Vol. 8 No. 8
Copyright © 2007
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elected and appointed officials at all levels of government.
In this edition...
Canadian rail strike threatens US propane supplies,
businesses and the union in the middle
WASHINGTON --- A strike by Canadian National Railway Company members of the United Transportation Union has disrupted shipping across Canada, to US customers of propane --- and the relationship between the Canadian and American branches of the UTU, which may be the most serious ultimate casualty of the strike.
As shippers such as General Motors of Canada screamed and Maine officials prepared for a shortage of propane just as a fierce if delayed winter season settled in, American and Canadian UTU leaders exchanged charges in an internecine union battle that was the worse because its locus is obscure.
According to Reuters, UTU International President Paul Thompson has accused the unions Canadian general chairman, Rex Beatty, of using the strike to split the organization and have the Canadian locals join the rival Teamsters union. Beatty and other Canadian union officers have placed UTUs 2,800 members at CN in harms way Reuters quoted Thompson as saying in a letter that also questions how Beatty has accounted for funds received from CN.
Beatty rejected the allegation, and has threatened to sue Thompson, said Reuters.
The CN workers have been without a contract since the end of 2006. However, because of the nature of rail-labor agreements, rail unions often work for years at a time without formal contracts, under the provisions of national rail labor laws.
The Teamsters already represent locomotive engineers at Canadian National; the current strike is seen by some observers as a battle between the UTU and the Teamsters over who is the toughest contract negotiator on members behalf.
The strike does not yet involve CNs operations in the United States, in northern Quebec or on its Algoma Central and Mackenzie Northern Railway subsidiaries, Reuters reported.
In Augusta, according to the Associated Press, Gov. John Baldacci met with the director of the Maine Emergency Management Agency to assess the situation; Baldacci has already declared a state of emergency.
Propane ranks behind heating oil and natural gas for heating homes in New England, but tens of thousands of homeowners use it, and the pinch is being felt across the region, the AP said. In Maine, about 5 percent, or roughly 25,000, homes are heated by propane, according to the 2000 census. Propane is used for heat by 50,000 homes in New Hampshire, 29,000 homes in Vermont and 64,000 homes in Massachusetts.
Connecticut moves forward with expanded commuter rail service
on Eastern shoreline - restoration of freight service on Willy
HARTFORD --- The State of Connecticut is pushing forward for expanded commuter rail service East of New Haven as ShoreLine East, once targeted for closure by the states former Governor, is now seen as a solution for growing congestion on I-95.
At the same time, the Providence & Worcester Railroad is completing rehabilitation work on the Willimantic Willy Branch, to permit restored freight service on that line.
Between the two, Connecticut is giving signs it is becoming a leader in the drive to re-balance its transportation system, after decades of highway-only spending. Both Connecticut projects are supported by the National Corridors Initiative, whose New England/Northeastern Infrastructure Initiative program is designed to guide, and set goals for, the revival of the regions transportation system.
Senate Bill 450, introduced by new State Senator Andrew Maynard (D-Stonington) and backed by Transportation Committee leadership, would order expansion of service to New London; testimony and comments at hearings this past week called for investigating potential for commuter rail service to Providence and Boston, on the eastern end, and New York City on the Western.
Eastern Connecticut, still a largely rural area, is under intense transportation pressure because of automobile traffic caused by the presence of two of the largest casinos in the world, Mohican Sun in Norwich and Foxwoods in Ledyard. Each casino essentially uses up the capacity of the interstate on weekdays, and exceeds it on busy holidays.
The Sierra Club of Connecticut and others endorsed the proposed commuter rail expansion at hearings this past week.
The organizations I represent today, as Chair of the Sierra Club Transportation Committee, Director of the National Corridors Initiative, and founder of Stop Stealth Highways, congratulate the Transportation Committee and House and Senate leadership for their clear and compelling championing of increased commuter rail service leadership, and strongly endorse this legislation, stated Molly McKay.
As you all know, the transportation system in Connecticut is in crisis. Decades of over-investment in highway projects, to the neglect of other transportation modes, have --- as my organizations long ago predicted --- led to gridlock not only I-95, 84, and 91, but more and more on the secondary roads that feed them. It is very heartening that this committee recognizes this, and is showing leadership in the struggle to find a way out of the morass into which we have paved ourselves, she said.
Extending commuter rail service to New London, and increasing its frequency, as outlined in SB 450, are good first steps to take; we endorse them. In addition, I would like to suggest that language be added to the Bill that would direct the Executive Branch, specifically the Commissioner of Transportation, to: 1) become more active in representing Connecticuts interests to Metro North Railroad, as we pay them to operate it, and; and 2) make contact with his counterparts in Massachusetts and Rhode Island to advance high-level interstate cooperation on commuter rail, and explore how commuter rail might be extended between New Haven, New London, Providence, and Boston, as well as New London-Worcester-Boston. The New Haven-Springfield rail project has begun; let us make that fast, frequent, and affordable, she said.
Asking that Connecticut cooperate more closely with other states, she added: I would also ask that this committee, in like manner, be bold, and reach out to its counterpart committees in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, so that we may pool the brains and other resources in this highly educated corner of America, and begin to rebuild the regions transportation system in a way that gives us sustainable prosperity, and minimizes the damage that further pavement widening will cause. Regionalism is our friend, especially as we try to compete with the rest of the world.
In a statement of principles, she said:
Milwaukee mayor proposes transit-based
downtown circulator linking airport, Amtrak station
MILWAUKEE --- Milwaukees Mayor Tom Barrett has a vision for the transportation future of his city, and it involves the use of $91.5 million in federal transit funds to create a downtown rail-based transit circulator serving business hubs, the airport, and Amtrak station.
Reported the Milwaukee Business Journal, Barrett on Friday afternoon released what he called his comprehensive transit strategy for Milwaukee, saying it would improve environmental conditions and transportation access across the city.
If we are to succeed as a region, we cannot wait any longer, Barrett said in a press release. "I have a transportation plan that effectively utilizes these federal dollars and fully integrates all transit modes, strengthening our existing system and attracting new riders.
The costs will be covered without further burdening the Milwaukee taxpayer said Barrett. Funding would come from the $91.5 million in transit funds that the federal government awarded to the city of Milwaukee 16 years ago, the Journal reported, but which has never been used, plus a $16.2 million local match that Barrett said would not increase property taxes.
The new initiative Barrett introduced is called COMET, for County of Milwaukee Express Transit system. He said his plan would augment and upgrade Milwaukee County transit buses and offer comfortable, competitive, high-quality rides designed to deliver employees and students to their destinations, said the Journal.
Photo: David BealeObserved during a visit to Denver in May of 2006, this unique free transportation shuttle bus is train-like in that it has traction motors, not an engine and transmission. The bus is powered from a constant speed generator unit atop the vehicle which runs on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) to produce the electricity that powers lights, air conditioning, the traction motors and recharges the storage batteries. The bus operates on a downtown loop covering about 4 miles of mostly a pedestrian-only zone. Headways are about every 3-4 minutes. The traffic warning device is not a horn, but rather a bell or trolley gong.
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Mississippi Governor stresses freight rail
as economic tool for the south, the nation
NATCHEZ, MS ---Economic growth doesnt happen without transportation, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, whose states logistical and distribution system was hard-hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, told Governor speaks at conference, warning that highways can not be the only answer.
While trucks and highways dominate transportation, we all recognize that with the amount of freight today, weve got to better utilize other methods, the Natchez Democrat newspaper quoted Barbour, who is also a former Amtrak Board member, as telling the participants, Weve got to put containers on rails and on the river and improve our ports.
The amount of freight coming from the Gulf Coast is a challenge, he said a challenge to spread out the load over all forms of transportation. Distribution is a large part of the state economy and something on which the economy depends, he said.
Moving freight more efficiently was the focus of the national Freight Transportation Partnership Conference, held in Natchez, Mississippi, this past week. The biennial conference, hosted this year by the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), was attended by federal, state, and local government officials as well as private sector executives representing all modes of transportation across the U.S.
Meeting the Freight Challenge: Moving Ahead/Staying Ahead, was the theme, according to Ray Balentine, MDOTs Director of Intermodal Planning.
Participants in addition to Gov. Haley Barbour included U.S. Senator Trent Lott; John Horsley, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Executive Director; Jeff Paniati, Federal Highway Administration Director, Office of Operations; Jeff Shane, U.S. Department of Transportation Under Secretary for Policy; Tracey Rosser, Wal-Mart Vice President of Corporate Traffic; Doug Duncan, Federal Express Freight President and CEO; Clifford Eby, Federal Railroad Administration Deputy Administrator; Kurt Nagle, American Association of Port Authorities President and CEO; Edward R. Hamberger, Association of American Railroads President and CEO; and Hunter Harrison, Canadian National Railroad President and CEO.
David Beale wrote a great article. I found it very informative and interesting. However, the politicians,media, and citizenry en masse are very closed minded, and will find every excuse to dimiss this information. However, keep on writing as there some of us who will listen.
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