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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June 22, 2009
Vol. 10 No. 27

Copyright © 2009
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 10th Year

Home Page: www.nationalcorridors.org

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

  News Items…
American Public Transportation Leaders Welcome New Day For Transit
House Bill Proposes Broad Improvements In Support For
   Rail And Transit
Dodd Champions Measure To Give Transit Agencies Greater
   Spending Flexibility
  Expansion Lines…
Officials Push For High-Speed Train Service To Region
  Selected Rail Stocks…
 
  Business Lines…
Railroad Firm To Sell 4M Shares Of Its Stock
  Environmental Lines…
All Aboard The Wind-Powered Railway
  Across The Pond…
Gotthard Base Tunnel Reaches Major Milestone
   Six Months Early
Belgium High-Speed Rail Line Opens
  We Get Letters…
  Publication Notes …


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

News Analysis: The Obama Transportation Era Begins

 

American Public Transportation Leaders
Welcome New Day For Transit, Rail
But Fight For Survival Is Still Under Way

By Jim RePass, Publisher, D:F

CHICAGO --- Illinois’ crown jewel of a city was picked as this year’s conference site long ago by APTA’s conference planners, but that this historic first meeting of the Obama Transportation Era took place in the home state of America’s 44th President, and also of his Transportation Secretary former Illinois Congressman Ray LaHood, was lost on no one this past week when thousands of the nation’s transit operators, railroad executives, transportation advocates, and transportation leaders from all levels of government convened in Chicago.

They met in a best-of-times/worst-of-times state of mind, to consider both the opportunities presented by America’s first pro-active, pro-infrastructure President since Dwight Eisenhower, Barack Obama, and to confront the challenges facing the industry due to decades of under-investment and neglect, when highways got the lion’s share of public money, suburbs boomed, urban and intercity rail and transit got next to nothing, and America’s cities were allowed to deteriorate as upper- and middle-class taxpayers fled to their [heavily subsidized] quarter- acre season in the sun.

US Transportation secretary Ray Lahood smiles as he steps off a French high speed train.

Many public transit agencies, in the face of revenue shortfalls triggered by the on-going recession that has caused a decline in both sales and gas tax receipts, are raising fares and cutting back service, or have made plans to do so, at a time when more Americans than ever are riding public transit, with demand forecast to increase as the cost of owning, operating, and insuring an automobile continues to grow, even as unemployment creeps upward and the ability to afford a car declines.

Also adding to the rising demand for transit services is the surging retirement of the so-called Baby Boomer Generation (born 1946-64), a huge surge in the birth rate that followed the end of the Depression and the Second World War, and lasted through the prosperous 1950’s on into the early 60’s. The Baby Boomers began hitting 62 (“early retirement” for some) in 2008; when they begin to hit 65 (2011-2029), they will start retiring in truly large numbers.

This will lead to two major societal changes: the massive sale of suburban housing stock (to whom?) in favor of smaller quarters (condos), and the simultaneous growth of cities and downtowns as retirees downsize their housing and move back to more urban areas where transit is the norm. Also, as they age, an increasing number will lose the ability to safely drive a car.

The APTA Conference:

Days of meetings and activities stretched from June 13-18 with internal APTA committee meetings Saturday and Sunday, and then the opening general session Monday, June 14, led by the highly regarded APTA President William Millar, and featuring a televised address by Secretary LaHood, and in-person presentations by both new FTA head Peter Rogoff and new FRA Administrator Joe Szabo.

Millar is credited by industry leaders with transforming APTA from a very narrowly-focused Washington-based Beltway interest group into a far more broadly-based and inclusive advocacy organization working for investment in and integration of America’s transportation systems in a way that stresses the “public” part of public transit. Beginning a decade ago, his organization began to outreach to Amtrak, the freight railroads (over whose tracks commuter rail systems often must operate), and advocacy groups such as the National Corridors Initiative and the National Association of Rail Passengers (NARP), in a way that very much laid the groundwork for the systems-integration, intermodal approach to transportation being taken by the technologically and managerially-savvy Obama Administration.

One of the hottest topics of Monday’s general session, noted by most if not all speakers, is that current Stimulus legislation needs to be modified immediately, or its spending rules written, to permit at least 10% Stimulus fund spending to go for operating costs: the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is largely geared toward capital investment, which is the right way to go, but transit systems nationwide are faced with immediate service cuts due to the operating-support short-falls that are the legacy of generations of Federal indifference or outright hostility – with a few exceptions --- to the notion of public support for transit operating costs.

Current legislation is beginning to address this issue --- “Why buy new buses (with Stimulus money) when we are laying off bus drivers?” asked one speaker, not so rhetorically --- but some legislation has already been finalized, especially in the House of Representatives, without addressing the need to commit at least some Stimulus funds to operating costs. Attention of the conference therefore focused on the Senate, where legislation addressing the operating support issue is still taking shape.

(Editor’s note: See this week’s DF article on Senator Dodd’s help to move this through the Senate.)

APTA is specifically looking to the environmental community to help in this area, as transit’s and rail’s positive impact on greenhouse gas reduction vs. auto usage is massive [D:F readers need to be aware of a disinformation campaign, origins as yet unknown (we are digging) that has been sent to radio stations (at least) and claims that automobiles are actually better for greenhouse gas reduction than trains. The piece uses clever statistics-manipulation to make the case (the train is “1/4 full”; the SUV has every seat filled, etc) and ,low and behold, SUVs are better for the environment! The problem is that many of the people hearing that crooked message will believe it].

APTA’s annual rail conference faced the present, but also looked to the future, and an era of long-overdue support for investment in and growth of public transit, an era that, in the view of conference attendees, doesn’t come a moment too soon.


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House Bill Proposes Broad Improvements
In Support For Rail And Transit

From The American Public Transportation Association (APTA)

“Blueprint For Investment And Reform” Includes $99.8 Billion For Transit And $50 Billion For High Speed Rail!
Administration Proposes Alternate 18 Month SAFETEAU-LU Extension And Highway Trust Fund Fix
Congress Approves Supplemental Appropriations Act - FY 2010 Appropriations Legislation Advancing.

 

WASHINGTON, JUNE 18 -- Today, the bipartisan leaders of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN), Ranking Member John Mica (R-FL), Highway and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Ranking Member John Duncan (R-TN), released their proposal for the next surface transportation authorization bill, to replace SAFETEA-LU. The summary of the proposal, entitled “A Blueprint for Investment and Reform,” describes in detail the committees’ plans for the subsequent changes in the way transportation will be funded and transformed.

To view the Executive Summary see:
http://transportation.house.gov/Media/file/Highways/HPP/Surface%20Transportation%20Blueprint%20Executive%20Summary.pdf

To view the Detailed Proposal see:
http://transportation.house.gov/Media/file/Highways/HPP/Surface%20Transportation%20Blueprint.pdf

APTA commends the committee for its thoughtful approach to address our nation’s transportation needs and is extremely pleased that its proposal incorporates several proposals advanced in APTA’s “Recommendations on Federal Public Transportation Law.”

As proposed, THE SURFACE TRANSPORTATION AUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2009 - (STAA) recommends a $450 billion investment in surface transportation programs, including $99.8 billion for public transportation programs administered by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)– a more than 90 percent increase over SAFETEA-LU levels. The bill recommends an additional $50 billion to support President Obama’s vision for the creation of a High Speed Rail network in the United States.

However, as expected, the proposal does not address where increased revenues will come from to finance the program. This portion of the legislation must be developed by the House Committee on Ways & Means, which is expected to act at a later date.

The legislation proposes a significant consolidation of surface transportation programs and introduces performance standards as a key feature of the federal program. Additional goals of STAA include bringing transportation assets to a “state-of-good repair,” improving project delivery, increasing safety, reducing traffic congestion, reducing green house gas emissions and improving air quality.

The committee also proposes creating a National Infrastructure Bank to fund large-scale transportation projects, as well as the creation of two multi-modal programs that aim to reduce congestion in major metropolitan areas and fund projects of national significance.

Funding Proposals

According to the committee’s blueprint, of the $450 billion proposed for surface transportation programs, $337.4 billion is proposed for the highway program, $99.8 billion is proposed for public transportation, and $12.6 billion is proposed for highway and motor carrier safety. It is important to note that STAA also proposes to fund two multi-modal programs ($50 billion for a “Metropolitan Mobility and Access Program and $25 billion for “Projects of National Significance”) from the same $450 billion pot. At this time, the proposal does not indicate from which programs STAA will draw funds to finance these two programs. Therefore, the actual level of funding dedicated to each mode will vary based on the amount of funds that will be drawn for the multimodal accounts, and eventually how much goes back into the programs once the funds are distributed.

As for the highway and transit programs, details were not made available regarding the distribution of funds among the various programs. For highway programs, despite consolidation efforts, the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) and Surface Transportation Program (STP) remain largely intact as states and local governments will continue to be able to flex these funds for transit projects at the local level. Changes, however, are proposed to increase sub-allocations to local governments from these accounts, giving local governments a larger stake in the project decision–making process, which could lead to more funds for transit projects.

For the transit program, STAA proposes to increase the ratio of federal funds that come from the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Under SAFETEA-LU, approximately 17 percent of the federal transit program was funded from the General Fund, with the remainder coming from the HTF. Under STAA, the General Fund share would drop to 12.3 percent ($12.2 billion). This is could be good news for transit, as a smaller portion of funding would be subjected to funding reductions within the annual appropriations process.

Transit Program Structure

The blueprint also indicates that STAA will propose a significant consolidation of transit programs, distributing funds under six major program headings. This is consistent with the overall theme of simplifying the federal program to create efficiency to help speed project delivery and to introduce performance measures. Elements of all of the previous programs, including eligible activities, can be found under the new headings. The new programs (summarized) are:

  1. New Starts and Small Starts Program
    STAA proposes a greatly simplified New Starts and Small Starts program that will speed project delivery by “eliminating a variety of programmatic steps and requiring program reforms.”

  2. Fixed Guide-way Modernization Program
    STAA proposes to simplify the existing fixed-guide way modernization program by eliminating the complex 7-tiered fund distribution formula and replaces it with a single formula based on documented maintenance needs. Communities with a population of fewer than 200,000 will be eligible to participate in the program and recipients will be held accountable for complying with performance measures that emphasize maintaining a “state-of-good repair” for assets.

  3. Urban and Rural Formula Programs
    STAA largely maintains the current urbanized area and rural area formula programs, but institutes new performance measures that hold recipients accountable for meeting certain performance targets, such as improved conditions of transit systems, replacement of aged and rolling stock, increased ridership, etc. For small urban areas and rural areas, the funding formula will be modified to award increased funding to areas that provide more transit services.

  4. Coordinated Access and Mobility Program (CAMP)
    The new proposal would combine the Job Access and Reverse Commute, New Freedom Initiative and Elderly and Disabled Program, into a single initiative in a manner that closely mirrors APTA’s proposal for the programs. The new consolidated program would distribute funds via a formula that takes into account low income, elderly and disabled populations.

  5. Intermodal and Energy Efficient Transit Facilities Program
    STAA creates a new program that would combine elements of the Intermodal Facilities Program under SAFETEA-LU and the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction Grants (TIGGER) program created under American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) earlier this year. Discretionary grants under this program will be made available to transit agencies to build intermodal facilities that connect two or more transportation modes, or facilities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

  6. Transit in the Parks Program
    STAA will propose to streamline and increase funding amounts for the Transit in the Parks program, which provides grants to increase transit and reduce congestion in and around national parks.

High Speed Rail

STAA proposes making $50 billion in General Fund revenues available to support the development of a high speed rail network in the United States. These funds will be available for planning activities and construction in federally designated high speed rail corridors, as well as for a research program on high speed rail technologies. High speed rail will also be eligible for funding through the National Infrastructure Bank.

Legislation Schedule/Outlook

The Transportation & Infrastructure Committee has indicated that it intends to formally introduce the STAA legislation within the next few days and has tentatively scheduled a mark-up for the bill in the Highways and Transit Subcommittee for Wednesday, June 24. Chairman Oberstar has indicated that he intends to consider the legislation in full committee in July. However, his ability to move the bill forward in the House will depend on the Ways & Means Committee’s timing on the development of a financing title. Further complicating matters, the Obama Administration has proposed an 18-month extension of the current surface transportation authorization legislation (see below.)

Administration Proposes an Immediate Reauthorization Extension

As the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee works to move forward with its legislative proposal, yesterday, the White House made a major announcement regarding its own proposal for the transportation authorization bill. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Highway Trust Fund will become insolvent prior to the end of Fiscal Year 2009. Latest reports, however, indicate insolvency could occur as early as August. To prevent the looming shortfall, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on Wednesday the Administration’s proposal to enact an immediate 18-month highway reauthorization extension that would extend current programs and replenish the Highway Trust Fund. Repeating the Administration’s opposition to a gas tax increase during a recession, it is expected the shortfall fix will again come from the General Fund.

The Administration has also gone a step further, proposing several substantive policy reforms to accompany the extension, such as including cost-benefit analysis when deciding which projects to fund, providing greater investment in metropolitan areas, and fostering the idea of livable communities.

In a meeting with House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar, Secretary LaHood outlined the Administration’s proposal and urged Congress to act swiftly to prevent states from running the risk of losing access to these critical funds when Congress recesses in August.

Congressional reaction to the proposed extension was mixed, with the House and Senate offering vastly different reactions. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Oberstar has stated he is adamantly opposed to an extension in any form. Senate Environment & Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer, however, expressed support for an extension, indicating it would provide more time to craft a comprehensive bill that provides “stable and reliable” sources of funding. Further details on the Administration’s proposal are pending.

Proposal to Provide Transit Operating Assistance Approved by Congress

On Friday, June 12, House-Senate conferees filed the Conference Report to accompany H.R. 2346, the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009. Included in the Supplemental spending bill is a provision that would allow transit agencies to use up to 10 percent of their American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds to cover operating costs of “equipment and facilities for use in public transportation.” The provision would also allow agencies to amend previously submitted applications in order to redirect ARRA funds toward operating purposes. This provision was added in the Senate-passed version of the legislation by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT), with strong support from Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA). It ultimately was retained in the conference agreement.

Earlier this week, the House passed the Conference Report by a vote of 226 to 202. Late this afternoon, the Senate completed consideration of the Conference report, passing it by a vote of 91-5. It now heads to the President, who is expected to sign the measure into law shortly.

Some areas not covered in this summary:

For more information on this bill, go to:

http://www.apta.com/government_affairs/washrep/2009june18.cfm


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Dodd Champions Measure To Give Transit Agencies
Greater Spending Flexibility

Sen Chris Dodd.
Senate Approves Dodd’s Provision To Allow Transit Agencies To Use A Portion Of Recovery Act Funds For Operating Costs

Senate Approves Dodd’S Provision To Allow Transit Agencies To Use A Portion Of Recovery Act Funds
For Operating Costs; Measure Also Supported By Ttd President

New York Times Company On The Internet

WASHINGTON – Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), Chairman of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, hailed last week’s Senate approval of a measure he championed that would allow transit agencies to use up to 10 percent of the funding they receive under the Recovery Act to cover operating expenses. The provision, which was approved as part of the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009, will help transit agencies prevent fare increases like those proposed in Connecticut, avoid lay-offs, furloughs and significant cuts to their transit service, and meet the immediate needs for job preservation and economic recovery.

“Having the money to buy new buses won’t get you very far if there aren’t bus drivers to operate them,” said Dodd. “Many transit agencies, including Connecticut’s, are strapped for cash in these tough economic times. Giving them some flexibility in how they spend their Recovery Act funds will give them some breathing room in their budget and help them stave off fare increases.”

Edward Wytkind, President Transportation Trades Dept AFL-CIO

Edward Wytkind, President of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, issued the following statement today upon House and Senate consideration of the FY 2009 Supplemental Appropriations Act:

“Demand for mass transit service is increasing like never before. Yet the struggling economy has created huge shortfalls in state and local contributions to transit agencies. From New York to Nashville, St. Louis to Charlotte, transit agencies are cutting employees, reducing service and increasing fares.

“Unfortunately, new buses aren't going to expand capacity if there are no employees to drive them. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act initially offered funds only for capital projects. We fought for a change included in the final supplemental bill that offers transit agencies flexibility to use some stimulus funds for operating cost shortfalls.

“This will deliver on the promise of the economic stimulus legislation by not only creating new jobs but also preserving jobs. And not just for transit workers - in every corner of the country, Americans rely on public transportation to get to work.

“This is good governance at its best: Congress saw an opportunity to make the stimulus funding more relevant and created a legislative fix. And while it may not be a panacea, it is an important first step to make funds available where they are desperately needed.”

The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 32 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, trucking, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries.

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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

Officials Push For High-Speed Train Service To Region

By DF Staff From Internet Sources Including The Virginia Pilot

The Tide - Will extend 7.4 miles on an east to west alignment from the Eastern Virginia Medical Center through downtown Norfolk, continuing along the Norfolk Southern right-of-way, adjacent to I-264, to Newtown Road. Eleven stations will be constructed along the route with four park and ride locations that provide access to major areas such as Norfolk State University, Tidewater Community College (Norfolk Campus), Harbor Park, City Hall, MacArthur Center, and the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

Officials in the Norfolk area want the proposed high speed rail service to connect with the light rail, which is projected to be in service late in 2010.

All Images - The Tide

NORFOLK, JUN 16 -- Virginia officials have been struggling with which of two routes to choose for Obama’s high-speed rail funding, when what they would really like is money for both. The $9.3 billion in federal stimulus money must be divided up among projects around the country, forcing states to make difficult choices.

In Virginia, the region in question is divided by the James River, and leaders on both sides are trying to figure out a solution that works for both sides.

Back in April of this year, Mayor Paul Fraim of Norfolk and the mayors of Virginia Beach and Suffolk argued that the southern route makes better sense because the Southside has nearly 70 percent of the region’s population and a higher concentration of employment centers and military and port operations. The train could connect with Norfolk’s light rail line – now under construction – at a multi-modal center at Harbor Park.

“It is the single most important transportation issue for the region’s future,” said Fraim.

Peninsula leaders have been doing the same for their cities, said Newport News Mayor Joe Frank.

“I’d like to see if we can get high-speed rail to both the Peninsula and Southside,” Frank said. “We need to do that cooperatively so it’s not an either-or kind of approach.”

Serving both the Peninsula and South Hampton Roads might be prohibitively expensive, though. The rail would run south from Richmond to Petersburg and then on to Hampton Roads and possibly on to North Carolina.

“My preference is that everyone wins, but I don’t know if that’s realistic,” Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms said.

“That’s going to be a tough vote for the region,” said E. Dana Dickens III, president of the Hampton Roads Partnership. “And it very likely could generate some difficult positions for people.”

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is finishing a study of the alternatives for connecting Hampton Roads to Richmond and beyond via higher-speed rail, with maximum speeds of 90 mph.

Before high-speed rail comes to Hampton Roads, the Washington, D.C.-to-Richmond segment would have to be completed, state officials have said.

From Richmond, the rail could go south to North Carolina or east to Hampton Roads, or both.

“If it goes to North Carolina without coming to Hampton Roads, that would be a real blow to us,” the partnership’s Dickens said.

“It’s going to be incumbent on all the 1.6 million people of Hampton Roads and the elected officials to get behind whatever the decision is on a preferred route so we do get service.”

Recently, the city council and board of supervisors from all nine Virginia south side localities have voted in voted in favor of a resolution urging Va. to pursue bringing the Route 460/Norfolk Southern high-speed rail route to Hampton Roads.

(Editor’s note: The resolution, cited below, exemplifies the type of regional cooperation and collaboration needed among municipalities, states and regions for the President’s rail programs to succeed.)

NOW, THEREFORE, be it resolved, by the City Councils of Chesapeake, Franklin,
Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach and the Board of Supervisors of Isle of
Wight (including the Town Councils of Smithfield and Windsor) and Southampton
Counties:

Section 1: That the first priority for the essential high-speed connection to the region must link South Hampton Roads to downtown Richmond via the Route 460/Norfolk Southern Corridor.

Section 2: That the South Hampton Roads also supports assistance to the Peninsula of Hampton Roads to improve its existing conventional rail capacity.

Section 3: That the Commonwealth of Virginia fully appreciates the tough competition our state will face for securing federal high-speed rail funding and that high-speed passenger rail must be a high priority for the state requiring the immediate and significant commitment of both staff and financial resources to best position the Richmond to Hampton Roads High-Speed Passenger Rail Corridor for likely selection for federal funding.

Section 4: That the Hampton Roads Congressional Delegation will assist in the selection and funding of the Richmond to Hampton Roads high-speed passenger rail link from all possible sources including the pending Federal Surface Transportation Act Re-Authorization and the President’s newly proposed high-speed passenger rail program.

Section 5: That this resolution shall be in effect from and after its adoption.

Photo: Virginian Pilot, Bill Tiernan  

Congressman Bobby Scott speaks at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott during the U.S. Congressional Issues Luncheon in May.

Three Hampton Roads congressmen say local cities need not squabble over whether a proposed high-speed rail line should come down the Peninsula to Newport News or parallel U.S. 460 and end in Norfolk.

“We should work for both routes,” said U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Newport News, adding that building both is clearly affordable.

U.S. Reps. Glenn Nye, (D-Norfolk), and Rob Wittman, (R-Westmoreland County), agreed, noting that Hampton Roads would benefit from improving the existing passenger line on the Peninsula and adding rail service on the Southside. The lawmakers talked about the issue after a Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce luncheon at a Norfolk hotel on May 28, 2009.

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)74.4877.36
Canadian National (CNI)42.9043.66
Canadian Pacific (CP)39.4942.32
CSX (CSX)34.5636.52
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)26.3726.75
Kansas City Southern (KSU)16.5717.94
Norfolk Southern (NSC)38.4641.23
Providence & Worcester (PWX)11.5011.51
Union Pacific (UNP)52.0053.86


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BUSINESS LINES... Business Lines...  

Railroad Firm To Sell 4M Shares Of Its Stock

Reported By Cosby Woodruff On The Internt

Genesee & Wyoming, which operates small railroad companies, announced it plans to sell four million shares of its Class A common stock.

The company, which operates the Meridian & Bigbee in Montgomery, said it will file a prospectus supplement with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company also will offer underwriters a 30-day option on up to 600,000 shares to cover over-allotments.

The shares closed at $24.59 in Tuesday’s trading.


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES... Environmental Lines...  

All Aboard The Wind-Powered Railway

By Keith Barry, Staff Writer For Autopia: Planes, Trains, Automobiles And The Future Of Transportation


Photo: Flickr.com / Tom Arthur

The marriage of railway operators and wind farms could bring renewable energy to more people and energy-saving, higher-speed locomotives to America’s rails.

JUNE 17 –Many people, when confronted with a proposal for a wind farm in their locality, are nervous about the visual impact and the noise (although the latter is not much more than a steady whirr... of the blades). Another challenge for wind as an energy source is that the best wind is available in remote, rural areas, like the cornfields of South Dakota, which are far from population centers. Freight rail corridors could offer a solution.

The marriage of railway operators and wind farms,” writes Barry, “could bring renewable energy to more people and energy-saving, higher-speed locomotives to America’s rails.”


Freight company BNSF is looking into opening its railroad rights-of-way for use by energy companies to build their transmission lines from remote wind farms to major cities. Their Chicago-to-California Transcon is a good example. In exchange, BNSF would get lower electric bills and a constant source of power for their locomotives should BNSF go electric, according to RailwayAge Magazine.


The concept makes sense. Railroad rights-of-way tend to be largely hidden from view but they also lead to major population centers, and they could pass through big midwestern wind farms. A wind-and-rail combination would position rail companies to benefit from any future “cap-and-trade” emissions policies. It also could cut emissions as diesel locomotives are replaced with electric trains, and investments in wind power would help further offset emissions.


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ACROSS THE POND... Across The Pond...  

By David Beale, NCI Foreign Correspondent

 

Gotthard Base Tunnel Reaches Major Milestone Six Months Early

Boring Machine Breaks Through Last Meters Of Rock
Via Hannoverische Allgemeine Zeitung Newspaper

SWITZERLAND – An important goal was reached in the construction of Europe’s longest rail tunnel last Monday as the tunnel boring machine “Gabi 1” broke through the last few meters of rock, thus joining two sections of one of the rail tunnels currently under construction deep below the Alps mountain range. In just 18 months the TBM cut through 7.2 km (4.5 miles) of earth, and thereby making its target six months ahead of schedule. Reports indicate that the TBM missed its intended final destination by 1.0 cm (0.4 inches) vertically and 1.5 cm (0.6 inches) horizontally, well within the design target for the tunnel alignment.

With the tunnel breakthrough last Monday, the amount of tunnel system boring on the Gotthard Base Tunnel project reached the 83% completion mark. The Gotthard Base Tunnel project consists of two railroad tunnels plus several utility and emergency access / escape tunnels. The 57 km (35.4 mile) long rail tunnels will be the longest rail tunnels in the world, when completed in 2015. The Gotthard Base Tunnel is one of three new rail tunnel projects underway in the Alps region, the other two are the Lötschberg Base Tunnel, which was recently completed, and the Brenner Base Tunnel in Austria and Italy, now entering the early phases of construction. All three tunnels have been planned with the goal of greatly reducing truck, bus and automobile traffic through the environmentally sensitive Alps region.


Photos by Alptransit.

Break-through ceremony deep under the Alps in Erstfield, Switzerland as the Tunnel Boring Machine “Gabi 1” breaks through the last couple of meters of rock. The surface of the tunnel interior had been coated with sprayed-on concrete for the ceremony last week and an open-house day scheduled for this coming week.


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Belgium High-Speed Rail Line Opens

Teething Issues With ETCS Level 2 Signaling Systems Delayed Opening From 2008

Via SNCB press release and LOK Report

AACHEN, GERMANY -– Belgium officially opened the new 42 km (26 mile) long high-speed line between Liege and the German border on June 12. The EUR 830 million (US $1.2 billion) corridor is electrified at 25 kVAC, which is not common in either Belgium or Germany – but is the accepted European electrification standard used on many thousands of kilometers of rail lines in France, Britain, Denmark, Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia, Greece and numerous countries as well as the preferred standard for new high speed lines in Spain, Italy and Holland. In addition, 14 km of connecting rail lines to the new rail corridor have been upgraded to 160 km/h (100 mph) speeds, although the electrification remained at the Belgian 3 kVDC standard. The existing rail line between Aachen, Germany and Liege, Belgium will remain in operation for commuter and regional passenger trains as well as freight trains. The rail corridor from Aachen to Cologne (electrified at the 15 kVAC 16.7 Hz standard for Germany) was upgraded to high-speed operation back in 2004 after a major upgrade project was completed.

The route between Aachen and Liege crosses hilly terrain and required four pre-cast concrete viaducts, of which the longest is 1.3 km. The line also includes a bored tunnel between Vaux-sous-Chevremont and Soumagne, with 6.5 km is the longest railway tunnel in Belgium. The route then crosses the Hammer viaduct, which was reconstructed as part of this project, before crossing the German border and running through the 711 m Busch tunnel to Aachen over tracks upgraded for 160km/h speeds. Trains change between left and right-hand running near Aachen, as Germany uses right-hand traffic normally on its rail lines (same as highways), whereas Belgium and France tend to use left-hand traffic on most rail lines.


Photo by Claus Beckers.

View of the rebuilt Hammer Viaduct on the new Liege – Aachen high speed line east of Liege, Belgium in 2004.

The new rail corridor will be used exclusively by international high-speed services. Three Deutsche Bahn ICE services started operating on the new line in June with ICE-3 equipment and the line will also be used by six Paris-Brussels-Cologne Thalys TGV trains starting in December. Journey times between Brussels and Cologne have been reduced by 19min to 1 h 57 min, and the Liege - Cologne journey time has been cut by 22 min to 61 minutes.

Major construction was completed in 2008, however opening had to be delayed until compatibility with the ETCS Level 2 signaling and positive train control system had been verified. The centerpiece of the project is a new steel, glass and concrete station at Liege Guillemins, designed by Santiago Calatrava, scheduled to open in September. Five platforms serve nine tracks and are covered by a glass and steel dome 170 m long and 35 m high.


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We Get Letters... We Get Letters...  

Dear Editor,

Your recent article “Ground-Breaking for $8.7 Billion Dead-End NY-NJ Hudson Tunnel” leaves out several important points illuminated by Don Phillips in his column for the July 2009 Trains Magazine.

The tunnel now proposed is too deep to tie-in to Penn Station, the reason being a deeper tunnel is billions of dollars cheaper to build as it avoids unstable geology in Manhattan and allows cheaper tunnel boring technology, being further from the bottom of the Hudson River. Also, there would be considerably more surface disruption to structures and traffic with a shallower bore.

The other issue is the presence of the No. 7 subway line extension, already under construction, which blocks the path for a spur tunnel into Penn Station.

Given the funds available, this is the best that can be done for now without delaying this project for another generation.

Sincerely,

Paul Carlton
Manhattan Beach, California

Publisher’s response: We stand by our story.


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