Vol. 8 No. 21
May 21, 2007

Copyright © 2007
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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www.nationalcorridors.org

Destination:Freedom
A weekly North American transportation update

The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative Inc.

Publisher - James P. RePass
Editor - Molly McKay
European Correspondent - David Beale
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

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

IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition...

  News Items…
Massachusetts joins “States for Passenger Rail Coalition”
Smaller communities could face loss of air service
  Corridor lines…
Route chosen for restoration of rail service eliminated 25 Years Ago
  Safety lines…
Safe Passage: A day in the life of a train dispatcher
  Maintenance lines…
Track upgrades to benefit Pacific Surfliner service
  Selected rail stocks…
  Freight lines…
P&W reports 64.5% fuel saving in test of NREC locomotive
  Across the pond…
Regional News Bite
  Commentary…
On the Urban Land Institute report
On grade crossings
  We get letters…
  Webmaster Notes - New Feature Added…
  End Notes…


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

Massachusetts joins “States for Passenger Rail Coalition”

By DF Staff

MADISON, WI --- The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, long a bastion of pro-rail advocacy, but never a member of the important States for Passenger Rail Coalition, has joined, bringing to 29 the number of states officially in the fight for better American passenger rail, and leaving only New Hampshire and Rhode Island left to join among the New England states.

Massachusetts signed on with the help of new Lt. Governor Tim Murray, a major voice for passenger rail in the Northeast, who had been contacted about the absence of Massachusetts by NCI Vice President John Businger. Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen, likewise a strong advocate for rail, Deputy Secretary Thomas Cahir, and staff, represent the state to the Coalition.

Businger, a former State Representative for 28 years and an active advocate for rail transportation in his own right, told Destination:Freedom that he had been surprised to learn, from California Capitol Corridors Joint Powers Authority Managing Director Eugene Skoropowski, at a conference of TrainRiders NorthEast in Portland, ME, April 10, that Massachusetts, so dependent on passenger rail for much of its transportation needs, had never joined this key national body.

At an NCI-organized Summit Conference on Transportation conference in Hartford April 12, former Representative Businger met with Lt. Gov. Murray on the subject, and Lt. Gov. Murray’s office followed up, in conjunction with Massachusetts Secretary Cohen’s office, to move for the approvals needed for Massachusetts to join.

The States for Passenger Rail Coalition was founded in 2000 as a central clearing office for transportation department officials nationwide seeking to advance the progress of passenger rail service. It has been active at the national level since its foundation in the Midwest, and has been growing in recent years as voter complaints of worsening traffic congestion and higher gas prices have led to a renewed call for alternatives to the automobile.

The States for Passenger Rail Coalition lists the following principles and objectives:

1) Passenger rail service is essential to the nation

2) Federal funding in partnership with states is essential for passenger rail

3) States need to assume key institutional roles in passenger rail development

The States for Passenger Rail Coalition can be reached at the Railroads and Harbors Section, P.O. Box 7914, Madison, WI 53707-7914, or contact Executive Director Randy Wade at 608-266-9498, email: randall.wade@dot.state.wi.us


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Smaller communities could face loss of air service

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent

The Boyd Group, a US consulting and research organization, issued a report predicting that “dozens of smaller communities” could face a reduction in or even loss of commercial air service because of evolving airline economics. By May 4, some 75 applications had been filed under the US Dept. of Transportation’s Small Community Air Service Development Grant Program, but only about 40 of those have “potential for success,” according to the report. The grants will be critical because the costs of service to rural communities are projected to skyrocket past what communities can afford to pay.

“In the future, the hurdles to gaining more service will be going up sharply and unexpectedly for most small communities,” the report contends. “Quietly and unnoticed, there are emerging changes in the core economic dynamics of the airline industry that are going to savage air service levels at many small and rural communities.” The elimination of smaller turboprops from regional fleets and the “deteriorating economics” of 50-seat regional jets are mentioned as prime threats. Also, major carriers will have to consider the quality of feed traffic or the type of revenues generated and not just the number of passengers before they commit to providing regional service at a smaller airport.


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CORRIDOR LINES...  Corridor lines...

Route chosen for restoration of rail service eliminated 25 Years Ago

Amtrak Media Relations and DF Staff

CHICAGO --- A feasibility study by Amtrak and Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has determined that the best route for restored service in northern Illinois would be the direct line connecting Chicago, Rockford and Dubuque, Iowa.

The study, requested by IDOT, is an indication of the continuing progress of Illinois’ partnership with Amtrak.

Last fall, state support for Amtrak’s intercity rail service was doubled from $12.1 million to $24 million due to increased demand. As a result, two daily round trips were added to the Chicago-St. Louis line and one each to Chicago-Carbondale and Chicago-Quincy starting at the end of October, 2006. In February, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced that ridership had surged by an average of 69 percent for the three routes. The most dramatic increase came on the Chicago-St. Louis line, the Lincoln Service, which saw a 95 percent jump in passengers in November, December and January, compared with the same three months in 2005 and 2006. The Carbondale line (which carries the Saluki and the Illini) recorded a 68 percent increase and the Quincy line (the Carl Sandburg and the Illinois Zephyr) was up 38 percent.

According to a spokesperson from IDOT interviewed by DF staff, the success of those expansions gave IDOT the impetus to request the feasibility study for the northwestern region of the state. Also, groups such as The Environmental Law and Policy Center, Midwest High Speed Rail Association, and rail unions are supportive of the expansion plans, she said.

During the review period, the public was extensively involved.

“It is clear from the series of public meetings we’ve held over the last few months and the extensive amount of input we have received from the community that there is strong public support for restoring passenger rail service between Chicago, Rockford and Dubuque,” said Milt Sees, Acting IDOT Secretary.  “A reliable rail connection would reduce highway congestion and help give travelers an option to avoid high fuel prices.”

Funding and agreements with Canadian National, which owns the tracks, are still needed to advance the plan. At this stage, the project is not in the 2008 state budget and it is too early to identify sources of funds. State subsidies for the operating costs of the Chicago-St. Louis, Carbondale and Quincy expansions came from the general revenue.

Both U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and Congressman Don Manzullo have been actively supportive of expanded rail service. In the summer of 2006, Senator Durbin, joined by the Congressman, held a town meeting in Rockford in order to gauge public support for Amtrak service. They found that Amtrak ridership had increased significantly over the past three years where other services had been expanded and determined that Northern Illinois needed dependable passenger rail service.

“I am proud to have helped the communities in Northern Illinois in this effort,” said Senator Durbin.

“We are excited the State of Illinois has selected the route for Amtrak service and we can move forward to the next step,” said Cong. Don Manzullo (R-Egan). “This quick decision was made possible because our local officials put their personal preferences aside and did what was best for the region. As a result, we are closer than ever to restoring daily passenger rail service to northern Illinois.”

“Amtrak ridership has seen record increases over the past three years,” said Sen. Durbin (D-Ill.).  “One thing that was clear from the public meetings we held in the past few months -- Northern Illinois needs dependable passenger rail service.  Today’s announcement brings us a step closer to that goal.”  

The Amtrak press release continues:

“In the original feasibility report prepared by Amtrak at the direction of IDOT, the approximate cost of upgrading the railroad infrastructure was up to $62 million, dependant on the choice of routes.  The latest estimated capital funding needs range from a low of $32 million for the all-CN route chosen by the state (and used for state-supported Black Hawk service until 1981), to a high of $55 million for a route via the airport.  Not included in these capital figures are what are assumed to be the local costs of providing stations. “Chicago-Rockford travel times of nearly two hours and Chicago-Dubuque travel times of about five hours are possible and would be competitive with automobile driving.  Amtrak estimates two-to-three construction seasons would be needed to make the infrastructure improvements necessary to achieve these travel times, depending on the timing of the completion of negotiations with CN.

“IDOT has asked Amtrak to deliver two other feasibility reports, to study state-supported service to the Quad Cities (including Rock Island and Moline, Ill.,) and to Peoria.  Both communities have never been served by Amtrak trains and both lost passenger rail service in 1978, when the Rock Island Railroad discontinued operations.”

Editor’s note: In March 2007, the Honorable Joseph Boardman Federal Railroad Administrator testified before a House Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and other Related Agencies Committee on Appropriations. He spoke of the need for stronger partnerships between states and intercity rail development, citing the states of Washington and Illinois as examples of successful partnerships with Amtrak. Several grant programs to encourage more state participation with Amtrak are being considered. Below is an excerpt from Mr. Boardman’s testimony:

Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program

For FY 2008, the Administration requests ....... $100 million to fund a program of matching grants to the States to undertake capital investment projects for passenger rail services that the States believe important. [This would] expand State support for intercity passenger rail, thus putting more of the decisions on what should be operated with public subsidies in the hands of those who know best what intercity passenger needs exist and how best to meet those needs.

Most publicly supported transportation in the U.S. is undertaken through a partnership between the Federal Government and the States. This model, which has worked well for generations for highways, transit and airports, places the States … at the forefront of planning and decision-making. States are uniquely qualified to understand their mobility needs and connectivity requirements through Statewide and metropolitan area intermodal and multimodal transportation planning funded, in part, by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

While intercity passenger rail has historically been an exception to the application of this successful model, in recent years some States have taken an active role in their rail transportation services. Several States have chosen to invest in intercity passenger rail service provided by Amtrak as part of strategies to meet their passenger mobility needs. Over the past 10 years, ridership on intercity passenger rail routes that benefit from State support has grown by 73 percent. Over that same time period, ridership on Amtrak routes not supported by States has increased by only 7 percent.

State involvement in planning and decision-making for intercity passenger rail service identifies where mobility needs justify public investment. An excellent example can be found in Washington State , which has invested in intercity passenger rail from Portland , Oregon through Seattle to Vancouver , British Columbia , to make this service a viable alternative to highway travel on the congested I-5 corridor. Illinois provides another example, where its recent investments have doubled the number of intrastate trains operated by Amtrak.


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SAFETY LINES...  Safety lines...

Safe Passage:

A day in the life of a train dispatcher

Source: Amtrak Ink

Sometimes referred to as the air traffic controllers of the rails, train dispatchers are primarily responsible for the safe and efficient movement of trains operating over tracks in their territory. It’s a job that is vital to the railroad and one that requires a tremendous amount of skill.

The job requires a great deal of concentration, stamina, excellent communication skills, attention to detail and an eagle eye.These traits describe train dispatcher and 17-year Amtrak veteran Michael Veltri.Veltri, who, along with 165 fellow dispatchers — including 127 along the busy Northeast Corridor — dispatch trains from six dispatching centers in Philadelphia, New York and Boston, Hialeah, Fla., Chicago and San Jose, Calif.

Ask Veltri what he likes best about his job and you’ll get an unexpected answer, “there’s a lot to like about the job, but one of the things I enjoy most is that I don’t have to work outside.” The 40-year-old South Philadelphia native didn’t aspire to a career with the railroad. “I was working at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, and installed carpet for a year and a half. When I heard the Navy Yard was closing, I thought it would be a good idea to find another job, preferably one inside.”

Dispatcher Mike Veltri studies the video monitors that track activity through northeastern Philadelphia.

Photo: Howard Conway  

Dispatcher Mike Veltri studies the video monitors that track activity through northeastern Philadelphia.
Not Your Average Desk Job

While he does spend time indoors working at a desk, any similarities to the typical desk job end there for Veltri. For starters, there are the hours; he works the swing shift, with hours that vary according to the day of the week. His office is a darkened theaterstyle room and he spends much of his time looking at several monitors that display what looks like a video game screen but is in fact the Centralized Electrification and Traffic Control (CETC) system, which displays his territory, Section 6, which runs from Philadelphia’s Center City through northeastern Pennsylvania.

Veltri starts his day with a 15- to 20- minute briefing with the dispatcher he’s relieving.“We talk about the conditions on the track, any work that might be going on and any problems that are occurring at the time.” Each day, train dispatchers are supplied a “track usage program,” which outlines all the work scheduled by the Engineering department that day, such as concrete tie installation, bridge re-decking, rail installation and switch replacement.

Protecting the safety of the crews on these jobs is a responsibility Veltri takes seriously. “At any given time, there are a number of crews working on various projects out there, so although they do interact, a big part of my job is keeping them away from each other, so that they can all get their jobs done safely and quickly,” said Veltri.

Aided by the CETC and its 100-foot-wide real-time video display screen in the theater, Veltri can control up to 11 interlockings and associated signals with the touch of one button. The work requires extensive knowledge of operating rules for every single railroad that shares the tracks, knowledge of the physical terrain, and the location and condition of every signal, grade crossing and interlocking along the route — important details about the corridor, which hosts nearly 1,900 trains a day, including some 150 Amtrak trains as well as commuter and freight trains.

Veltri communicates by radio and phone with engineers as well as other workers along the route about the conditions of the tracks. As problems are identified, he must think and act quickly to avoid issues that would interfere with the safe movement of the trains.

A Good Foundation

Like most Amtrak train dispatchers,Veltri was promoted from block operator to dispatcher. He credits the training he received as a block operator with preparing him for the dispatcher job.

As an apprentice block operator in 1990, Veltri spent five weeks in a classroom learning the ropes. It was there that he first learned the hundreds of railroad operating rules and to operate signals, switches and interlockings.Three years later, he was promoted to train dispatcher.

Train dispatchers promoted from within the workforce undergo an extensive threeweek classroom training program conducted at the Wilmington Training Facility under the auspices of the Operating Practices department. Outside candidates undergo nine weeks of training. For all trainees, roughly 90 percent of their classroom instruction covers operating rules, including the safe movement of train and track cars,AMT- 3 (air brake operating) and interlocking and control point rules.

Once the classroom portion of the training is over, the “posting” phase begins. During the posting phase, apprentice train dispatchers are assigned to sit with a qualified dispatcher for two months while they learn how to dispatch trains using the CETC.They are evaluated regularly by the manager of Train Operations (MTO).There are regular tests and quizzes that must be passed in addition to a minimum of 30 days of posting to complete. Once the new dispatcher, the MTO and the training dispatcher have agreed that the trainee is ready, he or she is assigned to work a specific section of the line.

All of the training comes in handy, as novice train dispatchers are expected to do the same job as the veterans — keep the trains running safely and on time.

Keeping Priorities Straight

Even with the intense focus on keeping traffic flowing on time, safety is always priority number one.Veltri noted that even though the signal system is timed to keep trains two or three minutes apart, he has to pay particularly close attention to weather conditions, work crews and other physical aspects of the line to ensure that there are no obstructions to the safe movement of trains.

Statistics support the fact that the intense focus on safety, by Amtrak as well as freight railroads, is paying off. Railroads posted their safest traffic year in history in 2006, according to statistics from the Federal Railroad Administration; an achievement that’s even more impressive when you consider that rail traffic hit its highest point in history during the same year.

Even with the relatively demanding nature of the job and the tremendous amount of personal responsibility he feels for ensuring passengers’ and co-workers’ safety,Veltri said he loves it. “It’s good to know that you played a part in helping someone get home to their family at the end of the day.”


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MAINTENANCE LINES...  Maintenance lines...

Track upgrades to benefit Pacific Surfliner service

Source: Amtrak Ink

The addition of a 3.6-mile second main track north of Oceanside, Calif., marks the completion of one of several long-term projects aimed at reducing congestion and improving on-time performance of the Pacific Surfliner and other trains that travel the 129- mile San Diego-Los Angeles corridor.

“While adding 3.6 miles of track may not seem significant, the congestion that it will relieve on that portion of the route will impact service and reliability along the entire corridor. It also moves us closer to achieving our ultimate goal of building double track along the entire corridor,” stated Division Engineer Harry Steelman.

Owned by North County Transit District (NCTD), the Southern California route is the busiest corridor in the Amtrak system outside of the Northeast Corridor, serving 22 Pacific Surfliner trains per weekday and carrying 1.2 million passengers since the start of the fiscal year through March. In addition to Amtrak trains, BNSF Railway freight trains, NCTD’s Coaster commuter trains and the Southern California Regional Rail Authority’s Metrolink trains operate along this corridor.

The $8.25 million undertaking, known as the O’Neil-to-Flores project, was funded by Amtrak and Caltrans, managed by Amtrak Engineering and performed by contractors who completed the work in March.

“Amtrak, NCTD and the state of California have built an alliance over the years allowing us to permit, design and build several double track expansion projects, such as this project here in Southern California,” said NCTD Rail Engineer Mitch Alderman.

A Pacific Surfliner train travels along the main track

A Pacific Surfliner train travels along the original main track, which runs adjacent to new continuous welded rail and concrete ties installed during the O’Neil-to- Flores project.

Two Photos: John Eschenbach  

In compliance with environmental regulations to protect a threatened species of birds during the breeding season, workers remove a mound of dirt before building a 50-foot high and 1400-foot long concrete noise barrier at the Oceanside construction site.

The construction expanded capacity along the line by building 1.8 miles of new track between a siding and a second double main track, resulting in a 3.6-mile stretch of double track. In addition, the O’Neil and Flores control points were eliminated, which increased speed on the extended track from 40 mph to 90 mph. All turnouts and signals associated with the old sidings were either removed or upgraded for the new configuration. Also, several concrete drainage structures were extended to accommodate the new second main track and embankment fill.The new track was constructed using new continuously welded rail and concrete ties to connect the former side tracks, which were also upgraded to reach the higher speeds.

“While we expect to see some improvements in OTP now that this work is done, the real payoff will be seen with the completion of the upcoming project, which involves making the section of double track significantly longer.That project is expected to begin by the end of 2007,” according to Senior Engineer Track and Structures Sy Morales.

Because the project impacted the nearby Camp Pendleton military base in Oceanside, which is inhabited by two endangered species of native birds, federal environmental permits were required. One of the requirements mandated that the work not disturb the habitat and breeding of the California gnatcatcher and the Least Bell’s vireo.

“In my 30 years of railroading, this has been one of the more challenging projects due to the environmental constraints it presented,” said Senior Project Manager John Eschenbach. Several steps were taken to fulfill the requirements. For example, the vegetation growth near the work site where the birds typically breed was removed before the mating season began. Additionally, a temporary plywood wall was built along the side of the project to minimize the noise levels and noise monitors were placed in designated areas.

“The project was completed on schedule and without injury, thanks to the cooperative efforts of our state and local partners, and our of Maintenance-of-Way and Track and Signal employees,” concluded Eschenbach.

– John Eschenbach contributed to this story.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)94.4489.96
Canadian National (CNI)53.6051.69
Canadian Pacific (CP)71.5366.77
CSX (CSX)46.5545.39
Florida East Coast (FLA)83.4083.61
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)29.2227.40
Kansas City Southern (KSU)40.1038.81
Norfolk Southern (NSC)58.1355.22
Providence & Worcester (PWX)19.9020.39
Union Pacific (UNP)119.85116.90


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FREIGHTLINES...  Freight lines...

A selection from this week’s
Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports e-Bulletin
By Chalmers (Chop) Hardenbergh, publisher and editor
e-mail: C_Hardenbergh@juno.com
To subscribe go to: www.atlanticnortheast.com

 

P&W reports 64.5% fuel saving in test of NREC locomotive

 

WORCESTER --- The Providence & Worcester Railroad reported huge fuel savings --- 64.5% compared to normal operations --- in a test of a National Railway Equipment Company N-ViroMotive GenSet locomotive, brought in for the New England Railroad Club Expo on 27 March, and then tested in service.

PW switched with it around Worcester for nine days, six to seven hours a day, together with other PW locomotives. The railroad said estimated average fuel consumption for that period is 1350 gallons; the 2100 HP (3GS-21B) GenSet locomotive consumed only 479 gallons. Savings derive in part from the capability of the GenSet locomotive’s engines to shut down automatically while sitting idle. “This test demonstrates the advantages of NREC’s GenSet design with microprocessor control of three modular engine-generator sets in reducing fuel consumption as well as emissions, while still providing superior tractive effort efficiency,” said Jim Wurtz, NREC’s vice president marketing and sales.

Less pollution as well

“These fuel-efficient N-ViroMotive road switcher locomotives have NOx and PM emission levels that are best in class worldwide for original equipment manufacturers of freight locomotives,” Wurtz added.


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ACROSS THE POND...  Across the pond...

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent

 

Regional News Bite

In northern Germany, the two-month long overhaul of a 50 km section of the Hannover - Hamburg mainline comes and goes in the news due to the major passenger train delays it is causing.  Many Inter City and ICE trains are being re-routed via Rotenburg - Verden - Nienburg -Wunstorf, thus bypassing scheduled stops in Luneburg and Celle as well as adding about 30 km more to the trip between Hamburg and Hannover. 

At approximately 310 trains per day, the mostly two-track (in a few places 3 or 4 track) line was already at maximum capacity before they started replacing track and switches a couple of weeks ago


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COMMENTARY...  Commentary...

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent

 

On the Urban Land Institute report:

The statement, “Rehabilitation of the Tappan Zee Bridge north of New York City will cost as much as $14.5 billion” is not accurate. The US$ 14.5 billion figure is the estimated cost of a complete replacement of the bridge including a mass transit link, and I assume, other construction projects not directly related to overhaul of the bridge itself.

Just for comparison, the entire decade long project in Berlin to build the new Hauptbahnhof, build a new north-south rail connector (including two sets of underground / underwater tunnels) and relocate a major surface road into a new underground tunnel in that part of the city cost about the same amount of money - about $14 - 16 billion, depending on what currency exchange rate you assume. What did the Boston Big Dig cost? I would estimate that just replacement or a complete top-to-bottom overhaul of the Tappan Zee to give it another 50 years of life could be done for something like $1.5 to $2.5 billion.

 

On grade crossings:

Elimination is the best alternative, but I have seen the way grade crossings here in Germany have been built and configured to all but eliminate vehicle intrusions into the path of oncoming trains. The cost of such enhanced warning and barrier devices is a fraction of the cost of constructing grade separated road - rail crossings. But in the USA, for whatever reasons, the railroads and various state and local highway departments absolutely refuse to install such enhanced grade crossing protection systems. At least that is my impression. My parents live not far from a relatively busy N-S rail line in northern Georgia. I have seen freight trains go through that area at speeds of 50 or 60 mph, average or even slow by European standards, but rather fast by American standards. But the grade crossings on that line (6 or 7 level crossings over a distance of just 4 or 5 miles within the town’s limits) all are single arm type where you can literally drive a truck or bus around the closed gate arms if you wanted to (and frequently is done in that part of the world). When I see these half-assed grade crossing devices all over the USA, then I know, despite all the hype about programs such as Operation Lifesaver, that protecting rail grade crossings from vehicle intrusions and collisions is simply just not serious and obviously not a priority, it’s mostly hot air.

Back to Germany, grade crossings on busy rail lines are typically configured to:

1) block off all access from the road 100% when the crossing is closed. No way to drive a vehicle through, under or around the gates, unless one wants to rip out or crash through the arms, thus inflicting considerable collision damage to the car or truck they are driving.

2) the gates close in a progressive sequence. Entrance into the crossing is blocked first, while the exiting lanes from the grade crossing are left open for a period of about 20 seconds to allow any traffic standing in the crossing to leave.

3) Some crossings actually use a fence-like steel frame and grid barrier which roles horizontally across the crossing from right to left on its own steel wheels and single rail to totally shut off vehicle access through the grade crossing. These kinds of gates are already installed in thousands of locations around the world to control vehicle access to high security installations such as airports, military bases, government office complexes, factory entrances, customs clearing yards at shipping ports and the like. They work quite well at railroad grade crossings, too.

4) Video surveillance of the grade crossing is installed to monitor for a possible intrusion/collision. In most cases, the grade crossing surveillance cameras are capable of recording legally admissible / law enforcement capable, date/time stamped pictures of crossing violators (including character recognition of the license plate) if they drive through while the crossing is starting to close. In typical German traffic enforcement manner, a summons is mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle based on such a photo record of a traffic violation. May sound kind of big-brother in the USA, but such photos are used as the primary method of enforcing speed limits, traffic light and railroad grade crossing regulations in Germany. Fine / penalty: EUR 500, 90 day license suspension and 4 points on the driver license of the violator. In Germany, and most other EU countries, your drivers license is revoked if you exceed 10 points in a five year period. If your driver’s license is revoked, it can take as long as two years and EUR 3000 to get it back again.

5) German EBA regulations (similar to U.S. FRA) restrict train speeds on lines with road grade crossings to 160 km/h (100 mph) maximum. In the USA, the number of rail lines capable of speeds above 100 mph can probably be counted on one hand, so this sort of restriction would rarely be an issue, at least with 90 - 95% of existing grade crossings.

I have seen grade crossing protection such as this not just here in Germany, but also in Great Britain, Holland, Sweden, Austria, Australia and elsewhere.

Grade crossing replacement with grade separating bridges or overpasses is the elegant but expensive alternative. A little more investment and intelligence in the traditional grade crossing warnings and gates might achieve the same goal at a fraction of the cost.


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WE GET LETTERS...  We get letters...

From the Editor:

Every so often human nature takes its course and a writer makes a goof. Last week we incorrectly reported a history of the CSX corporation that was quite wrong, as many of you pointed out (DF May 14; “CSX in major proposal for East Coast infrastructure would expand capacity, eliminate grade crossings”).

We certainly had egg on our collective faces. At the same time, the silver lining is that we learned just how many people out there care, and appreciate the effort we put into DF each week. As such we are grateful for the input, even if it was not under the best of circumstances. Needless to say, we made corrections. – Ed


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WEBMASTER NOTES...  Webmaster Notes...

NCI is trying a new feature starting this week called “Feature Videos”. We’ll rotate these out on the home page every so often. The one presently running covers a test train run on the MBTA’s Greenbush line which is slated to open sometime in September 2007. The branch closed to passenger runs in 1959 and to freight sometime in the 70’s and the tracks were eventually pulled up. The line has been under construction, or rather reconstruction, for several years and we have covered some of it in our pages. When it opens, it will help relieve near-gridlock conditions on some of the roadways leading into Boston from southern communities.

We already have a few additional clips in mind, but if you have one that speaks to rail initiatives, improvements, etc., feel free to send us the URL for consideration. The video now in place is hosted at YouTube &trade and should play on most all computers purchased within the last few years with ease. Some users may have to upgrade their Flash Player ™ plug-in but if so you will be prompted to download it first.

You will find the videos on our home page. We’ll be interested in your comments.

-- DMK Webmaster


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NEWS ITEMS...  End notes...

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