The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Destination:Freedom

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists,
and elected or appointed officials at all levels of government

Publisher: James P. RePass      E-Zine Editor: Molly McKay
Foreign Editor: David Beale      Webmaster: Dennis Kirkpatrick

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January 4, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 1

Copyright © 2010
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 11th Newsletter Year

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IN THIS EDITION...   In This Edition...

  News Items…
Automobiles Will Get A “VKT” Tax As The Netherlands
   Fights Road Congestion
 Commuter Lines…
New Jersey Newspaper Criticizes Planned NJT
   “Deep-Cavern” Terminal; First Major Media To Do So
Seattle-Tacoma’s Sound Transit Extends Service To Sea-Tac Airport
  Events…
Urban Pathways To Liveable Communities
High-Speed Rail: An International Practicum On Implementation
   For U.S. Decision-Makers
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
 Across The Pond…
China Sets New Record For High-Speed Trains
  Commentary…
Waiting On A Train; The Embattled Future Of Passenger Rail Service
  Editorial…
This Decade Will Be Different
  Publication Notes …


NEWS OF THE WEEK... News Items...

Automobiles Will Get A “VKT” Tax As
The Netherlands Fights Road Congestion

By DF Staff And From Internet Sources Including
The Hamilton Advertiser (UK) And Time Magazine

The Netherlands --- This small and crowded nation may be about to embark on an experiment that will, for the first time, tax motor vehicles based on a combination of kilometers traveled and vehicle type instead of the usual registration fees and road taxes.

Maurice Glover of The Hamilton Advertiser (UK) writes in the paper’s Motoring Newsbriefs:

“Going Dutch means pay as you go [and] vehicle registration fees and road tax charges are set to disappear in Holland. Instead, a new ‘vehicle per kilometer traveled’ or VKT tax will allow motorists to make payments that relate to how much they use their vehicles.” (In the US this would be a ‘vehicle per mile traveled’ or VMT tax.)

“Under a new draft law on road charging,” writes Glover, “the Dutch government is proposed to charge drivers a basic tax of 0.03 [Euros] per kilometer that would vary with vehicle type, weight and exhaust emissions. That’s the equivalent of around 5p per mile [in the UK; that equals a tax of US8.3 cents per kilometer, or US13.3 cents per mile].” The rate will go up each year, according to the Dutch plan.

“Each vehicle will have a satellite navigation system to check time, distance and speed and transmit the data to a collection facility where invoices will be drafted. ‘The cash raised will go on road, rail and other infrastructure and research suggests our plan may cut [automobile] travel by 15 per cent, reduce particulate emissions, improve road safety and deliver welfare gains of one billion Euros a year,’ said a spokesman.” (see http://www.hamiltonadvertiser.co.uk/lifestyle/motoringandcarnews/tm_headline=motoring-newsbriefs%26method=full%26objectid=25402346%26print_version=1%26siteid=51525-name_page.html)

Leo Cendrowicz of Time Magazine’s take on the subject, “Holland Plan to Cut Traffic: A Tax on Every Kilometer Driven” [Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009] is found at: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1949156,00.html

Written in the classic Time real-time present-tense style, Cendrowicz writes: “A highway in the Netherlands is congested. Traffic jams are infuriating wherever you are, but in the Netherlands, they are the source of particular angst. Not only is the densely populated country home to Europe’s most congested metropolitan region — the area called the Randstad that incorporates Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague — but many Dutch people live below sea level, making them more than a little nervous about carbon emissions, global warming and the possibility that their country could soon be underwater.”

“No wonder, then” continues Cendrowicz, “that the Dutch government is trying something revolutionary to reduce the number of cars on the road — taxing every motorist who gets behind the wheel based on the distance of their trip and the kind of car they drive. The plan, which was approved by the Dutch cabinet in November and is expected to be implemented in 2012, aims to eventually cut the number of traffic jams in the country in half.”

He concludes: “…the Dutch scheme is by far the most ambitious in the world because it will not only be implemented nationwide, but it also involves technology in the solution like never before. The plan is being watched closely in countries like Germany and Belgium, where officials are also weighing creative policies to slash carbon emissions. If it succeeds, it could usher in a wave of ‘smart’ charges on roads across the continent. If it doesn’t, the Netherlands may have to brace itself for a road rage epidemic.”

It remains to be seen whether VMT/VKT taxes, using technology to track actual travel, would work elsewhere --- as in the United States --- where privacy concerns and “big brother” arguments are certain to be raised about a system that knows --- at least when you are in your car --- where you are, and where you are going, and where you have been, at any given time.


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

New Jersey Newspaper Criticizes Planned NJT “Deep-Cavern” Terminal;
First Major Media To Do So

By David Peter Alan

The Record, a daily newspaper serving Bergen County and other areas in Northern New Jersey, has criticized New Jersey Transit’s plan to build a deep-cavern terminal far below Manhattan’s 34th Street as a place to terminate their proposed new rail tunnels. In a piece entitled “Don’t get on deep-tunnel express, governor-elect” in the December 21, 2009 edition of the paper, Editorial Columnist Alfred F. Doblin endorsed the concept of a new tunnel, but questioned the part of the plan that calls for the dead-end terminal.

Doblin wrote in his column: “The new tunnel under the river makes sense. Bringing more New Jersey commuters into Manhattan makes sense. Building a deep-tunnel train station a block from Pennsylvania Station and just footsteps from an existing PATH [Port Authority Trans-Hudson; a subway between Manhattan and New Jersey] makes no sense to the commuters who – well, commute.” He added: “On paper, this all looks good... But the reality is that putting more people in the same part of Manhattan is just plain dumb.”

Doblin sharply criticized the plan for not providing access to the East Side; a goal on which the Long Island Rail Road is planning to spend billions of dollars. “NJ Transit cannot take its trains to Grand Central because it would have to bore below a massive tunnel supplying water to Manhattan. Until an additional water tunnel is operational, there will be no NJ Transit trains to Grand Central. This should be a deal-breaker for the project as planned. It makes no sense to expend billions and billions of dollars for a less-than-perfect solution.”

He also called for the incoming administration of Governor-elect Chris Christie to stop the project as currently planned, saying “It should be Grand Central or bust.” He added: “One of the biggest tests for the new governor will be his willingness to halt projects that seem unstoppable even when they are clearly flawed.”

Doblin’s column is the first in a major media outlet that directly questioned the cost-effectiveness of the current NJT plan. The allied rail advocates in the region applauded Doblin’s stand, having also questioned the cost-effectiveness of the NJT plan for several years. The original Access to the Region’s Core (“ARC”) plan called for access to the existing Penn Station and eventual extension to Grand Central in its Alternative “G”; the best-performing alternative as analyzed in the original Major Investment Study (MIS) Report. However, this alternative was scrapped in 2003 and replaced with the stub-end terminal plan, purportedly under pressure from New York State.

In a response published in the Record in its Christmas-day edition, Jeffrey M. Zupan of the Regional Plan Association praised the current tunnel plan and said “You cannot go to Manhattan’s East Side until you build the tunnel to the West Side.” Zupan warned that federal funding toward the project could be forfeited if NJT failed to build the project now, as planned. Rail advocates dispute Zupan’s contention, claiming that preliminary engineering work for a tunnel alignment that would go to the existing Penn Station had been completed as part or the original ARC study, and that promised funding could also be used to dig a tunnel that would reach only the depth of the existing Penn Station, rather than proposed deep-cavern terminal.

Zupan did not address the depth of the terminal under the current proposal, except to admit that “it cannot be done until New York City completes a new water tunnel, replacing the one now standing in the way of going eastward from Penn Station. When the new water tunnel is completed an eastward connection will be possible.” Advocates question Zupan’s assumption that the existing water tunnel will eventually be abandoned, even after a new one is completed. New Jersey Transit has not furnished advocates with an official promise of such an abandonment from the New York City Water Department, despite several requests.

Rail advocates were also quick to dispute Zupan’s assertions. Albert L. Papp, Vice-Chair for Legislative Policy and Strategy of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) said: “We don’t oppose building a new rail tunnel into Manhattan, but we want any new capacity to go to the existing Penn Station, so trains can all connect there.” Under the “Penn Station First” plan favored by advocates, new tunnels and tracks would be built on an alignment that would take them to the existing Penn Station. NJT and Amtrak trains could use the new tracks, as well as the existing tracks, and both could connect with the Long Island Rail Road and any trains that Metro-North might eventually bring there. Under the “Penn Station First” plan, there would be eventual expansion of the line to the East Side to connect with all Metro-North trains, and through running would become feasible between New Jersey, Long Island and Metro-North territory.

This through-running is especially important to George Haikalis, a civil engineer and President of the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility (IRUM) and Chair of the Regional Rail Working Group. According to Haikalis, such through-running would provide more frequent rail service throughout the region than is feasible today, while eliminating the need for expensive and land-intensive mid-day storage yards in and near New York City.

Regarding Zupan’s response to Doblin’s column, Haikalis asked: “If you repeat a misstatement often enough, does it become the truth?” and especially took issue with Zupan’s assertion that the money available for the project would be lost if a new tunnel were built on a different alignment than the one NJT now promotes. “The money can be spent for a tunnel going to the existing Penn Station, as had been proposed as part of the original engineering study, or it can be spent on other projects that will benefit New Jersey’s riders” said Haikalis, who also called for money spent on transit projects to be spent wisely. In his column, Doblin made a similar comment: “The problem isn’t getting the money as much as choosing how to spend it wisely.”

Meanwhile, the administration of outgoing Gov. Jon S. Corzine is planning to spend more money on the proposed tunnel, which is slated to preclude connection with the existing Penn Station. The NJT Board of Directors has called a special meeting for Wednesday, January 6th to award a contract worth $271,725,000 for construction on the project. No meeting had been scheduled until February, until notice of the January “special” meeting was issued.

Corzine will leave office less than two weeks after the NJT Board awards the contract. Rail advocates have called the “ARC” Project a “litmus test” for the incoming Christie administration’s credibility on the issue of cutting wasteful spending, a major campaign issue for the new governor. Advocates claim that the state can save billions of dollars by following the “Penn Station First” plan instead of building the proposed deep-cavern terminal, while also improving the delivery of rail service to New Jersey’s riders. Advocate Joseph M. Clift, former Director of Planning for the LIRR, noted that all contracts are awarded “subject to availability of funds” and doubted that New Jersey will continue to have “available funds” to build the project that NJT management now favors.

David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition, which opposes the current NJT plan and favors the “Penn Station First” plan. The Doblin article can be seen on the paper’s web site, www.northjersey.com.


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Seattle-Tacoma’s Sound Transit
Extends Service To Sea-Tac Airport

From Passenger Transport Magazine
Published By The American Public Transportation Association

 

[ Ed Note… Destination: Freedom has been periodically writing on the investment in the Sound Transit system. We noted the pending opening of this new segment of the line in November 2009. Here is one of the more-recent stories since the new segment has opened. ]

 

SEATTLE-TACOMA AIRPORT, STATE OF WASHINGTON --- Just five months after the introduction of service on Central Link light rail, Sound Transit in Seattle extended the original 14-mile line by 1.7 miles on Dec. 19. The new Airport Link connects the former terminus at Tukwila International Boulevard Station to the new SeaTac/Airport Station, providing direct access to SeaTac International Airport.

Sound Transit and the Port of Seattle collaborated on the Airport Link project, including the new light rail station; pedestrian bridges connecting the station to the airport parking garage; and a pickup and drop-off area to the east serving the city of SeaTac. The port also relocated and upgraded the Airport Expressway and the Return-to-Terminal roadway loop.

“It’s been a heck of a journey, but we delivered on what we promised: light rail from downtown Seattle to the airport in 2009,” said Seattle Mayor and Sound Transit Board Chair Greg Nickels. “This opens an entirely new option for travelers and commuters, and represents the first steps of a truly regional network.”

Sound Transit kicked off service on the airport extension with an inaugural ribbon cutting at SeaTac/Airport Station before the station and trains opened for regular passenger service.

“Opening the doors to Sound Transit’s airport line in time for the holidays is a great gift to residents of the Puget Sound region,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). “This is just the latest in environmentally friendly transportation that will help ensure our region’s long-term economic growth.”

“With more than 30 million passengers through SeaTac every year and 15,000 airport employees, we anticipate light rail will be a welcome ‘green’ alternative for travel to and from the airport,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner John Creighton. “Using light rail will reduce air emissions and traffic congestion. It’s good for the airport, and it’s good for our region.”

Sound Transit plans to open its next light rail extension in 2016 with service from downtown Seattle to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington. Construction is underway on that segment, the University Line, while the agency plans for 36 more miles of light rail extensions to Lynnwood, Bellevue, Redmond, Mercer Island, and Federal Way by 2023.


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EVENTS... Events...

 

Urban Pathways To
Liveable Communities

Building Partnerships For
Healthy Neighborhoods

Feb. 25 & 26, 2010
New Orleans, LA

Click Here For
More Information


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High-Speed Rail: An International Practicum
On Implementation For U.S. Decision-Makers

From The American Public Transportation Association (APTA)

APTA and the UIC (International Union of Railways, Fr. Union Internationale des Chemins de fer), an international rail transport industry body, will host three regional practica in February 2010. The goal of these seminars is to provide U.S. decision makers the information necessary to implement high-speed rail.

For complete information on any of the practica click on the appropriate Internet links below.

Washington, DC -- February 8-9
http://www.apta.com/mc/conferences/90days/HighSpeedRail_DC/Pages/default.aspx

Chicago, IL -- February 9-11
http://www.apta.com/mc/conferences/90days/2010HighSpeedRail_Chicago/Pages/default.aspx

Los Angeles, CA -- February 11-13
http://www.apta.com/mc/conferences/90days/2010HighSpeedRail_los_angeles/Pages/default.aspx

[  NCI note: we recommend that any rail or transportation official, and journalists and elected officials, make a point of signing up for one of these three practica. American transportation. and America itself, are about to change in a fundamental way, but we have a lot of catching up to do in America. APTA’s bringing UIC into the picture is an important step. You should be there --- Jim RePass, President & CEO, The National Corridors Initiative.  ]


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week (*)
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)98.6098.32 (*)
Canadian National (CNI)54.3652.65 (*)
Canadian Pacific (CP)54.0052.68 (*)
CSX (CSX)48.4948.47 (*)
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)32.6432.51 (*)
Kansas City Southern (KSU)33.2931.68 (*)
Norfolk Southern (NSC)52.4052.04 (*)
Providence & Worcester (PWX)10.7510.85 (*)
Union Pacific (UNP)63.8063.38 (*)

* - As reported in our December 21, 2009 edition - Ed.


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ACROSS THE POND... Across The Pond...

 

Installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

 

China Sets New Record For High-Speed Trains

Passengers Sample 350 Km/H (218 Mph) Speeds Between Guangzhou And Wuhan

via Financial Times

Wuhan, China - China streaked ahead of its western and Asian rivals at the weekend by unveiling the world’s fastest long-distance passenger train service. The Harmony express raced 1,100km (684 miles) in less than three hours on Saturday, traveling from Guangzhou, capital of southern Guangdong province, to the central city of Wuhan. The journey by train previously took at least 11 hours.

The improvement illustrates how China’s huge investment in infrastructure is dramatically shrinking the country, yet the economics of the new service, which runs 56 times a day, remain unproven amid a build-it-and-they-will-come approach to transport.

All Photos: CCTV  

CRH2 (derived from the Japanese Shinkansen “bullet train” E2 series from Hitachi) and CRH3 (Siemens Velaro, similar to German ICE-3) high speed trains in Guangzhou in late 2009.
“China has focused on building expressways but that is an American method,” said Zheng Tianxiang, a Guangzhou-based infrastructure expert and government adviser. “Expressways are not suited for China, which has large numbers of people but little space to spare. China should learn from Japan and Europe.”

The Harmony express, which reached a top speed of 394 km/h in pre-launch trials, traveled at an average rate of 350 km/h during its passenger debut. This compared with a maximum service speed of 300km per hour for Japan’s Shinkansen bullet trains and France’s TGV service. In America, Amtrak’s “Acela Express” service takes 3_ hours to trundle between Boston and New York, a distance of 300km.

Ticket prices have been set at Rmb780 (US $115) for first class and Rmb490 for second. The country’s airlines, which like the railway are mostly state-owned, have responded by slashing fares to undercut those for the new train, with China Southern Airlines, based in Guangzhou, offering tickets for advance purchase starting at Rmb250 and introducing hourly flights.

Huang Xin, head of passenger services for Guangzhou Railway Group, said on the inaugural ride that pricing might have to be adjusted. Even the second-class fares may prove too rich for the biggest pool of potential passengers for the line, the estimated 20m workers in the Pearl river delta manufacturing belt around Guangzhou who hail from inland provinces. About half of them usually return home during the Chinese new year holiday in the world’s biggest human migration. The round-trip express fare is priced at about two-thirds of an average factory worker’s monthly wage.

Most passengers on the sold-out debut run were middle-class joy-riders drawn by the journey’s novelty value. “We are not staying in Wuhan,” said Qiu Chaoyue, a Guangzhou resident who tried out the new rail link with a group of friends. “We’re going to take the next train back to Guangzhou.”

Another disadvantage of the new service is that the stations at each end of the line are at least an hour’s drive from their respective city centers. The existing central train station in the Hangkou district of Wuhan, not currently used by the Harmony Express, is just 3 km from the city center. The new station for high-speed trains is located much further away in a former industrial area.

In total, the railways ministry intends to complete 18,000km of high-speed rail lines by 2012, allowing passengers to travel between most Chinese provincial capitals in eight hours or less.

Views of newly opened Wuhan central station where Harmony Express trains depart and arrive.

 

According to state media reports, the government spent US $17 billion on the Harmony express line’s construction over 4 1/2 years. Wuhan invested $2.4bn in a new French-designed train station, which boasts 20 tracks and 11 platforms. Officials this weekend declined to confirm project costs.

One reason for the enormous construction outlay for the Harmony express was difficult terrain, especially in the poor mountainous areas of Guangdong and Hunan provinces. The train travels along 713km of elevated tracks and tunnels, accounting for about 70 per cent of its length.

Police were posted along the route to guard potential sabotage points, while burly railway security personnel monitored each passenger car. The police outside were often joined by farmers, who stopped to watch the Harmony express rush by their rural homes.


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

[ Ed Note: In November 2009 we covered “It’s Time to Rebuild Our Passenger Railroad System” By James Howard Kunstler (Chelsea Green Publishing). See DF, November 9, 2009, Vol 10, No 47. We now present a review of a works by James McCommons which contains a forward by Kunstler. ]

 

Waiting On A Train;
The Embattled Future Of Passenger Rail Service

A Year Spent Riding Across America
By James McCommons
With A Foreword By James Howard Kunstler

See also: http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/waiting_on_a_train:paperback

“Waiting on a Train is a timely and worthwhile addition to the canon of transportation literature. It manages to be both a lively account of rail travels across America--with insightful portraits of the train enthusiasts and just plain folks met along the way--and a deeply informative history of Amtrak in its short but troubled existence. More than that, it points the way toward a more dynamic future for passenger railroads, complete with heavily used high-speed trains zipping around regional corridors.” — Jim Motavalli, author of Breaking Gridlock: Moving Toward Transportation That Works and Forward Drive: The Race to Build Clean Cars for the Future

“Like William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways before it, James McCommons’ Waiting on a Train is a celebration of America’s past and a hopeful prescription for its future. It is one of those rare books that will change the way you see the world, a fascinating and engaging tale of how this nation’s infatuation with the automobile all but destroyed a once glorious passenger rail system. If you are not already a rail lover, you will be by the time you finish this book. You will want to pack your bags and hop aboard. Waiting on a Train is an important story thoroughly reported and well told.” —John Grogan, author of Marley & Me and The Longest Trip Home, A Library Journal Best Book of 2009

During the tumultuous year of 2008 — when gas prices reached $4 a gallon, Amtrak set ridership records, and a commuter train collided with a freight train in California—journalist James McCommons spent a year on America’s trains, talking to the people who ride and work the rails throughout much of the Amtrak system. Organized around these rail journeys, Waiting on a Train is equal parts travel narrative, personal memoir, and investigative journalism.

Readers meet the historians, railroad executives, transportation officials, politicians, government regulators, railroad lobbyists, and passenger-rail advocates who are rallying around a simple question: Why has the greatest railroad nation in the world turned its back on the very form of transportation that made modern life and mobility possible?

Distrust of railroads in the nineteenth century, over-regulation in the twentieth, and heavy government subsidies for airports and roads have left the country with a skeletal intercity passenger-rail system. Amtrak has endured for decades, and yet failed to prosper owing to a lack of political and financial support and an uneasy relationship with the big, remaining railroads.

While riding the rails, McCommons explores how the country may move passenger rail forward in America—and what role government should play in creating and funding mass-transportation systems. Against the backdrop of the nation’s stimulus program, he explores what it will take to build high-speed trains and transportation networks, and when the promise of rail will be realized in America.

James McCommons has been a journalist for more than twenty-five years and published hundreds of articles in magazines and major newspapers. A former senior editor at Organic Gardening magazine, he specializes in ecology and travel writing. He grew up in a railroad family and has spent thirty-five years riding trains in America. He currently teaches journalism and nature writing at Northern Michigan University in the Upper Peninsula.


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

This Decade Will Be Different

By James P. RePass
President, The National Corridors Initiative
And Publisher, Destination: Freedom

This weekend marks the third time since the founding of the National Corridors Initiative in 1989 that we have seen the turn of another decade, and as you might expect, that is an opportunity not just for reflection, but for thoughts of the future.

On January 1, 1990, we had just completed our first organizational dinner aboard The Beach Grove, the business car built by Amtrak (along with the Corridor Flyer) from the shell of an Amfleet car, and hosted by our [very new] organization, then called the Northeast Corridor Initiative.

The meeting had been called by us. Amtrak provided The Beach Grove, and put on the dinner using a staff of superb chefs, waiters, and other attendants, most of whom were brought to Amtrak from the Southern Railroad by Graham Claytor (its former CEO) when he became the President of Amtrak in 1982. Amtrak also sent all 13 of its vice presidents (at the time) to be a part of the discussion, led by Executive Vice President Dennis Sullivan (retired), a legendary figure in Amtrak history along with Graham Claytor, who turned that railroad around over a period from 1982 to 1994, doubling its revenue as a percentage of costs, and largely stabilizing what had been (and remained until the election of President Barack Obama) a very poorly funded enterprise.

Our purpose was to gather New England business, government, and environmental leaders in an effort to find a way to free up $125 million in funds for the electrification of the Northeast Corridor that we had learned about the year before, authorized by Congress in the late 1970’s when Jimmy Carter was President, but embargoed in 1980 upon the election of President Ronald Reagan (1981-1989), and then by President George Herbert Walker Bush (Bush I, 1989-1993). Both Regan and Bush opposed spending that $125 million because they knew it was only the down-payment on the electrification project, and they didn’t want to start it at all; in their view, the marketplace was supposed to provide for what was needed by society; if it didn’t then, it wasn’t actually needed. That was the philosophy at the time.

We begged to differ then, and still do, with the notion that the marketplace is self-regulating and will supply all society’s needs in its own good time. We’ve just seen, for the second time in eighty years, the hollow ring of that ideologically rigid cant.

In 1990 and 1991, a team made up at various times of National Corridors’ then-executive director Lincoln Chafee, former New York Power Authority Board Chairman Dick Flynn, NCI General Counsel (then-Chair) William G. Brody, former Rhode Island Governor J. Joseph Garrahy, NCI founder and president yours truly Jim RePass, and last but far from least industrialist and major Republican fund-raiser the late Robert Pullman of New Hampshire who lived in Derry New Hampshire, had to be at the White House often, and hated to fly, we went to Washington three times, at the invitation of the Office of Management and Budget’s Director Dick Darman, to make our case. To the credit of the Bush (I) Administration, not exactly rail fans but also not the ideologues that their political heirs later became, at our third negotiating session in September 1991 agreed to release that first $125 million. Senator Frank Lautenberg wasted zero time in getting those funds over to Amtrak – when I called to tell him about the money, Graham Claytor said, “Don’t worry, Jim, I’ve already spent it” --- i.e., encumbered it, so it couldn’t disappear! --- and then, over the course of the next eight years, the Northeast Corridor was electrified --- a project first proposed in 1912, the year that Graham Claytor had been born.

By 1999, the turn of the last decade, as well as the over-hyped Millennium, the first Euro-style high-speed rail project in America, was done. The first all-electric train, some Amfleet cars plus a vintage baggage car, headed up by an AEM-7 locomotive, pulled into South Station in Boston at the end of 1999, and regular scheduled service began January 31, 2000. The high-powered, high-speed Acela trainset, the first modern equipment in 30 years and the first entirely conceived and managed by Amtrak itself, came later in November 2000, and has transformed travel in the Northeast. It is now faster to travel between New York and Boston by train --- regular 3 1/2 -hour service Boston-New York, and 6 1/2 -hour Boston-DC, replacing the previous 5-6 hour and 9-10 hour service, respectively – than it is by air,

Today we stand at the start of the third decade since NCI began its fight for better rail service. As can be seen readily, America has a long, long way to go to enter the modern era of ground transportation. But at least it has elected a President who wants to do that, and who has committed the funds to get us started.

Will this decade see a transformation in the American transportation system? We have spent 21 years fighting for that, at tremendous financial sacrifice and we can point to some success. But it will take a sustained effort, and at least $100 billion, to put in place anything resembling a true high-speed rail network that connects every major American city by rail, in a reasonable amount of time.

But we have made a start, and should take pride in that, even as we renew our efforts this new decade. We have been on this journey for 21 years --- the wink of an eye in real-time --- and we believe the best is yet to come.

Happy New Year!


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2010 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

Web page links as reproduced in our articles are active at the time we go to press. Occasionally, news and information outlets may opt to archive these articles and notices under alternative web addresses after initial publication. NCI has no control over the policies of other web sites and regrets any inconvenience experienced when clicking off our web site.

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 editor at editor@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster at webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

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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 transportation initiative sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives – state DOTs, legislators, government offices, and transportation organizations or professionals – as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. If you have a favorite link, please send the web address (URL) to our webmaster.

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