Vol. 8 No. 24
Copyright © 2007
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elected and appointed officials at all levels of government.
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EU Parliament home gets high-speed train
STRASBOURG, France ---The French and the English, visiting Americans, European Union members of parliament, and the rest of the world --- will have a new way to visit the unique Alsace region of France starting this week, as the new 199-mph French EST line opens for regular service Paris-Strasbourg, about the same distance as between Boston and New York.
The new service will take just two hours and twenty minutes, cutting the current travel time more than in half, and will make possible faster travel to Germany and Switzerland, as well.
The project has been a long time coming writes reporter Jan Sliva of the Associated Press in a Hartford Courant story. Seeking to improve access to Strasbourg, which also is the seat of the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights, the European Union included the French TGV Est line among its priority transportation projects in 1994. But funding problems delayed the venture, leaving Frances seventh largest city cut off from the 960-mile network of high-speed train lines radiating north, west and south -- but not east -- of Paris.
That era ends this week.
The new line is part of what planners foresee as a network of high-speed railways stretching from Barcelona in northeastern Spain to Budapest in Hungary, reports the Courant. Plans are to create two high-speed axes that meet in Strasbourg: one running Paris, Munich, Vienna and Budapest, the other linking Hamburg, Frankfurt, Lyon and Barcelona. The EU has earmarked $27.5 billion to finance trans-European rail networks, much of it to five priority transcontinental links that are due to be completed by 2015.
The eco friendly train will make Alsace an attractive, more accessible new destination for UK holidaymakers to France, writes A2 Media Group. The new service, which opens in June, will cut the travel time from Paris to Strasbourg by nearly half
24 times a day. The new link will also benefit the regions other main holiday centers, Colmar and Mulhouse, with journey times also reduced by almost half.
The trains themselves will be state of the art and will travel faster (320 km/hr) than any other TGV in Europe. Journeys will be made in luxury and comfort with interiors designed by Christian Lacroix, increased leg room throughout, family areas (with built-in board games), business areas (with spaces for lap-tops and wireless internet) and a variety of dining options, writes A2 Media.
Big project, big numbers
According to a BBC story, the project was launched in 2002 and cost $5.3 billion (€ 4 bn or £ 2.7 bn) Among the dozens of financial partners were the governments of France and Luxembourg.
A total of 78,000 metric tons of steel were used in the rails, the equivalent of building eight Eiffel Towers, said Hubert du Mesnil, president of Rff, the company that built the line, and 64 million cubic meters of earth were removed. Thats nine times the volume of material extracted to build the Channel Tunnel, linking France to the UK, he said.
In addition, 338 bridges, viaducts and tunnels to allow animals to cross the line had to be constructed, while archaeologists carried out digs along the route at 400 sites, ranging in date from the prehistoric Neanderthal period to World War I.
As mentioned above, a second phase of the project is planned, adding a further 100km (62 miles) of track by 2015.
Frances TGV trains - launched more than two decades ago - cover a network of 1,500km (930 miles) with an average speed of 300km/h (185mph).
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Graphic: TGV Railway
First woman to lead LIRR
Helena Williams, who ushered in eco-friendly buses and a service for the disabled when president of Long Island Bus, is scheduled to take the helm of the Long Island Railroad on June 18.
She will be the first woman to lead the nations largest commuter rail system.
Her first priority will be customer safety, including the platform gap problem, which she described as my first day on the job issue.
I will be looking at exactly whats been accomplished and what the goals are in terms of further remediation of gaps, she said. Its one of my highest priorities.
Williams began her career in New York City, working for the Mayors Office of Municipal Labor Relations. She has spent 13 years at the MTA, beginning in 1985 as labor counsel to chief of staff and then president of the Long Island Bus in 1993. In that position, she converted the diesel-powered fleet to natural gas buses, introduced a service for disabled riders and slashed fares by introducing the MetroCard, which eliminated transfer charges for Nassau-Queens commuters causing ridership to increase dramatically.
Some, including State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), have expressed concerns about her lack of railroad experience, but Elliot Lee Sander, executive director of the MTA, said he believes the railroad needs to be taken to a higher level and that Williams will bring a fresh vision and energy to the job.
Acting President Ray Kenny, a 34-year LIRR veteran who applied for the permanent post, did not say yesterday whether he intends to stay on or retire. It has been a distinct honor to serve as the acting LIRR president for the past nine months - a time when we have faced and effectively managed many challenges, he said in a statement.
There has been debate about merging Metro-North and LIRR, but this appointment tables that discussion.
Helena Williams, 51, graduated from St. Johns University School of Law in 1981 and was admitted to the New York Bar in 1982. She lives in Garden City with her husband and three children.
AUGUSTA ---If the incoming Vice Chair of the New England Governors Conference John Baldacci of Maine gets his way, Amtraks DownEaster already the number one rated passenger train in America --- will be extended into central Maine.
Representing the first passenger service in Maine after 40 years of absence, the DownEaster was pushed through by the citizen-based TrainRiders NorthEast and then-Senator George Mitchell.
TrainRiders Northeast was founded and is still led by former Maine banker Wayne Davis, also a member of the Board of the National Corridors Initiative.
The DownEaster is run by Amtrak, under contract with the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which was set up to operate passenger train service to and from Maine.
Photo: Morristown & Erie Railway, parent company of Maine Eastern RailroadThe journey is the destination on the Maine Eastern Railroads excursion service.
According to reporter Gary Remal of the Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel,
Gov. Baldacci asked for plans to provide year-round passenger rail service to Brunswick and Auburn. He also said he wants to expand beyond those runs.
The Downeaster is bringing new energy to downtown economic development in Old Orchard, Saco and other communities, the newspaper reported, Its time to head north.
Thanks in great part to Governor John Baldaccis strong leadership in promoting interest in passenger rail in Maine, support is growing among city and state officials.
Last year the governor issued an executive order charging state officials to encourage the expansion of passenger rail and the economic benefits that come with it.
In response, the State Planning Office hosted a conference in April 2007,
The Passenger Rail Economic Development Workshop, which emphasized the importance of integrating land use, rail transportation and economic development.
Rail service to the capital:
City and state officials from the capital city, Augusta, and from northern and central Maine, are now discussing the possibilities of how the return of passenger rail service could benefit their areas. Plans are already underway to expand the Downeaster service north of Portland to Freeport and Brunswick and possibly on to Bangor in the future. Augusta could be one of the stops along the way.
For Augusta City Councilor Stanley Koski, linking the state capital with the successful Portland-Boston Down-easter would be a great success, reported the Journal.
There is widespread support for the return of rail to Augusta, and the governor has asked for plans to provide year-round passenger rail service to Brunswick and Auburn, the newspaper said.
Augusta City Manager William Bridgeo expressed concern about the general condition of the track leading to the city. He said significant improvements will be needed to the rail trestle that crosses the Kennebec River.
Deputy Transportation Commissioner Gregory Nadeau said that Augusta represents the best, though not the only route north to Bangor. He also told them that a separate rail route to Auburn has a priority because the tracks have been improved and the line has received a federal earmark for future funding, said the paper.
Economic benefits and funding:
At the April workshop, economic experts helped participants see the potential for how passenger rail service could be a catalyst for economic development. Catherine Reilly, the state economist, said, They did a great job of explaining how passenger rail fits into a much broader picture of transportation and economic development. We learned a lot about how the cost of transportation impacts a household and about community impacts and the amount of money they have to spend in other parts of the economy. It affects housing affordability more than you would expect.
Always, the discussion came back to the funding problem. The only thing that stands in the way of bringing rail to a community and the time it takes is money and market demand, and one motivates the other, Nadeau said. In a state like this, it would take a long time for demand to build to the point where it forces us to do it, so I think well have to build it first.
Koski commented on the general interest in rail and the influence of fuel costs. If gas prices double, I think rail would be operating almost overnight. I think the State Planning Office went away with the idea, by and large, theres a lot of interest in passenger rail, perhaps more than in many years. The question is, how to fund it. Thats always the biggest hurdle, the Journal reported.
California sees sprawl as warming culprit
SAN FRANCISCO, JUNE 5 -- In a ground-breaking case that other states are watching carefully, California has brought a lawsuit against one of its counties for failing to account for greenhouse gases when updating its 25-year blueprint for growth, according to a story in USA TODAY.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown has sued San Bernardino County, the USAs largest in land area and one of the fastest growing, for a planning proposal that would perpetuate suburban sprawl, according to a story by John Ritter for USA TODAY.
Using a lawsuit to hold cities and counties accountable for greenhouse gas emissions caused by sprawling is a new battleground in the war on global warming.
Its ground-breaking. California is just leading the way for other states and jurisdictions that will ultimately follow, said Richard Frank of the Center for Environmental Law and Policy at the University of California-Berkeley.
The 1970 California Environmental Quality Act requires greenhouse gases to be regulated like any other type of pollution, the story continues. Sixteen states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam have similar laws, but no other state has used these laws to sue over global warming.
In New York, global warming is a top priority for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who says that something should be done about it right away. Hes very focused on it, said aide Jeffrey Lerner. He feels like we need to do everything we can to address this issue right away.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick ordered in April that projects large enough to require an environmental review must also assess the effects of the project on greenhouse gases.
If the suit is successful, cities and counties in California could be required by law to plan for compact development, available transit service, safety amenities to encourage bicycling and walking, energy efficient buildings, and alternative fuels.
San Bernardino County officials say they have addressed global warming but no regulations require them to do so in growth planning. The states making an example of us to send a message to everyone else in California, said spokesman David Wert.
Public transportation seen as critical to Phillys
Development of the Future by forum attendees
PHILADELPHIA, JUNE 2 -- Transit-oriented development was among the topics discussed during the National Association of Real Estate Editors 41st annual conference here. It is especially relevant to Philadelphia, according to Paul Levy, president of Center City District, who said 70% of Center City office workers are served by public transportation.
Public transportation is gaining momentum every day, added Jeff DeVuono of Radnor-based Brandywine Realty Trust. Driving factors are out of control, and the next generation is urban-oriented and green-conscious. Public transportation is critical to development of the future.
He also said Brandywines newly completed Cira Centre office building would not have been successful had it been built along the Delaware River, an area furthest from a Septa train station. The real incentive for companies to locate in Cira Centre was 30th Street Station, he said. That site, along the Schuylkill River, connects with both Septa regional rail and Amtrak. DeVuono said, 80% to 82% of Cira people take public transportation to work. Were having a sale on parking spaces, he quipped.
Both men along with Richard Bickel of the Delaware River Port Authority agreed that dedicated funding for public transportation is critical. Bickel said DRPA obtained some initial funding for studies regarding transit development for the areas first-generation suburbs; however, the state General Assembly did not fund transit development separately. More money is spent on highways than on public transportation.
Another hurdle is the age of the existing transit system that now connects the suburbs with each other and the city. If you start from scratch, you can plan correctly, Bickel said. But, out of necessity, Septa is spending most of its effort and money fixing up an old system.
Developing a system, he said, starts with land use. Yet, obtaining land and approvals for projects is especially difficult here because of the extraordinary number of municipal zoning bodies within the nine Pennsylvania and three New Jersey counties in the DRPA realm. We work with 352 townships, boroughs and cities, he said, and they range from Philadelphia to a golf course with 20 permanent residents.
Selected Rail Stocks...
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Bus to Amtrak, T.F. Green gaining support
The Cape and Providence Express Bus Service (CAPEX), proposed by Cape Destinations of South Dennis, is offering service from Barnstable to Amtraks Providence station and T. F. Green Airport in Rhode Island. The plan is for six-round trips a day.
Proponents of the plan told the Cape Cod Joint Transportation Committee in May that substantial government subsidy will be needed to get the service off the ground.
Cape Destinations estimates there are 500-plus daily commuters between Cape Cod and Greater Providence, most of them now traveling in private cars, thereby increasing atmospheric emissions. The proposed schedule would start at Route 6s Exit 10 park-and-ride in Harwich, stop at Exit 6 in West Barnstable, the Sagamore commuter lot and the Wareham commuter lot, where it would be linked with a service stopping at the Falmouth bus depot, the Otis rotary, and Buzzards Bay.
To get started, well need help, owner Peggy Garrahan said. We estimate it will take two years before people completely rely on it.
A sample schedule shows the first bus of the day leaving Harwich at 4 a.m., Barnstable at 4:15, Sagamore at 4:30, Wareham at 4:45, New Bedford at 5:15, Amtrak at 5:45 and T.F. Green at 6 a.m. Other runs would leave Barnstable at 6:15 and 9:15 a.m. and 12:15, 3:15 and 6:15 p.m.
An adult round-trip fare from Barnstable to the airport would cost $50, with a $10 discount for those 65 or older or, when accompanied by an adult, 12 years or younger. Children under 2 not requiring a seat would travel for free.
Cape Destinations Program Manager Judi Sacco said there is definitely a need. She cited 1,800 positive responses to the companys on-line survey of interest.
Cape Destinations already operates the Whoosh trolley between Falmouth Mall and Woods Hole.
CSX hiring in Frederick County
FREDERICK, MD JUNE 6 -- CSX Transportation is recruiting 34 conductors in the Frederick County area. The employees are needed because of increased demand for rail freight transportation, CSX spokeswoman Meg Saks said.
Brunswicks CSX location is 100 S. Maple Ave. Recruited conductors from the Frederick area would travel to Brunswick, 33rd Street Southwest in Washington, or Gaithersburg.
Applicants must apply using the careers link at the companys website, www.csx.com.
Conductors assist train engineers in reading and obeying signals, safety and operating rules, track speed, and communications, Saks said. They also operate switches, inspect trains and make minor repairs.
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