”

Three Republicans, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Dave Camp of Michigan and Jim Ramstad of Minnesota, were the three original sponsors.


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CSX

NCI: Leo King

CSX came under fire last week on two fronts, including USDOT’s inspector general. A pair of locomotives idle in Fernandina Beach, Fla., just one mile from the end of a 35-mph branch line.

 

IG warns of growing congestion

USDOT’s inspector general warned last week of increasing congestion on the nation’s rail networks, saying some routes cannot safely support growing passenger and freight demand.

“Despite railroads’ investments, certain parts of the railroad system have become severely congested and cannot accommodate the conflicting demands of both increasing freight movement and increasing commuter and (Amtrak) traffic,” said Kenneth Mead.

Rail traffic has increased 64 percent since 1980 with strong growth forecast through 2020, according to a freight and passenger industry audit by Mead, Reuters reported on December 15.

Writer John Crawley noted more traffic combined with a steady decline in track miles and reductions in railroad staff to save money aggravates already crowded conditions, industry officials said.

The audit found that problems are magnified by numerous infrastructure bottlenecks, including undersized bridges and tunnels, track design limits and outmoded communications systems.

While Mead did not say which routes were less able to handle their loads, a government-industry analysis in 2002 showed the mid-Atlantic region was facing a capacity crisis. In Chicago, industry and government are working on a plan to untangle acute congestion around that city. Texas and California also have crowded routes, industry officials said.

Amtrak, the nation’s only city-to-city passenger rail service, plans to spend more than $460 million on capital projects during the current fiscal year. Priorities include bridge and tunnel upgrades on its Northeast Corridor system – but Amtrak runs 70 percent of its operations on tracks owned and maintained by freight railroads.

Amtrak offers these companies millions of dollars annually to ensure passenger trains can meet their schedules. But Mead said two freight railroads in fiscal 2002 passed up a combined $37 million in Amtrak incentive payments, telling auditors it was not worth the cost of altering their operations to accommodate passenger trains.

The railroads were unnamed.

Cliff Black, an Amtrak spokesman, said freight rail reluctance to take Amtrak incentives was not a “nefarious plan” to disrupt passenger service.

“It’s an endemic problem that resides in the railroads themselves. They have difficulty getting their own trains over the road,” Black said.

Gary Sease, a spokesman for freight rail giant CSX Corp. headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., acknowledged the problem managing tracks for its commuter rail customers, especially in Maryland and Virginia.

“It’s a constant challenge to give those commuter agencies the level of performance they demand and at the same time meet the needs of our freight network,” Sease said.

Mead also recommended that regulators review CSX’s program for replacing ballast that helps stabilize ties and rails.

Sease challenged that maintenance criticism, saying if it was inadequate there would be more safety incidents caused by track problems.

“Our track-caused derailments are among the lowest in the industry,” Sease said.

Broken CSX trackage

NCI: Leo King

CSX is being criticized for poor track maintenance. This piece is near the Busch Budweiser Brewery in Jacksonville, Fla. on a branch line leading to Fernandina Beach, Fla., and Seals and St. Mary’s, Ga.

 

The Washington Post’s Don Phillips told his readers on December 16 CSX, with 23,000 miles of track, blankets the East from Canada to Florida and from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean. MARC and VRE commuter trains rely on its track in the Washington area, as does Amtrak.

The company is undergoing a catharsis, Phillips wrote. Even as it struggles with high costs and weak earnings, that railroad is pouring money into an under-maintained track structure. Officials at passenger railroads that depend on CSX to operate their trains say they are seeing a new attitude.

New chief executive Michael J. Ward also has not taken long to shed his reputation as a manager too nice and too entrenched to shake things up.

On September 11, he fired a longtime colleague and friend, chief operating officer Alan F. Crown, and assumed the operating duties himself. Then, on November 10, Ward sent a memo announcing that he would cut three layers from the current 11 layers of management, resulting in the elimination of 800 to 1,000 non-union employees.

“The smaller, more incremental changes we made over the last 12 months have not been enough to create the dynamic, entrepreneurial culture we need,” Ward wrote in the memo. “The slow pace of our progress frustrates customers, investors and each of us.”

In the latest round of cuts, 20 vice presidents were eliminated in one day last week.

Ward said in an interview with Phillips that he decided to act after seeing operating and financial numbers for the third quarter, in which the company’s earnings declined 15 percent from the same period a year earlier despite an improving economy. He said there were reasons for poor performance in the first two quarters, when the eastern U.S. was pounded by snowstorms and a hurricane, “but as we got into the third quarter, and it wasn’t improving, I had to sit back and say, ‘Where are we going?’”

Ward inherited a railroad plagued by years of embarrassing wrecks and criticism by federal regulators of its physical condition. A scathing FRA report in 2000 effectively put CSX on probation for two years.

After two Amtrak trains derailed on CSX tracks last year, the FRA inspected all CSX tracks on which passenger trains ran and concluded that more than 10 percent of it did not meet CSX’s own safety standards. The USDOT’s inspector general expressed concern last week that while CSX was doing more in some ways, it had replaced ballast at a level “significantly below” all other major railroads over many years.

Alexis M. Stefani, a DOT assistant inspector general, suggested that the FRA work with the railroad “to determine whether CSXT ballast practices represent a safety issue.”

Ward and other officials conceded that CSX for years limited capital spending in part to make its finances look better. It began reducing spending in the late 1980s, shortly before John Snow became CEO.

Snow is now President Bush’s Treasury secretary.

From 1991 to 1998, CSX spent less per mile of track than any other major railroad, regulatory filings show. Meanwhile, from a loss in 1991 and earnings of only 10 cents a share in 1992, CSX Corp. earnings soared to a record $4.17 a share in 1997, and CSX’s stock price nearly quadrupled.

“We got pretty good at stretching a dollar,” said Tom Schmidt, CSX’s vice president for engineering, “but that rubber band got stretched a little too thin in the late 1990s. By 2000, time caught up with us.” Shortly after the interview, Schmidt got caught up in the management downsizing and retired.

In 1999, Snow passed over Ward for the president’s job at CSX in favor of Ronald J. Conway, then executive vice president of operations at Conrail, parts of which were being merged into CSX after being acquired two years earlier.

“Ron Conway recognized the problem immediately” and made clear he wanted major investments in track and facilities despite plummeting earnings, Schmidt said. From 1999 to 2000, CSX’s expenses per mile fixing tracks, signals and the like shot up from about $18,000 a mile to more than $27,000, according to regulatory filings. CSX said a comparison of the years 1995 to 1998 with 1999 to 2002 showed the number of ties replaced per mile up 31 percent and the rail replaced per mile up 19 percent.

Snow fired Conway just nine months after naming him president in a disagreement over how Conway handled the FRA safety probe and replaced him with Ward, a CSX veteran – but Conway’s programs were preserved. Since 1999, track-caused derailments are down significantly. Main lines also have far fewer slow orders.

“We believe we were on the right track before the FRA” report in 2000, Schmidt said.

Snow, through his spokesman Rob Nichols, declined to comment for Phillips’ story.

Even after the FRA audit, CSX suffered wrecks that appeared to be caused by track or track maintenance mistakes, including the derailment of Amtrak’s AutoTrain in Florida on April 18, 2002, and its Capitol Limited on CSX tracks in Kensington, Md. on July 29, 2002.

Another wreck, a July 18, 2001, derailment and fire in the Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore, may well have not been CSX’s fault, but it did illustrate a new attitude in how the company has dealt with its problems.

On the first day, Ellen M. Fitzsimmons, senior vice president for law, sent agents to Baltimore with instructions to immediately pay all expenses and the cost of property damage for affected homes and businesses along Howard Street with no strings attached, “even if it was a hot dog stand.”

CSX, until then, had a history of fighting lawsuits and trying to hold down settlements as much as possible.

Fitzsimmons said cultivating such goodwill would help the railroad lose fewer lawsuits and reduce settlements. “It doesn’t matter if you were right,” she said. “If you were clumsy about it, you’ll die the death of a thousand cuts.”

The outspoken Fitzsimmons is also point person in CSX’s attitude toward passenger trains. Among other things, she said, when the railroad system becomes congested or delayed by weather, passenger trains come first under all circumstances. Fast freight trains are next in the pecking order and bulk trains, such as coal trains, are last.

The railroad has traditionally maintained an adversarial relationship with commuter agencies and Amtrak, and Ward appeared to endorse that stance in his first interview after being named chairman last January 31. “We don’t make any money” operating passenger trains, he said at the time. “The fees are not worth the priority they get.”

CSX officials and commuter authorities agree that the change has its roots in a major snowstorm that slammed the East Coast just two weeks after Ward became chairman.

The railroad canceled all service in the Washington-Baltimore area, including all Virginia Railway Express and MARC commuter trains, for days and refused to let rival Norfolk Southern use relatively clear CSX tracks between Alexandria and Washington to run Manassas line trains. Commuter agencies had a hard time reaching any railroad official and then were sometimes brushed aside. One CSX official in Jacksonville, Fla., and corporate headquarters reportedly barked, “I don’t have time to worry about commuters.”

While CSX could not keep open its lowland route from Washington to Richmond, Norfolk Southern kept open its mountainous Virginia main line, where weather conditions were much more treacherous.

“When we made decisions that were the opposite of Norfolk Southern, it was hard to see why we diverged,” Fitzsimmons said. Ward put it in more blunt terms: “I thought we were taking more hits than we needed to in some publications.”

CSX operates 60 trains for Amtrak, more than any other freight railroad, and until recently it usually ran them late. Now, the statistics tell a different tale.

Between 1999 and 2002, during the high-delay summer months from June through September, CSX paid $3.88 million more in late-train penalties under the Amtrak contract than it received in on-time incentives, including a $2.8 million payment in summer 2002. This June through September, however, CSX was $1.5 million in the black. The summer months are considered the best period to measure a railroad’s passenger on-time performance because this is when crews do most of their major maintenance work and when hot weather can force trains to slow down to avoid accidents from buckling track.

VRE, which issued scathing public statements about CSX’s failure to operate in last winter’s snowstorm, sent a letter to Ward on October 1 praising the “extraordinary measures” CSX took to try to keep trains running during Hurricane Isabel.

As Isabel bore down on the East Coast, CSX brought in hundreds of maintenance personnel with equipment to remove fallen trees and repair track. Dozens of new electric generators were installed at road crossings so gates would continue to work when power lines fell.

There is no shortage of skepticism that CSX will stick with its changes for the long term, but even critics acknowledge and welcome them.

“Actually, CSX has been trying to do better,” said Amtrak President David L. Gunn, who has not been shy in criticizing CSX. “The things they can control short term, they are doing.”

The broader, long-term picture for CSX is less clear.

It has the industry’s highest “operating ratio” -- 88.4 percent—meaning that the railroad spends 88.4 cents on operations for every dollar it earns. The mid-70s is considered good. Other key metrics, such as how long cars spend in yards and the average speed of freight cars, are not improving.

Speculation has abounded that CSX could be a takeover target for the Union Pacific Corp. Ward said, “There are absolutely no discussions between Union Pacific and us about a merger.”

Roger Nober, chairman of the Surface Transportation Board, which regulates railroads, said CSX seems to have been affected by a number of factors, including “external events and a lack of focus.”

“Clearly CSX has had some issues over the past year,” Nober said. “Are they in crisis? I don’t think they’re in crisis.”

Nober said he has heard no complaints from CSX customers about service, but he said a lot of customers think Ward may eliminate some of the longtime customer service managers with whom they have become comfortable.

Linda J. Morgan, Nober’s predecessor and now an attorney with Covington & Burling in Washington, expressed surprise that Crown was the first to go. “I’m always concerned when I see a person with that talent and dedication no longer be in the industry,” Morgan said.

For all of CSX’s problems, Ward noted that it is not in danger of a financial collapse. The railroad’s debt-to-equity ratio had fallen from a high of 62 percent, under the heavy load of the Conrail purchase, to 54 percent now, with a goal of 50 percent.

“We’re not in a meltdown mode,” agreed Jim Valentine, a railroad analyst for Morgan Stanley.

Morgan said CSX needs to improve its financial condition, and the Ward plan “obviously looks like an important step in that direction.”

But she added, “I think the jury is still out on whether it will work or not.”


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Short lines get green lights in New Jersey

Five New Jersey towns have lost their initial bid to block freight trains from rolling through Union County on reactivated lines.

On December 5, Superior Court Assignment Judge Edward W. Beglin Jr. dismissed all but one of the claims brought by five Union County towns – Roselle, Roselle Park, Kenilworth, Springfield and Summit – against the County and the Morristown & Erie Ry. in an effort to stop the freight lines reactivation.

Mobilizing the Region, published by the non-profit Tri-State Transportation Campaign, reported the one remaining count would not stand in the way of the project. The judge held that the towns could pursue a claim that Union County Freeholders violated the state’s Open Public Meetings Act at a June 5 meeting. The judge was compelled to allow both sides 30 days to further research the matter. If the County is found to have violated the act, it may be forced to hold the meeting again, an inconsequential outcome as far as the rail project goes.

The Staten Island Ry., which runs from Cranford to Linden, and the Rahway Valley Line, running from Cranford to Summit, had been dormant for nearly a decade, but in May 2002, the county contracted with M&E to rehabilitate and use the lines. The project moved forward until this summer when the five towns filed their claims.

Among the litany of claims that were dismissed, the towns had alleged that the county violated the Public Contracts Act and that the towns should be viewed as parties to any contract between the county and the railroad.

A leader of “Stop The Train,” a group opposed to the project, told the Newark Star-Ledger the towns plan to appeal the ruling and file claims with the STB.

Meanwhile, M&E has already spent $3.6 million on the project and plans to have the Staten Island Ry. running by next year and the Rahway Valley Line finished by 2005. Both lines will operate at relatively low volumes, serving industrial sites in Union County.

The reactivated line will not serve the Howland Hook container terminal, because a key section of track is missing. Howland Hook is being linked to busier freight lines and yards in the port district by a separate Port Authority project.


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UP plans stock sales

Union Pacific Corp. filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on December 15 to periodically sell up to $1 billion in debt securities and stock. Net proceeds from the sale will be used for general corporate purposes, the railroad said, including debt repayment, working capital, acquisitions, and stock repurchase programs, the company said in a shelf registration statement. Such a filing is designed to give companies advance regulatory permission to sell securities in one or more offerings, with terms and conditions generally determined at the time of sale.


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Another strong week for COFC, TOFC

Intermodal traffic on the nation’s railroads was once again up sharply during the week ended December 13 in comparison with the corresponding week last year, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported Thursday.

Intermodal traffic totaled 209,735 containers or trailers on flat cars (COFC and TOFC), up 6.6 percent from the comparable week last year. Container traffic registered a 6.8 percent gain, while trailer volume rose 6.1 percent from last year.

Carload freight, which does not include the intermodal data, totaled 334,063 cars, down 0.8 percent from last year with volume up 1.5 percent in the East but down 2.7 percent in the West. Total volume was estimated at 30.3 billion ton-miles, up 1.3 percent from last year.

Thirteen of 19 carload commodity groups registered gains from last year, with coke up 42.5 percent; farm products other than grain up 18.4 percent; grain up 9.8 percent and crushed stone, gravel and sand up 19.3 percent. Loadings of metallic ores were down 31.8 percent while coal volume was off 4.5 percent.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 50 weeks of 2003: 16,348,185 carloads, virtually the same as last year; intermodal volume of 9,609,425 trailers or containers, up 6.7 percent; and total volume of an estimated 1.45 trillion ton-miles, up 1.4 percent from last year’s first 50 weeks.

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

Carload freight was up but intermodal volume down on Canada’s railroads during the week ended December 13. Carload volume totaled 67,889 cars, up 8.9 percent, with agricultural products registering a 53.4 percent gain. Intermodal traffic totaled 42,099 trailers or containers, down 8.8 percent from last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 50 weeks of 2003 on the Canadian railroads totaled 3,156,476 carloads, up 1.0 percent from last year, and 2,096,015 trailers and containers, up 5.6 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for 50 weeks of 2003 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 19,504,661 carloads, up 0.2 percent from last year and 11,705,440 trailers and containers, up 6.5 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 13 totaled 8,538 cars, up 2.3 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 3,286 originated trailers or containers, down 2.8 percent from the 50th week of 2002. For the first 50 weeks of 2003, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 420,102 cars, down 2.9 percent from last year, and 173,029 trailers or containers, up 11.4 percent.

The AAR is online at www.aar.org


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: CBSMarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)32.0131.69
Canadian National(CNI)60.1960.00
Canadian Pacific(CP)26.6426.92
CSX(CSX)35.3734.38
Florida East Coast(FLA)31.8031.72
Genessee & Wyoming(GWR)30.0127.28
Kansas City Southern(KSU)14.1714.46
Norfolk Southern(NSC)23.5923.61
Union Pacific(UNP)67.8667.31


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LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear editor:

Some clarification in the captions to two of the Denver Union station photos.

My photo, with the large, empty expanse in the foreground, is of the west side of the station. The empty ground is former rail yards. No buildings of any significance were torn down in the making of that photo.

Gary Bowers’ photo, with the many buildings in the foreground, is of the east side of the station. These buildings form the heart of “LoDo,” or Lower Downtown, a hot, gentrified district. I can assure you all of these buildings are still standing.

Dave Bowe’s holiday shot is nice, and appropriate for this time of year. It is also of the east (downtown-facing) side of the station.

David Warner
Wilmington, Del.


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

Amtrak at Groton, CT

NCI: Leo King

Before there was catenary, there were diesels. Before there were 8,000 hp AEM-7s plying this route at Groton Conn., there were 3,000 hp F-40PHs. When Groton tower was still in daily service, and a functional signal control station, with a living, breathing block operator on duty, the Centralized Electrification and Train Control system was just a dream back in Boston… although it had begun creeping west from South Station. Next spring, those trees will see buds again.

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.


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