The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.

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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June 16, 2008
Vol. 9 No. 25

Copyright © 2008
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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

  News Items…
New London Bridge Project Is Off Again
House Passes Amtrak Bill By Wide, Veto-Proof Majority
Shutdown Schedule and Alternative Services During New London
   Bridge Replacement Project
  Economic Lines…
Real Estate Market Tough? It’s Better Where Rail Runs,
   Worse Where It Doesn’t
“Buyers Hit the Rails South Aboard New Greenbush Line”
“Wealth Evaporates as Gas Prices Clobber McMansions”
  Off The Main Line…
Montana Journalist Tries Amtrak, Finds That
   Forrest Gump Was Right
  Commuter Lines…
Raleigh-Charlotte Rail Corridor To Get
   Third Daily Run, Says Gov
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Financial Lines…
FRA Seeks Apps For $30M Intercity Rail Program
  We Get Letters…
  Publication Notes …

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


Major Amtrak Infrastructure Work On Again, Off-Again


New London Bridge Project Is Off Again


By DF Staff

NEW LONDON --- The long-planned project to change out the ancient Thames River railroad drawbridge and replace it with a lifting bridge is on hold yet again.

After announcing a June 14-June 17 closure ---and a shutdown of much of Amtrak’s critical Northeast Corridor --- Amtrak last week changed the dates to June 16-20, and then late Friday postponed the work “indefinitely”.

In a statement June 13, Amtrak said:

“Amtrak has been notified by the contractor working on the Thames River Bridge in Connecticut that the installation of the new lift span has been further delayed due to complications encountered in the dismantling and removal of the bridge's counterweight.”

“As a result, the previously announced schedules to accommodate the change-out have been suspended.”

Amtrak will restore regular train schedules for June 16 through 19 and will operate a normal schedule this weekend (June 14 and 15.)

Amtrak said it “expects to receive more information from the contractor about the status of the project on Monday (June 16). At that point, Amtrak will provide more information about both the service schedules and expected project completion date.”

Amtrak apologized “for any additional inconvenience resulting from the shift in plans.”

NCI advises its readers to go to Amtrak’s website for future information,, as the situation unfolds.

“Amtrak had originally not planned on any back-up service during the outage, but changed its mind last week to provide bus-around service and additional “Inland Route” trains (Boston-New York via Worcester, Springfield, Hartford, and New Haven) during the bridge outage and replacement.”

NCI President Jim RePass stated, “This time should be used as an opportunity to make sure those back-up plans are well-laid-out, and closely coordinated with the staff of Connecticut Governor Jody Rell and her new Department of Transportation, which is now headed, for the first time in its history, by a Commissioner and a Deputy Commissioner both of whom (new Commissioner Joseph F. Marie, former transit executive from Phoenix, and Albert Martin, former chief of Detroit’s Transportation Department, and at ConnDOT for just over a year, respectively) have a deep understanding of transit, not only of highways. Amtrak needs to be open and in contact with ConnDOT at all times, going forward, as this and other projects are undertaken.”

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House Passes Amtrak Bill By Wide, Veto-Proof Majority

Anti-Amtrak Amendments Failed

By DF Staff from Internet Sources and from
NARP (National Association of Railroad Passengers)

WASHINGTON, DC -- JUNE 11 -- A companion bill to the Senate’s Lautenberg-Lott bill which passed the Senate last October, has been approved by the US House of Representatives. The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (H.R. 6003), a bi-partisan bill which was introduced last month, passed by a 311-104 vote.

The bill would authorize nearly $15 billion in funding for Amtrak and other passenger rail over the next five years. Some of the money would go to a program of matching grants to help states set up or expand rail service.

“Nothing could be more fitting to bring before the Congress today, on a day when gasoline has reached $4.05 a gallon across the United States on average,” said Representative John Mica, R-Florida, a longtime Amtrak critic who teamed up with Transportation Committee Chairman James Oberstar, D-Minn., on the legislation.

Amtrak’s previous authorization expired in 2002. The railroad’s supporters say a new authorization will allow Amtrak to make long-range plans and take advantage of what they say is a growing appetite for passenger rail.

“The bill aims in a number of ways to improve and expand U.S. passenger-train service,” said National Association of Rail Passengers Executive Director Ross Capon in a prepared statement. “The bill will allow for significant investment in rolling stock and tracks, including the addition of needed track capacity at some key chokepoints where Amtrak and freight trains both suffer delays.”

Unlike the Senate version, the House bill includes a requirement for the Department of Transportation to seek proposals from private companies to create a high-speed service that would take travelers from Washington to New York City in two hours or less. The idea has long been championed by Mica, who says the United States must catch up with European and Asian countries on high-speed rail travel.

Included in the bill is an authorization of $1.5 billion in federal funds for Washington’s cash-strapped Metro system over the next ten years.

Also included is approximately $60 million to fund studies for a possible bypass around an aging Baltimore rail tunnel. The 135-year-old Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel has become a choke point for rail traffic in the Northeast Corridor. Passenger and freight trains must obey speed and height limits as they use it. The studies would like at possible new rail alignments through Baltimore.

Two amendments by Rep Pete Sessions (R-Texas), which would have weakened the bill, failed: one to HR 1401 (Rail and Public Transportation Security Act of 2007) would have forbid Amtrak to spend any security funds on the ten routes with the highest “cost per seat mile” as presented in Amtrak’s monthly performance reports; the other -an Amendment to HR 3074 (the Fiscal 2008 Transportation-HUD Appropriations bill) would forbid Amtrak to spend any operating funds to operate the Sunset Limited. doesn’t hold Amtrak accountable for its spending. But similar legislation has passed the Senate, also with enough support to override a veto.

Other amendments which would reduce Amtrak’s operating funds by hundreds of millions of dollars also failed.

The White House has threatened a veto. The bill “authorizes an unprecedented level of funding but does not include basic measures to hold Amtrak accountable to taxpayers for its spending decisions,” the Bush administration said in a statement. However, the overwhelming majority votes for both Senate and House versions are expected to support an override.

Voting charts courtesy of NARP


(Democrats in standard text; Republicans in italic; Independents underlined)

Democratic224  10
Republican 87104    8
TOTALS311104 18


H R 6003 YEA-AND-NAY, 11-Jun-2008, 2:59 PM

QUESTION: On Passage

BILL TITLE: Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act

---- YEAS    311 ---

Bishop (GA)Bishop (NY)Bishop (UT)
BlumenauerBono MackBoozman
Boyd (FL)Boyda (KS)Brady (PA)
Brown (SC)Brown, CorrineBrown-Waite, Ginny
ClyburnCohenCole (OK)
CummingsDavis (AL)Davis (CA)
Davis (IL)Davis, LincolnDavis, Tom
DeLauroDentDiaz-Balart, L.
English (PA)EshooEtheridge
FossellaFosterFrank (MA)
FrelinghuysenGarrett (NJ)Gerlach
Green, GeneGrijalvaHall (NY)
HareHarmanHastings (FL)
HayesHerseth SandlinHiggins
Jackson (IL)Jackson-Lee (TX)Jefferson
Johnson (GA)Johnson (IL)Johnson, E. B.
Jones (NC)Jones (OH)Kagen
King (NY)KirkKlein (FL)
KnollenbergKucinichKuhl (NY)
Larsen (WA)Larson (CT)Latham
Lewis (GA)LipinskiLoBiondo
Lofgren, ZoeLoweyLucas
LynchMahoney (FL)Maloney (NY)
MathesonMatsuiMcCarthy (NY)
McCollum (MN)McCotterMcDermott
McMorris RodgersMcNerneyMcNulty
Meek (FL)Meeks (NY)Melancon
MicaMichaudMiller (MI)
Miller (NC)Miller, GeorgeMitchell
MollohanMoore (KS)Moore (WI)
Moran (KS)Moran (VA)Murphy (CT)
Murphy, PatrickMurphy, TimMurtha
NadlerNapolitanoNeal (MA)
PaynePerlmutterPeterson (MN)
PoePomeroyPrice (NC)
Pryce (OH)PutnamRahall
Rogers (AL)Ros-LehtinenRoss
Ryan (OH)SalazarSánchez, Linda T.
Sanchez, LorettaSarbanesSaxton
Scott (GA)Scott (VA)Serrano
SkeltonSlaughterSmith (NJ)
Smith (WA)SnyderSolis
TaylorThompson (CA)Thompson (MS)
TsongasTurnerUdall (CO)
Udall (NM)UptonVan Hollen
VelázquezViscloskyWalden (OR)
Walsh (NY)Walz (MN)Wasserman Schultz
WaxmanWeinerWelch (VT)
Whitfield (KY)Wilson (OH)Wolf
Young (AK)Young (FL) 


---- NAYS    104 ---

Barrett (SC)Barton (TX)Bilbray
Brady (TX)Broun (GA)Burgess
Burton (IN)CalvertCamp (MI)
Campbell (CA)CannonCarter
CubinCulbersonDavis (KY)
Davis, DavidDeal (GA)Doolittle
FoxxFranks (AZ)Gallegly
GingreyHall (TX)Hastings (WA)
Inglis (SC)IssaJohnson, Sam
JordanKingstonKline (MN)
LambornLattaLewis (CA)
Lewis (KY)LinderLungren, Daniel E.
MackMarchantMcCarthy (CA)
McCaul (TX)McHenryMcKeon
Miller (FL)Miller, GaryMyrick
PearcePencePeterson (PA)
PittsPorterPrice (GA)
RadanovichRamstadRogers (KY)
Rogers (MI)RohrabacherRoskam
RoyceRyan (WI)Sali
SessionsShadeggSmith (NE)
Smith (TX)StearnsTerry
WampWeldon (FL)Wilson (NM)
Wilson (SC)Wittman (VA) 


---- NOT VOTING    18 ---

Bartlett (MD)Braley (IA)Butterfield
Diaz-Balart, M.FlakeGillibrand
Green, AlGutierrezHulshof
KapturKing (IA)Loebsack

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Shutdown Schedule and Alternative Services
During New London Bridge Replacement Project

Courtesy of NARP

  • Saturday, June 14 – all trains will operate normally.

    Sunday, June 15 – all westbound trains operate normally; eastbound trains will operate normally with these exceptions:
       #168 will end at New Haven;
       #166 will go to Springfield only (not Boston): #66 will end at New York City
  • Monday-Thursday, June 16-19 – these are the days the Thames River bridge east of New London will be out of service.

(a) In addition to the single Boston trip via Springfield Amtrak had previously planned, there will be two additional Boston trips via Springfield.
      These additional trips will run non-stop between Back Bay and Springfield.

(b) A shuttle train will make three daily round-trips between New London, Old Saybrook and New Haven, connecting there with Amtrak Regional trains.

(c) A shuttle train for Boston commuters will operate between Westerly and Boston on the schedule of trains 66 and 177.

(d) Four Providence-New Haven non-stop express buses (up to 150 seats per schedule) and four Kingston-New Haven non-stop buses (50 seats).

(e) No Acela service east of New York City.

(f) No service at Mystic; No service (other than regular MBTA commuter rail) at Route 128;
      no Westerly-west service; no service linking Boston and New Haven or Old Saybrook

For more information, read the news release on Amtrak’s website. All of the details have not yet been loaded into Amtrak’s on-line reservations system but this should happen soon.

Ross B. Capon
NARP Executive Director

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ECONOMIC LINES... Economic Lines...

Real Estate Market Tough?
It’s Better Where Rail Runs,
Worse Where It Doesn’t

By DF Staff and from Internet Sources

US OF A ---- The American residential real estate market may be in the tank, but observant journalists across the country are noticing an interesting trend that transportation advocates have known about for years: better transportation access helps real estate values… and vice versa.

The recently-completed Greenbush commuter rail line extension in Massachusetts is proving that once again, as buyers re-discover South Shore suburban towns that had become increasingly “distant” from jobs in Boston as regional highway congestion has increased, even as the cost of gasoline is soaring.

Banker & Tradesman, the newspaper of record for the New England real estate business community, took note of this development in a recent well-researched online story by Reporter Aglaia Pikounis published June 9, and reprinted below by permission of B&T.

In another story, Bloomberg reported that “McMansions” built far into the ‘burbs where rail service is scant or absent are suddenly losing value as commute costs become increasingly prohibitive. See “McMansions” below.

Return to index
“Buyers Hit the Rails South Aboard New Greenbush Line”

By Aglaia Pikounis, Reporter Banker & Tradesman © 2008 The Warren Group Used by permission

HINGHAM --- Seven months after launching, the new Greenbush commuter line is bringing a fresh supply of home-seekers to South Shore communities, according to local Realtors.

“It’s definitely a plus. I’ve had people coming down from the city who would not consider Hingham until the train came,” said Joanne Conway, an agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Hingham.

The Greenbush line, running 18 miles through Braintree, Weymouth, Hingham, Cohasset and Scituate, completed restoration of the historic Old Colony Railroad. When service started running, there were hopes that it would alleviate traffic congestion on the South Shore and make the region more desirable to people who have to commute into Boston for work.

Realtors who work in Scituate, Cohasset and Hingham say the new rail service has brought more buyers to their doors. Home seekers who thought living in those communities would have meant nightmare commutes into Boston are now considering the towns.

While Realtors insist the commuter line has boosted interest, there hasn’t been a jump in home sales in those communities. Sales through April have declined in Cohasset, Hingham, Braintree and Weymouth compared to a year earlier, and there was a modest increase in home sales in Scituate.

But brokers point out that sales are down statewide. Meanwhile, ridership has climbed during the last three months. On June 4, there were 1,954 commuters riding on five inbound morning trains during rush hour, compared to 1,732 in May 14 and 1,640 on April 9, according to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Bill Good, a Realtor with Dean & Hamilton in Cohasset, said 40 percent of the buyers he’s helping are searching on the South Shore exclusively because of the train.

“The profile of the buyer has shifted to allow for those professionals who might currently live in the South End, Back Bay, Charlestown, South Boston. They’re now interested to consider Hingham, Scituate, and Cohasset as great places to live because they can have the various modes of transportation, especially the train,” he said.

Good said the train is drawing a mix of people. He is working with a couple in their 50s who now live in Walpole and want to relocate to Scituate because of the train.

“What is so dramatic is that [the train] is offsetting the challenge in the real estate market overall. The real estate market is definitely hiccupping, and yet our business is continuing based on the added livability of these communities,” he said.

Mary McCready, manager of Jack Conway & Co.’s Hingham office, said the Greenbush train is a huge benefit. “Before it could have been that the commute turned off a potential buyer,” said McCready.

Next Stop: Their Home

McCready’s office recently snagged buyers for a $679,000 Hingham home that is adjacent to a commuter station parking lot. The home had been listed with another company for six months. McCready’s company acquired the listing in early spring. It was on the market for a nearly three months, before a couple that was renting in Boston toured the home at an open house.

“The buyers were the perfect buyers. They were excited they could walk across the parking lot to the train. They both work in Boston,” McCready said.

While these particular buyers found the proximity of the train station convenient, other buyers aren’t so eager to live near a noisy rail line.

“It was a positive for these buyers, but generally speaking if there are a lot of properties on the market and all factors are equal, and one house is near the train tracks and another isn’t, you’re going to go for the house that isn’t,” McCready said. [It depends on advertising to find the right customer, and they are out there --- NCI Publisher’s Note]

David Drinkwater of Grand Gables Realty Group said Scituate has benefited the most because prior to the Greenbush line, commuters who didn’t want to drive to Boston had to travel to Hingham to catch a ferry.

“Other than driving to a Red Line station to Braintree or Quincy, that’s been the only viable public transportation in Scituate,” he said.

In Scituate, 57 single-family homes were sold through April, up from 53 a year earlier, according to The Warren Group, Banker & Tradesman’s parent company. The median selling price plunged 22 percent to $430,000 from $550,000 during those months.

Drinkwater can look out the window of his office in North Scituate Village and see a commuter station parking lot. More and more cars are parking in the lot, which used to be empty, he said.

Chris D’Alessandro, manager of Jack Conway’s Cohasset office, said buyers are relocating from communities like Quincy because of the train.

“I haven’t heard any negative feedback [about the train] from buyers and sellers,” she said.

© 2008 The Warren Group Inc., 280 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02210. All rights reserved.

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“Wealth Evaporates as Gas Prices Clobber McMansions”

WASHINGTON, DC AND ENVIRONS---Meanwhile Rich Miller and Matthew Benjamin, of Bloomberg Services reported on the same day, June 9, “Sky-high gasoline prices aren’t just raising the cost of Eugene Marino’s 120-mile (193-kilometer) round-trip to his job in the Washington area. They’re reducing his wealth, too.”

“House prices in his rural subdivision beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains in Charles Town, West Virginia, have plunged as commuting expenses have soared. A four-bedroom home down the street from his is listed for $239,000, after selling new for $360,000 five years ago,” reported Bloomberg.

“Homeowners in the exurbs aren’t the only ones whose assets have taken a hit because of the surge in energy costs. Companies such as General Motors Corp. are writing off billions of dollars in plants and equipment that are no longer viable in an age of dearer oil. The destruction of wealth and capital will weigh on U.S. growth for years to come.” Wrote Bloomberg, in one of the starkest assessments of the impact of petroleum price hikes written in recent weeks.

“‘Our whole economy reflects the relative costs of energy: the cars we drive, the houses we occupy, the kinds of factories we have and the equipment in them,’ Bloomberg quoted Dana Johnson, chief economist at Comerica Bank in Dallas., as saying. “I’m expecting relatively large changes in all of these things,” [he added ominously].

“The loss of wealth could be a double whammy for the U.S. economy,” wrote Bloomberg, in its brutally frank assessment, “In the short run, it depresses demand as homeowners save more and spend less, and companies fire workers. Longer run, it curbs productivity growth, as firms shift their focus from increasing worker efficiency to reducing energy costs.”

For the complete article go to: and Google “McMansions.”

[NCI: To contact the reporters on this story: Matthew Benjamin in Washington at; and/or Rich Miller in Washington at

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

Amtrak Ride ‘Like A Box Of Chocolates’


Montana Journalist Tries Amtrak,
Finds That Forrest Gump Was Right

From the Daily Interlake, Montana (
Used By Permission

By Interlake Features editor Lynnette Hintze ©2008

MONTANA AND WEST---Remember Forrest Gump’s famous line? “My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’”

Amtrak journeys are a lot like that proverbial box of chocolates. You never know what kinds of interesting (or not) people you’ll meet on the train. And when you spend 34 hours on the Empire Builder round trip, you’re likely to come across a few characters.

Riding the train is nothing like flying. In my experience, 99 percent of plane passengers are content to pretend you don’t exist or at the very least don’t feel compelled to tell you their life stories. Not so on Amtrak.

There’s something about traveling across the vast expanses of the Montana Hi-Line and prairies of North Dakota that prompts rumpled passengers, who in some cases have been riding the rails for days, to strike up conversations with complete strangers. It makes the time pass, and along the way you learn a few things about people and human nature.

On my way from Whitefish to Fargo two weeks ago, I went to the dining car for dinner and was placed alongside a mildly inebriated Alaskan fisherman of Finnish descent. In between swigs of his whiskey on the rocks, he regaled us with tales of commercial fishing in the Bristol Bay area.

He claimed he made $100,000 in just a few weeks some years, but after fishing Alaskan waters for more than 30 years, he said he didn’t have much to show for all the money he’d made. And his wife didn’t like him much any more, he added. The man shrugged and started drinking whiskey again.

Later that evening the conductor seated a man next to me who looked identical to one of my brothers. He even sounded like my brother. I felt like I was in some parallel universe. Turned out I knew his cousin, who was the youth pastor at the church we attended when we lived in Sidney.

The return trip to Whitefish, which started with a four-hour, middle-of-the-night wait at the Fargo train depot because Amtrak was running late, was just as interesting.

“Welcome to our world,” a middle-aged woman greeted me as I climbed into my seat. She was knitting an afghan and was a freelance children’s story writer for Weekly Reader.

More interesting people turned up at dinner again.

When the two women sitting across from me found out I worked at a newspaper, they wondered if I was interested in investigating the potential dangers of fluoride in drinking water. (I graciously declined.) In their Northern Washington community, the town council had recently decided to fluoridate the water supply because fluoride has long been considered beneficial in preventing tooth decay.

But these women were adamant that their town consider a recent Scientific American article suggesting fluoride can be risky if it’s overused. It was food for thought.

During another train meal, a woman from California insisted that her state was converting too much farmland to vineyards. That’s just wrong, she maintained, because wine is an indulgence, and the land could be used to grow fruits and vegetables instead. Thank goodness I hadn’t ordered a glass of wine with my meal.

Seems like I was surrounded by activists of one sort or another on this particular trip.

When my kids were young, we’d take Amtrak regularly to Minnesota to visit my family; it was the cheapest and most convenient way to travel. In recent years flying was quicker and usually reasonable enough to afford.

But with the price of plane tickets flying out of sight — the air fare from Kalispell to Fargo would have cost $600 more than my round-trip train ticket — I may be hopping on Amtrak more often.

I’ll look forward to whatever’s in the “box of chocolates,” even if some of them are a little nutty.

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 406-758-4421 or by e-mail at

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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...

Map Courtesy of Amtrak
Raleigh-Charlotte Rail Corridor
To Get Third Daily Run, Says Gov

From Internet Sources

RALEIGH-CHARLOTTE, NC — Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds are the source for the addition of a third intercity passenger train between Raleigh and Charlotte, state transportation officials have announced.

The new train service will run at midday, complementing from Raleigh and Charlotte. It will begin service later this year or early next, depending upon when the equipment needed for the extra train can be refurbished.

“Ridership is increasing significantly along this route and adding a midday train run will meet the growing demand and provide needed services to North Carolina travelers who are looking for economical alternatives to driving,” said North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley in announcing the new train. “As fuel prices continue to climb, more and more people are turning to rail.”

Officials with the N.C. Department of Transportation estimate that it will take between six and 12 months to make the third run operational. Rail cars and locomotives will need to be refurbished for the service.

The state DOT currently sponsors both the Piedmont and Carolinian trains as part of North Carolina’s Amtrak service. Fares for the round trip between Raleigh and Charlotte start at about $50.

From October 2007 to April 2008, ridership was up more than 22 percent, with 197,126 travelers riding either the Piedmont or Carolinian trains. On the Piedmont (trains 73 and 74) ridership was up almost 26 percent, from 28,309 to 35,681 passengers; the Carolinian (trains 79 and 80) was up 18 percent from 136,358 to 161,445.

Complete schedules for the Piedmont and Carolinian trains are available online at Reservations are required. Travelers should book early for best fares. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 800-USA-RAIL.

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)104.68110.40
Canadian National (CNI)49.5952.32
Canadian Pacific (CP)64.5967.37
CSX (CSX)65.4265.41
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.51???
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)38.3741.43
Kansas City Southern (KSU)47.0148.67
Norfolk Southern (NSC)63.4264.18
Providence & Worcester (PWX)21.0019.71
Union Pacific (UNP)75.5777.95
Symbol FLA had no report available last week.

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FINANCIAL LINES... Financial Lines...

FRA Seeks Apps For $30M Intercity Rail Program

By DF Staff and from the FRA

WASHINGTON --- The Federal Railroad Administration has set a June 30 deadline for Intercity Passenger Rail State Capital Grant Applications to be considered in the first round of awards for the new Intercity Passenger Rail State Capital Grant program. The $30 million program, the FRA said, is designed to support state efforts to improve intercity passenger rail service and requires a 50-50 funding match. “Projects that demonstrate an on-time performance standard of 80 percent or greater, reduce travel time, increase service frequency, or enhance service quality for intercity rail passengers will receive favorable consideration for funding. Subsequent rounds of awards will depend on the availability of any remaining funds. The Bush Administration requested the creation of this grant program and is seeking $100 million for the program in FY09.”

In 2002, the Bush Administration announced a number of principles to “reform the delivery of intercity passenger rail service in the United States and guide its future development.” One of these principles was to “establish a long–term partnership between States and the Federal Government to support intercity passenger rail.”

The Five Principles for Reform, as announced in June 2002 by then-Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta are:

  1. Create a system driven by sound economics.
  2. Require that Amtrak transition to a pure operating company.
  3. Introduce carefully managed competition to provide higher quality rail services at reasonable prices.
  4. Establish a long-term partnership between states and the federal government to support intercity passenger rail service.
  5. Create an effective public partnership, after a reasonable transition, to manage the capital assets of the Northeast Corridor.

The Bush Administration “…believes States have the primary responsibility in deciding where and how intercity passenger rail is operated while the role of the federal government is to provide funding assistance for capital investment projects.” This contention has not been shared by most transportation professionals, who see the Bush position, which is driven by the highly ideological Office of Management and Budget, as a thinly-veiled attempt to destroy the national passenger rail system and replace it with a balkanized patchwork of service more suitable to a third world country than a great industrial power.

“In furtherance of that principle, the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 Budget proposed, and the Congress enacted (as part of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008) the Capital Assistance to States – Intercity Passenger Rail Service Program. The program will increase the States’ role in intercity passenger rail development by establishing the first-ever Federal-State partnership for intercity passenger rail investment along the model of those that currently exist for other modes of transportation such as for highways, airports, and transit systems,” said the FRA

“This program, which was officially announced on February 19, 2008, makes $30,000,000 in Federal matching funds available directly to States through grants to fund up to 50 percent of the cost of capital investments and planning activities necessary to achieve tangible improvements to, or institute new, intercity passenger rail service. In particular, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is interested in receiving project proposals that lead to an on-time performance of 80 percent of greater, or reduce travel times, increase service frequency, or enhance service quality for intercity rail passengers,” the FRA stated.

Examples of such improvements include (but are not strictly limited to) the purchase of passenger rolling stock, the improvement of existing track to allow for higher maximum operating speeds, the addition or lengthening of passing tracks to increase capacity, the improvement of interlockings to increase capacity and reliability, and the improvement of signaling systems to increase capacity and maximum speeds, and improve safety.

The FRA will begin accepting grant application beginning March 18, 2008, with the expectation that awards will be made later this year. For more information. Contact: Rob Kulat (202) 493-6024.

In a separate matter, The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is providing a $250,000 grant to the Southeastern Transportation Safety Center in Meridian, Miss. to develop emergency response strategies and provide comprehensive, in-depth training to police, fire, rescue and other personnel who respond to train accidents, natural disasters, and possible acts of terrorism. Specific work being funded by the grant will address emergency response preparedness for: events involving passenger trains; serious train incidents that occur in rural areas; chemical, biological and radiological incidents related to rail and intermodal transportation; and the development of a Common Incident Management System for first responders in the southeastern region of the United States. For further information Contact: Steve Kulm (202) 493-6024.

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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...

Dear Mr. RePass,

I read your piece “Will Amtrak leave riders in the lurch?” in the June 2008 issue of Mass Bay RRE’s newsletter, The Callboy. By way of a bio, I am a retired train dispatcher with 35+years of service as a towerman and later train dispatcher at Metra and predecessor commuter carrier IC. My wife and I are frequent Amtrak patrons. We have memberships with NARP, ESPA, and MWHSR. I feel very supportive of the mission of your organisation, National Corridors Initiative.

As I am sure you know, NARP has taken Amtrak to task for its announced implementation of complete shutdown of NEC train operations east of New Haven for the Thames River Bridge re-newal. I e-mailed Mr. David Johnson not once, but twice, asking him basically, what other choice does Amtrak have given the availability, or lack thereof, of viable alternatives?

Your comments about Amtrak not being up front and open with all the stakeholders is well taken. I share the opinion of all who think the top executives at Amtrak need to do a far better job of outreach to the communities they serve (and maybe to all the passenger rail-hungry communities they don’t serve, also). Having said that, I find it astonishing that Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell “...and others...are just learning indirectly of this...non-plan...” With all due respect, Governor Rell or her staff have just not been paying attention. Suppose instead it was a bridge on I-95 that was going to be taken out of service, even for one day? You think they would not have known? Even without the direct communication from Amtrak they were certainly due, this has been talked about for months by many in the railroad professional and fan community.

The problem as I see it is that none of those taking Amtrak to task for the shut down, including yourself, have advanced reasonable alternatives to shutdown.

If ridership on the east end of the NEC is as strong as has been recently documented, how could buses possibly handle that kind of ridership? Even if the regional bus companies had that many buses to spare they would undoubtedly charge Amtrak the kind of money it does not have for the charter. Also, why should they co-operate? They (Peter Pan, Boltbus, Megabus, and Fung Wa) are trying to eat Amtrak’s lunch in the entire NEC with their low fares, more frequent departures (at least between Boston and NY) and, supposedly, time-competitive schedules.

And how would Amtrak provide its own alternative service? Amtrak itself yanked a bucket of capacity out of the Springfield Line-so much for the bashing the freight railroads got for all the single-tracking of double track lines they did back in the ’80s. ( The fact of the matter is that Amtrak hasn’t the stomach to run New Haven-Springfield any more than it has stomach for the Empire Service west of Albany.) CSX’s Boston Subdivision would congeal, especially east of Worcester, if all or most of the present frequencies tried to use it. And even if there was excess capacity, where is Amtrak supposed to find the extra diesel locomotives, coaches, and cafe cars to sub for the Acela consists?

Had there been a regional and federal commitment to intercity passenger rail, back when the NECIP was conceived, the old New Haven “Air Line” route via Middletown, Putnam, Blackstone and Willamantic would have been restored in addition to the “Shore Line”. Spending for that would have paid huge dividends for the present situation, not to mention increase in through ridership that would have come early on. By contrast, what have we got to show for the huge amount spent for electrifying the “Shore Line”? The commuter authorities are not using it. We cannot increase frequencies because of Coast Guard requirements. And now we have no alternative but complete shutdown. And what happens when the next 100 year old bridge is at the end of its service life?

Respectively yours,

Mark Shapp
Lenox, MA

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