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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May 27, 2008
Vol. 9 No. 21

Copyright © 2008
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Home Page: www.nationalcorridors.org

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

  News Items…
Key House Committee Advances Amtrak Reauthorization Bill
  Commuter Lines…
New M-8 Rail Car Mock-Up Displayed At New Haven’s Union Station
Commuter Rail Comes To Utah
Shhh! Quiet Zone Begins Along Frontrunner Corridor
  News From Amtrak…
Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor In ‘07: Facts And Background Information
  Selected Rail Stocks…
 
  Freight Lines…
More Details Emerge Re NS-ST ‘Pan Am South;’ Major Development
   In Rail Service Seen For NE
  Guest Opinion…
Getting On Board With Amtrak’s Needs
  Opinion…
Will Amtrak Leave Riders In The Lurch?
View From Europe - You’re Gonna Have To Face It,
   You’re Addicted To... Oil
  Publication Notes …


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

Key House Committee Advances
Amtrak Reauthorization Bill

 

T&I Approves Historic Amtrak Legislation:
Bill Authorizes $14.4 Billion For Passenger Rail

WASHINGTON — A bill that would give Amtrak its first substantive multi-year capital funding in the railroad’s 38-year history has been passed by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, chaired by Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN), with Rep. John Mica (R-FL) the Ranking Member for the GOP.

H.R. 6003, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, authorizes $14.4 billion for Amtrak capital and operating grants, state intercity passenger grants, and high-speed rail over the next five years, to reauthorize Amtrak and improve intercity passenger rail. Its passage was preceded by the bi-partisan National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, which has recommended major increases in infrastructure investment in the United States, especially in rail, as a way of restoring America’s ability to compete in world markets.

“Today’s markup is a historic milestone, because the legislation we approved today is a truly significant and long overdue investment in the nation’s passenger rail system.  We can address many of the nation’s most pressing transportation problems by improving Amtrak’s service and operations, because increased passenger rail ridership will alleviate growing highway and airport congestion,” said Chairman Oberstar.

“The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, a bipartisan commission created by Congress, found that we should invest at least $66.3 billion through 2015 in our passenger rail infrastructure, stations, and rolling stock.  This investment is essential to make passenger rail stronger, and in turn, to make our national transportation systems safer, less congested, and more environmentally friendly.”

The bill, as described by T&I press secretary Mary Kerr, “…helps Amtrak bring its assets to a state-of-good-repair, improves service reliability and increases train speed; helps Amtrak replace its aging rail fleet; provides grants to pay salaries, overtime, and benefits to Amtrak employees; provides grants to alleviate ‘choke points’ across the nation where lack of rail capacity is hampering ridership growth; and provides grants to enable states and Amtrak to develop and construct high-speed rail corridors throughout the country. 

“Amtrak’s improved physical state and recent focus on customer service, along with increasing highway and airport congestion and rising gas prices, have made intercity passenger rail more popular and necessary than ever,” said Rep. Corrine Brown (Fla.), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.  “Passage of H.R. 6003 will be the first major step in bringing our nation’s intercity passenger rail system into the 21st Century.  The American people deserve the best passenger rail system in the world, and I believe this Amtrak Reauthorization will go a long way to raise the United States to its rightful place as a world leader in passenger rail.”

In the 108th and 109th Congresses, the T&I Committee reported out bills to reauthorize Amtrak.  Despite strong bipartisan support in the Committee, Republican leadership did not allow the legislation to receive floor consideration.  Since 2002, Amtrak has continued to operate under minimal annual appropriations, despite the Bush Administration’s repeated attempts to dissolve Amtrak.

“We ought to at least do in America what has been done in France to promote passenger rail service,” said Oberstar.  “Our bill provides significant funding for state grants, giving states greater leverage to develop their passenger rail networks by partnering with the Federal Government to help fund up to 80 percent of the cost of developing state passenger rail networks.  These grants will help develop rail systems in the emerging ‘mega-regions,’ bringing greater mobility to the fastest growing regions of the country.  H.R. 6003 ensures the continued success and growth of our safe, efficient, and essential national passenger rail system, and through this legislation, we have created a lasting legacy for America.”

Major provisions of the bill include:

The Committee also approved H.R. 6109, which reauthorizes the pre-disaster hazard mitigation program under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.  The three-year authorization bill requires that pre-disaster mitigation grants be awarded on a competitive basis with each state guaranteed a minimum amount and eliminates sunset provision in the law.  Additionally, H.R. 5001, the Old Post Office Building Redevelopment Act of 2008, was approved by voice vote.

For further information: Mary A. Kerr , Press Secretary, House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, B-376 Rayburn HOB, Washington, D.C.  20515, phone (202)225-6260; fax (202)226-4377.


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...

Image Via ConnDOT  

Mock-up of new M-8 passenger rail car
New M-8 Rail Car Mock-Up Displayed
At New Haven’s Union Station

From ConnDOT And Resources

 

NEW HAVEN --- A mock-up of the interior of the new M-8 passenger rail cars was on display at New Haven’s Union Station this past week; we received notice too late for last week’s DF.

ConnDOT and Metro-North are making the interior mock-up available for customers to view first hand the inside design, color and seat configuration of the M-8 rail fleet.

“This is a new start for a new rail system in Connecticut.  The state made a commitment just a few years ago to rebuild the rail system and it is happening,” said Transportation Acting Commissioner H. James Boice.  “Working jointly with our neighbors in New York and Metro-North Railroad, the new M8 rail cars are getting ready for production and delivery.  This new shining locomotive is one of the first in a decade, and will be placed into service shortly.”

The new M-8 cars will be used on Metro-North’s New Haven Line, with the first set of cars scheduled for delivery in 2009.

“The Connecticut Department of Transportation’s Shore Line East commuter rail service provides fast and easy commuter transportation between New London and New Haven and beyond Monday through Friday,” says ConnDOT.


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Commuter Rail Comes To Utah

By: David Peter Alan

 

Utah has been added to the growing list of states that provide commuter rail service to their residents and visitors. The Utah Transit Authority began operating trains between Salt Lake City and Ogden on May 1st. The 36-mile trip takes slightly less than one hour.

The new service, called Front Runner, operates every half hour during mid-day hours on weekdays. Only a few lines serving New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco offer such frequent mid-day service. Front Runner trains also run hourly on weekday evenings and Saturdays. Sunday service is planned for the future, but a start date has not been determined. UTA’s light rail system, TRAX, also did not offer Sunday service when it began operations.

Ridership during the first few weeks of operation has exceeded expectations. UTA spokesperson Chad Saley said that 4000 to 5000 riders use Front Runner every weekday. UTA originally expected to serve 3000 riders. According to Saley, 9300 persons showed up for the inaugural runs on Saturday, April 26th, although fares were not required that day.

Trains run with diesel locomotives and the Bombardier bi-level cars that are used on most commuter rail operations outside the Northeast region and Chicago. UTA also plans to use some single-level “Comet I” cars that saw service on New Jersey Transit since they were built in the 1970s. An unusual feature of the operation is that passengers push a button on the inside or outside of the car to open the door, as is the practice on many light-rail operations.

Image via FrontRunner Rail

 

There is no conductor on board the train, only an “operator” who drives the train from the engine or the cab in the head car. All trains run push-pull. Saley said that UTA purchased the rail line from Union Pacific, so UTA dispatches the trains and sets its own operating rules. Police board trains and check tickets on a random basis for fare enforcement. At the present time, “station hosts” are riding the trains to acquaint the public with the new service.

UTA has built an intermodal station at the location where Amtrak riders catch the California Zephyr toward Chicago or the San Francisco Bay area. The street between the Amtrak station and the downtown core was previously dark and desolate, to the extent that the local Visitors’ Center advised Amtrak passengers to take a taxi from downtown to the station. That is no longer the case. The TRAX light rail line has been extended to the new station, and the formerly desolate blocks now boast light rail service and the new transit-oriented development that comes with it. The trip from Temple Square in the heart of Downtown Salt Lake City to the Front Runner station takes about six minutes on TRAX.

UTA plans an expansion of the line to Pleasant View, north of Ogden toward Brigham City, later this year. The next expansion after that will be to Provo, roughly an hour’s ride south of Salt Lake City. That line is scheduled to begin service in 2011 or 2012, as part of UTA’s “Front Line 2015” initiative. According to UTA’s Chad Saley, the rail system is scheduled to be expanded by 70 miles within the next seven years. In addition to Front Runner service to Provo, the plan calls for four new TRAX lines. One is already under construction, and construction will begin on another later this year, Saley said.

Stations along the line are mostly “park-end ride” locations, although the line ends in downtown Ogden, slightly more than one block from the city’s former Union Station. The former station now hosts several museums, including a railroad museum. The new station is also located a short distance from Twenty-Fifth Street, Ogden’s historic main street. The street still serves as a destination for visitors, boasting historic buildings that contain many shops and restaurants.

The current fare between Salt Lake City and Ogden is $5.00 each way, with lower fares for commuters.


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Shhh! Quiet Zone Begins Along Frontrunner Corridor

Longest Quiet Zone In The United States Hushes Trains For Neighbors

Utah Transit Authority Press Release

SALT LAKE CITY, MAY 2 --Trains along the 38-mile FrontRunner Commuter Rail Corridor from Ogden to Salt Lake City will not be required to regularly sound horns at crossings starting May 2, 2008. This quiet zone applies to all trains in the corridor and is the longest quiet zone in the nation to date.

Normally the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) requires trains to sound horns a quarter mile before and after an at-grade crossing. Under an FRA rule, cities can apply for a quiet zone provided that crossings meet certain safety requirements. The UTA FrontRunner Project improved safety at the grade crossings between Salt Lake City and Ogden by adding features that prevent cars from entering a crossing when gates have been lowered.

“UTA made the safety improvements because we would be operating over 60 FrontRunner Trains a day in the corridor,” said Steve Meyer, UTA manager of FrontRunner Design and Construction. “This quiet zone is one of many benefits that this project is bringing to the citizens of Weber, Davis and Salt Lake counties. We are proud of the leadership shown by the corridor cities to make this quiet zone possible.”

Woods Cross City Mayor Kent Parry led fourteen other cities through the quiet zone application process. “For years our citizens have lived with nearly 35 trains a day, sounding their horns at all hours. Woods Cross and other cities seized the opportunity of this new horn rule and UTA’s safety improvements to provide a better quality of life for those who live and work in our communities,” said Parry.

UTA encourages motorists and pedestrians to always expect a train, never trespass in a railroad corridor and obey all traffic laws. While trains will not be required to regularly sound horns, they may do so on occasion if there is a safety concern such as a trespasser or vehicle entering the crossing, or other compelling need.


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NEWS FROM AMTRAK... News From Amtrak...

Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor In ‘07:

Facts And Background Information

(The following fact sheet is provided as a service to readers, especially journalists, needing detailed information on Amtrak’s condition and growing ridership. It was released by Amtrak’s Government Affairs Department earlier this year)

Overview

Amtrak owns and operates 363 miles of the 457-mile Northeast Corridor (NEC) between Washington and Boston (a total of 1219 track miles). Two sections are owned by others: 1) 56 miles on Metro North between New Rochelle, N.Y., and New Haven, Conn.; 2) the state of Massachusetts owns 38 miles between the Massachusetts/Rhode Island border and Boston that is operated and maintained by Amtrak. Amtrak also owns 62 miles of track between New Haven and Springfield, Mass., as well as 104 miles of track (274 track miles) between Philadelphia and Harrisburg.

The NEC is home to one of the busiest, most complex, technically advanced track structures in the world with over 1,800 trains each weekday, including slow freight trains traveling at speeds of 30-50 mph, commuter trains that travel at speeds up to 125 mph, Amtrak Regional trains that travel at 110 or 125 mph, and Acela Express trains that can reach speeds of 150 mph. This makes it the fastest railroad in the western hemisphere, and among the ten fastest in the world. These trains all share the same overcrowded, and often overwhelmed, track. The infrastructure deteriorated greatly in the years following completion of the federally funded Northeast Corridor Improvement Project in the early 1980’s. Very little was spent to upgrade the capital facilities on the NEC other than the funds to electrify the track north of New Haven in the 1990’s.

That changed starting in mid-2003, with a new emphasis placed on bringing Amtrak’s equipment and infrastructure closer to a state of good repair. Amtrak began the process of ramping up a significant capital program and has made substantial progress in addressing the backlog of capital needs throughout its system.

Continuation of the state of good repair program is allowing Amtrak to rebuild its infrastructure and equipment with many positive benefits to its bottom line and riders. This work will allow Amtrak to run trains faster and more reliably with lower operational costs. Passengers have seen modest trip-time reductions on both ends of the NEC and much improved on-time performance, as well as more comfortable trips with upgraded, smoother riding equipment. Amtrak will see ridership and revenue growth and reduced maintenance and emergency repair costs with a modernized infrastructure.

Fiscal 2007 Northeastern Ridership by Route

Acela Express 3.191 million (Washington-New York-Boston)
Regional (1) 7.559 million (Newport News-Washington-Boston/Springfield)
Downeaster 0.362 million (Boston-Portland)
Keystone 0.988 million (New York-Philadelphia-Harrisburg)
Empire 1.246 million (New York-Albany-Toronto)
Adirondack 0.101 million (New York-Albany-Montreal)
Pennsylvanian 0.180 million (New York-Harrisburg-Pittsburgh)
Vermonter 0.063 million (Washington-New York-St. Albans, Vt.)
Ethan Allen 0.044 million (New York-Albany-Rutland, Vt.)

Total: 13.734 million

Nationally, Amtrak ridership in Fiscal 2007 was 25.8 million. The Northeastern services total over half of all ridership nationwide and over half of all passenger revenue. Amtrak serves 56% of the air/rail market between Washington and New York and over 41% of the air/rail market between New York and Boston. (Note from DF Editors: this represents a massive growth in market share since electrification of the Northeast Corridor was completed in 1999; pre-electrification NY-DC ticketed market share was, in 1989, about 40%; the then-much-slower Boston-NY market share was only about 10-15%.)

Fiscal 2007 Usage of Selected Northeastern Stations

Includes all boardings and alightings:
New York Penn Station 8.028 million
Washington Union Station 4.109 million
Philadelphia 30th Street 3.674 million
Boston (North, South, Back Bay, Route 128) 2.196 million
Baltimore Penn Station 0.977 million
Albany-Rensselaer 0.774 million
Wilmington 0.704 million
New Haven 0.640 million
Newark Penn Station 0.626 million
BWI Marshall Airport 0.588 million
Providence 0.566 million
Harrisburg 0.465 million
Lancaster 0.421 million
Trenton 0.418 million
Metropark 0.381 million
Stamford 0.340 million

Commuter and Freight Railroads

While Amtrak’s intercity trains account for the majority of train-miles on the NEC, eight commuter authorities also provide service over Amtrak-owned and operated infrastructure on the NEC. The number of commuter trains and their ridership has grown steadily in recent years. Today there are 1,700 commuter trains on the NEC with an average weekday ridership of 750,000.

The following authorities provide service over portions of the Northeast Corridor: Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Shore Line East (SLE), Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Delaware Department of Transportation, MARC, and Virginia Railway Express (VRE). Amtrak operates SLE, MARC (Penn Line), and VRE trains under contract with their respective authorities.

These commuter railroads depend upon Amtrak’s NEC track and signal infrastructure and dispatching for their reliable operation of their services. Amtrak also provides track construction, signal, and other engineering services for major commuter railroad infrastructure projects along the NEC.

The NEC plays a vital role in regional freight service, moving virtually all such traffic to and from Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, and the Delmarva Peninsula. Much traffic serving southern New England, the ports of Baltimore and Wilmington, and power plants in the Baltimore-Washington area uses the NEC. Seven freight railroads operate approximately 50 trains a day on the NEC. ---Amtrak Government Affairs, February 2008.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)106.14108.56
Canadian National (CNI)55.3056.87
Canadian Pacific (CP)71.3073.25
CSX (CSX)66.7365.54
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.5162.51
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)38.1739.01
Kansas City Southern (KSU)46.3147.00
Norfolk Southern (NSC)62.7464.31
Providence & Worcester (PWX)19.3521.05
Union Pacific (UNP)152.16153.00


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

 

Selections 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

 

More Details Emerge Re NS-ST ‘Pan Am South;’
Major Development In Rail Service Seen For NE

Reprinted by permission

WASHINGTON --- On 16 May, NS Corporation filed a Form 8-K (“public notice of a significant event”) with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and posted a Power-point presentation (PPT) on its website. These provided additional information on the transaction creating “Pan Am South,” a new rail entity in New England whose creation is seen as a potentially major development:

Formal structure. 8-K: ‘On May 15, 2008, Norfolk Southern Corporation’s (“NS”) wholly-owned subsidiary, Norfolk Southern Railway Company (“NSR”), entered into a transaction agreement (the “Transaction Agreement”) with Pan Am Railways, Inc. (“Pan Am”) and its wholly-owned subsidiaries, Boston and Maine Corporation (“B&M”) and Springfield Terminal Railway Company (“Springfield Terminal” (“ST”), providing for, among other things, the formation of Pan Am Southern LLC (“PAS”), a newly formed railroad company in which each of Pan Am (through its B&M subsidiary) and NSR will have a 50% equity interest.’

Contributions. PPT slide 10: Transfer of cash and property valued at $65 million from NS at Closing. Transfer after first full year $35 million. Transfer after second full year $30 million. Transfer after third full year $10 million.

PPT slide 2: ‘Pan Am is transferring 436 miles of track, associated facilities, and underlying property.’ Capital improvements. PPT: After STB approval, ‘the capital improvements are expected to take less than 30 months to complete’.

Track and terminal improvements. 8-K: $87.5 million...to be invested within a three-year period in capital improvements on the PAS Line, such as track and signal upgrades and terminal expansions. The parties also anticipate the construction of new intermodal and automotive terminals in the Albany area. PPT slide 6: ‘A faster, higher capacity railroad between Albany and the Boston market...Creation of infrastructure to accommodate heavier cars (286k) between Albany and Ayer (and other Pan Am points).’ [ Rudy Husband declined to comment on the use of the remaining $52.5 million, suggesting that the STB filing might discuss it.]

Management. PPT slide 12: ‘Pan Am Southern will be led by a General Manager. The business, property, and affairs of the joint venture company will be managed by a management committee composed of an equal number of Pan Am and NS representatives. This management committee will determine future capital projects and oversee operations.’

From the 8-K: ‘PAS will be managed by a management committee, a capital project committee, and a joint operating committee, each of which will be composed of an equal number of NSR and B&M representatives, and which together will determine future capital projects and oversee operations’

Operations committee. PPT slide 8:’Pan Am Southern will be managed by a Management Committee composed of half NS managers and half Pan Am managers. Reporting to the Management Committee will be the joint operating committee, people who have more day to day dealings with the railroad ‘Pan Am Southern will contract with Springfield Terminals (ST) to operate all facets of the railroad, including maintenance, pricing, management, train operations, and other railroad functions. ‘ST will perform pricing functions for all non-intermodal and non-automotive freight.’

Waybill Changes: PPT slide 9: ‘Non-Intermodal and non-automotive customers will be required to add “PAS”to their waybill routes once the Transaction is approved.’

Competition. PPT slide 13: ‘The Patriot Corridor is the only current competitive rail option to the single line reach of CSX Transportation Inc. (CSXT) into the Boston area. NS gains extension of current Intermodal haulage service between Albany, NY and Ayer, MA and will gain Automotive haulage to the Boston area. ‘Strengthened Intermodal and Automotive haulage service will provide an important competitive option to CSXT’s Intermodal and automotive service in the Boston region ‘NS will have exclusive Intermodal access to Ayer from points west of Albany via haulage on Pan Am Southern ‘No competitive options will be eliminated. CSXT retains single line service to Worcester and Boston, and the remaining Springfield Terminal system will have trackage rights to maintain its connection with CSXT at Barbers, MA. CSXT retains unfettered interchange rights with the Pan Am Southern at Rotterdam Jct. for local customers on Pan Am Southern or as an overhead route to the remaining Pan Am or other short lines.

In sum, for traffic moving into the Boston area from the west, the proposed Transaction will strengthen the existing Norfolk Southern –Springfield Terminal competitive option to the CSXT single line service.’ Labor. PPT slide 14: ‘NS and Pan Am anticipate no adverse effects on any existing railroad employees: ‘Lines will be operated for the foreseeable future by the same railroad, Springfield Terminal, and the same employees that now provide rail transportation services (such as maintenance) over the lines and under the same collective bargaining agreements.’

Haulage to short lines. 8-K: ‘In addition, the parties will also enter into a joint-use agreement under which NSR will be granted haulage rights: ‘between Mechanicville, New York, and Gardner, Massachusetts to/from an interchange with Providence and Worcester Railroad; ‘between Mechanicville, New York, and Hoosick Junction, New York, to/from an interchange with the Vermont Railway Company; ‘between Mechanicville, New York, and East Northfield, Massachusetts and/or Millers Falls, Massachusetts to/from an interchange with the New England Central Railroad; ‘and between Mechanicville, New York, and certain intermodal and to be constructed automotive transfer facilities located in Ayer, Massachusetts for the local delivery of intermodal and automotive traffic.’

THE INTERCHANGE AND NEW TERMINALS

NS-ST connection. NS currently interchanges with ST at Mohawk Yard in Schenectady NY. The Patriot Corridor extends only to Mechanicville. PAS will include the trackage to Rotterdam Junction and to Mohawk Yard. {e-mail to ANR&P from NS spokesperson Rudy Husband 21.May.08} New York terminal sites. Husband told an Albany newspaper: “We have identified the Capital Region as being an area that certainly is in need of some new facilities. We’ve cobbled together a service we operate over Canadian Pacific lines between Binghamton and the Albany area. [The new partnership] gets Norfolk Southern into the New England market, which is something we’ve been trying to do since we acquired 58% of Conrail. There’s a lot of opportunity in New England and the Capital Region....We hope we’re going to bring a higher level of competition to the Capital Region.”

Mechanicville Mayor Anthony Sylvester said much of the land in his community that was once occupied by Boston & Maine has been sold off. He worked for the railroad for 17 years as an engineer, and noted the B&M route could compete with the CSXT Boston-Albany line because it travels through the nearly five-mile Hoosac tunnel in western Massachusetts, eliminating at least some of the climb CSX faces on its own route between Albany and Boston. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

Ayer terminal sites. Husband was asked by a Lowell paper about an auto terminal in Ayer at the site where ST has started construction: “That is certainly something we are looking at, but that is a detail we haven’t worked out yet. We are looking to expand our automotive franchise in Greater Boston and Ayer would be the logical place for that terminal.”

[The Ford terminal in Ayer is closed. CSXT consolidated the work to terminals on its own line, but still leases the property long-term.]

MORE ON THE BRANCHES INCLUDED IN THE DEAL

The map accompanying the announcement showed the branches in addition to the Patriot Corridor, the line between White River Junction and New Haven (mostly trackage rights), and the Waterbury Branch: - Adams Industrial Track, 4.29 miles from North Adams to Adams. This serves Holland Company (chemicals) and Specialty Minerals. - Ayer (mile post 316, roughly, on the Freight Main) to Harvard Station on the Worcester Main Line. This will permit PAS to serve the Hill Yard in Ayer and the GMX siding. ST has one customers on the Worcester Main beyond these: Regency Warehouse in Clinton. - Greenville Industrial Track, from milepost 316 on the Freight Main 1.9 miles to end of track. This serves Fox Packaging.- MBTA Fitchburg line from Ayer (milepost 313) to Littleton. [East of this point, the MBTA is planning to doubletrack the line–editor.]. One customer exists on this stretch: Veryfine in Littleton.

Thus PAS will serve every ST customer west of CPF 312.

COMMENT FROM THE SHORT LINES WITH NEW HAULAGE

As described above, NECR, PW, and VTR will receive haulage rights with NS under the new agreement.

NECR view

Doug Low, NECR manager of marketing & sales, wrote: ‘NECR already has interchanges with ST at Brattleboro and at White River Junction as well as with NS at Bellows Falls through NS’s arrangements with CPRS (including CPRS’s underlying arrangements over VRS east of Whitehall, NY...you will recall that this “Green Mountain Gateway” via expanded commercial scope of the Bellows Falls, VT interchange was established about 10 years ago).

If the proposed NS-NECR commercial routing via these same existing ST-NECR interchanges, with ST providing the haulage service for NS over the proposed PAS (after the involved PAS lines have had the benefit of the contemplated physical plant improvements), offers a more truck-competitive alternative between NS and NECR stations & customers, then we could see increased traffic. It’s too early to gauge potential impact.

‘The STB must first agree to PAS’s creation then ST’s operations over PAS must see some benefit from the contemplated physical plant improvements.

‘Our objective at NECR has always been to grow commercially-attractive rail traffic.’

VRS

David Wulfson, VRS president, wrote: ‘We are still digesting this whole thing...At this point the only direct interchange with NS will be at Hoosick Junction through a haulage with the new Pan Am Southern. Not sure yet what will happen at [Bellows Falls and White River Junction].’

PW

[Response too late for this e-bulletin.]

COMMENT BY OTHERS

Roy Blanchard The editor of Railroad Week in Review wrote: ‘Recall also that Conn DOT has asked why it too could not be part of the nascent NS Crescent Corridor (WIR 5/9/2008). Getting from Springfield to New Haven may require some horse-trading between and among PAR, NS, RailAmerica’s CSO and Amtrak, but it’s certainly doable.

‘A nice carrot would be putting the Vermonter back on the River Line between Springfield and East Northfield. Moreover, this may afford RailAmerica to link up its CSO and NECR, avoiding the CSX jog between Palmer and Springfield. Keep a close eye on the NS website for further details.’

Short line moves generally

Note the NS project with New York short lines, as described by Tony Hatch at the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association meeting in San Antonio: ‘Norfolk Southern announced (perhaps a bit earlier than they might have wanted) a fascinating new freight “Corridor”: the Empire State Initiative, where they will work with short lines to make a solid run at traffic moving at very short hauls (less than 500mi, often well less). In the pilot program in New York NS is looking to add perhaps 30K carloads of profitable business, so it’s a small start but like Heartland and Crescent, one with big potential system (and eventually) network) wide.’

Jeff Stagle in the Progressive Railroading blog adds: ‘Any short line can market a move, originating or terminating on their line, that involves another short line or two and NS as the bridge carrier. NS initially would provide all the equipment (the short lines would have the option to use their own) and rates would involve a series of per-car charges based on the commodity, such as salt or paper.’ The lines involved connect between Binghamton and Silver Springs, NY, a distance of perhaps 200 rail miles. [Could the Patriot Corridor serve a similar New England effort? CH, Editor]

National industry viewpoint

A national industry insider, who wanted to remain anonymous, responded to the lack of national commentary on the Patriot Corridor deal: ‘I think it’s a combination of these factors:

  1. The amount of current traffic involved is rather small.

  2. This deal will not create a large traffic opportunity down the road, or at least nothing that has been identified by the participants.

  3. Pan Am is not a Class I railroad, and it’s not a publicly-traded company.

‘I see this deal as a way for NS to maintain some semblance of access to New England, for reasons that its management may know but has not shared with the rest of the world.

She quoted Mike McLellan, NS vice-president for automotive and intermodal marketing, speaking at the North American Rail Shippers Association meeting in San Francisco this week, mentioning ‘the Patriot Corridor as one of four corridor projects that NS is involved in (Meridian Speedway; Heartland Corridor; and the Crescent Corridor, which is still in the early planning stages, being the others). He didn’t go into any detail other than to say that, in contrast to the others, all of which are expected to carry considerable volumes of international traffic, the Patriot Corridor will be carrying primarily domestic traffic.’

‘I see this deal as a way for NS to maintain some semblance of access to New England, for reasons that its management may know but has not shared with the rest of the world.

She quoted Mike McLellan, NS vice-president for automotive and intermodal marketing, speaking at the North American Rail Shippers Association meeting in San Francisco this week, mentioning ‘the Patriot Corridor as one of four corridor projects that NS is involved in (Meridian Speedway; Heartland Corridor; and the Crescent Corridor, which is still in the early planning stages, being the others). He didn’t go into any detail other than to say that, in contrast to the others, all of which are expected to carry considerable volumes of international traffic, the Patriot Corridor will be carrying primarily domestic traffic.’

 

GUEST OPINION... Guest Opinion...

Getting On Board With Amtrak’s Needs

By Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe Columnist  |  May 19, 2008
© Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
Used By Permission

 

RECENTLY in Indiana, Barack Obama had lunch with an Amtrak machinist who feared losing his job. Obama said, “The irony is, with the gas prices what they are, we should be expanding rail service.”

Last week in Michigan, Obama spent time smoothing his relations with auto workers. A year ago, he told the Detroit Economic Club that the sport utility vehicle-addicted American industry “continued to reward failure” as foreign makers focused on fuel efficiency. Last week, he told workers, “We are taking steps in the right direction. American automakers are on the move. But we have to do more.”

In trying to connect with white working-class voters, Obama inadvertently placed himself on the larger platform of American transportation. With Michigan being a swing state, we undoubtedly will be deluged with presidential pandering to the auto industry. Everyone knows that whatever Obama says about the US auto industry is subject to the obvious. American automakers are on the move all right, but to Washington to lobby against higher fuel efficiency. Any steps in the right direction have been baby steps.

High-speed rail could use some of this pampering and pandering. With regular gasoline approaching the $4 mark, and air travel becoming more frustrating than ever, more and more Americans are taking the train. According to news reports, Amtrak ridership — despite its chronic underfunding — is up 20 percent since October in North Carolina and up 19 percent between Chicago and St. Louis.

April ridership between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa., was up 17.7 percent over April 2007. March ridership from Sacramento to San Francisco rose nearly 17 percent over 2007. The Heartland Flyer between Fort Worth and Oklahoma City is up 6.5 percent; the Chicago-to-Seattle Empire Builder is up 8.2 percent. Ridership in upstate New York at the end of 2007 was up 11 percent over the end of 2006.

And of course, there is the Boston-New York-Washington corridor where Acela ridership was up 20 percent in 2007, to 3.1 million passengers. Yet, at this moment, we have heard more about gimmicks like gas-tax holidays to make $4 gas seem a bit cheaper (Hillary Clinton and John McCain) and the auto industry being part of Obama’s $150 billion green economy investments and incentives (read: tax breaks). Yet, most of the developed world continues to laugh at us.

Trains now travel the 213 miles between London and Paris in two hours and 15 minutes. That is about the same distance as New York to Washington, yet our trains take 45 minutes longer. Many leaders on Capitol Hill are embarrassed by this, but President Bush has so thoroughly starved Amtrak in his two terms that Representative John Olver of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee dealing with transportation, said in February:

“While I’m confident the president’s request is wholly inadequate to maintain a national intercity passenger rail system, I must also point out it will be extremely difficult to come up with all of the resources that Amtrak believes it will require from the federal government. Unfortunately, the president left us a number of holes to fill not only in passenger rail, but also with regard to funding for our airports and infrastructure, highway and transit systems.”

It is obvious that the pressure will mount on Obama, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president, to bow to the interests of the auto and airline industries. In 2000 and 2004, two-thirds of campaign contributions from both those industries went to Republican causes, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In the 2008 cycle, the Democrats are getting about half of the money from both industries.

It is one thing to meet with an Amtrak worker for a photo-op. It is another to get on board for the rail service America needs for a green economy, less urban congestion, and a more civilized future. Obama says, “Detroit won’t find a better partner than me in the White House.” In the past, that has also meant making a pariah out of Amtrak. Nothing would symbolize a break from this past more than a whistlestop tour in the presidential campaign, to promote trains themselves.

Derrick Z. Jackson can be reached at jackson@globe.com.


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OPINION... Opinion...

Will Amtrak Leave Riders In The Lurch?

 

No Plans For Alternate Transportation During Shutdown Through State

By James P. Repass
Special to the Hardford Courant
Used by Permission of the Author

Amtrak, the nation’s publicly owned passenger rail system, will in a very few weeks shut down its operations on the 156-mile stretch of the Northeast Corridor that runs from New Haven to Boston to replace the Thames River bridge in New London and do some major track repairs. By concentrating forces on this corridor segment, it will accomplish a year’s worth of repairs in four days, a brilliant decision that will make service, when it resumes again, safer, more comfortable and more reliable.

It is therefore a complete puzzle why at the same time – June 14-17 – it has decided to simply shut down that segment and let customers fend for themselves. Aside from one or maybe two very slow trains via Worcester and Springfield, Amtrak has elected to do nothing to protect its franchise by at least organizing a bus-around of the affected segments, using one of the many large bus companies in New England such as Peter Pan or Greyhound.

“There’s a bus counter right there in New Haven’s Union Station,” one Amtrak manager told me. “What’s wrong with that?”

Everything. Everything.

In the first place, Amtrak is the monopoly provider of intercity rail service in America, excepting certain luxury trains. In and of itself, that confers special obligations on the railroad. Nearly 11 million people used the D.C.-to-Boston Northeast Corridor in 2007, before $4-a-gallon gasoline. A four-day shutdown without a work-around plan in place is simply unthinkable.

Never mind the gross inconvenience to passengers left completely to their own devices: What if things go wrong and the bridge replacement takes longer? That probably won’t happen, but it is the height of irresponsibility to gamble the economic health and transportation sanity of the region on one roll of the maintenance dice. There is a reason trapeze artists usually don’t work without a net.

In the second place, it is equally wrong to do any of this without the courtesy of direct communication by senior Amtrak executives to the governors of the affected states. Planning meetings deep within the Amtrak bureaucratic structure involving mid-level DOT officials do not count as such notification, as Amtrak would like Gov. M. Jodi Rell and others, who are just learning indirectly of this feckless non-plan, to believe.

This is not a public affairs problem. This is a management problem.

Although trained as a journalist, and working as that and as a management consultant following my graduation from Wesleyan University, I have spent the better part of my professional life, via a nonprofit organization, the National Corridors Initiative, advocating for the survival and success of the nation’s passenger railroad system. No one forced me to end my business career and become a public citizen: I did it out of choice, because I believe we are obligated to give something back. I have, and I regret nothing.

But I do worry that Amtrak, whose hand-to-mouth existence is brought on by lack of any national transportation policy or financial mechanism, is shooting itself so squarely in the foot with this project. I want them to win.

In 2007, 2.2 million people got on or got off the train at Boston; 566,000 did so at Providence; 640,000 at New Haven, and so on. Those 3 million people deserve better treatment than, “Here’s a quarter. Call someone who cares” from the nation’s monopoly passenger rail system.

I hope they get it.

James P. RePass is president and chief executive officer of the National Corridors Initiative.


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View From Europe

 

You’re Gonna Have To Face It, You’re Addicted To . . . Oil

By David Beale, NCI Foreign Correspondent

Haste bei Wunstorf, Germany – the late Robert Palmer was singing about something far more durable and satisfying and probably far less hazardous than petroleum, although love and oil can burn people in their own unique ways. However when it comes to global commerce, environment, national politics and personal budgets, oil is the hot topic of the day. Love, on the other hand, was a timeless matter before there was oil, and it will still be around long after the oil is gone.

And gone oil will be one day. Estimates vary all over the map, and some dire predictions made famously back in the 1970s turned out to be wildly wrong. But as time has marched on, the predictions continue to come in that oil is a finite natural resource, which sooner or later will run out. The folks on the “sooner” side say the oil will run out in 25 – 35 years from now if consumption continues to grow as it has for the last several decades, i.e. within my lifetime and most likely within the lifetime of the majority of our readers. Others on the “later” side of the argument say it will run out in the 50 to 75 year range at current rates of consumption. To put things in perspective, 30 years ago we were going through the first “oil shock” in the western world. Sixty-five years ago World War II was raging across Europe, North Africa and the Far East. Some of my neighbors are old enough to recall life here under Hitler, which they refer to as ‘Adolf’s time’, although most of them were either teenagers or children at the time. I do not expect to be around 65 years from now, but my children, born in the mid-1990s, will be in their ‘golden years’ to observe petroleum-based energy far into its twilight phase.

When one considers where and how oil is used, the lion share is consumed in transportation of people and goods. Relatively little oil is consumed for generating electricity. Some oil is still used for heating, especially in northern Europe and North America, but its market share as an energy source for heating has been declining for years. That leaves highway, marine, aviation and rail transport as the remaining significant consumers of oil. Of these forms of transportation, only rail has the ability to switch quickly to alternative forms of energy via expansion of electrification. With steady growth in all of those transportation modes all across the world, demand is hitting new highs every month. Many other countries are getting hooked on oil too, not least among them India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and China.

The Freeway to Addiction and Dependence

This week the price of oil headed for US$140 per barrel and gasoline prices here in Germany were crossing the psychological barrier of EUR 1.50 per liter. In the USA gasoline is likewise heading for the $4.00 per gallon threshold as the Memorial Day weekend approaches. About two and half years ago President Bush stated bluntly that America is addicted to oil. Now America, among other countries, is paying dearly for this addiction. We saw this coming thirty years ago. But collectively we decided to do little or nothing.

In 1973 the USA found out during the Arab oil embargo and the formation of OPEC how uncomfortable it can be to have an addiction to something controlled by foreigners. But in the decades afterwards, our dependence and addiction only got worse, enabled by our own government leaders, supply-side economists, petroleum companies and their lobbyists, who told us to go ahead and have another drink from the pump, there’s always more where that came from. We elected and re-elected politicians who also collectively did almost nothing to solve our addiction, but rather told us what we wanted to hear and believe, not what we needed to hear and do. It is always easier and more comfortable to accept the invitation to have yet another drink from the bar, rather than listening to the person who points out that maybe we have a drinking problem.

The USA got very comfortable with cheap gasoline and cheap jet fuel (and therefore cheap airfares) during the 1980s and 90s. We knew then that our addiction was going to come back and haunt us, but collectively we simply drank more. We bought ever bigger and more powerful cars and SUVs, we drove more, we built more houses in far away rural-suburban areas, we built more mega-malls, strip malls and parking lots. We even built a significant amount of new highways and additional highway lanes, perhaps not at the incredible pace of the 1960s and 70s, but an impressive increase in highway lane-miles nevertheless. And, by and large, we let what was once the world’s most extensive and advanced rail network decline to nearly third-world standards in many areas, or ripped it out altogether, rather than investing in it.


Photo: Queensland Rail / Michael James

High-Speed Rail in the Land Down Under – A QR regional express EMU train set blasts through Morayfield on the way to Brisbane and Ipswich in the Australian state of Queensland in Sept. 2005. Australia has lots of land area, relatively small population (approximately 21 million) and a robust and modern passenger rail network in its populated areas. Australia’s life style, culture and government have very much in common with the USA, however unlike the USA, the Land Down Under has invested continuously and significantly into its passenger rail network during the last several decades.

Sin, Vice and Bad Behavior

Now we are addicted to oil. Few doubt or would argue that there is even a single upside to consuming more oil rather than consuming less. Some may dispute or argue about some of the alleged down sides of increasing oil consumption such as green-house gas emissions, pollution, global warming, massive trade deficits or damage to areas where we drill for oil. However in the end analysis, the downsides of ever higher oil consumption are numerous and serious, although there may be some debate on how many or how serious. This places oil as an energy source in some uncomfortable company, such as alcoholic beverages, narcotic drugs, French fries, bacon cheese burgers, gambling, and prostitution to name a few examples. In other words, oil is one of a number of things, which in various degrees or amounts when we consume more of it, the more potential damage there is to the health, safety and well-being of our society.

The USA, especially its 50 separate state governments, have long been experts at finding ways to tax and/or otherwise restrict consumption of products and services which are generally recognized as harmful, to a certain degree, to the general health, safety, and well being of the public. Examples include removal of fast food items from public school cafeterias, high cigarette taxes and restrictions on public smoking, various types and levels of “sin” taxes on alcohol and tobacco, prohibition of alcohol sales to people under 21, strict state regulation of and taxes on gambling, and of course various fines and criminal laws in-place to prevent illicit drug sales / possession and prostitution..

Where is this logic, so readily applied by our federal and state government leaders to items as varied as beer, Big Macs and adult book stores, when it comes to our harmful addiction to oil consumption? Filling up your car with another 20 gallons of gas is certainly not the same threat level to our social fabric and public well-being as open prostitution or narcotic drug abuse, but neither is it risk-free and benign to our freedom, safety and long term health.

Here in Europe, indeed in much of the western world beyond the USA, oil was long ago included in this list of not-so-desirable things to consume. Gasoline taxes here in Europe and the UK are well above EUR 0.50 per liter, or more than US $2.60 per gallon. The result: drivers in Europe consume far less gasoline and diesel per person than in the USA each year.

Unfortunately there are many politicians today in America who advocate that the best way to alleviate our oil addiction is to produce even more oil and cut the sales and usage taxes levied on it. This makes about as much sense as reducing the tax on liquor out of concerns that alcoholics and winos might be spending too much of their money for booze. Why don’t we cut cigarette taxes while we’re at it?

The Long, Difficult Track Back to Freedom and Independence

Where does all this money go that European (and other governments such as Australia, Japan, and Canada) collect from motor vehicle fuel? That can vary dramatically. In some countries (Switzerland, Norway, Holland) it is invested back into transportation infrastructure at an impressive rate, albeit not always road and highways. In other countries such as the UK, France and Germany, some portion of this money is diverted into other, perhaps questionable, uses and not always into transportation infrastructure. Without going into details of German politics, let’s just say that it makes a lot of sense to restrict where the government can spend this revenue, i.e. either only on transit projects and operations and/or general income tax relief for low, moderate and middle income wage earners.

But even with its tax code flaws, a significant amount of Germany’s fuel tax revenues are re-invested into the transit infrastructure, most notably the first call rail and expressway and highway (autobahn) network the country has. The result is that the country has an equal if not better standard of living as the USA, but with oil consumption per capita well below the USA. With absolutely no upside but lots of downsides in having increased oil consumption, Germany actively discourages higher consumption of petroleum products, as do many other countries.

What can we all do to “kick the habit?”

  1. Everything in moderation. This goes for how much you drive and how big a vehicle you drive. Do you really need 200 HP or more under the hood when the rush hour traffic you are stuck in day after day rarely moves faster than 45 mph?

  2. Walk or bike, instead of driving, to the local mall or store, or to where you work. Don’t manufacture excuses why you can not walk or bike today (but promise to do it tomorrow). Just do it.

  3. Support your local public transit. Buy monthly passes for it and use it. If you can’t ride it today, then at least vote for it so you can ride it in the not-so-distant future.

  4. Support regional rail transit. If you don’t have it now in your region, vote for it so it is there in the future.

  5. Support Amtrak. If Amtrak has frequent service in your area, use it. If Amtrak has little or no service in your region, ask your elected representatives why. Support elected officials and candidates who support Amtrak and other rail transit legislation at the state and national level.

  6. Question dubious development. Oppose new strip malls and wasteful or energy inefficient real estate development. Get involved in stopping sprawl. Challenge out-of-date zoning regulations in your area or region. Demand your government officials, elected or appointed, to investigate alternatives to ever more highway and road expansion.

  7. Let your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and relatives know your position. Don’t fear calling the proposed “gas tax holiday” in public what it really is: a gimmick and a sham. Vote for and support candidates for public office which offer vision and policies which promote a way out of our addiction to oil.

  8. Last but not least, join NCI or other like-minded organizations such as National Association of Railroad Passengers, RailPAC, InterRail, Arizona Rail Passenger Association, Midwest High Speed Rail Association and numerous others.

America, you’re going to have to face it, you’re addicted to oil. Today is the day to start kicking the habit. We can act now to make our move away from our addiction to oil. Or we can wait for external events to force this change upon us in ways that may inflict serious damage to our health, our environment, our security or to all three. Now is the time to make the difficult decisions.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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