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 20, 2009
Vol. 10 No. 31

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

Home Page: www.nationalcorridors.org

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

  News Items…
1 down, 80 to go as Amtrak Cranks Up Long-Awaited
   Rail Car Rehabilitation Project
High-Speed Rail Applications Over the Top
  Financial Lines…
State Audit Compounds Problems For MBTA
  Environmental Lines…
SMART Picks Heavy American Railcars
VIA’s F-40 Locomotive Rebuild Project
  Selected Rail Stocks…
 
  Legal Lines…
Broad Coalition Supported California Victory
  Across The Border…
Government Of Canada And VIA Rail Canada Launch Major
   Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto Passenger Rail Improvement Project
  Editorial…
Congrats to Amtrak employees, Joe Boardman On Stimulus Money
   Getting Quick Results
  Publication Notes …


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

Putting “The Stimulus” To Work Fast

 

1 down, 80 to go as Amtrak Cranks Up
Long-Awaited Rail Car Rehabilitation Project

By DF Staff and From Internet Sources

WASHINGTON --- The first in a series of 81 cars to be rehabilitated and put back into service by Amtrak was unveiled this past week by Amtrak President Joe Boardman.

It is the first of 81 passenger rail cars, many in storage or on the wreck track for years, to be removed from storage, restored to good condition, and returned to service as part of a program to add seating capacity to trains across its national system using funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), said President Boardman.

Amtrak has sought for years the funding to increase capacity passenger car and locomotive rosters in response to demand, but until the President’s American Recovery and Reinvestment (“Stimulus”) Act program, had been unable to do so. For most of the 1990’s and 2000’s its capital budget was either cut, eliminated, or too small to allow for any but emergency repairs. Since its founding, Amtrak has never had a source of guaranteed funding, unlike the Highway and Airline systems, both of which are heavily subsidized by the taxpayer, although the Highway Trust Fund upon which highways and some transit projects depends is now in trouble, as well, due to declining gasoline usage by the American people.

The car unveiled, Amfleet II Coach Car #25103, was damaged in a yard collision in Hialeah, FL, and has been out of service since April 2005. Following repair of the wreck damage, Amtrak said it underwent a major overhaul to bring it up-to-date in standard design, colors, amenities, and federal safety requirements. This rehabilitation, known as a Level 3 Overhaul, includes a complete update of the car’s interior, exterior, mechanical systems, electrical systems, trucks, wheel assemblies, airbrakes, and restrooms. It cost about $687,000 to get it back in as-new working condition, Amtrak said.

Said Joe Boardman, who took over the reins at Amtrak less than a year ago, “The real story today is about people — the Amtrak passengers who will ride in these rehabilitated cars and the workers who are doing a great job bringing them back to life,” Boardman said, noting that the additional seating capacity on its trains will help connect families, further business relationships, and position Amtrak for expected future growth in ridership.

The first car completed under this program is one of 60 Amfleet passenger rail cars to be rehabilitated at the Amtrak maintenance facility in Bear, DE, using $58.5 million in ARRA funds. Funding from ARRA also is supporting similar work at the Amtrak maintenance facility in Beech Grove, Ind., including $19.3 million to restore and return to service 20 Superliner cars and one Viewliner car, plus $13 million for 15 P-40 locomotives.

To perform all of this work, Amtrak has hired 55 employees at the Delaware facility and 108 at the Indiana location. In addition, Amtrak has added more than 200 other jobs to work on numerous other ARRA funded projects across its system, the railroad said.

Coach Car #25103 will return to active service within the next week and will be part of a pool of equipment used by Amtrak trains to carry passengers over the following 10 routes:

About Amtrak

Amtrak has posted six consecutive years of growth in ridership and revenue, carrying more than 28.7 million passengers in the last fiscal year. Amtrak provides intercity passenger rail service to more than 500 destinations in 46 states on a 21,000-mile route system. For schedules, fares and information, passengers may call 800-USA-RAIL or visit Amtrak.com.

Amfleet II Coach Car #25103 Fact Sheet

History and Background

Car Repairs

Level 3 Overhaul


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High-Speed Rail Applications Over the Top

By DF Staff from Internet sources

For years, transportation leaders around the country have been developing plans for regional high-speed rail corridors, but without the help of the federal government, only one HSR system was built -- the Northeast Corridor. Now with the Obama administration pledging to spend billions to develop high-speed rail, applications for the funding are pouring in.

US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has received a total of 278 pre-applications in this first phase and the requests – totaling $102 billion -- far exceeding Obama’s pledge to spend $13 billion -- $8 billion up front from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), more commonly known as the federal stimulus package, for the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail competitive grant program and another $5 billion in appropriations from Congress over the next few years.

Interested parties from 40 states and the District of Columbia have filed pre-applications. Applications for the money, which likely will be parceled out all over the country, are due Aug. 24.

“The response has been tremendous and shows that the country is ready for high speed rail,” Secretary LaHood said. “It’s time to look beyond our highways and invest in public transportation services like rail, which will enhance regional mobility and reduce our carbon footprint.”

Regional competitiveness:

Regions around the country are in various stages of readiness, which will either enhance or hinder their competitiveness in the race for money.

California and the Midwest appear to be top contenders, according to an online story in AzCapitolTimes:

California has planned an HSR system that will speed trains over the “432 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles in little more than two and a half hours. The European-style trains would cruise on all-new track, hitting 220 mph in places. California voters in November approved spending $10 billion to start building the new network, but it wouldn’t be finished until 2020 at the earliest.”

The other chief competitor is a coalition of nearly a dozen Midwestern states that have been planning high speed service between Chicago and St. Louis on more than one route. The Midwestern trains would reach top speeds of 110 mph, faster than the 79-mph limit of most Amtrak trains today but only half as fast as those on the drawing board in California. By using upgraded existing tract, the first Midwestern trains could be up and running in about four years, possibly giving the Midwest an edge in the competition for funding.

“Of 10 high-speed rail corridors designated by the federal government that are best-poised for the $8 billion in stimulus money, most are like the Midwest initiative and would involve regional cooperation and teamwork among states. Only Florida has an entire route contained within its borders. (The federal government even expanded the California corridor in early July to include the possibility of a spur to Las Vegas.)”

The Midwest rail initiative also benefited when Barack Obama, a Chicago native, won the White House and made high-speed rail a priority when crafting his economic stimulus package.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Illinois congressman, has made clear that the Midwest rail project is a priority for the White House.

New England and coastal states to the south

In the Northeast, 79 pre-applications total $35 billion in requests. Virginia has asked for $2 billion in HSR grants to relieve some of the worst congestion on Interstate 95 from Washington, D.C. to Petersburg and the Hampton Roads area; Pennsylvania DOT has requesting grants for the Keystone East Corridor from Harrisburg to Philadelphia; passenger rail from Scranton to New York; a magnetic levitation project in Pittsburgh; and the Keystone West Harrisburg to Pittsburgh feasibility study.

New England governors are pledging to work together for several interstate rail projects but have yet to emphasize the one major project - the controversial North/South Rail Link in Boston which will connect North and South Stations by rail, thus providing through connectivity to all the other individual projects in the region.


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FINANCIAL LINES... Financial Lines...  

State Audit Compounds Problems For MBTA

DF Staff From Internet Sources

BOSTON, Problems continue to beset the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority while it struggles to serve a public whose demands for more and better public transportation are increasing exponentially. Recently General Manager Dan Grabauskas reached out to the public with an OpEd explaining the reasons for cuts in service and proposals to raise fares and the plans for holding it all together despite the tough financial times. Last year, he said, there were 10.7 billion trips on public transportation across the nation, the highest in 52 years.

But soaring operating costs and growing budget deficits are forcing agencies to take drastic measures.

“Driving the MBTA’s revenue problems is the continued decline in state sales tax receipts.  The T’s leading source of revenue, the state sales tax has performed even worse than the most pessimistic projections, and has grown at only 1% annually,” he writes. The other major burden is a crushing $8 billion debt, “a large portion of which is the result of transit projects that had to be built – by law - to mitigate the impact of the Big Dig.  One-third of every dollar the MBTA collects is used to make the annual interest payments on that debt,” and that means that $368 million in revenue this fiscal year will go toward paying down debt. 

Public workshops will be held in August to inform residents of measures to keep the Authority a float and to receive input from residents.

Then more bad news was reported by The Globe a few days after the general manager’s op ed came out: MBTA is being investigated by the state auditor concerning its lease arrangements with a real estate firm.

In 1988, the secretary of transportation at that time negotiated a lease with Equity Office Properties, which provided that the real estate firm would manage South Station and split the annual profits with the MBTA. But expenses have been so high that the MBTA now owes Office Properties several hundred million dollars. Once again the Big Dig has had a negative effect: when the project was finished, much of the customer base in South Station declined, resulting in lower revenues.

“It is troubling that the MBTA is not realizing any significant revenue from its South Station property,’’ State Auditor Joseph DeNucci said last week. “Our expanded review will determine whether this lease is working to the maximum benefit of the MBTA.”

Equity Office issued a statement denying it has received a disproportionate share of the revenue from South Station. “It is incorrect to suggest that the contract is to the benefit of the private company,’’ the statement said. “The fact is that EOP has lost money on this asset for the past five years.’’

Governor Deval Patrick has stepped in and ordered the T to conduct its own investigation and report back to him after they have reviewed the contract. Meanwhile some of the state agencies are leaving South Station in search of lower rents, and Equity Office will have to find new ones to replace them.


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES... Environmental Lines...  

SMART Picks Heavy American Railcars

From The Empire Report On The Internet

Artist Concept of DMU

Image: SMART  

Concept of what proposed DMU may look like.
JULY 15 -- The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) Board of Directors will make good on its promise to voters to buy environmentally friendly, FRA- compliant rail cars for passenger service which will share the tracks with freight rail.

The vehicles, known as DMU’s, (Diesel Multiple Units) are self-propelled units with the engines usually placed underneath the passenger compartments. There are generally two cars operating together in a “married pair” that seats about 150 passengers and is about 150-170 feet long. SMART’s specifications likely will require manufacturers to provide a third car that can be added to the “married pair,” increasing the seating capacity to 225 and expanding the area available for bicycles, disabled accommodations and other on-board amenities.

The EPA has set stringent standards known as “Tier 4” emissions requirements which will go into effect in early 2011. Tier 4 technology, combined with new “clean-diesel” fuel, greatly reduces the amount of pollutants emitted from diesel engines, virtually eliminating the smoke and odor traditionally associated with old-style diesel.

The DMU’s which SMART has ordered will also be FRA-compliant, meaning the cars will have to meet the buffing standards set by FRA to provide protection in the case of a crash. These trainsets will be the first DMU’s manufactured that meet both the environmental and crash requirements of the two separate agencies. By being FRA-compliant, there will be no need for special waivers from the federal government in order to run on the freight line’s tracks and temporal separation will not be required. That will give the passenger service more flexibility in numbers of trains running and in scheduling.

SMART staff have been directed to develop specifications for this first generation of cars by October 2010. The process will have public input. The first vehicles should arrive in the North Bay for testing on the SMART corridor in the fall of 2013, with the complete fleet due to be ready for service in the fall of 2014.

“This is the vehicle we promised the voters,” said Board Chairman Charles McGlashan. “It gets our service up and running on time, on budget and with room to expand for the future. In the long run, that means our greenhouse gas savings will be even greater.”

“When you consider everything, the compliant vehicle is the environmentally superior alternative,” said Board Vice-chair Debora Fudge. “This is the vehicle that gives us more seats, more bike storage, more flexibility and makes us a more nimble system.”

Four manufacturers have indicated to SMART that they are interested in building vehicles for this project. They include Brookville Equipment Corp. of Brookville, PA; Nippon-Sharyo Ltd. of Japan; Siemens Corp. of Germany; and U.S. Railcar LLC of Columbus, OH. All four have indicated they would build SMART’s fleet of about a dozen vehicles in the United States, meeting the Federal Transit Administration’s “Buy America” requirements.

Marin and Sonoma county voters in November approved Measure Q, the quarter-cent sales tax to fund the SMART project, by a nearly 70-percent majority. SMART will use the publicly-owned former Northwestern Pacific Railroad corridor to operate passenger trains and develop a bicycle-pedestrian pathway connecting 14 stations from Cloverdale, in northern Sonoma County, to Larkspur, where the Golden Gate Ferry connects Marin County with San Francisco.


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VIA’s F-40 Locomotive Rebuild Project

From Internet Sourecs

MONTREAL, JULY 15 -- In Montreal today, the Government of Canada and VIA announced the arrival of the first of 54 rebuilt F-40 locomotives from CAD Railway Industries (CAD) from Lachine, Québec. The enhanced F-40 fleet will incorporate new technologies that will reduce greenhouse gas GHG emissions by up to 12%, produce fuel savings of 5 million liters per year, and reduce maintenance costs by 8% annually.


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VIA RAIL F40 Class locomotive

Photo: Richard Pierce - NortheastRailFan.Net


STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)74.8068.96
Canadian National (CNI)43.7239.12
Canadian Pacific (CP)36.9333.65
CSX (CSX)37.8732.03
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)27.3224.94
Kansas City Southern (KSU)18.3615.46
Norfolk Southern (NSC)41.3936.65
Providence & Worcester (PWX)11.3811.46
Union Pacific (UNP)56.8350.37


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LEGAL LINES... Legal Lines...  

Broad Coalition Supported California Victory

By David Peter Alan

Third in a Series.

The victory won by California’s transit providers in Shaw v. Chiang also had the support of a diverse alliance of other groups. Transit riders, environmentalists and public-interest organizations also supported the concept that funds set aside for “planning and mass transit” purposes must not be used for other transportation purposes or debt service on funding for other transportation purposes. This was the holding of the Third District appellate court in Sacramento last month.

Plaintiff Shaw sued on behalf of transit providers in the state, as head of the California Public Transportation Association. Public Advocates, Inc., a public interest law firm in San Francisco, filed a separate brief, supporting the transit providers and urging that funds originally earmarked for transit be returned to the Public Transportation Account.

A brief by non-parties supporting a position is known as an “amicus” or “friend of the court” brief. It is a means for non-parties who are concerned about the outcome of a litigation to have their say, without filing a petition to be added as new parties to the case.

The organizations represented by Public Advocates included the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG), the Bus Riders Union, Urban Habitat and California Rural Legal Assistance. According to Public Advocate Managing Attorney Richard A. Marcantonio, who authored the brief, these were all organizations that had a stake in the outcome of the case.

Marcantonio said the decision in the case was the correct one. “This case was heard by a panel of appellate judges in Sacramento who are quite aware of the budget crisis playing out in the state legislature. If raiding transit funds to fill the budget hole were not clearly illegal, it would have been easy for the court to allow the state to continue to do so. Instead, the court held that taking those funds away from transit operations violated the voters’ intent.”

In addition to its activity on the funding case, Public Advocates, Inc. is also involved in campaigning for changes in the upcoming Surface Transportation Authorization Act that would add federal operating support for transit to the funding mix and change the balance between highway and transit funding. Highways now receive over 80% of total funding, with less than 20% going to transit. Public Advocates, Inc. has joined many other transit advocates and coalitions in supporting a much larger share for transit in the next version of the bill.

David Peter Alan is chair of the Lackawanna Coalition and a practicing attorney in New Jersey.


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ACROSS THE BORDER... Across The Border...  

Government Of Canada And VIA Rail Canada
Launch Major Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto
Passenger Rail Improvement Project

From Internet Sources

TORONTO, JULY 16 /CNW/ - At a ceremony at Toronto’s Union Station last week, Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology, spoke on behalf of Minister of state for Transport, Rob Merrifield. “It gives me great pleasure to unveil this strategic investment in the upgrading of the Montreal-Toronto main line, which is the heart of the Canadian passenger rail system. This project, announced through Canada’s Economic Action Plan, will create new jobs and expand passenger rail service in this important transportation corridor.”

The Government of Canada and VIA had just announced $300 million dollars in support for the largest-ever improvement and investment program in the 153-year history of passenger rail.

Totaling over $300 million, VIA’s CN Kingston Subdivision Project is a series of infrastructure improvements along the 539-kilometre, double-track rail line. It will boost capacity by eliminating bottlenecks and greatly reducing delay-causing conflicts between VIA passenger and CN freight trains.

Phase I of the project will allow for the addition of two daily roundtrip frequencies on VIA’s busy Toronto-Montreal and Toronto-Ottawa routes. The latter operates over the Kingston Subdivision between Toronto and Brockville.

“Today is the dawn of a new era in safe, swift and sustainable passenger rail travel in Canada,” said VIA Chairman Donald A. Wright. “Just as the opening of this rail line 153 years ago changed the whole concept of travel between the burgeoning cities of southern Ontario and Quebec, this project has the same transformational potential. It will decisively position the passenger train as the modern answer to highway gridlock and airport winglock.”

CN’s executive vice-president, Claude Mongeau expressed his support: “CN is pleased to support VIA and the federal government on this important infrastructure project. CN has traditionally maintained the Kingston Subdivision to its highest track standards in recognition of its importance to intercity passenger traffic and key flows of rail freight. CN will undertake the engineering work for the rail-line improvements on behalf of VIA. When completed, the additional trackage will benefit VIA passenger service across its Canadian network.”

VIA’s CN Kingston Subdivision Project is part of an unprecedented $923 million investment by the Government of Canada in passenger rail renewal and expansion. Of this amount, $407million is under the government’s Economic Action Plan. Other elements of VIA’s program include expanded, fully-accessible station facilities at strategic locations on the Montreal-Toronto route, major infrastructure and station upgrading on other routes, accessibility projects for travelers with special needs and the complete rebuilding of service-proven locomotives and rolling stock. The program will benefit rail travelers across the entire VIA transcontinental system, from Halifax to Vancouver Island.

About VIA Rail Canada

As Canada’s national rail passenger service, VIA Rail Canada’s mandate is to provide efficient, environmentally sustainable and cost-effective passenger transportation, both in Canada’s business corridor and in remote and rural regions of the country. Every week, VIA operates 503 intercity, transcontinental and regional trains linking 450 communities across its 12,500-kilometre route network.

The demand for VIA services is growing as travelers increasingly turn to train travel as a safe, hassle-free and environmentally responsible alternative to congested roads and airports. In 2008, VIA safely transported 4.6 million passengers - the most since 1989 - and set an all-time record of $299 million in revenue.

About CN

The Canadian National Railway Company and its operating railway subsidiaries span Canada and mid-America, from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to the Gulf of Mexico. CN serves the ports of Vancouver, Prince Rupert, B.C., Montreal, Halifax, New Orleans, and Mobile, Ala., and the key metropolitan areas of Toronto, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Duluth, Minn./Superior, Wis., Green Bay, Wis., Minneapolis/St. Paul, Memphis, and Jackson, Miss., with connections to all points in North America. CN shares are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol “CNR” and on the New York Stock Exchange under “CNI.”


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

Congrats To Amtrak Employees, Joe Boardman
On Stimulus Money Getting Quick Results

By Jim RePass, Publisher, Destination: Freedom

As readers will note elsewhere in this issue, Amtrak has already begun to role out the first in a series of 81 passenger cars to be rehabilitated under funding from President Obama’s ARRA “Stimulus Program”

It’s not a moment too soon.

Amtrak’s regular car fleet has been shrinking quietly over the years even as demand has soared, because Amtrak has been starved of all but bare-bones funding.

The ARRA program isn’t just adding capacity to Amtrak that it badly needs: it is doing so highly cost-effectively. 60 of the cars are Amfleet vintage, and would cost at least double, if not more, what Amtrak is spending to repair them. Also, because of all that Amtrak has learned over the past 39 years, those cars are going to be literally better than new.

Congrats to Amtrak and their employees, and especially to CEO Joe Boardman, who got behind this project with a will.

One request from an old soldier in this fight: name that first car, which is Amfleet II Coach Car #25103, “The Barack Obama”. It is traditional to name sleeping and business cars after Presidents and other famous personalities or places, and this car is only a coach --- but that’s also all the more reason to name it after this President, who is pushing hard to right this country and get all its people, not just the rich, back on their feet. I think Amtrak could make an exception to its numbers-only rule in this case, and should honor the President in this way.

And while at it: bring back the Night Owl (Train 66 and 67) name, and its Viewliner Sleeper on the Northeast Corridor slow overnight run. That train gets to DC (or Boston) early in the morning, in time for a full day’s business and then a flight home, and businessmen could use that service too.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2009 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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