The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.

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 25, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 4

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

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

  News Items…
Broad Coalition Urges Congress To Take Swift Action
   On Transportation Investment
Building America’s Future Event Emphasizes Need
   For More Infrastructure Funding
LaHood Announces Second Re-Commissioned Ferry
   To Provide Haiti Relief
  Ridership Lines…
Campaign To Restore Passenger Rail Service To The Gulf Coast
   Spawns New Web-Based Initiative
  High-Speed Rail Lines…
California High-Speed Rail Project Under Criticism
Illinois Governor Quinn Calls For 220-mph Bullet Trains
  Safety Lines…
NTSB Wants Cameras, Audio Recorders In All Cabs
  Policy Lines…
Are New Transit Guidelines An Improvement?
  Selected Rail Stocks…
Urban Pathways To Liveable Communities
  Across The Pond…
Secret “Cancellation List” Of Rail Projects
   In Germany Creates Mass Confusion
With Boston South Station Development On Hold, It’s Time To
   Push Again For The North South Rail Link
Concrete Rail Ties Cracking In New England Weather?
  Publication Notes …

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

The Following Three Items Are Reprinted With Permission From APTA News
(American Public Transportation Association)


Broad Coalition Urges Congress To Take Swift Action
On Transportation Investment

JANUARY 22 -- Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM), the transportation coalition that includes APTA, sent a letter to Congress on January 21 urging swift action on crucial investments in transportation.

The ATM letter notes that Congress’ passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has supported and created more than 250,000 direct jobs and more than 760,000 jobs overall.

“The fact is that these investments provided a needed lifeline for the transportation construction industry and their suppliers, and we thank those members who supported these critical efforts,” the letter states. “Transportation investment has been—and the ATM firmly believes should remain—a bipartisan issue because transportation investments improve the quality of life, safety, and economic competitiveness of all Americans.”

ATM’s membership runs the full gamut of the transportation sector and is organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It includes engineering associations, organized labor, contractors, building suppliers, distributors, and others.

The coalition’s ”Getting America Back to Work“ web page offers highlights of ARRA investments and testimonials on the economic boon that ARRA has meant for communities around the nation.

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Building America’s Future Event Emphasizes Need
For More Infrastructure Funding

At a news conference hosted by Building America’s Future on January 20, a group including current and former members of Congress and other elected officials gathered on Capitol Hill to advocate for a national infrastructure bank.

The group included Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. They discussed the need for greater investment in the nation’s infrastructure, including public transportation, and the role an infrastructure bank might play.

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LaHood Announces Second Re-Commissioned
Ferry To Provide Haiti Relief

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration is retrofitting a retired passenger and cargo ferry for carrying relief supplies to Haiti. The Alakai, a catamaran, served as a ferry in Hawaii but is currently berthed in Norfolk.

“This ship will help our relief workers on the ground by allowing quick movements of people in and out of Haiti from various staging points,” LaHood said in a statement.

The Alakai will join five other Merchant Marine vessels in the relief effort, including another former Hawaiian ferry, the Huakai.

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RIDERSHIP LINES... Ridership Lines...  

Campaign To Restore Passenger Rail Service To The Gulf Coast
Spawns New Web-Based Initiative

By David Peter Alan

The battle to restore a passenger train to the Gulf Coast region is heating up again. The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) has begun a new web-based initiative entitled “My Gulf Coast” on its web site, The site contains historical background on the issue, tips on taking action, and opportunities to receive updates and to join NARP. The objective of the NARP campaign is to restore operation of Amtrak’s Sunset Limited east of New Orleans to Florida, as Amtrak operated it from 1993 until 2005.

The web-based campaign was started by NARP Director of Communications Sean Jeans-Gail and Jackson McQuigg, a NARP Council member, and Secretary of the Florida Coalition of Rail Passengers (FRCP). According to McQuigg, the short-term objective of the campaign is to gather support for Gulf Coast rail service, and the long-term goal is to develop a regional opportunity for rail advocacy. “We need to get new, fresh leaders to push for this service which will link our communities by rail,” McQuigg said. He added that he hopes that the “My Gulf Coast” initiative will increase the visibility of NARP and the rail advocacy movement generally in the area.

Almost since it was suspended, cities and towns along the line have called for restoration of rail service. Chipley is a town in West Florida, between Tallahassee and Pensacola. The town’s mayor, Linda Cain, said that community involvement is needed, and that residents of her town and the surrounding region used the train when they had it. “It was an asset to our community. People from Alabama and Panama City [Florida] came here to catch it,” she said.

Rail advocates throughout the Sunset Route have made the same call. New Orleans advocate John Sita, Jr., Chair of the Sunset Marketing and Revitalization Team (SMART), has termed Amtrak’s open-ended suspension of Gulf Coast service an “illegal pocket discontinuance” and said that political action is the key to bringing the train back. SMART is an alliance of rail advocates from the entire former Sunset Route, from California to Florida. Sita continued: “If we can get a mandate for Amtrak to carry guns, why can’t we get a mandate for Amtrak to run a train?” and vowed to continue the fight if Amtrak does not run the train.

The original Sunset Limited was the premier train of the Southern Pacific Railroad, and is the oldest train in the nation that still operates under its original name. Historically, it ran between New Orleans and Los Angeles, although its frequency was reduced from daily to tri-weekly in 1970. It operates along most of its historic route today, but its run was extended along the Gulf Coast to Florida in 1993. On the eastern end, the train originally terminated at the Auto-Train terminal in Sanford, and was later extended to Orlando. It ran to Miami for a brief time.

All passenger train service to New Orleans was suspended in 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Trains to New York, Chicago and Los Angeles were restored during the next few months, as track was rebuilt and placed back into service. The CSX line along the Gulf Coast (historically part of the Louisville and Nashville) was severely damaged and was not placed back in service until March, 2006. At that time, Amtrak declined to restore the eastern portion of the Sunset Limited route. Amtrak timetables continue to indicate that service has been “suspended” along the route, and do not give any indication of when, if ever, rail passenger service will be restored.

NARP has consistently called for the return of passenger service to the region, along what it calls the “Gulf Coast Connector.” In its position paper issued last August 8th, NARP criticized Amtrak for “dragging its feet” on restoring the service, which it termed “a route that is still on its map and timetable, and provides a vital east-west link in the national network.” According to NARP, the Gulf Coast Connector segment accounted for 41% of revenue raised by the Sunset Limited train and 39% of its ridership, and the segment would generate a 56% fare box recovery; comparable to other long-distance trains.

Rail advocates have also questioned Amtrak’s cost figures, claiming that Amtrak’s cost estimate for bringing back Gulf Coast service appears to be based on the cost of a new start, rather than restoration of a pre-existing service that had been suspended temporarily. The current Amtrak map still shows the route as part of its system, with the schedule accompanied by a reference note that says: “The Sunset Limited service between New Orleans and Orlando has been suspended. Future service has not been determined.” NARP alleges that Amtrak management has always held a dim view of Gulf Coast service. Calls to Amtrak for their comment were not returned by press time.

Meanwhile, the Florida trains, all of which originate in New York, have no direct connection to any points west of Florida. The Silver Meteor, which goes through Charleston, South Carolina, does not connect with any other Amtrak train south of Alexandria, Virginia. The Silver Star connects at Raleigh with local North Carolina trains to Charlotte, where a second transfer is available for Atlanta and New Orleans. There are no westbound connections from Savannah, Georgia, or from anywhere in Florida.

Today, Gulf Coast cities like Biloxi, Gulfport, Mobile and Pensacola, along with Tallahassee (Florida’s capital) have no train. Until Hurricane Katrina, it took 20 1/2 hours to go directly from Orlando to New Orleans by rail, even with padding in the schedule at Jacksonville and New Orleans. Today it takes almost 55 hours, with either a single train change at Alexandria or two transfers at Raleigh and Charlotte.

One issue that has not been raised in recent discussion is service beyond Orlando, to Tampa or Miami. NARP has not called for service south of Orlando, and there is currently no proposal on the agenda to serve either the Tampa Bay region or Miami, Fort Lauderdale and other densely populated areas of South Florida. Whether people from that area could connect for New Orleans at Orlando is questionable, since this would depend on the “Silver Service” schedules and the schedule of any proposed train to New Orleans.

One thing is certain. There will be no rail passenger service between Florida and New Orleans any time soon. People making the journey without automobiles will have the same three choices they have had for more than four years: the airlines, Greyhound or three days on the train instead of one. Potential riders south of Orlando may still be restricted to either the airlines of Greyhound, if no rail connection is available between Miami and Orlando, or between Tampa and Orlando. Many community leaders and their constituents are tired of waiting for Gulf Coast rail service to return, and so is NARP. The only question is whether NARP and its allies can gather enough strength to persuade Amtrak to run a train that Amtrak managers clearly do not wish to run.

David Peter Alan is a member of the NARP Council of Representatives, although he is not involved in the Gulf Coast initiative. He rode on the line in question several times before the train was discontinued, and he made the trip on a Greyhound bus on one occasion in 2008. He preferred the train.

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HIGH-SPEED LINES... High-Speed Rail Lines...  

California High-Speed Rail Project
Under Criticism

A Small Group Of Whiners In Palo Alto Are Objecting To High-Speed Rail In Their Area

From Silicon Valley News On The Internet

PALO ALTO -- Two California state senators, Joe Simitian and Alan Lowenthal, are stirring up debate about California’s High-Speed Rail plan, claiming that it is not well planned and should not be funded. As a result, hundreds of people attended a public meeting in Palo Alto last week to hear the discussion and express their concerns.

Both senators sit on committees that directly influence the project’s planning, funding and construction.

Many of the people who spoke were concerned that the proposed bullet train linking the Bay Area to Los Angeles was poorly planned and would fail financially.

A group of people living near the tracks said they’re afraid their property values and quality of life will decline if the train gets built.

The High-Speed Rail Authority is looking at the possibility of a tunnel in the San Jose area where some object to the fast train racing through their town.

California is currently lobbying for $4.7 billion in federal stimulus money to pay for the project’s construction.

Meanwhile, two weeks ago, the executive director of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Mehdi Morshed announced that he will retire from the position at the end of March. He has held the position since 1998. The authority’s board has voted to replace him with a CEO, chief executive officer, and is anxious to interview candidates in early February. Pressure is on to fill the vacancy soon, since, at this stage, officials expect the project to start in 2012.

Comments on the Palo Alto efforts to stall the project can be found in the California High-Speed Rail Blog

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Illinois Governor Quinn Calls For
220-mph Bullet Trains

ILLINOIS --- During this past Wednesday’s State of the State speech Illinois Governor Quinn emphasized his commitment to adding new Amtrak service to Rockford and to the Quad Cities, and expressed optimism that Illinois would receive federal funds to upgrade the Chicago - St. Louis Amtrak service to 110 mph. Then, he said that Illinois has resources available to begin planning a very high-speed line to Champaign-Urbana.

On Friday, Governor Quinn chaired a summit entitled “Beyond Transportation: The Economic Impact of Rail in Illinois.” The summit focused on how railroads can create economic development and create jobs. At the summit, the Governor reiterated his commitment to begin planning a 220-mph line. He also discussed the State’s leadership role in coordinating the Midwest’s applications for Recovery Act grants.

Governor Quinn’s leadership has been critical to the development of high-speed rail in the Midwest, reports Rick Harnish, Executive Director, Midwest High-Speed Rail Association (

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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

NTSB Wants Cameras, Audio Recorders
In All Cabs

From Progressive Railroading

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has confirmed that the September 2008 collision between Metrolink and Union Pacific Railroad trains in Chatsworth, Calif, was caused by the Metrolink engineer who was text-messaging on a wireless device while operating the train and failed to respond to a red signal. News articles at the time reported the text messaging soon after the tragedy, but only recently did NTSB issue their report of its investigation.

“This accident demonstrates that we must find a way to [deal with] the pervasive problem of transportation operators using wireless devices while on the job,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman in a prepared statement.

As a result of its findings, the NTSB recommends that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) require the installation of inward and outward facing audio and image recorders in all places where crews are working in order to watch their activities and be sure they are following the safety rules.

The NTSB also strongly recommends that positive train control systems (PTC) be installed. They believe that a PTC system would have stopped the Metrolink train short of the red signal and prevented the accident.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) declared in a prepared statement, that, as PTC systems are installed during the next few years, “there will be no advantage whatsoever for either audio or video recording of in-cab activities because the fail-safe nature of PTC technology will prevent collisions of the type that served as the basis for the NTSB recommendation.”

In addition, current FRA regulations and railroad operating procedures already call for extensive recording of locomotive and signal data, and radio conversations are routinely recorded, they said.

“Locomotive operation is monitored in such detail by today’s event recorders that inward-facing video cameras will provide no additional information of use in accident investigations,” BLET officials said.

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POLICY LINES... Policy Lines...  

Are New Transit Guidelines An Improvement?

WASHINGTON, DC, JAN 19 -- Last week Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood proposed new livability-based funding guidelines for major transit projects and rescinded Bush administration requirements that based funding decisions on how much a project shortened commute times compared to its cost. The criteria determine which projects get funded under the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts and Small Starts programs.

“We’re going to free our flagship transit capital program from long-standing requirements that have allowed us only to green-light projects that meet very narrow cost and performance criteria,” LaHood told the Transportation Research Board annual meeting on Jan. 13. “Instead, as we evaluate major transit projects going forward, we’ll consider all the factors that help communities reduce their carbon footprint, spur economic activity and relieve congestion. To put it simply, we will take livability into account.”

What do you think of the new criteria that Secretary LaHood proposed? How would they improve the New Starts and Small Starts programs and how might they hurt them? What other changes would you propose making to the criteria for determining which transit projects receive federal funding?

-- Lisa Caruso,

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

A Few Responses


Steve Van Beek, President & CEO,
Eno Transportation Foundation

Responded on January 22, 2010

Bill Millar started us off with a concise explanation and justification for the Department of Transportation’s policy change. As Peter Rogoff, FTA Administrator, said in a note announcing the shift, “[t ]his policy change will allow FTA to recognize the broad range of benefits these projects yield in the areas of the environment, economic development, and land use.” The intent of the policy change, according to Rogoff, is to “enable the FTA to further refine our cost effectiveness measure” around the Administration’s goals of livability and sustainability.

Critics will have an opportunity to weigh in during a forthcoming rulemaking process. Presumably, during that process, FTA will state the goals of the policy and will identify the criteria and the analysis that will underlie it. I’m eager to see them.

Until then, it is inaccurate for critics to suggest that all transportation criteria are quantifiable and all criteria such as environmental benefits are not. A brief perusal of research done by the European Union, reported in the American Economic Review, and used on innovative projects through life-cycle analyses document that many non-mobility related criteria, in fact, can be effectively quantified. Their inclusion offers the promise of making projects both economically efficient and better able to address the myriad set of public goals we have for transportation projects.

At the same time we should overly rely on quantifiable criteria, (Editor’s note: I believe he meant “ we should not overly rely on quantifiable criteria.”) recognizing that they are based on projections (not performance!) and do not tell the whole story. As Tony Shorris wisely counsels, “crisp spreadsheets are no substitute for the prudent exercise of judgment” by those charged with deciding among competing projects (anyone who has received those crisp spreadsheets and has been charged with making decisions between scored and ranked projects perfectly understands Tony’s point). These judgments should be informed by a wider set of criteria.

It is this latter point that I suspect really troubles critics of livability and the proposed changes to New Starts and Small Starts. By documenting a more inclusive set of benefits and costs, the change is likely to show more projects are worthy of funding and lead to changes in the way we support projects and allocate funding.

Hopefully Secretary La Hood will reexamine criteria not only for New Starts and Small Starts but for programs, alternatives analyses and planning across all of USDOT. That would be the best development of all.

Steve Van Beek

Rep. James L. Oberstar, D-Minn.,
Chairman, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

Responded January 19, 2010

The Administration’s announcement that it will no longer target its funding recommendations only to projects that receive a “Medium” or better cost-effectiveness rating is great news and long overdue.

The law prescribes several criteria on which to base Federal Transit Administration grant awards for New Starts projects, and stipulates that all criteria should carry comparable weight. Yet, the Bush Administration defied the law and counted a project’s cost-effectiveness for half of its total score, and limited its annual budget recommendations only to projects that scored well in this one area. In effect, it placed this single criterion as the sole decider of a grant award.
A transit project can bring many benefits to a community. It can relieve congestion on the local highways and streets. It can help reduce air pollution by cutting down on the number of vehicles on the road. It can bring jobs and economic development to depressed areas, and it can increase the livability of many communities along the new transit line. Yet, under the Bush rules, none of these benefits counted for anything if the project did not meet a certain return on the dollar.

It is ridiculous to hold transit projects to such a standard. We do not place the same cost-effectiveness requirement on road projects, National Parks, disaster relief, or other federal programs.

This is not to say that we should abandon the consideration of a project’s cost altogether. A reasonable cost standard can force applicants to examine their spending plans closely and make sure that they are getting the most value for their investment. In doing so, it injects a degree of discipline into the application process for a program that is consistently over subscribed and under funded.

However, in this age of mounting congestion, rising fuel costs, and global climate change, we must ensure that Americans have the transportation options that transit can provide. The Bush policy discouraged applications for New Starts. The change in policy under the Obama Administration is welcome, and can open the door to a new, vibrant era for transit in America.

William Millar, President,
American Public Transportation Association

Responded on January 19, 2010

Kudos to Secretary Ray LaHood and his staff at the U.S. Department of Transportation for making important and much needed changes to the New Starts projects selection process. This means that New Starts projects for rail and bus rapid transit can move forward at a quicker pace. And that’s good news for America.

Over many years, Congress has required that multiple factors, including cost effectiveness, be considered. The Bush Administration constructed a project evaluation formula that for all intent and purpose made “cost effectiveness” the only thing that mattered.

With the action taken by DOT to consider all the factors required by law, transit projects can now be looked at from a holistic perspective. By judging a project on the multiple benefits it offers (i.e. mobility, economic development, environmental impact, land use improvements etc.), a well-rounded and more informed decision can be made. By removing the barrier that the Bush Administration implemented, the process is now in alignment with how it was originally intended to be.

Projects must still be cost effective and meet at least an overall medium rating in project justification and local financing. However, now, instead of a narrow prism through which to judge a project, a wider lens will offer a larger perspective. It should encourage innovative projects to be proposed and funded.

This policy change is a tremendous step forward. We are very pleased the Administration recognizes local public transit systems, which provide over 10 billion trips per year, as an integral part of the solution in improving mobility, reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign oil while lowering carbon emissions, and encouraging local job creation. We look forward to working with the Administration on this new policy direction and on expanding the very vital services of public transportation throughout the country.

A different point of view from the Reason Foundation

Bob Poole, Director of Transportation Studies,
Reason Foundation

Responded on January 21, 2010

For the past several years, a growing number of transportation policy experts have called for rethinking how the federal government funds surface transportation. Reports from the Mary Peters DOT, the Policy & Revenue Commission, the Infrastructure Financing Commission, the Brookings Institution, and the Bipartisan Policy Center have all called for a more “performance-based approach,” as has the Government Accountability Office. All these various experts have argued that one of the big problems with current federal policy is that it largely just doles out money by formula (and by earmark), with little or no consideration of whether that money goes for boondoggles or for sound transportation investments.

One minor exception to this has been the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program. For many years, projects seeking funding under New Starts had to demonstrate at least minimal cost-effectiveness, originally by having to show that the taxpayer cost per new transit passenger trip would be less than $24. During the Bush administration, that was changed to a (looser) standard of cost per user benefit. But many transit advocates still protested that having to demonstrate that a new light rail line would produce quantifiable benefits such as passenger travel time saving, reduced emissions, or reduced congestion (at a reasonable cost per unit of benefits) short-changed many projects that they wanted to build — like streetcar lines.

At last week’s Transportation Research Board annual meeting, DOT Secretary Ray LaHood announced a major policy change for New Starts. Rather than requiring such projects to demonstrate cost-effectiveness in transportation terms, the FTA will now be taking into account “livability” criteria such as “how transit helps the environment, how much it improves development opportunities, and how it makes our communities better places to live.” The policy change has two parts. First, DOT is rescinding the 2005 cost-effectiveness threshold that every New Starts project had to meet (except for those, like BART to San Jose, specifically exempted by Congress). Second, the FTA will initiate a rulemaking to determine how environmental and economic benefits will be used in New Starts project evaluations.

I find this change very troubling. At a time when we face huge shortfalls in surface transportation funding, what we need is more, and more rigorous, benefit/cost analysis, not less. Cooking the books so that “popular streetcar projects and other transit systems that people want” can get access to limited federal funds is a move in precisely the wrong direction—and an ironic one from an administration that came to office promising “evidence-based” policy.

As Alan Pisarski said in recent congressional testimony, “livability” at this juncture is far too vague to be measured. Without a more rigorous definition, “it would become perhaps the perfect federal program: almost anything could be funded under the rubric of livability. With such an amorphous goal, there would be no real measure of success or failure, and funding could go on forever with no real accountability.”

If this is really the direction this administration wants to go, it should stop the pretense that the FTA is a transportation agency, rather than an urban development agency. You may recall that what is now FTA began life as the Urban Mass Transportation Administration and was located in the Department of Housing & Urban Development. If we’re now going to be deciding on light rail and streetcars based not on objective criteria like congestion reduction per dollar spent but on community development criteria, HUD would be a better fit than U.S. DOT. Re-envisioning transit as social infrastructure (like sidewalks and bike paths and city parks) would fit in well with HUD’s role in helping make cities more livable and economically vibrant places. And those projects would properly compete for livability funding with other HUD projects.

And from the highway people…

Greg Cohen, President and CEO,
American Highway Users Alliance

Responded on January 19, 2010

We do not typically weigh in on the selection of individual transit projects for New Starts grants, but I think the Administration’s decision is an unfortunate one. At a time when transportation funding is incredibly tight and we cannot even keep up with maintaining the physical condition of the system, nearly all of us can agree that quantifiable, performance-based reforms are the key to getting more money for all modes. Our reauthorization proposal suggests that this should be the case for highway investments too.

The Administration’s decision to reduce the importance of quantitative cost-effectiveness and transportation performance measures from their selection criteria will not give Americans a better feeling that their money is being well-spent. Poorly-defined livability criteria and purely qualitative (subjective) measures could make the project selection more political and less beneficial for those paying the bill.

Perhaps the quality of transit service would improve if transit users could better claim ownership of their funding. The National Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission proposed a user fee for transit users to help fund their rides. But at this point, all user fee-based funding for transit is paid by motorists, truckers, bus drivers, motorcyclists, and RVers. It is fair for these highway users to demand a quantifiable benefits/cost test that shows how the money diverted from highways they use can still benefit their mobility – at least to some degree. And reducing the quantitative benefit/cost and transportation performance measures from project selection certainly fails those who would argue for something so simple and reasonable at a time they’re asked to pay more in user fees.

Unfortunately, this change may return the FFGA selection process to a more subjective and political project one. It may also cause highly efficient bus-based transit projects to be left without a grant while more gold-plated but less efficient rail projects could be deemed more “livable” and thus more fundable.

The federal government should not be moving in this direction. Rather, they should focus the limited funds that they have on moving people and goods safely, efficiently, and cost-effectively. The fluff should be left for local governments to pay for at their discretion.

For more information on the responses, go to

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Week (*)
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)99.1199.11
Canadian National (CNI)52.2653.65
Canadian Pacific (CP)50.6752.93
CSX (CSX)44.1250.04
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)30.1730.90
Kansas City Southern (KSU)31.0132.92
Norfolk Southern (NSC)49.6552.78
Providence & Worcester (PWX)12.2011.21
Union Pacific (UNP)63.8565.57

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

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor


Secret “Cancellation List” Of Rail Projects
In Germany Creates Mass Confusion

Deutsche Bahn reacts with denial and surprise to reports of a confidential list of projects to be delayed or canceled

BERLIN – Early in the week of 18th of January a copy of an allegedly secret and highly confidential internal memo from Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) regarding a list of thirty high profile infrastructure projects to be either placed on indefinite hold or canceled altogether surfaced at numerous German newspapers and press agencies. Within a day various news outlets across Germany began reporting on the likely postponement or outright cancellation of various rail infrastructure projects including:

Stuttgart 21 – the ambitious and costly project to convert the main rail hub in Stuttgart from a surface level stub-ended terminal to an underground through station. A sub-project in Stuttgart 21 is a new high-speed rail line to the city of Ulm to supplement the existing “classic” rail line which follows a scenic, but slow and winding path through parts of the Black Forest. The project is just a few weeks away from the ceremonial ground-breaking and official start of construction with project completion forecast for the 2018 – 2019 time frame.

Y-Corridor – a project to build a “Y” shaped set of high-speed / high capacity rail lines between the northern German cities of Hannover, Hamburg and Bremen, thus supplementing the existing triangle-shaped rail lines in that region.

Süd Bahn – a project to electrify and expand an existing non-electrified and mostly single track rail line along the north shore of Lake Constance (Bodensee) in southern Germany.

Fehmarnbelt Rail Bridge to Denmark – this project – already agreed to via diplomatic treaties between Germany and Denmark – will involve building a huge suspension bridge for rail and road traffic between Puttgarden, Germany and Rødby, Denmark. Currently the route is handled by ferries which cross the channel in the Baltic Sea at approximately one-hour intervals. The trip by ferry takes about 40 minutes, and the ferries are outfitted with train tracks on their lower decks to accommodate trains traveling between Puttgarden and Rødby. The route serves intercity (IC) passenger trains traveling between Hamburg and Copenhagen as well as some freight trains.

Rhein – Ruhr Express – a high-speed (200 km/ h or faster) commuter train network for the heavily urbanized Rhine – Ruhr region in northwestern Germany. The area is already served by an extensive network of S-Bahn commuter and regional express trains, but none of the existing trains are capable of running faster than 160 km/h and average speeds are in the 80 km/h range. Several years earlier the region had envisioned having a mag-lev train route built to provide high-speed commuter transport services, but this died a couple of years ago when costs and financing of the mag-lev train variant became far too much for the regional governments to justify, and the conventional rail technology Rhein-Ruhr Express was proposed as a more cost effective alternative.

Munich-Mühldorf-Freilassing “Chemiedreieck” - this project includes double-tracking and electrification of this route, including a spur line to Burghausen.

Within 48 hours of stories about the mass postponement / cancellation of 30 rail-related projects appearing in various German newspapers, news shows and news websites, both Deutsche Bahn and various spokesmen for the German ministry of transportation denied that such a list even existed. However the minister of transportation, Peter Ramsauer (CSU political party) stated that he meets regularly with top management from Deutsche Bahn to discuss priorities of various rail infrastructure projects and, in the current situation where capital investments in various public works projects has to be reduced, which projects could be scaled back or delayed until more money becomes available.

In the state of Lower Saxony, where the Y-Corridor project shall be built, state government officials reiterated that the project is absolutely necessary and will be completed, including financial participation of the German federal government and Deutsche Bahn, by 2019 at the latest, and not started in 2025, as the leaked list indicated.

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OPINION... Opinion...  

With Boston South Station Development On Hold,
It’s Time To Push Again For The North South Rail Link

This article first appeared in The Boston Globe January 20, 2010

By Michael S. Dukakis and Robert O’Brien

A possible spider map of Boston’s rail system with a North-South Connector

Massachusetts’ state Transportation Secretary Jeff Mullan deserves a lot of credit for responding so quickly and clearly to the unexpected withdrawal of private developer interest at South Station, and we applaud the Globe for its support of state acquisition of this crucial site (“Despite financial stresses, state should buy South Station site,’’ Editorial, Jan. 9).

What is also important is that Mullan and the Globe should strongly support the resumption of planning and construction of the North-South Rail Link that will finally connect North and South stations by underground rail. Once trains can run through the city without having to park at these two terminals, the existing surface tracks at both North and South stations will be more than adequate. The link would also take 60,000 cars off the road every day, and provide the increased revenue and operational savings that will largely pay for the project.

We will surely need some additional surface tracks at South Station to handle anticipated growth in commuter rail and Amtrak service until the rail link is built. But once it is completed, we will not need many surface tracks because most of the passenger demand will be accommodated underground.

At that point, much of the land now required for surface tracks at South Station and probably all of the land devoted to surface tracks at North Station can be devoted to more valuable transit-oriented and tax-producing residential and commercial development.

In the meantime, the Commonwealth, with the help of our congressional delegation, should get cracking on the governor’s request for federal funds to complete the environmental review process on the rail link and get the construction process going.




Michael Dukakis is the former Amtrak Vice Chairman and Governor of Massachusetts

Robert O’Brien is the Chairman of the North-South Rail Link Citizens Advisory Committee.

For more information on the North-South Rail Link in Boston see

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Rail Proponents Cannot Let Ridership Crumble


Concrete Rail Ties Cracking
In New England Weather?

The Patriot Ledger

The Quincy (MA) Patriot Ledger is calling on rail patrons to stick to the rails while a serious issue with new concrete tie failure is resolved.

In an opinion piece this past week, the Patriot Ledger said:

“Rail commuters who groaned last week after experiencing the new slower rides into and out of Boston should brace for the possibility they will see worse in the months ahead.

The MBTA on Jan. 11 began running on a new schedule that has lengthened commuting time by five to 10 minutes on the Middleboro-Lakeville and Plymouth-Kingston lines.”

“Crumbling concrete ties are the cause of the slowdowns and the biggest factor behind the ties failing has apparently been that the mix used doesn’t hold up to the freeze-thaw cycle in this region, which would suggest more bad news may be waiting under the snow.”

“T officials have been trying to resolve this problem since it first surfaced in 2007. But they say they are caught between a concrete tie and a hard place. Rocla Concrete Tie Inc. has said it will file bankruptcy if the T forces it to honor a warranty that promised the ties would last 25 years, rather than crumbling after 10, as has been the experience.”

For the full story see:

Comments From David Beale On The
Tie Problems In Plymouth, Ma.

I seriously doubt winter weather is the root cause.  More likely is the usual culprit of awarding the contract to the lowest bidder the primary reason for this problem.  You get what you pay for.

Here in Europe concrete ties on heavily used rail lines have a useful life of about 20 - 25 years.  On less heavily used lines (similar to the MBTA’s commuter rail lines) they can last 30 - 40 years.  But if the quality of manufacturing is poor, then they last as little as four years.  We ran a few stories in D:F on how Deutsche Bahn was forced to close the Hamburg - Berlin high-speed line for about 3 months last year due to an urgent need to replace thousands and thousands of defective concrete ties which were disintegrating. Those concrete ties were installed new when the line was upgraded for high-speed trains in 2002-03.  The manufacturer, a concrete company in eastern Germany, in-fact did declare bankruptcy and folded when DBAG announced their intentions to seek financial compensation for the problem.  But back in the early part of the last decade, that concrete component manufacturer was low bidder for a number of rail rebuilding projects all across Germany. - DB

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