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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July 12, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 29

Copyright © 2010
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 11th Newsletter Year

This E-Zine is best viewed at
1024 X 768 screen resolution

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

  News Items…
TOD Livability Programs Get $293 Million For
   Bus, Rail Transit
Rhode Island Joins States For Passenger Rail
   Boosting New England Region’s Stimulus Odds
  High-Speed Rail …
Five Peninsula Cities Want High-Speed Rail Halted
   Until Demands Met
  Expansion Lines…
Program Adds Amtrak Train Linking Richmond
   And Washington, D.C.
 
  Streetcar Lines…
Cincinnati Gets $25M For Streetcar Line
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Across The Pond…
Hannover Awards S-Bahn Commuter Train Contract
   To DB Regio (Again)
Berlin Experiences A ‘Black Friday’ As Train System
   And Highway Network Seize-Up
  Opinion…
Things Just Keep Getting Worse!
  Publication Notes …


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

TOD Livability Programs Get $293 Million
For Bus, Rail Transit

From The US DOT, Railway Age, And From Internet Sources

WASHINGTON--- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Thursday announced $293 million in federal funds to “coordinate transportation, housing, and commercial development investments” in numerous U.S. cities.

The funds will flow through two grant programs, the Bus and Bus Livability Grant Program and the Urban Circulator Grant Program. LaHood, along with Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, announced the winners of the two competitive grant programs during a press conference call in Washington.

The projects will in all cases improve the investment opportunities for Transit Oriented Development, observers noted.

Five new streetcar projects and one Bus Rapid Transit project will be funded with $130 million from the FTA’s Urban Circulator Program. The five rail projects, awarded roughly $105 million, or 36% of the funds, are: the St. Louis Loop Trolley Project ($25 million); the Charlotte (N.C.) Streetcar Starter Project ($25 million); the Cincinnati Streetcar Project ($25 million); the Fort Worth (Tex.) Streetcar Loop ($25 million); and Dallas’ Olive/St.Paul Street Loop ($4.9 million), extending the current McKinney Trolley to connect with DART light rail at St. Paul Station.

An additional 47 projects aimed at upgrading bus services and facilities will receive more than $163 million from the FTA’s Bus and Bus Livability Program.

“Streetcars are making a comeback because cities across America are recognizing that they can restore economic development downtown—giving citizens the choice to move between home, shopping, and entertainment without ever looking for a parking space,” said Rogoff. “These streetcar and bus livability projects will not only create construction jobs now, they will aid our recovery by creating communities with the potential to be more prosperous and less congested.”

DOT said 65 applications totaling more than $1 billion were submitted to the Urban Ciruclator Program, while 281 applications totaling more than $2 billion were submitted for the Bus and Bus Livability Grant Program. Projects were eligible to receive up to 80% in federal funding, although a maximum of $25 million was placed on Urban Circulator projects.


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Last Of The Six To Sign Up

 

Rhode Island Joins States For Passenger Rail
Boosting New England Region’s Stimulus Odds

By DF Staff

PROVIDENCE --- The State of Rhode Island has agreed to join States For Passenger Rail, an alliance of states dedicated to creating high speed corridor regional rail systems within their part of the United States.

Rhode Island was preceded by New Hampshire, which was also seen as a holdout on regional rails. Leading New England states long pushing for regional cooperation are Maine, Vermont and Connecticut, with Massachusetts also signing on to regional cooperative efforts more recently.

Both states were persuaded to join by former Massachusetts State Representative John Businger (D-Brookline), one of New England’s most active rail advocates and a long time champion of the construction of Boston’s North-South Rail Link, a commitment which is also likely to be seen as a long-needed New England states’ awareness of the need for regional cooperation to snare at least some of the Federal “Stimulus” money. New England has gotten almost nothing of these funds. In Round One , of $8 billion in total, New England received less than 5% of that amount, yet has the oldest rail infrastructure in the United States.

Rep. Businger, a member of the National Corridors Initiative’s Board of Directors, worked for more than two years to get New Hampshire and now Rhode Island to join the Coalition.

States for Passenger Rail (www. S4PRC.org) was established in early 2000, creating an alliance of state departments of transportation that supports intercity passenger rail initiatives and advocates for federal funding.

Membership is available to state departments or agencies that oversee the official transportation responsibilities for a state or territory.

S4PRC is chaired by Frank Busalacchi, Secretary of Transportation for Wisconsin, with Vice Chair Bill Bronte, California DOT; and Secretary-Treasurer - Don Hannon, New York State DOT.

S4PRC Members states are:

Alabama, Arizona, Amtrak California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Capitol Corridor, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Nevada, Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and the Southern High-Speed Rail Commission.


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HIGH-SPEED RAIL... High-Speed Rail...  

Five Peninsula Cities Want High-Speed Rail
Halted Until Demands Met

From San Jose Mercury News (California) And Other Internet Sources

California’s much touted high speed rail project could be delayed if agreements aren’t worked out with the five cities in the Peninsula Cities Consortium. And that would be a serious problem for the California High Speed Rail Authority because the federal government has given a deadline for receiving the money: construction must begin on the San Francisco-to-San Jose line by September 2012 in order to qualify California for the $2.25 billion grant which the Federal Transit Administration has identified for the project. [Estimated cost of the project is $43 billion. The Authority plans for $17 billion to be paid by federal money, although this amount has not yet been committed. California voters also approved $9.95 billion in state funds for high-speed rail and related improvements in 2008 when they passed Proposition 1A.]

The cities of the Consortium -- Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Burlingame and Belmont, are criticizing the California High-Speed Rail Authority on several levels: rushing ahead too quickly with the project in order to qualify for the federal money when many problems have not been resolved; shoddy planning to select a final alignment (some critics are still not happy about the choice to go through Pacheco Pass rather than the Altamont Pass); rushing to get the Environmental Impact Statement completed in just a few months; inadequate planning for operational funding once the project is completed.

The cities issued a statement recently calling on the Authority to “step back and resolve troublesome issues” with the rail project days after an independent review uncovered flaws in the ridership projections for the proposed line.

Rich Cline, mayor of Menlo Park and chair of the consortium, said in the statement that the cities are concerned that the “key problems may not be resolved because of the intense pressure being exerted by the Authority’s desire to qualify for federal stimulus funding.”

“Common sense is absent from the high-speed rail discussion,” Mr. Cline said. “Right now the Authority plans to select a final alignment and release its draft environmental impact report by December of this year under an extremely rushed project schedule that is dictated solely by the desire for federal funds.”

Some of the cities fear that the line would disrupt community life. One idea was to locate some of the tracks below ground but that proved to be far too costly.

Mr. Cline also challenged the authority’s assertion that the system, once built, would be financially self-sustaining.

Right now, the authority has one-fourth of the funding for the $43 billion project and intends to match the stimulus grant using voter-approved bond money, bringing the total at stake to $4.5 billion. The funds will also be used to leverage more than $10 billion needed in private financing.

The Obama administration set the stimulus deadlines to ensure Americans could get to work as quickly as possible. In the case of the California project, planners say the rail line could generate nearly 600,000 construction jobs.


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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

Program Adds Amtrak Train Linking
Richmond And Washington, DC

By DF Staff And
Jennifer Buske, Washington Post

A state-funded intercity passenger train will launch later this month which will provide Virginia residents with another transportation option between Richmond and Washington, DC.

The train which will be operated by Amtrak and funded by the state of Virginia, will start July 20, with a departure time of 7 a.m. in Richmond, with stops at Ashland, Fredericksburg, Quantico, Woodbridge and Alexandria. Estimated arrival time at Washington is 9:30 a.m., according to Amtrak officials. The train will then continue northward to Boston, MA. The new southbound intercity train will leave Union Station in Washington DC at 3:55 p.m.

The train is part of a three-year, $17.2 million pilot project that includes a similar train between Lynchburg, VA and Washington, DC that started last October. The program was launched to increase the number of mass-transit options available and to determine whether such rail service could be viable, Virginia transportation officials said.

This will be the fifth train that will connect Richmond and Washington in the morning hours and the sixth in the evening.

The new train was scheduled to launch last year but was delayed due to a need to complete about $78 million in rail infrastructure improvements. The severe winter weather slowed the process further.

Tickets for the new train are available at reasonable rates. Ticket prices will fluctuate, but a current sample one-way fare from Richmond to Washington is just $23.

The new train is fully funded, but the state does not have money set aside to continue service if it proves to be successful, state transportation officials said. They said if the ridership is there, the hope is that the General Assembly of Virginia will support it.


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STREET CAR LINES... Streetcar Lines...  

Cincinnati Gets $25M For Streetcar Line

From Cincinnati.Com And The Enquirer.Com

JULY 8 ----“The long, contentious debate over whether Cincinnati’s proposed streetcar system will be built has effectively ended, with a $25 million federal grant announced Thursday having made the controversial project all but a done deal.”

Thus starts the story by Barry Horstman, writer for enquirer.com, about the fierce battle in Cincinnati over whether the streetcar should be built at all, a debate that will likely continue for along time.

Cincinnati Streetcar

Photo: Dana E. Olsen/The Oregonian

A streetcar from Portland Oregon picks up its daily riders. Streetcar service of this type is under proposal in Cincinnati.

Local, state, and federal funds approved for the Downtown-to-Uptown streetcar plan were finalized at $114 million last week, making it possible to bring the project’s $128 million budget with reach.

City Hall will proceed to issue bonds that will cover half of the streetcar plan’s cost, announced Mayor Mark Mallory.

The City Council approved $64 million in bonds last May contingent upon additional funding from Washington or Columbus for a streetcar system stretching from Downtown’s riverfront to the Uptown communities around the University of Cincinnati.

Preliminary construction, officials say, could start this fall, with service tentatively scheduled to start in the spring of 2013.

“This project will happen – that’s now clear,” an enthused Mallory said shortly after receiving a phone call from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood informing him that Cincinnati had been awarded the $25 million “urban circulator” grant.

“I had said we wouldn’t move ahead with the bonds unless we got substantial money through the urban circulator program,” Mallory said. “We not only got substantial money, we got the maximum amount available. So now we look at how to go forward.”

For the more information on this contentious battle, visit: http://cincinnati.com/blogs/opinionati/2010/07/08/streetcar-moving-forward


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)58.6456.86
Canadian Pacific (CP) 56.1553.29
CSX (CSX)51.7647.70
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)38.3136.88
Kansas City Southern (KSU)37.2434.94
Norfolk Southern (NSC)53.8150.91
Providence & Worcester(PWX)12.0012.00
Union Pacific (UNP)71.7168.37


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

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

 

Hannover Awards S-Bahn Commuter Train Contract To DB Regio (Again)

State And Regional Governments Negotiate Lower Costs And New Extras

via press release from the Hannover Region government
and article in the Schaumburger Nachrichten newspaper

Hannover – A year-long RFP (Request For Proposal) process, which was developed and managed together with and on behalf of several regional governments by a Lower Saxony state government transportation commission, known by the German acronym LNVG, was awarded to incumbent operator DB Regio, which is a subsidiary of Europe’s largest railroad, truck, bus and logistics firm Deutsche Bahn AG. It was the largest operating concession up for grabs in northern Germany and open to qualified bidders from anywhere within the 27-nation-large European Union. The runner-up in the RFP was understood to be Metronom, which already has a contract with the state government of Lower Saxony to operate regional express trains between Bremen and Hamburg, Cuxhaven and Hamburg and between Göttingen and Hamburg via Hannover, Celle and Uezeln.

ET 424-027 (coupled with ET 424-015 out of view of the camera

Photo: David Beale

Under new management – same as the old management? DB Regio will continue to operate the S-Bahn commuter train network in the greater Hannover region, albeit under much different – and tougher – contractual conditions starting in December 2012. ET 424-027 (coupled with ET 424-015 out of view of the camera) pause in Haste during a turn-around on track 31 on the 16th of May 2010 before heading back towards Hannover via Barsinghausen on the ‘Deisterbahn’ route.

The current operating company, S-Bahn Hannover, which is also owned by DB Regio, will be replaced by a newly created Deutsche Bahn subsidiary to be named DB Regio Nahverkehr Eins GmbH (loosely translates into American English as DB Regio Local Transit One, LLC). The bidders now have a ten day-long period to file objections to the decision. The exact sales volume or value of the contract was not publicized. The new operating concession goes into effect in December 2012 and continues through 2020.

The new operating contract provides for lower fees to be paid by the state and regional governments to the train operator, thus lowering the burden to the taxpayers as compared to the existing operating contract. The new contract also requires that the operator install video surveillance cameras in all S-Bahn trains as well as increase the number of transit police / transit security forces posted in the trains, including 100% coverage by transit security officers in all S-Bahn trains after 8 PM until the last train of the night around 12 midnight to 1 AM. Various performance goals for on-time performance and vehicle availability are also contained in the new contact, as well as penalties for the operator, if performance goals are not met.

The S-Bahn network in Hannover, the state capitol, is run in parallel to regional commuter and regional express trains run either by Metronom or by DB Regio along several routes which run through the state via Hannover. Unlike the regional and regional-express trains running through Hannover, which operate using locomotive-hauled coaches or diesel multiple-unit trains (depending on the route), the Hannover S-Bahn is operated exclusively with a fleet of 59 four-car ET 424 and ET 425 EMU train-sets operating on hourly or half-hourly frequencies (depends on time of day and route) from approximately 5 AM until 12 midnight and stopping at all stations. The S-Bahn network in Hannover has seven lines totaling 385 km (239 miles) in five counties in Lower Saxony and two counties in the neighboring state of North Rhine Westphalia, and operates 8.5 million train-kilometers per year with average daily ridership in the 80,000 person range.

Schematic of Hannover S-Bahn commuter rail network

Image from GVH (Greater Hannover Transit Authority)

Schematic of Hannover S-Bahn commuter rail network. Not shown in this diagram are the various regional commuter and regional express trains operating in the Hannover area (D:F readers can visit http://www.gvh.de/fileadmin/gvh/downloads/Plaene/2009/Netzplan_Schiene.pdf to see the complete regional train system map for the greater Hannover area). NCI Foreign Editor David Beale resides about 800 meters from the Haste station, seen in the middle left area on this diagram.


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Berlin Experiences A ‘Black Friday’ As Train System
And Highway Network Seize-Up

Traffic Chaos Rules Germany’s Capitol As Thousands Are
Stranded In Train Stations And On Numerous Highways

via NDR Radio, N-TV television news, and Tagesspiegel

Berlin – Murphy’s Law stung the greater Berlin area last Friday as a strange chain of unrelated events brought the rail system and parts of the highway network to a standstill on a day when many were starting their journeys for several weeks of vacation. To make matters more uncomfortable, the entire area sweltered under near record high temperatures approaching 38°C (100°F) in some locations. Berlin’s two commercial airports and its subway, light rail and S-Bahn networks operated more or less normally.

The rail routes out of Berlin to Hannover, Hamburg, Leipzig and Frankfurt ‘an der Oder’ (on the Polish border) were shut down for a number of hours on Friday. Two people committed suicide by train separately in the late morning hours. One suicide between Hamburg and Berlin involved an ICE train, and the other suicide was in the Berlin suburb of Teltow involving another ICE train 90 minutes earlier. In both incidents, the affected rail lines were completely blocked for approximately four hours as police and emergency medical workers investigated the scene and recovered the remains of the men who jumped in front of these trains. Just hours before the two separate suicides on the Hamburg and Leipzig high-speed lines, a pair of graffiti vandals on the Berlin-Hannover line near the outer Berlin suburb of Rathenow were clipped by an ICE train at speed. One of the vandals was pronounced dead on the scene, the other died about 48 hours later in a Berlin area hospital. As with the two suicide scenes, police had to enforce a complete shut-down of the Hannover high-speed line in order to rescue the graffiti vandals and investigate the incident.

Meanwhile in Frankfurt ‘an der Oder’ (along the Polish border and Oder River) the main rail line from Berlin,Germany to Poznan, Poland and points east was shut down suddenly for several hours after the discovery of a World War 2-era bomb, which had to be diffused and removed. Even in 2010 unexploded British or American bombs from the 1942 – 1945 time period are discovered regularly in numerous German cities and towns, averaging 2 – 3 findings per month. Typically an area of 500 meters to 2 km in diameter around the site is evacuated for several hours as bomb disposal teams disarm and remove the 65-plus year old ordnance. If highways or rail lines are located in these zones, they are also shut down during the disarming and removal efforts.

To make matters worse part of the catenary on the busy rail corridor between Berlin Südkreuz and Teltow was pulled down by a regional-express train in mid afternoon. Trains were re-routed via Berlin-Schoenfeld, but cable thieves damaged signal cables a few hours later, thus causing massive problems in operating trains along this route.

Although most of these incidents were beyond the ability of the railroad – Deutsche Bahn – to prevent, the company opened itself up to heavy fire from critics and customer advocacy groups, who heavily complained about the lack of customer service personnel posted at the larger passenger stations in Berlin to help stranded travelers. Inexplicably, Deutsche Bahn left a customer service center in the lower level of the Berlin central train station partially unstaffed for eight hours in the middle of the crisis during the day, with only four or five counters (out of eight) open.

Meanwhile on the highways in and around Berlin on Friday, the situation deteriorated rapidly. Accidents and collisions Friday afternoon on the A11 and A13 highways (Autobahn) brought ‘weekend warrior’ traffic exiting the Berlin area to the north and south to a standstill, as the two freeways were closed for several hours to investigate and clear the unrelated accident scenes. Likewise on the A115 freeway in the center-city area of Berlin, a deadly automobile accident resulted in a total shut down of the highway for nearly two hours on Friday afternoon.

As the heat wave continued across most of Germany on Saturday, failures of air conditioning systems in three different ICE-2 train-sets from Berlin to the Rhine-Ruhr region via Hannover resulted in unscheduled passenger evacuations and equipment changes and resulting delays. Although the air conditioning system in the ICE-2 (and similarly designed ICE-1) have in general, been reliable in the past, in extreme summer day heat their failure can result in dangerously high interior temperatures, due to the sealed-system configuration of the climate control in these trains. Two of the affected trains had to be removed from service in Hannover, the third was removed from service in Bielefeld after 27 school students passed out from heat exhaustion in the standing-room only train. Several reports from passengers on this train indicated that the temperature inside some cars was in the 50°C to 53°C range (120°F to 127°F).


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OPINION... Opinion...  

Things Just Keep Getting Worse!

By David Peter Alan

Last week, I expressed concern that our nation is losing its independence because of our over-dependence on oil, whether it comes from foreign countries or from inaccessible places like the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  Little did I know at the time that some members of Congress had already taken steps that will exacerbate the situation even further.

The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) reported the bad news on Friday, July 2.   The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development had voted to increase the highway appropriation by $4.1 billion; 10% above the Obama Administration’s request.  At the same time, the same committee voted to give Amtrak $833 million less than the railroad had requested. 

While it could have been worse for Amtrak (the Administration had recommended even less), the amount of funding available for Amtrak to use as it sees fit is 55% less than requested.  Debt service and station compliance under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are fixed, so Amtrak must again tighten its belt to cope with increasing ridership; a situation that should bring reward, rather than punishment, to our passenger railroad.

Needless to say, the commentators who believe in Amtrak and rail transit are not happy.  NARP President Ross Capon said: “the rail levels fall short when considering the sharp growth in proposed highway investment and the public interest in promoting transportation that is energy efficient and environmentally benign and which gives Americans expanded travel choices that they want and need.”  D:F editor Molly McKay called the move “infuriating” and I will go one step further.  To me, the continued growth of highways at the expense of rail is nothing short of OUTRAGEOUS.

Capon called on NARP members and everyone else concerned to push Congress for more rail funding and a smaller highway appropriation.  It is difficult to see how anyone who cares about the environment or about a balanced transportation policy can disagree.  Still, Amtrak’s plight, along with the situation faced by nearly every transit provider in the nation, brings a new cause for deep concern.

While I do not intend to write a “partisan” column, we cannot escape the history that has already occurred.  Traditionally, and with some notable exceptions, Democrats have been friendlier toward Amtrak and transit than Republicans.  In 2002, the Bush Administration and a Republican Congress threatened to eliminate Amtrak’s budget entirely.  David Gunn and John Robert Smith (himself a Republican), among others, stood up for Amtrak, and Amtrak survived.

President Obama, as well as the Democrats who made large gains in Congress in 2006 and 2008, campaigned on a platform that they would bring change to the nation.  On the issue of transportation without an automobile, that did not occur.  The Administration wanted even less funding for Amtrak than the House Subcommittee was willing to give, and the Subcommittee voted more money for highways than the Administration requested. 

There is one fact of political life on which Republicans and Democrats agree wholeheartedly.  They all thrive on campaign contributions, which help keep them in office.  Amtrak has a unique corporate structure, but it is effectively owned by the U.S. Department of Transportation.  Every provider of rail transit (except “tourist railroads”) and most bus providers are also in the public sector.  That means no campaign contributions.  Oil companies, auto makers, highway builders, airlines and other beneficiaries of the government’s largesse are private corporations and can now contribute all they wish to the perpetuation in office of their favorite Democrat, their favorite Republican or, most likely, both.

I remember a radio adaptation of a science fiction story from the 1950s, in which members of Congress did not represent a state, but a corporation (like GE or GM).  That scenario does not feel so much like fiction anymore.

That does not mean we should give up the struggle for a balanced transportation policy and increased mobility, including for people who do not operate motor vehicles.  Real change may now require an amendment to the Constitution.  It has happened before; the nation once had slavery, and the vote was once restricted to a small percentage of the adult population.

Given recent developments, we can be sure that the change we need will not come soon, unless an emergency is looming that will bring a crisis that even politicians cannot ignore.  Is the nation heading for a time when there is literally no oil left, the environment is about to give out and highways are so clogged that there will be no more room for automobiles and trucks?  We don’t know, but we do know that things will certainly get worse before they get better.   We also know that, if we give up, there will be nobody left to help things get better when the time comes.

The NARP report can be found on their web site, www.narprail.org


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2010 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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