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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April 28, 2008
Vol. 9 No. 17

Copyright © 2008
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Home Page: www.nationalcorridors.org

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

  News Items…
New Connecticut DOT Chief Has Rail Transit Experience
Transportation Veteran Larry Salci Named CEO Of Colorado Rail Car
Light Rail New Orleans-To-Airport: Project Is Coming Back To Life
   As City Does
Sinkhole Near Central Station Reroutes Amtrak Service
  Commuter Lines…
Governor Patrick Approves Funding For Green Line Extension
New Jersey MOM Line Gets Boost From Feds
  Off The Main Line…
“Children Of Amtrak” Art Contest Extended!
Late News - Eighty Workers To Be Shifted Out Of Beech Grove
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Opinion…
Service Cuts Coming On New Jersey Transit’s Morris & Essex Lines:
   Not “The Way To Go”
  Academic Lines…
Stilgoe Predicts The Return Of Railroad
  Editorial…
Shutting Down The Northeast Corridor
  Publication Notes …


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

New Connecticut DOT Chief
Has Rail Transit Experience

By DF Staff

HARTFORD --- CT Gov. M. Jodi Rell has named a Phoenix, AZ METRO executive as Connecticut’s next Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

Joseph F. Marie, Director of Operations and Maintenance for new METRO system, the regional public transit system for Phoenix, will take office in June once confirmed by the Connecticut Legislature. He will join recently appointed Deputy Commissioner Albert Martin, former head of the department of transportation for Detroit, and a nationally-respected transit expert, at the top of ConnDOT, marking the first time in history that the department has had two rail transit experts in the top two posts.

A native of Massachusetts, Marie is currently directing the start-up and operations of the $1.4 billion Central Phoenix/East Valley Rail System. According to the announcement by Governor Rell, the METRO is part of a comprehensive program that involves more than $5 billion in investment in public transit infrastructure.

Marie previously served as Assistant General Manager of Operations for METRO TRANSIT in Minneapolis and has held executive positions with two Fortune 500 companies. He has also held senior transit positions in the States of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, and has more than 22 years of transit industry experience in both the public and private sectors.

”Joseph Marie is a seasoned, proven administrator with a strong background in public transit, which really is the future of transportation in Connecticut,” Governor Rell said. “Reforming and refocusing the DOT continues to be one of my top priorities.  We all understand what is at stake and what is required. We know that a modern, integrated transportation system of roads, rails and airports is fundamental to a strong economy. We do need a new, highly focused agency and Joe Marie has the vision, organizational skills and experience to move the DOT forward to the next level.

“Joe not only understands the vital importance of building a comprehensive and integrated system of transportation infrastructure and services, he has spent his career implementing and managing those systems,” the Governor noted. “As Governor, I have led the way for the largest investment in decades in our transportation network – mass transit, rail service and road building. We need the best leadership possible to continue to bring change and improvement to the Department of Transportation as we build our 21st century transportation system.”

The Connecticut Department of Transportation, long controversial in that state because of its highway-only mentality and lack of management experience in non-highway transportation, and because of a series of multi-million-dollar scandals and cost over-runs in its highway program, has been receiving intense attention from Gov. Rell since virtually the beginning of her term. Rell, then Lieutenant Governor, assumed office in March 2005 upon the conviction and jailing of her predecessor, John Rowland, up until then a rising young Republican Governor, for corruption. He served one year in jail.

Marie has published more than a dozen articles and papers in industry journals on equipment technology, operations and modal integration.  His industry experience includes positions with rail equipment manufacturers Bombardier and Siemens. He received his Bachelors degree in Economics from Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts and a Masters in Public Administration from Pennsylvania State University.

“The DOT is at a critical point in its history,” Governor Rell said. “It is one of the most important agencies in state government and it is responsible for policies and initiatives that will have a profound effect on our economy and quality of life now and in the future. We have made significant progress in setting a new direction.  Joe recognizes the challenges we face and he is very much looking forward to addressing them head-on.”

“I look forward to this new challenge and want to express my thanks to Governor Rell for her confidence in me,” Mr. Marie said. “I am eager to work with the talented, dedicated employees of the Connecticut DOT.  I have a deep appreciation of the challenges they face.  I know how important it is to succeed -- and I know by working together and by listening and leading, that we can accomplish our important mission of transforming the delivery of transportation services in Connecticut.”

 ”Joe will implement a transportation strategy that recognizes the vital importance of mass transit, smart growth, transit-oriented development and the critical role of all forms of transportation in the maintenance and growth of our economy,” Governor Rell said. “My goal has been to build a 21st century transportation system to support and help grow our 21st century economy. We must continue to anticipate our future with the work we do today.”

The Governor thanked Deputy Commissioner H. James Boice for his service as Acting Commissioner while the national search committee completed its work.

The Department of Transportation is headquartered in Newington and is responsible for the construction and maintenance of major Connecticut roads, highways and bridges, and the state’s public transit system. The 3,200-employee agency also oversees commuter and freight rail lines, shoreline ports and piers, ferries and Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks.


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Transportation Veteran Larry Salci
Named CEO Of Colorado Rail Car

By DF Staff And From Colorado Rail Car

FORT LUPTON, CO --- Transportation veteran Larry Salci has been named President & CEO of Colorado Railcar Manufacturing, LLC, by former President and founder, Tom Rader, who “will focus on his other business interests, including GrandLuxe Rail Journeys, where he is the Chairman & CEO,” the company said in a news release.  Mr. Rader remains the sole shareholder of Colorado Railcar Manufacturing.

Larry Salci has 37 years of experience in the transportation industry, 30 of which were in the public transportation and inter-city passenger railcar industries.  He has “…the unique background of having been the CEO or senior executive of companies that designed and manufactured passenger railcars and also served as the CEO of two major U.S. transit properties that operated light rail, commuter rail, and bus transit systems,” stated CRC.

Mr. Salci served as President of The Budd Transit Group from 1982-1988, as President of Bombardier Corporation from 1988 to 1994 and President of the Morrison Knudsen Transit Group and its successor company, American Passenger Rail Car Company, from 1994 to 2000.  Mr. Salci was the General Manager & CEO of the Southeastern Michigan Transportation Authority (SEMTA) from 1975-1981 and President & CEO of St. Louis Metro from 2002 to January 2008.  During Mr. Salci’s career he has been responsible for the design, manufacture and re-manufacture of over 3,000 passenger railcars for several major transit systems in the U.S. and Amtrak.  Mr. Salci also has the unique background of managing a public transit property and has substantial experience with local, state, and federal government funding and grants processes administered by both the Federal Transit Administration and Federal Railway Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“Colorado Railcar Manufacturing (CRM) is the only U.S owned designer and manufacture of passenger railcars.  CRM designs and manufactures self-propelled diesel railcars, both single deck and double deck.  It also designs and manufactures domed locomotive hauled coaches for the passenger train tour industry.  Colorado Railcar Manufacturing is currently completing orders for single level DMUs, both power cars and trailers for Tri-Met in Portland, double deck DMUs and trailers for the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, and both double deck dome tour coaches and a double deck DMU for the Alaska Railroad Corporation.  Colorado Railcar Manufacturing is based in Ft. Lupton, Colorado near Denver,” the company stated.

(For more information about Colorado Railcar Manufacturing, contact Norman Forde, Vice President Sales and Program Management at 303-857-1066 ext. 242 or e-mail at Norman.Forde@ColoradoRailcar.com)


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Jefferson Parish [County] seeks to build Airport-Downtown Connector

 

Light Rail New Orleans-To-Airport:
Project Is Coming Back To Life As City Does

By DF Staff And From The New Orleans Times-Picayune

KENNER, LA --- A long-proposed rail connection between Louis Armstrong (formerly Moisant) Airport outside New Orleans, and the downtown business district 11 miles distant, is back in the news.

Reporter Richard Rainey of the Pulitzer-Prize winning New Orleans Times-Picayune reported this past week that Jefferson Parish is seeking $20 million in state aid to buy a long unused rail right of way that parallels one of the most direct routes between the airport and the city.

The project has been proposed on and off several times, but has always has fallen short of realization, for a variety of reasons, including opposition from local taxi operators, and even, quietly, from the airport itself, which, as do most airports, earns significant revenue from its parking garages.

Local observers believe that this time, in a post-Katrina New Orleans struggling to rebuild itself, the project may get some traction. In addition, they point to a progressive new Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, whose family originated in the Punjab section of India and who is the first non-Caucasian governor in Louisiana since the 1870’s Reconstruction period, as a change agent. Jindal has already attacked the traditional Louisiana laissez-faire approach to politics and has brought in nationally prominent experts such as former Rhode Island Secretary of Transportation Dr. William Ankner, who now heads LADOT.

“Although no design or engineering work for such a system is on the immediate horizon,” reported the Times-Picayune, “parish and regional planning officials urge buying the land before the primary owner, Kansas City Southern railroad, can sell it in sections to different bidders.”

“I’m really glad Jefferson is sponsoring this,” said Jeff Roesel, the principal planner with the Regional Planning Commission, to the Times-Picayune; “Somebody needs to start getting that corridor before someone piece-meals it to death.”

“The light-rail system is part of a broader plan to expand state-owned Airline Drive and the Earhart Expressway to alleviate traffic congestion on Interstate 10 through Jefferson, officials said. That project would widen Airline into a six-lane thoroughfare stretching from the Orleans Parish line to the airport and create an elevated ramp connecting it to Earhart. Officials estimate the price for such an undertaking at roughly $300 million, said Jefferson Public Works Director Jose Gonzales,” the Times-Picayune reported

“The Regional Planning Commission is spearheading the project. Consultants with URS Corp. completed an environmental study in November, but the Federal Transit Administration, which gauges federal investment in such work, shelved any future work after determining the population had not increased enough since Hurricane Katrina to warrant the expansion, a state Department of Transportation and Development spokesman said,” according to the Times-Picayune.

The FTA has been actively discouraging transit projects for some time now, despite its mandate to promote and fund them across the country, because the White House Office of Management and Budget opposes rail investment. It has effectively run the US DOT with an increasingly heavy hand since 2005, when it ordered the firing of Amtrak President David Gunn, who had turned the railroad around from an operations standpoint and was making it work more effectively than it had in years.

“Jefferson’s takeover of the land would ease the process of trying to seek the money through Congress and the Federal Transit Administration, which has a series of complicated requirements that don’t exist at the state and local levels,” Roesel told the paper.

“The federal rules, as I appreciate it, were fairly cumbersome to get everything squared away,” he said.

Times-Picayune reporter Richard Rainey can be reached at rrainey@timespicayune.com or (504) 883-7052.


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Sinkhole Near Central Station Reroutes Amtrak Service

Growing Threat Forces Detour

MEMPHIS, APRIL 26 -- An 8-foot-wide sinkhole is wreaking havoc next to the Amtrak line at Central Station in Memphis, reported the Online Scripps Newspaper Group in a story by Cindy Wolff. The hole started out the size of a basketball but by Friday it had expanded to eight feet wide and 18 feet deep, putting it within one foot of the train track. It was still getting larger as this story was being written.

Amtrak is using buses to get passengers on and off the City of New Orleans line.

Tow trucks worked to carry 21 cars parked at the station to a safe location while Memphis Light, Gas and Water staff raised new electric lines to replace others that will come down near the sinkhole.

A rain culvert that runs 50 feet beneath the ground is collapsing, causing the sinkhole.

“It’s just spreading out underneath itself and pulling down the sides,” said Wain Gaskin, director of engineering for the city of Memphis. The culvert was built about 1897, he said, and the repair will take at least six weeks.

Two Photos: Mike Maple/The Commercial Appeal

A giant sinkhole just south of Central Station has closed the section of tracks Amtrak uses. The 8-foot-wide sinkhole is about 18 feet deep and getting larger. A section of tracks was removed south of Central Station to allow city crews to repair a rain culvert running 50 feet beneath the ground, which is causing the sinkhole.

Workers from Canadian National, which owns the track, are doing the work.

Gaskin didn’t know how much it would cost the city to repair the culvert.

Meanwhile, Amtrak is rerouting its train from Chicago to New Orleans to bypass Memphis.

Passengers who are coming to Memphis from the south will get off in Lakeview, Miss., and will be bused to the Memphis station. From the north, they’ll disembark at Fite Road in Woodstock to get on the bus.

Passengers leaving from Memphis will be bused to the appropriate location until the track is restored, said Marc Magliari, Amtrak spokesman. They’re being asked to arrive at the station an hour before departure time, and to use the street-level entrance on Main.

Several hundred passengers a day-ride the train that stops in Memphis twice a day -- once headed north and once headed south. Last year, 50,049 passengers used Central Station.


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...

Governor Patrick Approves Funding For Green Line Extension

From Tufts Daily On The Internet

BOSTON, APRIL 25 -- Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a transportation bond bill last week which will float $3.5 billion in bonds for transportation projects across the state. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) Green Line will receive $600 million in appropriations to fund their extension into Somerville and the Tufts University campus.

According to Stephen Mackey, president of the Somerville Chamber of Commerce, the bill marks a large step in the push to extend the T in Somerville.

“It’s another major milestone towards the realization of the extension. Each milestone will bring further interest in terms of development,” Mackey told the Daily.

While the funds help to ensure the project’s completion, it will not do anything to speed up the process. But the bill will act as a type of insurance in case the federal government chooses not to fund the project.

The project is still on the drawing board. Earlier this year, those working on the project met with community members to discuss the locations and amenities of the new stations. One such meeting occurred at Sophia Gordon Hall on the Tufts campus.

Several studies must be completed before the project can move forward. “They’re doing an environmental impact study and an engineering study. Only after they do the [studies] will they file the application for the federal [funding],” Mackey said.

According to Mackey, the completion of the project will deliver much-needed mass transit to Somerville, the most densely populated city in New England.


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New Jersey MOM Line Gets Boost From Feds

Press Release From Congress members Smith And Saxton

WASHINGTON, DC - New Jersey Transit will receive more than a $1 million for its proposed Monmouth, Ocean, Middlesex (MOM) Passenger Rail Line, thanks to the persistence and hard work of two New Jersey Congressmen:. Christopher Smith, Republican from the 4th district, and Jim Saxton, Republican from the 3rd district.

The MOM Alternatives Analysis Program will receive $1.25 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation budget as a direct result from Smith’s and Saxton’s efforts to fund the project in 2005, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act - A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU or SAFETEA). This act authorizes federal surface transportation programs through the end of 2009.

The MOM Passenger Rail Line is expected to relieve traffic congestion in the region, the fastest growing area in central New Jersey. The MOM Line would extend passenger rail service from New York City, Newark, and other urban areas of North Jersey into Central New Jersey, according to State and local planners.

“The MOM line is a critical project aimed at relieving congestion and its related health problems in one of the fastest growing regions in New Jersey,” said Rep. Smith. “The federal government’s continued commitment and funding will help move the MOM line forward.

“Chris and I feel that this is a worthwhile public transportation effort,” said Saxton. “New Jersey is the most densely populated state, and this rail line could improve commuting and transportation systems by creating a rail service link between North Jersey and South Jersey. That could reduce cars on the roads, and give travelers an option to get to their destinations.”


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OFF THE MAIN LINE... Off The Main Line...

“Children Of Amtrak” Art Contest Extended!

To get your kids - between the ages of six and 12 - involved in National Train Day, we are extending the deadline for the “Children of Amtrak” Art Contest one week. Entries must be postmarked by Friday, May 2 and received by Wednesday, May 7. Four grand-prize winners will receive a family travel voucher for anywhere Amtrak travels. Complete official rules are posted at www.nationaltrainday.com/employees/artcontest.

* * * * * *

With National Train Day only two weeks away, excitement is continuing to build. To date, 82 stations across the country, including those major stations in Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, are hosting NTD open houses to promote passenger rail. For information on events and activities in your area, log on to the NTD Web site at: www.nationaltrainday.com.

* * * * * *

As Amtrak ambassadors, all of us play a vital role in the success of National Train Day. Spread the word!


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Late Breaking Announcement From Amtrak:

Eighty Workers To Be Shifted Out Of Beech Grove

Source: Indianapolis Business Journal

APRIL 25 -- To improve efficiency of train maintenance Amtrak plans to relocate 80 positions away from its long-time maintenance hub in Beech Grove, reported IBJ staff writer Norm Heikens.

Fifty-three positions specializing in wheels will be moved to Chicago and 27 positions with locomotives will go to Wilmington, Del., said spokesman Marc Magliari.

“After the restructuring, 475 workers will remain at the site,” Magliari said. “The local cuts will take effect before August.”

The change is associated with a new maintenance philosophy that involves replacing parts at intervals recommended by manufacturers, he said. Under the prior approach, parts would be replaced on an engine or car on a different timetable.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)99.7599.77
Canadian National (CNI)53.0152.29
Canadian Pacific (CP)67.6269.30
CSX (CSX)61.9461.24
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.5162.51
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)36.8735.49
Kansas City Southern (KSU)43.6643.45
Norfolk Southern (NSC)60.1361.64
Providence & Worcester (PWX)20.0719.00
Union Pacific (UNP)140.59138.08


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OPINION... Opinion...

Service Cuts Coming On New Jersey Transit’s
Morris & Essex Lines: Not “The Way To Go”

By: David Peter Alan

When you depend on transit for basic mobility, life can be fraught with uncertainty. Will I finish in time to make the train? Will the train get me to my appointment on time? Will I make a connection that looks OK on the schedule, but actually misconnects far too often?

That’s everyday stuff, but now, a new uncertainty looms: the prospect of a major service cut coming without warning. I live on New Jersey Transit’s Morris & Essex Line, historically part of the Lackawanna Railroad and a line that old timers mention with hushed reverence. They say things like “You could set your watch by the Lackawanna” and “There’s no railroad anywhere like the M&E” and similar praise. Today, our line is just part of New Jersey Transit (NJT) and, like everywhere else in the government of New Jersey, NJT has money trouble.

[  NOTE - The Morris & Essex Line is an important service for commuters in northern New Jersey. In 1996, New Jersey Transit completed a link between its Morris and Essex lines and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, allowing trains from a wide swath of northern New Jersey to go directly to 98 region’s commuter rail network since New Jersey Transit took over the remnants of the Morris and Essex and other long-dead railroads in 1983 - Editor] NJT managers say that things aren’t bad enough to raise fares this year (we had three fare increases in the past five years) but things did get bad enough that somebody had to take a fall with service cuts. Our M & E was selected.

NJT’s slogan is “The Way to Go” and sometimes they live up to it. Last month, NJT announced service improvements on several rail lines, including a new peak-hour train on our M&E Line. But there was also an announcement that there would be “service adjustments” on the M&E. This was ominous. Around NJT, service is never “adjusted” in the positive direction.

I had no idea what would be cut until I met with a rail manager. There were no public announcements, except that “adjustments” were coming. I was shocked to learn that we were about to lose our half-hourly mid-day service on weekdays. There will be two trains each hour, running within five minutes of each other. If you miss it, you wait 55 minutes for the next one.

Right now, not many people know how bad the cuts are slated to be. Half-hourly service on that line is historic, going back to the 1920s. Many transit-dependent people live on the M&E Line, lured to live there by the high level of train service. We use the train for local trips from one town to another, probably more than on any other line in the nation. Downtown business districts are strong because of the rail access and therefore are competitive with the malls a few miles away. Most of our stations are located in downtown areas, convenient for walking and for using the rail line to go from one town to another. “Transit-oriented development,” as practiced in the 1890s, works well on the M&E.

Are the cuts certain to be implemented? Not yet, but probably soon. There have been previous attempts to slash our service. In 1966, we lost our half-hourly service, but it was restored four months later. We lost it again for a few years in the early 1980s when the railroad was rebuilt, and management promised its return at the completion of the project. When the project ended and service was not restored, the Lackawanna Coalition and other advocates fought again and we got it back a few months later. For the third time, the battle is on.

Can we keep our level of service this time? If we lose it, can we get it back? That is up to our elected leaders more than anyone else. Transit managers may keep secrets from us with impunity, but political officeholders stand in a stronger position than we do. We fought to keep our service before, and we will do so again.


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ACADEMIC LINES... Academic Lines...

Stilgoe Predicts The Return Of Railroad

Recently Published Book Explores The Importance Of Rail Development In America Which Many Do Not Yet Realize

By Emily Simon
Harvard Gazette

“The golden age of the railroad ended in the mid-20th century, when Americans switched from Pullman cars to Chevys and eventually 747 jetliners. Yet, to John R. Stilgoe, Robert and Lois Orchard Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Graduate School of Design, trains are anything but passé.”

“ ‘Train travel will supplant highway and air travel in the next few decades,’ Stilgoe says. ‘Furthermore, electric railroads will increasingly be used to distribute freight items — such as coal and grain — as well as mail and express packages.’ “

He explores this scenario in a recently published book, “Train Time: Railroads and the Imminent Reshaping of the United States Landscape” (University of Virginia Press, 2007).

Stilgoe cites investment and real estate activity as good indicators of the resurgence of rail travel. He notes that Warren Buffet recently purchased 39 million shares of stock in Burlington Northern Santa Fe, a freight railroad that serves the West and Midwest.

“It’s very clear what is happening,” Stilgoe says. “The share price of railroad stocks is going up and up. One would never imagine that railroads could be good investment … but then why is Warren Buffett so interested?”

He points to Albuqurque, New Mexico, where 10 new double-decker commuter cars were recently purchased for the active commuter line that connects several outlying areas to the city.

Politicians in many of the “auto centric” cities like Atlanta, and St. Louis are exploring what the development of rail will do for the economic health of their cities.

Rising gas prices are reaching the point where rail travel is more economical than driving. “Railroads are part of a sustainable future,” Stilgoe says.

Three main forces will influence the resurgence of rail in the United States:

Population growth (150 million more people will inhabit the U. S. by 2050, experts say); rising gas prices, and advanced technology.

For the complete article, go to: http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2008/04.10/09-stilgoe.html
Link provided by Emily Simon
esimon@fas.harvard.edu


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...

Shutting Down The Northeast Corridor

By James P. RePass
President & CEO
The National Corridors Initiative
www.nationalcorridors.org

For those who live on Amtrak’s densely populated Northeast Corridor, or in California or North Carolina where intelligent use of state funds state funds has built up passenger rail service to modern-era record levels, rail service over the past decade has shown marked improvement.

The electrification of the final 130 miles of the Northeast Corridor New haven-to-Boston, a project blocked for a decade by the White House Office of Management and Budget until the National Corridors Initiative’s bi-partisan Board of Directors negotiated a reversal of that policy in 1991, was completed in 1999. As a direct consequence of that action by NCI rail travel times Boston-New York have been reduced from the old 5-6 hours, to 3 1/2. (Note 1)

Because of that, Amtrak is now the fastest way to travel between those two cities; air travel takes longer simply because terminal times consume so much time, longer than the actual flight itself.

It is therefore all the more unfortunate that, even as Amtrak seeks to further improve the Northeast Corridor via capital improvements to its ancient and long-neglected basic infrastructure, it is doing so in a way that will prove needlessly disruptive to both business and tourism in the Northeast.

Amtrak has decided on a complete four-day shutdown of service on the Northeast Corridor June 14-15-16-17 as a bridge span over the Thames River at New London is replaced. The shut-down will probably be between New Haven and Boston, but Amtrak has not announced that yet.

The replacement of the bridge span is about 50 years over-due; that is not the issue. The issue is that Amtrak has decided not to provide any replacement bus service whatsoever on those dates, effectively shutting down one of the nation’s most important travel corridors. This will affect not only Boston, Providence, New London, and New Haven: travel to and from those cities and Stamford, New York, Newark, Trenton, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore, and Washington, no matter where it originates, will also be affected.

Instead of arranging for buses to go around New London and the Thames for those four days, a logistical difficulty but something that is doable, nonetheless doable, Amtrak has essentially told the traveling public “you’re on your own.” While certainly some people with alternatives --- business people going to New York – Boston/Philly/DC --- will be fine, many will not, because Northeast Corridor service is not simply Boston-New York or New York-DC; it is Providence-Stamford; Route 128-New Haven; New London-Philadelphia, and so on – in short, the very reason rail travel is so essential to the region is that it knits the entire region together, not just a few airports.

It is very understandable why Amtrak would not want to go through the logistical difficulty of providing “bustitution” service for four days; that is a lot of organizational work for a short period of service.

But what if the work takes longer than the promised four days? Many construction projects take longer than expected. In fact, until recently, Amtrak was saying that the Thames River bridge span replacement would interrupt service for two days; suddenly, it is four.

We have supported Amtrak and its efforts to provide decent rail service for nearly 20 years, and we regard the people of Amtrak, especially the day-to-day trainmen, on-board workers, engineers, and maintenance crews who have labored for decades under often impossible working conditions as nothing less than heroes. Most of the traveling public is blissfully unaware of their struggle to provide decent service under difficult conditions, but a struggle it has been. Improving the infrastructure without maintaining some level of service, however, sends the wrong message to the public, to the governors and legislators who are often the recipients of travelers’ wrath, and to the Congress, that somehow it is all right to just shut down for four days.

It is not all right, and Amtrak management needs to reverse this decision. Train-bus-train will be awkward, but it is not impossible, and has been done before. New England has some first rate-bus companies with large fleets – yes, NCI supports bus service too, of course --- and Amtrak needs to work with them to make this particular major infrastructure repair as seamless and as minimally disruptive as possible.

But there is something more.

The day is going to come in America when, despite our best efforts, and our red and orange and yellow alerts, terrorists will strike again, and they are going to strike at infrastructure. We had best be prepared, in advance, for coping with major infrastructure disruptions, lest we be left completely helpless when --- not if, but when --- they occur.

That is why Amtrak’s proposed shutdown is not really a problem. It is an opportunity, an opportunity for the Department of Homeland Security to fund, and Amtrak and the bus companies to test, a major corridor transportation work-around in advance of actually needing it. Such work-arounds will, no doubt, be someday necessary under far more dire circumstances, to maintain effective transportation services. If we fail to truly prepare for it, then the terrorists have already won.

 

Note 1 - For those readers unaware of NCI’s role in this major improvement in Northeast travel, and for the record, NCI Board members former Rhode Island Governor J. Joseph Garrahy, former New York Power Authority Chair Richard Flynn, Lincoln Chafee (then NCI’s Executive Director, later Mayor of Warwick and Senator from Rhode Island), industrialist and major Republican fund-raiser the late Robert Pullman of Derry, NH; former Rhode Island Chief Governor’s Counsel William Brody; and NCI founder and President James P. RePass of Boston, were invited to the White House by former OMB Director Richard Darman at the behest of Gov. Garrahy. NCI’s bi-partisan board met three times at the White House during 1990-1991 to make the case that the Northeast Corridor Electrification project, authorized by Congress under President Jimmy Carter (1977-81) but halted by Ronald Reagan OMB Director David Stockman in 1981, should be completed because of the huge improvement in Northeast travel times, and options for travelers, that would result. On September 21, 1991, OMB agreed to drop its opposition to the project, the long-authorized $125 million in funds were appropriated, and work began. Then, each year from 1991-1999, the project was continued, until completed; the first electric trains ran “under the wires” DC-Boston in late 1999. During this time Amtrak also ordered new equipment from a consortium headed by Bombardier, which Amtrak named its “Acela” service, and which despite early wheel, suspension and brake problems caused by Federal Railroad Administration-mandated excess weight due to FRA “buffing standards” of the trainsets, have been a huge success for Amtrak and for the traveling public.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2008 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.

Photo submissions are welcome. NCI is always interested in images that demonstrate the positive aspects of rail, transit, intermodalism, transportation-oriented development, and current newsworthy events associated with our mission. Please contact the webmaster in advance of sending large images so we can recommend attachment by e-mail or grant direct file transfer protocols (FTP) access depending on size. Descriptive text which includes location and something about the content of the image is required. We will credit the photographer and offer a return link to your web site or e-mail address.

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.

Destination Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.

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