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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July 14, 2008
Vol. 9 No. 29

Copyright © 2008
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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

  News Items…
California’s Bullet Train Will Use Pacheco Pass
Wall Street Journal’s Look at ‘Smart Growth’ Finds A Major
   CA City Rediscovering Itself
  Environmental Lines…
Bart Will Install Solar Panels
BLM Scraps its ‘Solar Moratorium’
  Planning Lines…
Texas DOT Appoints Committee To Examine Transportation Needs
   Through 2030
  Commuter Lines…
Metro-North to Distribute Wireless Ticket Machines to Conductors
Scranton-to-Hoboken Rail Revival Takes Another Step Towards Reality
  Political Lines…
“Freight Rail Deserves More Federal Support”
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Freight Lines…
Rail Industry Opposes Proposals To Increase Truck Size, Weights
  Across The Pond…
ICE-3 High Speed Train Fleet Grounded After Cracked Axle
   Derails Train Near Cologne
Two Years Later India Reflects On 7/11 Terror Attacks
   On Mumbai Train Network
To Cut Food Costs, Boost Infrastructure
  We Get Letters…
The AREMA 2008 Annual Conference
  Publication Notes …

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

California’s Bullet Train Will Use Pacheco Pass

By DF Staff from Internet Sources

CALIFORNIA, JULY 10 – Headlines up and down the state of California are announcing the final decision on the route of California’s first high-speed train project which will connect the two major urban areas of San Francisco and Los Angeles. On July 9, the California High-Speed Rail Authority approved the Bay Area to Central Valley High Speed Train Final Envrionmental Impact Report outlining the planned route from San Francisco to the Central Valley.

Years of planning were stalled in 2004 when it was clear that more studies were needed to decide whether to choose the Pacheco Pass alignment or the Altamont Pass. Pacheco Pass is located in the Diablo Range in southern Santa Clara County separating it from the Central Valley. Altamont Pass, which is also in the Diablo Range but more to the north than Pacheco, is in a heavily congested area between Livermore in the Livermore Valley and Tracy and the San Joaquin Valley.

A strong argument for choosing the Altamont route was that the area is already built up, providing a critical mass of population which would use the train. The area also needs more train service. Pacheco Pass goes through a much more open area, sparsely developed, causing environmentalists to be concerned about sprawl development which would spring up once the train service is established. It’s true that a new train could be a catalyst for growth, but supporters say that the type of growth is compact, centralized around the station hubs, not the sprawling development induced by highways.

The High-Speed Rail Authority, which supports the Pacheco Pass route, said that this alignment would be the fastest and “most environmentally responsible option” for the high-speed train system, minimizing impacts on wetlands as well as the San Francisco Bay and eliminating the need for another San Francisco Bay crossing, bridge or tunnel.”

At the same time, the authority said it’s supportive of regional rail commuter service in partnership with local and regional agencies and transit providers such as ACE and BART trains, via the Altamont Pass between Sacramento/Northern San Joaquin Valley and Oakland/San Jose. The train would not be as fast as a high-speed rail train, but it would be faster than the current Altamont Commuter Express service. “This would be sort of super ACE service, linking the Northern San Joaquin Valley and the Bay Area,” said Dan Leavitt, deputy director of the authority.

“The … approval of environmental findings, and the least environmentally hurtful Pacheco Pass alignment to San Jose and San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal, represent a landmark act,” says Quentin Kopp, chairman of the authority. “All segments of the project now possess a valid certified environmental analysis.”

Voters will get their first chance to weigh in on the bullet train with Proposition 1, a $9.95 billion bond measure on the November 4 ballot. If passed, (Proposition 1 requires a simple majority vote for approval) the bond measure will help fund construction of the system, estimated to cost approximately $40 billion. The remainder of the funds, officials hope, would come from private investors and the federal government.

Kopp said he believes “we will win” and plans on construction starting in 2010, requiring 8 to 10 years for completion.

“From a national perspective, what we have done today is epic,” said Rod Diridon of San Jose, a member of the authority board. “We are the most advanced high-speed rail project in North America now. We have to be careful we don’t stop now.”

The train is expected to run at speeds reaching 220 mph making trip time between San Francisco and Los Angeles under 2 hours and 40 minutes. It is projected to carry more than 100 million passengers per year by 2030.

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Wall Street Journal’s Look at ‘Smart Growth’
Finds A Major CA City Rediscovering Itself

From Internet Reports and The Wall Street Journal

SACRAMENTO, CA---In the state where everyone “knows” that the automobile rules and suburban sprawl, its spawn, is dominant, a funny thing is beginning to happen as gasoline sticks at $3, $4, then $?/gallon: people are rediscovering the City.

In a major and well-researched page-one article by reporter Ana Campoy, the Wall Street Journal reported July 7 that Sacramento has begun the climb back from the experience of so many California (and American) cities whose middle class emptied out to the suburbs in the wake of massive freeway construction.

But Sacramento hasn’t achieved this overnight, the WSJ makes clear: the turn-around began more than seven years ago when a new Smart Growth-oriented City Planner, Mike McKeever, began to push for a different approach to urban planning than traditionally found in California.

“Gasoline was less than $2 a gallon when Mike McKeever brought his gospel of bikes, light rail and tightly packed neighborhoods to this state synonymous with cars, freeways and suburban sprawl,” reported the Journal, and the reception McKeever got was none too friendly.”

“The development industry was very concerned,” McKeever, Executive Director of Sacramento’s Regional Planning Agency, told the Journal: “‘The environmental community was openly negative, concerned that it was ‘just more talk, talk.”

“Seven years later, with gasoline hurtling past $4 a gallon, Sacramento has become one of the nation’s most-watched experiments in whether urban planning can help solve everything from high fuel prices to the housing bust to global warming,” reported the Journal

“For decades,” the Journal reported, “backers of ‘smart-growth’ planning principles have preached the benefit of clustering the places where people live more closely with the businesses where they work and shop. Less travel would mean less fuel consumption and less air pollution. Several communities built from scratch upon those principles, such as Celebration in Florida, sprouted across the country. But they were often isolated experiments, connected to their surroundings mainly by car. So, as gasoline remained cheap, the rest of the country continued its inexorable march toward bigger houses and longer commutes.”

“Between 2004 and 2007, the number of projects with apartments, condominiums and town houses for sale in the region increased by 533%, while the number of subdivisions with homes on lots bigger than 5,500 square feet fell by 21%, according to housing-research firm Hanley Wood Market Intelligence. Things were different during the 1990s, as new single-family homes crept out to fill the abundant open spaces far from downtown. Traffic exploded, rising 66% from 1990 to 2003. In 2000, the American Lung Association ranked Sacramento 11th for the worst air pollution among U.S. cities -- though, with about 1.4 million people, it was 28th in population,” reported the Journal.

Creating what came to be called “The Blueprint,” which set out density guidelines for future development, McKeever – not a traditional planner, but rather an entrepreneur ---was brought in by the Sacramento Area Council of Government in 2001:

“Facing the threat of losing its federal transportation funding because of its poor air quality, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments hired Mr. McKeever in 2001 to lead the region’s cleanup effort. He brought with him an eclectic environmental résumé: He’d run a business that used a door-size fan to test homes for leaks of precious heated or cooled air; he’d become an expert in siting houses so they got the most sun possible, saving on electricity; and he’d become a planning consultant, helping Portland, Ore., create a walking city with compact neighborhoods connected by buses, streetcars and light rail,” reported the Journal.

In creating his new approach, McKeever and his staff, “collected information on all 750,000 pieces of property in the region, such as the number of housing units, people employed there, and return-on-investment rates generated by various building projects. They plugged those numbers into a database to be used with computer software Mr. McKeever helped develop to calculate the impact different kinds of buildings have on traffic, job growth and pollution. In 2003, he took the computer model on the road to workshop after workshop. This wasn’t the typical public hearing where officials sit in a row and take questions from the crowd. Instead, the more than 5,000 people who attended got a chance to use the computer program to play planner for a day, tweaking the mix of buildings to see what would happen.”

“It sounds hokey,” says the typically earnest Mr. McKeever, “but it’s about making democracy work,” the Journal reported.

(For the complete story, including how developers were eventually won over to the plan, go to and subscribe; the Journal requires subscriptions (on-line) for complete access to its stories. Readers can also contact WSJ reporter Ana Campoy at )

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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES... Environmental Lines...

Bart Will Install Solar Panels

From Intrernet Sources

SAN FRANCISCO, JULY 11 -- The Bay Area Rapid Transit has announced that by late December of this year, all electrical services in its Orinda Station — from lights to ticket machines to fare gates — will run on solar power during daylight hours.

The BART board approved a $3.8 million contract for SunEdison L.L.C. to install a solar panel canopy at one of the station’s parking lots. The company also will install solar panels on the roofs of BART’s Richmond and Hayward maintenance shops.

The solar power will help BART save $3.4 million on energy costs during the next 20 years, the agency said.

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BLM Scraps its ‘Solar Moratorium’

From the Huffington Post

( NCI Comment: The Bureau of Land Management, the pro-oil-drilling, mining, and lumbering-on-public-lands branch of the Bush Administration, last week backed down from its proposal to ban solar energy plants from public land because of “environmental concerns.” Here is the Huffington Post’s take on the story. For complete story see )

WASHINGTON — “The government said Wednesday it is calling off a recently announced moratorium on applications to build solar plants on public lands,” reported the AP’s Erica Werner July 2 in The Huffington Post.

“The Bureau of Land Management made the announcement after public opposition to its original decision, reached at the end of May,” wrote Werner

“The BLM had wanted to put new applications for solar plants on federal land on hold while undertaking a comprehensive review of potential environmental impacts from such plants. That review was not scheduled for completion until May 2010.”

“Meanwhile, BLM planned to keep processing the applications it’s already received for 125 proposed solar projects on about 1 million acres in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.”

“BLM has yet to approve a solar project on federal land; the solar projects already built or under way in this country are on private property,” noted the Post story.

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PLANNING LINES... Planning Lines...

Texas DOT Appoints Committee To Examine
Transportation Needs Through 2030

JULY 11 -- The Texas Department of Transportation recently formed a “2030 committee” charged with the task of putting together a comprehensive assessment of the state’s transportation needs for the next 20 – plus years.

The 12-member committee, comprised of transportation experts and business leaders, will hold five public hearings to get input from citizens and will issue a report in December.

With the help of professionals from the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University, the committee will identify and quantify the state’s infrastructure investment needs but will not be charged with identifying funding solutions.

Committee members include Dallas Area Rapid Transit President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Thomas, BNSF Railway Co. Executive Vice President, Law Roger Nober, and former Amtrak Board Chairman David Laney.

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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...

Metro-North to Distribute Wireless Ticket Machines to Conductors

From Progressive Railroading News

MTA Metro-North introduces hand held ticket machines on trains.

NEW YORK – Conductors on Metro-North trains will get a modern, efficient way of issuing tickets on board the trains. After a successful pilot program last year, Metro-North Railroad is introducing ticket machines to all its conductors to simplify on-board ticket issuing. 

One Metro-North rider commented that this will be an important amenity for conductors, who should not have to bother with having to write tickets by hand on crowded trains.

The technological innovation will improve customer service as well as the railroad’s operating efficiency.

Another advantage of the new device is text messaging. Rail Traffic Controllers will be able to give train crews up-to-the-minute information during service disruptions, which  will enable train crews to keep customers better informed when delays occur.

“These text messages will provide more information faster to more trains, which will improve the crews’ ability to inform customers when service is disrupted for whatever reason,” said Metro-North President Peter Cannito.  “Text messaging will supplement, not replace, radio contact with the Rail Traffic Controllers that all trains maintain.”

The devices are being phased in beginning this month.  So far, 200, about a third of all train conductors, have been equipped with these hand-held ticket machines and separate receipt printers.  This approach is a first in the passenger railroad industry and was developed by Metro-North’s own Information Technology Department.  The software has been copyrighted and several railroads have expressed interest in purchasing the program.

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Scranton-to-Hoboken Rail Revival
Takes Another Step Towards Reality

By DF Staff and From The Scranton Times-Tribune

SCRANTON---The tracks between Scranton Pennsylvania and Hoboken, NJ, torn up or abandoned 30 years ago, are about to take a step closer towards resurrection, the Scranton Times-Tribune’s David Singleton reports.

“The proposed Scranton-to-Hoboken, N.J., passenger train service is about to emerge from the study stage and enter something more concrete. The Federal Transit Administration, along with New Jersey Transit and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, will hold two meetings this month for the public to review and comment on the final version of the project’s environmental assessment,” wrote Singleton.

“If everything goes as anticipated, FTA action on the report, in the form of finding no significant impact will follow shortly, said Larry Malski, chief operating officer of the Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Rail Authority.”

“That really is the key thing we have been working on for two years,” Mr. Malski said of the finding, known as a FONSI. “It will open up the door to construction.”

A draft environmental assessment released in January 2007 concluded the $551 million project would have relatively minor effects on its surroundings.

Most of the information in the final report, which was posted this week on New Jersey Transit’s Web site — — is unchanged from the draft, said Vincent Truncellito, the agency’s manager of project development.

The biggest difference, he said, is the incorporation of more detailed information regarding the reconstruction of 7.3 miles of track in New Jersey from the Port Morris junction to Andover.

The section is part of a 28-mile stretch of right of way between Port Morris and Delaware Water Gap where tracks were removed in 1980s.

During a meeting two weeks ago in Washington, U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Arlen Specter received a commitment from FTA administrator James S. Simpson that the agency would move swiftly on the environmental assessment.

( NCI note: The region, which has become home to many New York commuters who have been driving or busing three-four hours in each direction, every day, to hold on to jobs in high-priced Manhattan, may soon have a rail alternative once again. If so, suburban real estate prices in the region, hammered by high oil prices, will probably recover faster than elsewhere. To contact reporter David Singleton use: )

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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...

Senator Tom Carper:


“Freight Rail Deserves More Federal Support”

Delaware Senator calls for federal support to increase capacity of America’s
fuel-efficient freight rail system to reduce fuel consumption, fight global warming.

Senator Tom Carper (D) Delaware is calling for more federal support for freight rail, especially in light of the industry’s impressive fuel efficiency. In the Senator’s contribution to THE HILL (July 10, 2008 edition) he wrote:

“Today, across the country, policymakers, industry and consumers alike are all looking for more affordable ways to move people and goods,” Mr Carper wrote. “Consider this: America’s railroads can move one ton of freight roughly the distance between Washington, D.C., and Boston on just one gallon of diesel fuel.”

“I’m convinced that robust freight rail service is one of the keys to a sustainable future for our country and our planet.,” Mr. Carper wrote. “It’s time we take full advantage of more fuel-efficient forms of transportation and start to think beyond just our highways and airways.”

In commenting on trucks, the Senator acknowledged that trucks will always be a vital part of moving freight in America, but he emphasized the need for reducing congestion on our highways, which increased freight rail would accomplish. “For example,” he wrote, “one single intermodal train takes some 280 trucks off the road.”

“Today, our trains are 3.1 percent more efficient than they were last year and a whopping 85 percent more efficient than they were in 1980.”

“Imagine how much better off we would be if all energy users had improved their efficiency by 85 percent since 1980,” he wrote.

The Senator stated how essential it is to make major investments in improving and expanding rail capacity. According to a study completed last year by Cambridge Systematics, unless capacity is increased, at least one-third of the nation’s main rail corridors will be congested by 2035.

The freight industry has reinvested large sums of their own funds into America’s rail systems, but that will not be enough funding to meet the nation’s needs as rail freight continues to grow, the Senator said. Our country’s aging infrastructure must be improved with government support as well.

Congress has approved tax credits for projects that expand freight rail capacity and also is encouraging more public-private partnerships for freight railroad infrastructure projects. Public-private funding partnerships will help to expedite projects far faster than a go-it-alone approach.

Another option is to include in federal climate change legislation a measure that directs a portion of funding generated by the sale of emissions credits to rail infrastructure. Congress is also considering proposals to offer tax incentives for projects that expand freight rail capacity.

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)95.4593.83
Canadian National (CNI)47.1546.00
Canadian Pacific (CP)63.3460.95
CSX (CSX)60.6257.36
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.5162.51
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)35.7931.68
Kansas City Southern (KSU)43.8841.14
Norfolk Southern (NSC)61.7858.91
Providence & Worcester (PWX)18.8519.99
Union Pacific (UNP)71.9270.85

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FREIGH TLINES... Freight Lines...

Rail Industry Opposes Proposals To Increase Truck Size, Weights

Source on the Internet: Association of American Railroads

WASHINGTON, JULY 9 — In a statement by Edward Hamberger, President and CEO of Association of American Railroads and Richard F. Timmons, President of American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, on proposals to increase truck size and weight limits, both presidents said they were opposed to increases.

“According to the U.S. Department of Transportation,” the statement continued, “trucks weighing over 80,000 pounds pay only about half of their highway cost responsibility. Longer and heavier trucks — unless accompanied by sharp increases in taxes — would exacerbate this inequity and, based on a U.S. Department of Transportation study, divert between 100 and 225 million tons of freight annually from rail to highways.”

In addition, by moving this much additional freight by highway, the service would require the consumption of between 500 million and 1.1 billion additional gallons of diesel fuel, producing 1.6 to 3.8 million tons of additional pollutants and 5.6 to 12.3 million tons of additional carbon dioxide each year.

Diverting these volumes to highways would also increase traffic congestion, cause highways and bridges to deteriorate more rapidly, and make it more difficult for railroads to invest the money needed to expand the capacity of the nation’s freight rail network, given the subsidy to larger trucks.

AAR and ASLRRA support greater use of rail intermodal – the transportation of truck trailers and shipping containers on rail cars. Intermodal represents a cost-effective, environmentally-friendly alternative to excessive reliance on highways to transport freight. Rail intermodal is a partnership between railroads and trucks and is an extremely fuel-efficient means of moving freight.

When Congress decided in 1991 to freeze truck sizes and weights, that was the proper course of action then and it is the right course of action now, the statement concluded.


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

Installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent


ICE-3 High Speed Train Fleet Grounded After Cracked Axle Derails Train Near Cologne

EBA Orders Immediate Axle Inspections

Frankfurt (HAZ) – Deutsche Bahn AG (German Railways) was forced to remove 61 train sets of the ICE-3 model from service effective immediately after an ICE-3 train set derailed at relatively low speed in a curve a few kilometers from its destination of Cologne central station (Hauptbahnhof Köln) in the late afternoon of 9th July. No injuries were reported in the derailment. Investigators determined about a day later that the cause of the derailment was a broken wheel axle in one of the wheel trucks of the 8 car-long EMU train set. The cause of the axle separation is still under investigation.

The EBA, the German rail regulatory agency similar to the FRA in the United States, ordered immediate ultrasonic inspections for cracks of the wheel axles in all ICE-3 high speed train sets. Bettina Baader, spokeswoman for the EBA stated that the German federal regulatory agency would also order that inspection interval of the wheel sets in ICE-3 trains will be reduced from every 300,000 km to 60,000 km intervals. In the ICE-3 EMU train set, the wheels and axles are a single subassembly, unlike in many other rail vehicles where the wheels are easily separated from the axles during routine inspection and maintenance.

The district attorney in Cologne has opened a criminal investigation into the incident, due to a report from at least one of the passengers on the train that the failed wheel / axle set was making loud and unusual noises shortly after the train departed the intercity train station in the Frankfurt Airport. The passenger stated that none of the train crew on-board took notice of the unusual noise and vibrations emanating from under the floor. After leaving the Frankfurt Airport train station, the ICE-3 accelerated to its normal 300 km/h (186 mph) en-route speed towards Cologne along the six year-old Frankfurt – Cologne high speed corridor.

Cologne’s chief prosecutor stated: “no one should gloss over what could have happened. If the axle had separated at 300 km/h, it would have been three times worse than Eschede.”

Eschede is the name of the town where Germany’s worst high-speed train accident occurred in June 1998. That accident, which involved an ICE-1 train set, was caused by a wheel rim which cracked and then a few kilometers later completely separated from the rest of the wheel as the train was traveling at approximately 180 km/h from Hannover to Hamburg. In that accident, a number of passengers and one of the train conductors noticed unusual noises and vibrations from that wheel just minutes before the train derailed and most of the passenger cars slammed into a road bridge over the rail line. A fragment of the separated wheel rim actually penetrated the floor and came out of a seat just centimeters away from the leg of one of the passengers about a minute before the train derailed. According to an unnamed source reporting to the Hannoverische Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, the same manufacturer produced the wheel assembly of the ICE-1 train set involved in the June 1998 accident as the wheel / axle assembly of the ICE-3.

The temporary removal of all 61 ICE-3 train sets from service resulted in significant travel disruptions and train cancellations across Germany. It was estimated that as many 50,000 passengers will be forced to change their travel plans. July and August are traditionally the heaviest passenger loads for DBAG’s intercity trains, with many Germans using trains for their vacation travel plans as well as many foreign visitors from the USA, Canada, Britain, Japan, and elsewhere using the rail system for their tours of Germany and central Europe.

The ICE-3 train is the newest of the ICE series of trains in use in Germany. Unlike the ICE-1 and ICE-2 models, the ICE-3 is an EMU design with nearly all wheel axles powered with traction motors and without a locomotive or power car. Several ICE-3 train sets are also owned and operated by the Dutch rail operator NS for use on services from Frankfurt to Amsterdam. Export versions of the ICE-3 have been ordered by Spain, China and Russia from Siemens Transportation.

The ICE-3 has been in general a success story, but it has had a significant number of technical problems and reliability issues since introduction to service about ten years ago. Problems with brakes, propulsion controls, windows and air conditioning systems took years to resolve in some cases, and lead to high tensions between the manufacturer and Deutsche Bahn.

Problems with cracked wheel axles also surfaced in recent years with the ICE-TD, a diesel powered tilt-body train set which has a very similar visual appearance and design to the ICE-3, and with the VT-612 series DMU, another tilt body diesel powered train set in widespread use for regional express trains across Germany.

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Two Years Later India Reflects on 7/11 Terror Attacks on Mumbai Train Network

Mumbai (Times of India) – Two years after the July 11th terror attacks against seven commuter trains in which 209 people died and nearly 700 people were injured, local news media in India reviewed developments and changes made since that deadly afternoon. An Islamic student group claimed responsibility for the commuter train bombings, the Indian government alleges that the group has ties to radical Islamic militants in Pakistan. The terrorist attacks displayed many parallels to the 3/11 terror attacks on the Madrid commuter rail network on March 11th 2004.

CCTV – 530 closed circuit video surveillance cameras have been installed in 28 train stations in the Mumbai area.

Metal Detectors – 71 metal detectors have been installed in door frames of major stations in the Mumbai network. Before security personnel used only hand-held metal detectors to screen rail passengers.

K-9 Patrols – The number of K-9 bomb sniffing dog patrols has increased from 5 unites to 17 units.

Security forces – nearly doubled to 1300 transit police and security officers on the Mumbai rail system

Cellular Phone Network – improved coordination and emergency protocols between police and security forces and the five or more cellular phone network operators in Mumbai, as well as elsewhere in India so that the cell phone network can be quickly and effectively shut down and secured by the government in any future terrorist attacks to prevent the use of cell phones by terrorists to detonate bombs.

Repaired trains – five of the seven trains which were bombed have been repaired at a cost of Rp125 million (US $2.7 million).

Wireless communications for security personnel – 250 digital walkie-talkies with a 9 km range and 30 wireless phones, which operate independent of the commercial cell phone network, have been acquired by the transit security agency in Mumbai.

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OPINION... Opinion...

To Cut Food Costs, Boost Infrastructure

By Mike Steenhoek
Reprinted with permission

Mr. Steenhoek is Executive Director of the Soy Transportation Coalition in Iowa and a Guest Columnist to the Des Moines Register

Des Moines Register column examines how moving freight by rail would help stem rising food costs

In his June 16, 2008 Des Moines Register column “To rein in cost of food, beef up transportation,” guest writer Mike Steenhoek looks at the role the nation’s distribution system contributes to food costs, noting that if more went by rail, costs could be kept lower.

Steenhoek, Executive Director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, wrote “The primary culprit for today’s rising food prices is a more costly distribution system - significantly impacted by the escalating price of oil. A rise in the price of crude oil not only equates to a more expensive gallon of gasoline, but also a more expensive gallon of milk.”

Mr. Steenhoek’s solution -- direct enough resources to maintaining and augmenting our transportation infrastructure.

“A railroad can transport one ton of freight 386 miles on one gallon of fuel,” he wrote. “Yet our nation’s leaders have missed the opportunity to provide tax incentives to railroads - particularly the shortline and regional railroads serving rural America - to augment their capacity-constrained network. Railroads, largely financed by the private sector, are responding to the increased congestion on their systems by raising rates on their customers in agriculture and other industries. Rail customers have witnessed fuel surcharges of up to $0.70 per car mile, equating to $130,000 in fuel surcharges for a train full of soybeans headed to the West Coast.”

Barges and trucks need attention too, Steenhoek writes. “Our country has failed to adequately fund our highways and rural roads. The U.S. Government Accountability Office predicts that the Highway Trust Fund, the primary mechanism for financing federal highway and transit programs, can reach a negative balance as early as 2009.”

Steenhoek examined how rural counties are strapped maintaining the first-mile gravel roads that criss-cross the nation’s farmland and are often the first link in the distribution chain.

“While a small percentage of vehicle traffic originates in rural Iowa, a large percentage of economic value does. A single delivery of soybeans can have a $12,000 ripple effect on the Iowa economy.”

He finishes his article: “In this period of economic uncertainty, our nation’s leaders must demonstrate the vision and dedication to these long-term projects that serve our long-term needs. The resulting smaller relationship between the price at the grocery store and the price at the pump would be a welcome relief for Iowa and American consumers.”

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

Dear NCI:

It’s certainly encouraging to read that a general shift is beginning to take place pertaining to our transportation policy in regards to rail service, albeit very slowly.

Here on Cape Cod, we have been fighting for several years to get a low-cost passenger rail service running from Cape cod points to the Boston area.. The service would be run by Cape Cod Central Railroad utilizing “Buddliner” self-propelled rail vehicles, and existing rail infrastructure and passenger stations that were upgraded by tax dollars in the 1980’s. (Thirty million on 1980’s dollars.)

Yet the state and Cape Cod Commission refuse to support this environment-friendly and low-cost alternative to high gas prices and traffic congestion. The continued non-use of this rail infrastructure is, in our opinion, a criminal abuse of tax dollars that have already been spent.

Other areas in New England are starting to wake up to the idea that trains can provide a viable service to even resort areas when good connecting trasit is provided. Yet despite this, the “Commonwealth” of Massachusetts and Cape Cod Commission keep providing pat excuses as to why “trains won’t work” on the Cape.

It’s time for both above-named parties to stop protecting vested interests and helping support high gas prices, and support Cape Cod Central Railroad once and for all.

In closing here is a point for thought: In the 1980’s we had passenger rail service on the Cape and no Cape Cod Commission.

Today, we have the Cape Cod Commisssion and no passenger rail service while the fear-mongering continues about bringing back a rail service that has existed for over a hundred years.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Albert Pisani
Cape Cod Passenger Rail Coalition
20 Perry Avenue
Buzzards Bay Ma. 02532

[ Ed note: Destination Freedom has written several pieces regarding rail on Cape Cod dating back to 2001, both freight-related as well as for the potential for passenger services. Mr. Pisani makes a point for rail travel to and from the Cape as a boost to commuters as well as vacationers in a time when fuel costs place us at risk for economic hard times. Worth noting here is the fact that Amtrak also used to run “Cape Codder”service for summer vacationers that ended in the late ‘90s.

For past DF articles on rail for Cape Cod we suggest using our on-site search engine accessible from our home page and insert the search term ‘cape cod’ to bring up a host of articles. ]

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EVENTS... Events...

The AREMA 2008 Annual Conference

The AREMA 2008 Annual Conference and REMSA World Rail Expo will be held
September 21 - 24, 2008 in Salt Lake City, UT.

The folloing seminars are amongst the offerings.

FRA 214 Roadway Worker On-Track Safety Workshop
September 20, 2008 in Salt Lake City, UT.

Environmental Permitting Issues In Railroad Construction Projects
September 21, 2008

Introduction To Practical Railway Engineering
September 24-26, 2008. This is a training seminar based on the AREMA Practical Guide to Railway Engineering Publication.

Online registration and additional details are available at Please contact Lisa Hall with any questions.

Lisa Hall
Manager of Marketing & Program Services
10003 Derekwood Lane, Suite 210
Lanham, MD 20706

Phone: (301) 459-3200 Ext. 705
Fax: (301) 459-8077

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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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We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we’d like to hear from you. Please e-mail the editor at Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster at

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In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other transportation initiative sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives – state DOTs, legislators, government offices, and transportation organizations or professionals – as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. If you have a favorite link, please send the web address (URL) to our webmaster.

Destination Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.

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