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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Vol. 9 No. 28

Copyright © 2008
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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

  News Items…
The Show Me State Shows The Money, Will Boost
   Amtrak Service Reliability
Boston Globe Columnist Jackson Nails McCain’s Amtrak Views
  Maintenance Lines…
Amtrak And Contractor Successfully Replace 90-Year Old
   Bridge Span In Just Four Days
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Travel Lines…
Coast Starlight Named Train of the Month
  Across The Pond…
Will Russians and French Buy Stake in Deutsche Bahn?
German State of Lower Saxony to Allow Mag-Lev Test Train
   to Run Again
Warsaw Gdynia, Poland Rail Corridor Upgrade Planned
Deutsche Bahn Places Large Order For Diesel Multiple Unit Train Sets
Better Rail Service
  Publication Notes …

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

The Show Me State Shows The Money,
Will Boost Amtrak Service Reliability

By DF Staff

KANSAS CITY TO ST. LOUIS, MO ---The Missouri Legislature has voted, and MO Governor Matt Blunt has signed a $5 million capacity-booster to improve the reliability of Amtrak service in the Show-Me State.

Traditionally a highway-only state – like many American states outside of the East Coast, California, or the Chicago region --- Missouri state leadership has been trending toward support for rail improvements even before the recent spike in gasoline prices focused the voters’ attention on the need for alternatives to the highway.

The Missouri Mules (Trains 311, 313, 314 & 316) provide two daily round trips across the state but have been made unreliable by lengthy delays due to freight traffic on the Union Pacific Railroad, which owns the track and, which like all American Class I (major) freight railroads, can not handle the massive influx of business caused by the upsurge in imported goods (until recently) and their inability to invest sufficiently in new capacity. The $5 million provided by the state to the freight railroad is expected to ease that problem.

Despite record business, and despite the fuel price surge which is also sending more business their way, all major American freight railroads are giving away business to truckers because they can not handle it. In addition, some are jacking up fuel surcharges themselves, to the point where existing customers are leaving. These are being replaced by customers willing or able to pay the inflated surcharge, but at the price of filling already crowded roads with trucks hired by the former rail shippers.

Amtrak passenger trains, once seen as at least a minor source of income, are now seen as a nuisance by most freight railroads. If the current recession depends, that view may change.

“This is great news for Missouri,” said MoDOT Director Pete Rahn.  “This funding will lead to improved service, helping make Amtrak trains an even better travel alternative.”

Rahn, one of the leading state DOT commissioners in America (he is chair of AASHTO, the American Society of State Highway and Transportation Officials), and a keynote speaker at the National Corridors Initiative’s January 2008 “Carmichael Conference on the Future of American Transportation” in St. Louis, also said: “This marks a major change in Missouri’s approach to passenger rail; state-supported Amtrak service has been running between Kansas City and St. Louis since 1979 and each year legislators have budgeted only enough money to operate the trains; nothing to build improvements.  This capital improvement funding shows a new level of commitment by our legislators to Amtrak service.”

“Missouri Senate Leader Mike Gibbons was instrumental in the legislative push to provide the additional funding,” Rahn added.

“As gas prices continue to rise, Missourians need and deserve a reliable and affordable alternate mode of travel,” Rahn said. “This funding allows trains to pass without delay, relieves congestion and will improve on-time performance of passenger rail, meaning it will be a real option for travelers.” 

“Improvements on the line could not be occurring at a better time.  Ridership between Kansas City and St. Louis increased sharply in April and May, compared to the same period last year,” said MoDOT in a release.

“Much of this route is a single set of tracks and Amtrak trains share the limited capacity with numerous freight trains,” said Michael Franke, Amtrak Assistant Vice President - State Partnerships.  “Investments in infrastructure have been sorely needed for passenger trains to operate more reliably between St. Louis and Kansas City.

“This capital funding is an important first step in addressing the capacity of this heavily-used corridor and such investments in the infrastructure will ultimately lead to improvements in train performance,” Franke added.

A study of choke points on the route was completed in 2007 by the University of Missouri-Columbia and siding construction and extensions were found to have the most immediate prospect for service improvements.

“This study forms the basis of discussions with Union Pacific Railroad as to how the project will be implemented, and discussions with the railroad on how the project will take shape will begin in the next few weeks,” said Brian Weiler, MoDOT Director of Multi-modal Operations.  “These improvements will also complement Union Pacific’s own improvements near the choke points at the Gasconade and Osage rivers.”

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Boston Globe Columnist Jackson
Nails McCain’s Amtrak Views

By DF Staff and Internet Sources

BOSTON --- “ “Train Travel is finally becoming a third rail of politics. The first one to fry over it might be John McCain, notes outspoken Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson this week.

“For years, McCain, in the comfort of cheap gasoline for autos and airplanes, made Amtrak a personal whipping boy. Despite the fact that governments in Western Europe and Asia zoomed far ahead of the United States by supporting high-speed trains to relieve congestion, promote tourism and now as we are coming to know, save the planet, McCain has spent considerable capital in denying the passenger rail system the capital to modernize,” writes Jackson.

“In 2000, when he was chairman of the Senate Science, Commerce and Transportation committee, McCain killed $10 billion in capital funding for Amtrak. He denounced Amtrak as a symbol of government waste, claiming, “There’s only two parts of the country that can support a viable rail system - the Northeast and the far West.”

“He made these claims though Amtrak investment had the support of several notable Republicans. Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi warned that Amtrak “is guaranteed and doomed to failure if we don’t give it an opportunity to succeed. If you don’t have modern equipment, if you don’t have the new fast trains, if you don’t have a rapid rail system, it will not work.” Tommy Thompson, the secretary of Health and Human Services during President Bush’s first term, was Amtrak chairman when McCain blocked the funding. Thompson said, “The traveling public are sending a distress call to escape our nation’s endless traffic jams and airport gridlock.”

“Although Thompson claimed “remarkable progress in turning Amtrak around,” despite a past where “it was not run like a business,” McCain ignored the distress call. In 2001, then-Amtrak president George Warrington said the funding of rail in America was so bad, it was comparable to similar funding in Estonia and Tunisia.”

Both Barack Obama and John McCain have been given NCI’s “St. Louis Statement”, which was produced by the January 2008 “Carmichael Conference on the Future of American Transportation”.

The House and Senate have passed bills calling for new investments in passenger rail, notes Jackson, “creating the same federal incentives for states to invest in rail service, offering 80 cents for every 20 cents spent by the states. Barack Obama is a cosponsor of the Senate bill. Noting on his web site that he is committed to the development of high speed rail, Obama said, ‘In many parts of the country, Amtrak is the only form of reliable transportation.’

“In the section of McCain’s web site called ‘reforming our transportation sector,’ there is no mention of rail. There is only his clean-car challenge to automakers, his $300 million prize to design battery cars, and enforcing only existing gas mileage standards. When The Washington Post reported on how President Bush’s fiscal 2006 budget did not include a subsidy for Amtrak, would kill both $20 million for the next generation of high-speed rail, and $250 million for railroad rehabilitation, it quoted McCain as saying on television, “I’m glad the president is coming over with a very austere budget,” reports Jackson.

For the full column see Derrick Z. Jackson can be reached at

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MAINTENANCE LINES... Maintenance Lines...

Amtrak And Contractor Successfully Replace
90-Year Old Bridge Span In Just Four Days

By DF Staff

NEW LONDON, CT --- Defying the odds, Murphy’s Law, and perhaps even the law of gravity, Amtrak and its contractor successfully replaced the drawbridge at the Thames River railroad bridge with a new vertical-lift span this past week.

While the preliminary work had taken many months, and the bridge will need further finishing touches, it carried its first train at dawn June 28, almost exactly four days after the old span was removed for replacement. It is scheduled to open again to marine traffic July 9 or 10.

Washington Group International, a division of rail construction giant URS, planned and executed the job, a tricky exercise in timing and delicate balance involving enormous weight --- the old drawbridge counter-balance, for example.

“After more than two years of preparation and construction, Amtrak installed a new vertical lift span to replace the movable bascule portion of the bridge, marking the final stage of a multi-year, $83 million project designed to improve the reliability of the bridge, reduce the chance of operational failures, and minimize train delays,” the railroad said.

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)93.8397.40
Canadian National (CNI)46.0047.96
Canadian Pacific (CP)60.9567.00
CSX (CSX)57.3662.14
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.5162.51
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)31.6834.07
Kansas City Southern (KSU)41.1443.53
Norfolk Southern (NSC)58.9161.04
Providence & Worcester (PWX)19.9920.25
Union Pacific (UNP)70.8573.83

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TRAVEL LINES... Travel Lines...

Coast Starlight Named Train of the Month

From Amtrak Ink

Photo: Amtrak Ink

At Left - The Parlor Cars aboard the Coast Starlight underwent a $2.5 million overhaul that includes an exclusive new menu, newly installed HVAC, and high-definition monitors and speakers in the lower-level theater.
Coinciding with its much-anticipated re-launch, the Coast Starlight has been named “Train of the Month” for June. Despite the massive landslides in January that suspended service on the route and the resumption of normal operations between Los Angeles and Seattle just last month, the Coast Starlight is being re-launched on June 10, complementing the route’s picturesque scenery with upgraded on-board amenities.

“With stops that connect us to such West Coast signature cities as Portland, Sacramento and San Francisco, we think this is the only way to see the country,” said Dee Mason, senior director, Product Management. “But, what ultimately sets the Coast Starlight apart is our commitment to providing personalized service and we hope these upgrades set a new standard in rail travel.”

Sleeping car passengers aboard the Coast Starlight are treated to a pre-boarding reception in the majestic mezzanine area of Los Angeles Union Station that includes complimentary coffee, juices and soft drinks, on-site ticket collection and immediate baggage handling. Once aboard, Sleeping car passengers can take advantage of the refurbished Parlor cars, each staffed by a full-time service attendant.

On board, Sleeping car passengers may enjoy for purchase an exclusive wine and cheese tasting event featuring four regional wines and four artisan cheeses, specialty coffees, appetizers, beverage service, complimentary library and board games, and a Parlor car theater.

Inside the accommodations, passengers may take part in a welcome aboard celebration with sparkling wine or cider and fresh fruit, and enjoy new and upgraded towels and blankets, a personal amenities bag and in-room meal and beverage service.

Even Coach passengers experience more attentive and personalized service. New and larger complimentary pillows are available and new blankets will be on sale at an affordable price. Coach passengers may also avail themselves of at-seat meal and beverage options and pass the time in the Coast Starlight Arcade car.

In addition to advertising and promotions to support the re-launch, potential travelers will learn about the upgraded Coast Starlight amenities when they speak to reservation sales agents and travel agents, thanks in part to the internal marketing campaign known as Train of the Month. The objective of the campaign is to educate employees on the features and benefits of the “Big Six” trains that make up the Marketing department’s FY ’08 Route Performance Improvement program: City of New Orleans, Auto Train, Coast Starlight, Hiawatha Service, San Joaquins and Northeast Regional. The City of New Orleans was highlighted in April; the Auto Train last month. The Hiawatha Service will be featured in July, following by the San Joaquins in August, and the Northeast Regional in September.

“Our primary focus is to help make call center agents and travel agents better informed about a train,” said Ron DeShields, manager, Mid-Atlantic Reservation Sales Call Center. “This is a training tool that ultimately provides them with more opportunities to sell or upgrade services.”

The anticipated outcome is an increase in revenue and ridership. For example, the City of New Orleans showed a 17 percent increase in revenue over last year at MARSCC in Philadelphia, and a 2 percent increase at WRSCC in Riverside, Calif., for April. Additionally, a promotion enabling Amtrak Guest Rewards ® members to earn a 25 percent point bonus for travel on the Auto Train resulted in a whopping 2,270 registrations in May, according to Vicky Radke, senior officer, Loyalty Marketing.

The call center agents and travel agents are briefed by route product managers and subsequently quizzed on a number of features related to the “Big Six” services, including upgraded dining car services, special equipment, interesting sights along a specific route, different types of sleeping accommodations and special promotions. During the month of June, for example, Amtrak Guest Rewards is running a “double points” promotion, during which members can earn double points for travel on the Coast Starlight from June 1 through June 30.

The Train of the Month program rewards the call center agents for their efforts to increase ridership and revenue aboard the “Big Six.” Each month, Apple iPods are awarded to the call center agents — one in Riverside, Calif., and one in Philadelphia — who tally the highest ticketed revenue. Train of the Month is a collaborative effort among Product Management, Marketing, Loyalty Marketing, eCommerce, the Western and Mid-Atlantic Reservation Sales Call Centers and the Travel Agent Sales Center.

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

Installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent


Will Russians and French Buy Stake in Deutsche Bahn?


Possible Purchase of DBAG Shares by France’s SNCF and / or Russia’s RZD Generates Political Concern

FRANKFURT (dpa) - Deutsche Bahn AG.’s (German Railways) CEO Hartmut Mehdorn said he is not opposed to foreign railway operators such as Russia’s RZD or France’s SNCF state railway buying shares in the company, which is planned for partial privatization this coming autumn. Mehdorn said an investor would not have any influence over the company’s operational strategy.

Mr. Mehdorn’s comments did nothing to calm politicians’ concerns in the German parliament, where the recently agreed partial privatization plan generated a lot of hard feelings, and where suspicions about Russia’s increasing power and control over energy and raw material supplies are growing larger. Several prominent leaders in three of the four major parties with seats in Parliament voice opposition to significant ownership of DB’s privatized shares by companies or interests beyond European Union boarders.

The German government will privatize a 24.9 percent stake in Deutsche Bahn’s passenger handling, rail cargo and logistics operations in an Initial Public Offering. Its rail network and property assets will remain completely government-owned.

Photo David Beale

Eastward bound – the main line in Rembertow, Poland, from Warsaw to Brest, Belarus about 13 km (8 miles) east of central Warsaw. A EMU commuter train of the Warsaw transit authority is approaching the station in August 2006 from the east while on a run to downtown Warsaw and onwards to the suburbs southwest of Warsaw. This rail line will be one of the principal routes in eastern Europe for China – Europe freight trains operated by RZD and Deutsche Bahn.

Deutsche Bahn is eager to expand into Eastern Europe and central Asia, as it is particularly keen on entering inter-continental container handling between China and Europe. It has formed a cooperation with RZD, the Russian state railway, for this purpose. RZD is likewise keen on maintaining its present monopoly on Europe – Asia rail freight via its cooperation with DBAG. RZD wants to avoid new competition via the emergence of a proposed “Silk Road” rail corridor, which would connect the standard gage European rail network via Bulgaria, Turkey and Iran to a proposed all-new standard gage rail line across Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan and then to the existing standard gage Chinese rail network.

The current China – Europe route via Russia involves two time-consuming changes of railway gage, one at the interface points of the former Soviet Union broad gage rail network with the standard gage rail lines in Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, the other at the Chinese/Russian and Mongolian borders. The proposed Silk Road route offers a standard gage rail connection from Europe all the way to the Chinese east coast, Honk Kong, and to South Korea. The proposed Silk Road rail corridor could also offer rail connections from Germany and elsewhere in Europe to India and Pakistan, albeit with a change of track gage at the Iranian – Pakistani border. The broad gage track in use in much of Pakistan and India is even wider than the Russian broad gage track. A limited access multi lane toll highway is also planned for the “Silk Road” region, with most traffic likely to be long distance trucks running between Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and China.

Deutsche Bahn and its French peer SNCF jointly run train connections between Paris and several German cities, but compete in the rail cargo and logistics segments in each other’s home countries.

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German State of Lower Saxony to Allow Mag-Lev Test Train to Run Again


Decision To Keep Test Site Operational Despite Apparent End of Mag Lev in Germany

HANNOVER (HAZ) – Almost two years after the deadly collision on the Trans Rapid mag-lev train test track in the town of Lathen, in which 23 occupants of the high speed train lost their lives, the state government of Lower Saxony is preparing to issue permission for the mag-lev test track to operate again, albeit only until the end of 2008. The state’s transportation secretary, Walter Hirsche (FDP political party) made the permit official this past Thursday 3rd of July.

The German federal government provides an annual €  8 million (US $12 million) grant for support of the facility in the western part of the state about 50 km (30 miles) from the border with the Netherlands. However with the collapse of the financing package for the proposed Munich city center – airport Trans Rapid project earlier this year plus previous project cancellations for Trans Rapid routes between Hamburg and Berlin as well in the Rhine-Ruhr metro region has signaled the end of the Trans Rapid concept within Germany. Despite this apparent reality, Mr. Hirsch stated: “this test track is nevertheless important”.

After nearly two years of political football about which government agency should oversee safety procedures and measures at the test track, the parties involved settled on appointing the firm TÜV to review and oversee operations and safety procedures at the track, after the German federal government declined to extend the EBA’s jurisdiction to the test track. The EBA is the German equivalent of the FRA in the United States, while TÜV is a testing, compliance and inspection standards company somewhat similar to Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) in the USA. TÜV is most widely known within Germany for providing automobile safety and emissions inspections, which all German registered motor vehicles must undergo every two years, although the company also is involved in inspection and safety compliance standards for a wide range of consumer and industrial products.

Mr. Hirsch’s decision means that the Trans Rapid test track will continue to receive state aid. His decision was greeted with hostility by members of the SPD and Green political parties, which want to terminate state funding to the company which operates the track.

Since the accident in September 2006 and the collapse of the financial package for the Munich Airport mag-lev project this year, spokesmen for Siemens, ThyssenKrupp and Deutsche Bahn AG, the principal partners in the Trans Rapid project , have all indicated that the consortium sees no further potential in Germany for Trans Rapid. Unnamed sources from these companies have leaked information to the press that the joint venture company, Trans Rapid International, will likely be dissolved with in the next 12 months.

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Warsaw – Gdynia, Poland Rail Corridor Upgrade Planned


WARSAW: (PKP press release) Infrastructure company PKP PLK signed a €  400 million (US $600 million) loan agreement with the European Investment Bank on 30th June. The money will fund the modernization of the main line between Warsaw, Gdansk and Gdynia to enable trains to run at up to 200 km/h (125 mph).

Current speed restrictions on the 350 km route will be eliminated, and according to EIB the upgrade will permit the future use of tilting trains. This would cut journey times between the Polish capital and Gdansk from more than 4 h to less than 2_, making rail travel more competitive with road and air.

EIB’s objective is to ’support projects that contribute to increasing the quality of life of citizens and make the European economy more competitive’, said President Philippe Maystadt at the signing. “The modernization of one of Poland’s most important railway lines will improve passenger comfort and safety with positive impacts on the environment.”

The north-south rail route forms part of Trans European Rail Network (TEN) Route 6 linking Gdansk, Poland’s most important port, with the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

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Deutsche Bahn Places Large Order For Diesel Multiple Unit Train Sets


Alstom, Siemens and Stadler Share in Large DMU Order From German Rail Operator

BRAUNSCHWEIG – The German railway operator Deutsche Bahn AG has awarded Alstom a general framework contract involving the design and manufacture of a maximum of 180 Coradia LINT-model DMU regional train sets, for operation on a number of regional German rail networks. The contracts could translate into orders worth a total of €  425 million, with deliveries up to 2011. These contracts are part of the on-going modernization of the Deutsche Bahn fleet of regional trains. The contract allows DBAG to vary configuration and delivery schedules to meet its requirements in the German regional rail market.

These diesel multiple unit (DMU) train sets made up of one, two or three permanently coupled cars, the trains will be designed and manufactured at the Alstom site in Salzgitter, Germany, south of Braunschweig and southeast of Hannover. Coradia LINT trains can operate at speeds up to 120 km/h. Each train can accommodate from 70 to 200 passengers and has a low floor design and automatic double doors, thus making the train totally accessible to wheel chair users and others with mobility impairments.

Photo: David Beale

An Alstom Coradia LINT DMU train set (coupled to a second LINT train set in the far right side of the photo) waiting in the seaport town of Cuxhaven, Germany in May 2008.

Since the launch of the first regional trains in the Coradia LINT range, in 2000, Alstom has sold 425 trains in Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, to public and private operators. Proven and particularly reliable, Coradia LINT trains have covered over 300 million kilometers in commercial service. In Germany, Deutsche Bahn AG has already ordered 143 Coradia LINT train sets.

Separately Deutsche Bahn AG awarded Siemens Transportation and Stadler Rail with order for their respective DMU train set offerings. Each company will supply 60 DMU train sets to Deutsche Bahn under a similar arrangement as the framework contract awarded to Alstom. Although Stadler is a Swiss based company, the contract with DBAG specifies that the trains shall be final assembled in Germany, which Stadler will handle in a production facility near Berlin.

The orders for a total of 400 DMU train sets is part of DBAG’s investment strategy to continue its dominance in the German regional passenger rail market. The vast majority of the new DMU train sets will be used to replace older DMU trains originally built in the 1970s and 80s as well as locomotive hauled “Silberling” coaches, based on a 1950s design, and mass produced from the mid 1950s through the early 1970s in East and West Germany and several other central European countries.

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OPINION... Opinion...

The following letter by NCI President Jim RePass appeared in the on-line edition of The New York Times June 27:


Better Rail Service


“Travelers Shift to Rail as Cost of Fuel Rises” (front page, June 21) should come as no surprise to anyone who has filled up his gas tank lately, as gas costs start to interfere with other necessities, like food. What is amazing is to read suggestions from anyone that the best way to carry passengers is to cut out the long-distance trains.

Long-distance trains are not the cause of Amtrak’s equipment shortage. The Bush administration is.

Long-distance trains aren’t for carrying people slowly from New York to New Orleans, or Chicago to Los Angeles. Most riders on those trains are there on a trip of 800 miles or less, and they are there because they have no other choice.

With the near-complete demise of small air service, never mind the major airlines’ current implosion, that demand is going nowhere but up.

Yes, one train a day in each direction is poor service, but the cure isn’t to eliminate the service! Those routes need three trains a day, at a minimum, and sometimes more, and always have; it’s just that highways have had a trust fund for decades, and rail never has.

The cost of gas has simply focused the spotlight more harshly than ever on the need for alternatives to driving and flying, especially distances of 300 to 600 miles where flying, once simply foolish, is now prohibitively expensive.

The answer is to pay attention to what people like Gil Carmichael, former Republican head of the Federal Railroad Administration, and like our organization, the National Corridors Initiative, have been saying for years: just as we built Interstate I — highways — for the 20th century, it is time to build Interstate II — high-speed rail on the dozens of corridors that need it, and long-distance service connecting those for the 21st century --- to once again have a strong, balanced national transportation system that can enable America to compete once again in world markets.

James P. RePass
President and Chief Executive
The National Corridors Initiative
Boston, June 24, 2008

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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2008 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

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