Destination:Freedom Newsletter
Destination:Freedom
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 3 No. 52, December 23, 2002
Copyright © 2002, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - James Furlong
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update


Merry Christmas!

Happy Chanukah!

We wish you and yours a happy holiday, and a joyous new year. This is our last issue for 2002. We will begin our fourth year (where does the time go!) on January 6, 2003.

Happy New Year!
Entering the NY Tunnel system

NCI: Leo King

It’s a little murky looking through the dusty cab window from westward No. 93, but up ahead, just beyond the bridge, is the entrance to one of the tunnels finally getting repaired.

 

Tunnel repairs begin in January

Amtrak has awarded a contract to a California construction company to replace ventilation shafts in the railroad’s New York City tunnels.

Granite Construction Inc. of Watsonville stated in a Dec. 16 press release that it was awarded a $66.2 million contract.

They will demolish and rebuild two ventilation shafts “servicing four existing tracks in the East River Tunnels located in Long Island City, Borough of Queens, New York.”

The project is expected to allow safer exiting from trains for passengers and crews in an emergency, such as a fire.

D:F first broke the story of the tunnels being in disrepair two years ago.

It will also allow rescuers to respond on new stairs, “a special assistance hoist system and a high-capacity reversible tunnel ventilation system.”

The project also includes replacing “existing traction power substations and incorporates all above-ground structures into a single rectangular structure approximately 35-feet tall.”

Work is expected to be finished by December 2006.

The money came from funding approved for North and East River life and safety tunnel enhancements, and is a separate capital grant from other Amtrak funding.

Granite Construction Co. is online at www.graniteconstruction.com.


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Authority looks for variable Downeaster fares

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which runs Amtrak’s Downeaster, is proposing a new fare system that would increase ticket prices on the most crowded trains and drop prices on runs that usually have many empty seats.

Overall, fares would go up more than 4 percent. The increase, which would take effect in February, would be the first since the service began a year ago, and would be modeled after the way airlines do business, according to the Portland Press Herald of December 17.

The biggest increase on a Portland-to-Boston ticket would be $2, from $21 to $23. Fares would change with the seasons, rising in the summer on many trains but then dropping after Labor Day.

The proposal calls for slashing fares for commuters traveling within Maine but increasing fares by 7 percent to 15 percent for passengers departing from stations in New Hampshire. Passengers departing from Haverhill, Mass., would also see an increase.

Maine is the only state that subsidizes the service, and rail authority officials say they want to show the Maine legislature that they are making every reasonable attempt to minimize the state’s subsidy.

That state subsidy is $400,000 this year, but the rail authority projects it will grow to $1.3 million when federal start-up money dries up in two years.

The authority’s directors voted on December 13 to present the plan to the public for discussion.

John Englert, the rail authority’s executive director said it is “a matter of trying to eke as much from our existing infrastructure as we possibly can. It is simply smart business. That’s all.”

The authority is trying to address the uneven way the service is being used. While some weekend trains are so crowded that people are turned away, many weekday trains have a surplus of empty seats. The Downeaster has many occasional riders but not many regular riders, and very few people are using the train to travel within Maine.


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Disney plays hardball over bullet train

The Disney crowd in Orlando, Fla., is playing hardball – if the coming bullet train stops anywhere else around Orlando, it won’t stop at Disney World, officials say.

Like all trains, the high-speed trains will need riders and money.

Walt Disney World ferries 2.2 million visitors a year to and from Orlando International Airport, and Disney is willing to put all those people on the high-speed train – but only if the train travels nonstop between their complex and the airport, effectively bypassing Orange County’s huge convention center and Disney’s largest theme park competitors.

The St. Petersburg Times reported last week if the train stops to serve attractions along International Drive, including Universal Studios and Sea World, Disney has told state officials to forget about putting a station anywhere near Mickey’s, Minnie’s, Donald’s and Goofy’s front door.

If Disney opts out, the high-speed train meant to link Orlando with the Tampa Bay area and eventually connect the state’s five largest metropolitan areas, would completely bypass the largest single entertainment complex in the world and lose those 2.2-million riders.

“They don’t want people from their park to get on the train and go to other attractions, and the way they’re going to do that is to make sure that the train doesn’t go to other attractions,” said Miami consultant William Dunn, a member of the state’s High Speed Rail Authority board. “I think they’re going to succeed. I don’t see anyone who’s going to stop them.”

Against all predictions, Florida voters approved a high-speed rail system as an amendment to the state Constitution in 2000. The mandate is to begin construction by next November.

The first leg, estimated to cost about $1.3-billion, would tie the Tampa Bay area and Orlando over the Interstate 4 corridor, about 75 miles in a straight line, plus another 20 miles or so to link up with St. Petersburg. While it will be enormously expensive to extend the Tampa end of the rail line over the water to Pinellas County, that is what the enabling legislation calls for.

The Tampa-St. Petersburg link was expected to be the most serious problem faced during design of the first leg. Then the route controversy developed in Orlando.

“It’s the biggest game of poker in town right now,” said Christine Kefauver, the Orange County Commission’s director of transportation. “You should connect the public airport to a public convention center and not bypass a public facility for the benefit of a private organization. It’s just a really sticky situation.”

Disney has never been shy about throwing its weight around. As the largest property taxpayer in Orange County, Disney interests expect their voices to be heard on major local issues.

In this case, Disney officials say they are the ones listening.

“We’re obsessed with getting feedback from our guests, and they tell us they want a direct connection to the airport,” said Marilyn Waters, a Disney spokeswoman.

“Witness that now they come into the airport, get on a bus and go directly to their hotel (inside the Disney complex). To go with high-speed rail, we would be adding one stop at a rail station, where they would transfer to a bus; but for the good of the community, we’re willing to advocate a two-tier system.”

Disney favors having nonstop service along the Central Florida Greeneway to the south side of the airport. Local officials favor a route that stops at Disney, then continues up I-4 to the Bee Line Expressway, where another station would give access to the convention center and International Drive, and then to the north side of the airport.

Disney insists the Bee Line route would be better served by a new light rail system, and that putting high-speed rail there would preclude light rail forever.

C.C. “Doc” Dockery, the millionaire Lakeland businessman who used $2.7-million of his money to persuade voters to approve high-speed rail and who is a member of the rail authority board, said the route decision will be up to the vendor chosen to build, maintain and operate the system. And he expects that vendor to go with Disney’s plan.

“Whoever it is will have to make a go of things without state subsidies,” Dockery said. “If you’ve got a route that generates $25-million more in revenue than the alternative, the vendor is going to take it.”


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Reistrup Retires from CSX; was second Amtrak president

Veteran railroader Paul Reistrup will retire on December 31, reports freight carrier CSX.

Al Crown, executive vice-president, transportation, said his retirement comes “following successful integration of CSX Transportation’s passenger and commuter rail network.”

Reistrup was Amtrak’s second president. His railroad career spanned more than 40-years. He joined CSXT in Washington, D.C., in 1997 to integrate the passenger and commuter operations that expanded following the Conrail transaction.

CSX says it has more intercity passenger and commuter operations than any other U.S. freight railroad. Over the last five years, on-time performance of Amtrak and commuter operations on CSXT has risen to more than 90 percent.

“With his vast railroad experience and his leadership of Amtrak in its early developmental stages, Paul brought an added dimension to this role for which we are grateful,” Crown said. “As a result, we have the processes necessary to fulfill our service commitments to the passengers and commuters traveling on our railroad.”

Reistrup said he enjoyed the opportunity to build CSX’s passenger and commuter network into one of the industry’s best.

“CSXT is committed to the support of its passenger and commuter operations as evidenced by those who will follow me in this important role,” Reistrup said.

John M. Gibson will be the new vice-president, passenger; and operations planning, and Jay S. Westbrook will become assistant vice-president, passenger and operations planning. Both men began their jobs on Friday.

Gibson was an asset manager and has a track record in public safety, “and has helped CSXT deal effectively with current and emerging issues related to our passenger and commuter operations,” Crown said.

Westbrook has an engineering background and public policy experience, Crown added.


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POWER LINES...

Fussell gets his F-40

Rail advocate Chris Fussell got his F-40PH last week (See D:F of December 9).

Fussell had been working for a year to rescue No. 231, and an ‘angel,’ who he has not named, loaned him $20,000 so he could buy the engine – in running condition – and save it from a scrapper. The next move is to donate it to a Portland, Ore., museum. That plan changed a bit though. Now it’s going to a different museum, he said last week.

December 16 was “the official purchase date,” he said.

Now he has to continue raising funds to repay the loan.

Fussell said, “A brake valve was robbed, but obtaining another one isn’t going to be a problem. Another element the inspector noted on the “missing parts” list were the number boards” – a pair of 2-3-1s. “A thief made off with them.”

He said he and Doyle McCormack, of steam engine fame, reviewed the sales order and mechanical report. Fussell signed the order, “and funds were transferred. I guess this means I officially own the No. 231.”

He added, “The grand plan is to donate the F-40 to a local museum. Initially, we talked about donating it to the Northwest Rail Museum, but decided that donating to Friends of 4449 might be more ideal for the 231.”

He explained one reasons is “Since we want to keep this engine in operating status, we want to put it in a group that has volunteers who have long kept things running.”

He noted, “I’ve helped out at the Brooklyn Roundhouse here and there, but I, along with other volunteers, are ready to revive the F-40 locomotive.”

Fussell said that over the next four weeks he will travel on the Empire Builder to Chicago “to meet with some mechanics who have generously offered their assistance.” They will then travel to Beech Grove, Ind., “and wrap up some loose ends, generally some work on the HEP generator, brake valves, trucks and wheels.”

He said getting the engine back to the West Coast is still murky.

“Transportation options have become available, but they remain under consideration.…”

The engine must be out of Beech Grove by January 18, otherwise pay a “late fee of $75 per day,” or that’s $2,250 a month. One possible solution is to haul it dead-in-tow in a scheduled Amtrak consist between Chicago and Portland.

Fussell’s e-mail address is chris@portlandtransit.org


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COMMUTERLINES...

Plano’s DART ridership hit target on first day

Dallas Area Rapid Transit officials didn’t expect to see 188 riders getting on at its new Plano, Texas station until the end of 2003. It did it on the first day.

Plano Transportation Manager Lloyd Neal told the City Council, “Our ridership is already at its planned capacity,” on December 16. He added, “The parking lot (at the Parker Road Station) is full, and we’re very happy with that.”

Projected average daily ridership by the end of 2003 was 188 for the downtown Plano station and 2,046 for the newly opened Parker Road station.

Cameron Gross was one of the thousands who endured a cold wet Monday to ride the first trains leaving Plano since December 1948 when the old Interurban Railway ended operations.

“It’s very convenient and my company subsidizes some of the cost of the ticket,” Gross said from the Parker Road Station platform Monday. “It was a positive experience without much confusion.”

Gross, a Texas Instruments engineer who lives in Allen, said his company provides a free shuttle to pick up workers from the station while paying part of the fare.

Jacque Walker, another of the DART converts, uses a combination of car, truck and light rail to make it from her home in Oak Cliff to her office at Southwestern Bell Corp. in Plano.

Walker parks her car at the Dallas station, leaves her truck at the Plano station, and rides the rail between points for cost savings, convenience, and mobility.

“It saves me 160 bucks a month and allows me to read the Bible, do devotion, or do work on my way to and from work,” Walker said Monday. “The savings is a huge plus when I don’t drive my SUV all the way.”

Commuter complaints were few in number, but Plano resident Pat Miner asked the city Monday for more work to improve traffic around the Parker Road Station.

“The Parker Road traffic flow is not good at all,” said Miner, a seasoned DART rider. “Obviously the rain didn’t help matters, but the flow for pedestrians and cars was very bad.”

Trains run every 10 minutes during rush hour, every 15 minutes at midday, and every 20 minutes after 6 p.m.


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Connex in trouble in England, Australia

Rail transportation conglomerate Connex, just awarded the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Commuter Rail contract, is in trouble on a British rail line and an Australian route, but okay on another Aussie line.

Reports from London on December 11 disclosed Connex says it cannot afford to carry on operating. The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) said it is bailing out the Connex South Eastern train company, which runs services between London and Kent and Sussex.

Connex is said to be sustaining enormous losses and executives now say they cannot continue to operate while losing so much money.

The firm’s franchise will now finish at the end of 2006 rather than in 2011. The government’s rail authority will pay the money to keep the company going for another year, but it is planning to renegotiate the franchise to ensure that promised new trains are delivered before 2006.

Eventually a new franchise will be advertised and will include local services on a high-speed line to the channel tunnel.

This package has short and long-term benefits for passengers,” said Nick Newton, the SRA’s chief operating officer.

“It secures the continuation of Connex’s efforts to improve punctuality, ensures delivery of the program to replace slam door trains, and opens the way for an expanded Kent franchise from 2007 incorporating the proposed high speed services.”

Critics of the government have said the bailout is further demonstration that the government will always rescue privatized train operators, rather than letting them go bust.

More than half the 25 train companies have now received extra public money as part of refinancing or restructuring deals, but an SRA spokesman defended the bailout.

“Connex had been losing money and was likely to have continued to do so,” he said.

“We wanted to have a degree of stability and that’s why we have announced the extra subsidy.”

Connex is a French-owned private rail firm that runs services throughout Europe.

It was originally awarded both the south-central and southeastern franchises, but lost the south central franchise in October 2000 following criticism of its management and performance.

In Australia, Victoria’s privatized public transport system is in crisis after the biggest operator – Connex – said on December 16 that it would abandon its train and tram services by before December 28.

The sudden walkout by British company National Express will force the state government to resume control of more than half of Melbourne’s trams and trains and the “V” Line rail service.

Transport Minister Peter Batchelor said that transport services would continue with minimal disruption.

“Our priority is to make sure that trains, trams and buses continue to operate tomorrow and in the days ahead,” Batchelor said.

“We have asked National Express to assist us in ensuring there is a seamless transition.”

Although the government, possibly through a receiver company, will oversee National Express operations for the short term, Batchelor ruled out taking the transport system back to full government control.

“We’ve still got two private operators and we’ve got to continue with privatization,” he said.

National Express said it would hand back its train and tram operations to the government by December 23 -– just over three years into its contracts of between 10 and 15 years.

The announcement came after emergency talks with the government failed to resolve a continuing dispute over the level of taxpayer subsidies for the company’s loss-making M Tram, M Train and V Line services. It is believed the government signaled it was not prepared to meet demands by National Express for an additional subsidy of more than $100 million.

Earlier this year, the government agreed to a $105 million financial bailout for the three transport operators, with National Express getting more than $45 million.

National Express is now set to write off $200 million from its local businesses. It also has $135 million in security bonds at risk.


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Chicago’s METRA may extend Wisconsin service

Chicago’s Metra commuter rail service should be extended from Kenosha to Racine and Milwaukee at a cost of $152.1 million, an advisory panel in Wisconsin said last week.

The panel is recommending a medium level of commuter rail service, which would include vehicles, stations, track and signals, storage and servicing, according to the Chicago Daily Herald of December 13.

High-level service would cost $224.8 million. Federal money would pay for 80 percent of construction costs and about $5 million of the net operating costs, estimated to be $15.4 million a year. Wisconsin would pay $10.4 million for net operating costs. Under a medium-service scenario, the rail service would provide about 4,100 weekday rides, or 1.14 million trips a year. A high level of service would provide up to 5,100 weekday trips, or 1.4 million trips a year.


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Funding is key to Arizona light rail

Nearly three-quarters of business and community leaders in Maricopa County, Ariz., support the construction of a light-rail system for the region, at least conditionally.

According to poll, reports the Phoenix Business Journal of December 13, 72 percent of people surveyed stated that federal funding for the system is very important in their decision to support or oppose light rail.

“It looks like” business community support “may be withdrawn if the federal funds are also withdrawn,” said Michael O’Neil, poll director.

Arizona’s Congressional delegation is trying to get federal money for light rail in Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa. Scottsdale has not yet decided whether to join the effort.

Although the business community embraces the light-rail concept, they do not plan to be the most loyal users. Twenty-eight percent expect to use the light-rail system only a few times a year. Another 17 percent say they will never use it, but more than half admit that traffic congestion is a very serious problem in the Valley right now.

People who said they would use light rail said they would use it most often for transportation to special events and to the airport.

The O’Neil Associates Valley Influentials Poll is a Web-based survey that was sent to all members of Greater Phoenix Leadership, East Valley Partnership and Westmarc. The survey was conducted between October 11-24, and 331 people participated. The poll’s margin of error was plus-or-minus 4.9 percent.


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Jacobs to build Las Vegas monorail

The Las Vegas Resort Corridor Fixed Guideway Project – Las Vegas Monorail – now has a project manager.

Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. said on December 17 it received a project management consultant services contract to oversee the project’s second-phase development, preliminary engineering, design, and construction

Jacobs will serve as an extension of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) and provide day-to-day project management for the $450 million design-build-operate-maintain project.

The project consists of approximately three miles of dual-beam elevated guideway and five stations along the resort corridor. Several stations will have direct access from their mezzanine levels into adjacent casinos. The project also calls for building a maintenance, operations, and storage facility as well as a maintenance recovery vehicle system.

The monorail system will use fully automated Bombardier Mark VI trains, and will be the first transit system in the U.S. to use the cars. When completed, the Las Vegas Monorail will also be the largest operating monorail system in the United States.

The project is currently nearing the end of preliminary engineering, which Jacobs also developed.

The firm also wrote the monorail Project Management Plan (PMP), which is the measure by which the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) determines the RTC’s ability to manage the project. Jacobs developed the PMP that has been recommended for approval from the FTA within five months.


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GO Transit gives Bombardier a ‘go’

Greater Toronto Transit Authority (GO Transit) has awarded Bombardier Transportation an order for 20 new-generation bilevel commuter rail cars. They will join 341 other Bombardier-built cars. Valued at $55 million, the contract calls for designing, building and delivering.

GO Transit has ordered cars that will be accessible to the physically challenged. Each vehicle offers total capacity of 378 passengers (133 seated and 245 standees) on two full decks and intermediate end decks.

The design allows for higher ceilings and better seating, stairway and door positioning, the firm stated.

The low-level platform doors let a full carload of passengers on or off within 90 seconds, minimizing platform congestion.

The vehicles will be built at Bombardier’s Thunder Bay, Ontario, manufacturing facility. Production will begin immediately and first deliveries are expected late next summer.


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

 

Los Angeles starts two new bus lines

On Dec. 15, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority began phasing in a 24-line expansion of its successful Metro Rapid bus program with the introduction of service in the Vermont Avenue and South Broadway corridors. Rides were free through December 16.

“Metro Rapid has been a huge success story in Los Angeles, and has generated considerable interest from other large cities that are trying to grapple with congestion,” said Los Angeles Mayor and MTA Board Member James Hahn.

“These new Metro Rapid lines on Vermont Avenue and South Broadway will take a large bite out of the daily commute time of thousands of bus passengers and I’m confident that once again Metro Rapid will attract many new riders to the system.”

The 11.9-mile Vermont Metro Rapid (Line 754) operates on Vermont Avenue from the Metro Red Line Vermont/Sunset Station to the Vermont Metro Green Line Station. The 10.5-mile South Broadway Metro Rapid (Line 745) runs on South Broadway from Los Angeles Union Station to the Harbor Station on the Metro Green Line.


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Knoxville adding service to university campus

Knoxville Area Transit in Knoxville, Tenn., and the Univ. of Tennessee are preparing to introduce service on a new university transportation system, to be called “The T,” in January. This service is part of the university’s master plan to encourage campus pedestrian and transit alternatives.

New services will include “The T: East-West,” a fare-free service that will operate every five minutes between residence halls, the heart of campus, and major academic buildings.

“The T: Late Nite” will also serve the historic Fort Sanders neighborhood adjoining the campus. Two paratransit services, provided under the Americans with Disabilities Act, will operate “Access,” during the day, and “Link,” in the evenings.


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Colorado State dedicates transit center

Colorado State University and the city of Fort Collins marked the recent opening of the new Transit Center on the university’s campus with dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

The celebration was held to mark completion of the first part of an $11.5 million project, designed to increase use of public transportation and to decrease personal car travel by students and city residents.

The facility is a joint project between the university and the city, with financial support from the Federal Transit Administration. $9.2 million is from the FTA and the remaining $2.3 million from the city.


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FREIGHTLINES...

CG engines at the barn

NCI: Leo King

Georgia Central Ry. is typical of the kind of short line railroad that could benefit from an infusion of federal dollars to upgrade track. The 150-mile railroad operates between Savannah and Macon and carries about 25,000 carloads annually, according to data on its website, at http://www.rail-management.com/Railroad___Trucking_Operations/Georgia_Central_Railway__L_P_/georgia_central_railway__l_p_.html. Its engine shop is in Lyons, Ga.

 

Short lines rail boss:

Smaller lines on ‘ticking time bomb’

By Wes Vernon
Washington Correspondent

America’s smaller railroads need help now or many of them will go out of business, warns Richard F. Timmons, the new president of the American Short Lines and Regional Railroads Association.

Timmons, a former army general, says his new duties at ASLRRA are not entirely foreign to the tasks that confronted him during his four years as a high-ranking military officer – more about that later. His problem, in a nutshell, is that the infrastructures of many smaller lines are “falling apart.”

Infrastructure, of course, is a perennial problem with the entire railroad industry, which does not enjoy a government backed “trust fund” as highways and airlines do. The smaller lines feel that pinch in spades. Simmons is sending an SOS to Capitol Hill.

Legislation to remedy the problem – HR-1020 – has been bottled up in Congress, victim of a fierce, often-recurring ideological battle. Republicans won’t sign off on it if it contains Davis-Bacon (prevailing wage) provisions. Democrats won’t give the measure the green light without Davis-Bacon included.

Speaking to a December 13 luncheon meeting of the Transportation Table at the National Press Club here in Washington, Timmons warned that many of his member railroads were sitting on a “ticking time bomb.” The basic problem is that many of them are no longer able to interchange much of the equipment with the Class I railroads because the main trunk lines are bringing on freight cars that are too large for the smaller lines’ tracks to accommodate, according to federal regulations.

“Without the upgrades necessary to handle 286,000-pound freight cars, the evolving new standard, the short lines will steadily be unable to accept those heavier cars from class I railroads. Thus, they will incrementally lose business and collapse,” the new ASLRRA boss predicted.

That does not mean he’s asking the feds to foot the whole bill. Based on the Association’s studies, Timmons figures it will take about $7 billion to make the entire short line system “286 capable.”

What is needed is to “get the RRIF (Railroad Infrastructure Financing) program up and running the way it should be.” That would mean $1.5 billion in loans added to $1 billion in federal funding. Over time, “short line revenues” will finance the remaining $4.5 billion. Translation: The short lines are asking only enough to make it possible to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps.

“While at the end of the day, the short lines will pay the majority of the cost,” the short lines president told the luncheon, “our economics are such that we can’t get to ‘the end of the day’ without the initial shot of federal money.”

That, in turn, will not happen unless and until the Republicans and Democrats work out their Davis-Bacon dispute. Timmons said “a strong group of Congressmen” is “trying to work this out with the House leadership.”

Noting that the Association of American Railroads (AAR, the voice of the Class Is) had advocated help for the smaller lines, one questioner posited that they should try to help since the bigger railroads sold the smaller operators “a bunch of losers” with inadequate infrastructure.

Timmons replied that is not the point. The overriding issue, he said, is that the ability of the smaller lines to interchange with the larger railroads is important to the AAR members as well. Without the ability of smaller lines to pick up from and hand off cars to the main lines, the larger rail companies lose, too. Failure to serve the customers on the small or rural carriers’ routes, by extension, adversely affects the trunk lines as well.

Other items on the legislative agenda hopefully would be included in the T-21 omnibus transportation bill, which is up for reauthorization in 2003. They include a federal tax credit for capital investment and maintenance expenditures and legislation that would allow short lines to be eligible for flexible funding.

Once again, we get back to the Davis-Bacon stalemate, which haunts just about everything the short line operators request on the federal level. That, in turn, raises another issue: To what extent can the smaller “Mom and Pop” operations afford “prevailing (i.e. union) wages”? In some cases, the CEO is also the engineer, conductor, brakeman and bookkeeper to boot. Quite often he will typically work long hours just to stay in business.

What does all this mean to the overall economy?

Timmons points out that Amtrak has argued that if Congress were to end federal support for its operations, the jobs in its $1.118 billion annual payroll would be lost to the economy.

“Our annual payroll is the same,” he declared.

The military connection?

The day Timmons arrived in South Korea to assume his post as commander of the U.S. Eighth Army and Chief of Staff of U.N. forces there, his predecessor said a few nice words about him in a formal military ceremony. After that, the predecessor handed Timmons the keys, boarded a plane, and was never seen nor heard from again.

Timmons then was ushered into his new office where an intelligence officer said, “General, it’s really great to have you here, and by the way, we think the North Koreans have a nuclear bomb, and we recommend you get ready for war tomorrow.”

Assuming the helm with the short line railroads, outgoing president Frank Turner gave Timmons the keys, “and while Frank was kind enough to stick around and get me up to speed, I learned very quickly that the short line industry and the Association itself are facing some very important challenges. Not nuclear, but very important.”


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Texas entices Toyota with rail line

Texas Gov. Rick Perry wants Toyota to land in San Antonio in a big way, and is willing to put the state’s money where his mouth is.

He proposed on December 18 to put up $15 million in state cash to build an eight-mile freight rail line that would settle questions about rail access to a proposed Toyota site in southern Bexar County, reports the San Antonio Express-News.

The rail route is expected to cost between $19 million and $22 million.

The state funding, Perry said, would come from the state Smart Jobs fund and would have to be earmarked by lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session.

“The commitment (of the state of Texas) to this project is serious, to say the least,” Perry said. A new countywide rural rail transportation district would cover the rest of the construction costs by issuing revenues bonds. If legislators approve the funding, Perry said, construction of the new line could begin in six to eight months.

Texas is competing with Marion, Ark., for the Toyota assembly plant, which is expected to produce 100,000 pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles annually. The payroll would be an estimated $265 million each year.

The city’s bid has been threatened by the lack of rail access.

Union Pacific Railroad currently has a monopoly in southern Bexar County, but Toyota requires that at least two railroad companies have access to its manufacturing sites, which allows the company to use competition to keep its shipping costs down.

UP, so far, has refused to grant competitor Burlington Northern & Santa Fe access to its line near the proposed plant site. Instead, UP is negotiating directly with Toyota.


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BNSF expands ‘guaranteed on-time carload service’

The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Ry. Co. said last week it has expanded its guaranteed on-time carload rail service to seven lanes, including three additional lanes from the Pacific Northwest to Arizona and northern/southern California, and two from northern/southern California to the Midwest.

BNSF now offers guaranteed on-time carload rail service in the following lanes:

Three separate lanes from Pacific Northwest to Arizona, Northern California, and Southern California; another from Northern California to the Midwest; and another from Southern California to the Midwest.

Routes from Pacific Northwest to Texas and Midwest began in October.

BNSF said the guarantee allows shippers to purchase, for a premium, a guarantee for on-time carload rail service in any of these lanes.

“With the guarantee, BNSF will offer a 100-percent refund for each load that arrives after the agreed-upon transit time at the customer’s location. BNSF measures on-time performance from the time a customer releases the car to the time it is spotted at the customer’s dock,” a spokesman said.

BNSF is online at http://www.bnsf.com


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NS prepares for holiday shutdown

Norfolk Southern reports it will begin curtailing operations on December 23.

Operations “will be reduced to minimal levels by December 24, as necessary to meet customer demand where necessary and to provide for fluid operations in critical areas to enable a smooth transition to normal service levels on December 26, following the holiday period.”

The company said the same plan will be followed for the New Year’s, beginning December 30.


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CN buys 550 new freight cars

Canadian National said last week it will acquire 350 new boxcars and 200 new centerbeam flatcars next year for its service-sensitive forest products customers.

The high-cube 50-foot boxcars for newsprint and fine papers, and the 73-foot centerbeam cars for lumber, will incorporate the latest in rail car technology “and will each have a gross rail load capacity of 286,000 pounds.”

CN will build 100 of the boxcars at its Transcona Shops in Winnipeg, the first such construction program in decades. Trinity Industries, Inc., will construct the remaining 250 boxcars with the centerbeams to be built by the Greenbrier Companies’ TrentonWorks Ltd.

Stan Jablonski, CN's vice-president, forest products, said, “The availability of high-capacity, easy-to-load freight cars is critical to the needs of CN’s service-sensitive forest products customers.”


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OFF THE MAIN LINE...

A trolley brightens Brooklyn – again

By Joseph M. Calisi
Special to Destination:Freedom

With the PCC Trolley

©2002 Joseph M. Calisi

December 14 marked the day a trolley car returned to the streets of Brooklyn, New York, after a 46-year absence. The ribbon was cut aboard former Boston PCC number 3321. Standing, left to right, are Santa Claus, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, BHRA President Bob Diamond and sports analyst Stan Fischler.
Momentarily close your eyes, transport yourself to Brooklyn, New York on October 31, 1956. Envision trolley doors closing, the brakes releasing, the bell clanging – and the rumble beneath your feet as the trolley resumes its run. That’s what happened on the last streetcar run in Brooklyn 46 years ago.

Many have thought that those kinds of memories are the only remaining images of trolley car operation in New York City, but they are being proven wrong.

Twenty years ago, the Brooklyn Historic Railway Assn. (BHRA) began the long process of resurrecting those thoughts to real life. On December 14, the dream became reality in Brooklyn’s Red Hook section, and history was made.

In a huge media event conducted by the BHRA, a large crowd of people witnessed a former Presidents Conference Committee (PCC) trolley car displayed on Conover Street. It was not powered for the display. Because of the bad weather, the proper bonding was not performed and was shoved for the time being. However, it will run under catenary wire in the spring.

Present at the event were such luminaries as Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Sports Channel analyst Stan Fischler and children visiting Santa Claus inside the trolley car. Fischler is a hockey expert and covers NHL New York Islanders games.

He has published books on transit and trolleys and rode the Brooklyn trolleys in his youth.

At 2:00 p.m., the ceremonial ribbon was cut to a rousing ovation from the public.

There were two speeches, one given by Markowitz, and the other BHRA President Bob Diamond. They were particularly informative as they reflected a variety of points.

The borough commissioner spoke about how the Red Hook area was one of the hot development areas of the region, and that having a tourist draw such as an operating BHRA trolley museum located in the middle of the development zone was exactly what the area needed.

He added that light rail systems around the country help fuel economic regional redevelopment and expansion in those areas. One of the most important statements Markowitz made was that he not only supported the project, but also would use his office to help find project funding sources, and offered his support.

Diamond thanked Markowitz and everyone that helped him make his 22-year sojourn of operating trolley cars on the streets of Brooklyn a reality, but a chord of reality rang out when he said that the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) was not extending its contract with him. Without support from that city agency, further construction in Brooklyn’s streets could not proceed beyond March 8, 2003.

Diamond pleaded with the NYCDOT to reconsider extending its contract with the BHRA and for additional funding from other sources.

About 1,500 feet of track has been laid so far. As a future project, they are also looking to open the entire 1.6-mile route using the old Erie Basin line, which would extend to Brooklyn Borough Hall in downtown Brooklyn. The extended project would require permission from New York City as well as obtaining additional funding from other public and private sources to pay for the machinery, tools, labor and materials to perform the work.

Diamond said he “applied for a TEA-21 enhancement grant through the New York City DOT as the sponsor.” When his request was approved, the part of the line on a 1,500-foot stretch of private land was constructed with historically correct materials, which was a condition of the funding. The work was completed in time for the commemoration of the 42nd anniversary of the last trolley operation in Brooklyn on October 31, 2000 between McDonald and Church Avenues.

PCCs are capable of carrying between 100 and 148 passengers at speeds up to 50 mph, but are expected to operate between 20 and 35 mph with the flow of local traffic. A PCC can carry twice the passenger load a diesel-powered bus, and with none of the pollution factor. The load and fuel savings combination is a fact that is not lost on local trolley advocates, especially when you consider the current price of diesel fuel against the $6 per hour rate for each PCC in use. In terms of economics and the environment, the electric-powered trolley is the hands-down winner. Pure electric vehicles, such as PCCs, emit no pollution into the air while fossil-fuel buses have carbon dioxide and nitrogen-oxide greenhouse gases.

The BHRA owns 17 trolleys. Their roster is comprised of one maintenance car and 16 passenger vehicles. Fifteen of them are PCC trolley cars and a century-old wooden gem built in 1897. While all these cars contain stock parts, they can be retrofitted with computer-based signal controls when full street operation begins. Three of these cars are “Type 3” ex-Boston PCCs, and were the first major acquisition by the association.

No. 3321 was the last one produced by the Pullman Car Co., and was built in Worcester, Mass., in 1951. They are also the only cars Pullman built with forced air ventilation, electronically controlled climate control and sealed European-type picture windows.

On the heels of their successes, the BHRA purchased 12 additional trolley cars and a large parts inventory from Buffalo, N.Y. They are ex-Cleveland PCCs that were auctioned by the City of Buffalo, New York in 2001. The trolleys were stored in a shed and became surplus when Buffalo cancelled a planned light rail expansion.


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LETERS...

Dear Editor,

The WMATA endorsement of a new Metrorail line to Dulles Airport is not a done deal, as you reported in the December 9 newsletter. It’s only at the locally preferred alternative stage.

Susan Berlin
Assistant Editor
APTA Transit News


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MEETINGS...

January 11-15

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

Weston Mission Hills
Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Contact Giovanna Bauguess at gbaugess@nrcma.org


January 25-29

APTA General Manager’s Seminar

Tampa Marriott Inn
Contact Tom Urban, turban@apta.com


February 9-11

APTA Legal Affairs Seminar

Savannah Marriott Riverfront
Savannah, Ga.

Contact: Kristen O’Grady, kogrady@apta.com


Looking Ahead...

June 4-9

APTA International Rail Rodeo

San Jose, Calif.
Hotel to be announced

Contact Anitha Tharapatla, atharapatla@apta.com


June 8-12, 2003

APTA Rail Transit Conference

Fairmont Hotel
San Jose, Calif.

Contact Heather Rachels, hrachels@apta.com.


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THE WAY WE WERE...

2-8-2, Mikado-The Last steam Engine for NY NH and H

NCI: Leo King

New York, New Haven & Hartford’s last steam engine was No. 3020, a Mikado (2-8-2 wheel arrangement) built by Alco. For a 16-year-old kid to find this gem stored at Charles Street Roundhouse (yes, it really was round – about 180 degrees, by my guess) in Providence, R.I. in 1954, it was a joyful summer day.

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" .jpg images average 1.7MB each, and are 300 dots-per-inch for print publishers.

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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