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 27, 2009
Vol. 10 No. 32

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

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

  News Items…
Labor Union Chief Wytkind On Transportation: We Can’t Wait
   Another 18 Months For Re-Auth
  Political Lines…
Statement Of The Committee On Appropriations On FY 2010
   Transportation Bill Full Markup
  Safety Lines…
Dozens Hurt In San Francisco Light Rail Train Crash
  Legal Lines…
Future Of Transit In California Remains Uncertain Despite
   Court Victory
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Labor Lines…
Via Rail Locomotive Operators Strike - Briefly
  Business Lines…
Bombardier Signs Contract To Supply, Operate And Maintain
   Phoenix Automated People Mover System
A Modest Proposal For The White House
  Publication Notes …

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


Congress, White House Divided On Timing Of Multi-Year Bill


Labor Union Chief Wytkind On Transportation:
We Can’t Wait Another 18 Months For Re-Auth

From Internet and Other Sources

WASHINGTON, DC – The battle among allies over the timing of full House introduction of the next surface transportation re-authorization bill grew louder this past week when the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department President Ed Wytkind declared: “We can’t wait another 18 months for a surface transportation authorization bill. Americans suffering in this recession can’t wait until 2011 for good jobs. Our transportation system and infrastructure are plunging into a state of severe disrepair and can’t wait a year and a half for new investments…”

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Jim Oberstar (D-MN) is leading the creation of the most far-reaching transportation authorization bill since the 1991 passage of “ISTEA” (the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act) under leadership of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) and New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), but the White House is seeking an 18-month continuing resolution bill for immediate action, rather than backing the Oberstar timetable.

Washington observers noted that the disagreement is the mirror image of the debate over Health care reform, where the White House had been pushing for immediate action, but where the Senate leadership forced a delay.

Wytkind told the House this past week: “Transit systems nationwide are hemorrhaging. From Boston to St. Louis, Cleveland to Portland, Atlanta to Miami, and statewide in California, service and jobs cuts are mounting. It is no better in transportation construction: nationwide, the jobless rate is approaching 20 percent, even worse in some states…”

“History shows that transportation bills are engines of job creation. The economic recovery bill, which dedicated $48 billion dollars to transportation infrastructure, was a great first step, but it is only a down payment on job creation and the massive investment needs for America’s transportation systems…”

“Here’s a snapshot of our transportation infrastructure today: 

“If we kick this can down the road any more it’s going to land in a pothole…”

“Some are trying to use the crisis in the Highway Trust Fund as the reason to delay a multi-year surface transportation bill. The fact is we must do both. We must patch the Highway Trust Fund before the August recess. And we must complete the reauthorization bill during this session of Congress  – the nation cannot wait for action on either of these priorities…”

“We must pay for America’s massive transportation infrastructure needs with dollars, not fairy dust or more hyperbole about the need to invest in America. There are two choices: raise revenues or fail to meet this country’s real transportation needs. If we fail, we also miss the opportunity to put people back to work while the economy continues to bleed jobs…”

“Make no mistake – the costs of delaying a robust surface transportation bill are higher than the costs of passing it,” said Wytkind, a strong union voice for transportation investment who has been one of the key union participants in National Corridors Initiative conferences over the years.

Oberstar’s six year authorization proposal would provide $450 billion for surface transportation programs and an additional $50 billion for high-speed rail: including $337.4 billion for the highway program, $99.8 billion for public transportation and $12.6 billion for highway and motor carrier safety.

The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 32 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, trucking, highway, long-shore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit

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POLITICALLINES... Political Lines...  

Statement Of The Committee On Appropriations
On FY 2010 Transportation Bill Full Markup

Statement From The House Committee On Appropriations,
Chaired By Rep. David R. Obey (D-WI) Released This Past Week:

Recognizing that Americans spend an average of 52 percent of their income on housing and transportation, the FY2010 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill addresses the important challenges of keeping our transportation system safe and strong, ensuring that every American has adequate shelter, and doing so in a way that strengthens the economy and is environmentally responsible.

A transportation system that moves people and goods safely and efficiently is essential in a global economy; therefore the bill provides critical resources to maintain and improve our nation’s airports, highways, passenger rail, and transit systems.

To ensure that low-income Americans have a place to call home during the tough economy and the mortgage crisis, the bill invests in programs for vulnerable populations, including Section 8 Rental Assistance, Housing for Persons with AIDS, and Housing for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities. The bill also encourages and funds investments in sustainability through capital funding for public housing.

To help revitalize communities in these difficult times, the bill funds the President’s request for the Rural Innovation Fund, and increases investments in programs like CDBG and Brownfields Redevelopment.

Bill Total

2009 Enacted: $54.99 billion
President’s Request: $108.32 billion*
Chairman’s Mark: $68.82 billion

*The President’s request included $39,450,171 in general fund appropriations for programs traditionally funded through obligation limitations on mandatory contract authority.

Overall, the 2010 bill provides $123.1 billion in base budgetary resources for programs funded in this bill, which is $53 million below the President’s request and $14.3 billion (or 13 percent) above the 2009 level, excluding the Recovery Act funding.



Federal Transit Administration: $10.48 billion, $148 million above the request and $352 million above 2009 including:

New Construction: $1.83 billion, equal to the President’s Request and $18.1 million above 2009, for Capital Investment Grants for commuter rail or other light rail systems to increase public use of mass transit, alleviate traffic congestion, reduce gas consumption, and save commuters time and money.

Transit Formula Grants: $8.34 billion, equal to the President’s Request and $182.6 million above 2009, for Formula and Bus Grants for on-going capital and operating needs of urban and rural transit systems, including funding for new buses, stations, intermodal facilities, and technology improvements.

Capital and Preventive Maintenance Grants for WMATA: $150 million in new funding for grants to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority to address safety deficiencies and to maintain the nation’s subway system.

Amtrak: $1.5 billion, matching the request and $10 million below 2009, to support the national passenger rail system.

High Speed/Intercity Passenger Rail Grants: $4 billion, $3 billion above the request and $4 billion above 2009, to provide grants to states or Amtrak for high speed/intercity passenger rail to create a 21st Century passenger rail system that reduces congestion and environmental impacts. The Secretary may use or transfer $2 billion to a National Infrastructure Bank if one is authorized by the end of the fiscal year.

Highway Infrastructure: $41.1 billion, the same as the request and $407 million above 2009, to improve and repair our nation’s aging highway infrastructure.

Airport Modernization, Safety and Efficiency Grants: $3.5 billion, matching the request and $500,000 above 2009, to ease congestion and prepare our nation’s airports for growing use.

Modernizing Air Traffic Control: $2.9 billion, equal to the request and $183 million above 2009, including $785 million to modernize the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic control system.


Public Housing Capital Fund: $2.5 billion, $256 million above the request and $50 million above 2009, for Public Housing Authorities to make critical repairs and improvements to public housing units and improve living conditions for residents.

Public Housing Operating Fund: $4.8 billion, $200 million above the request and $345 million above 2009, for maintenance, crime prevention and energy costs. HUD and the PHAs have determined $5.3 billion is needed in 2010.

Section 8 Tenant Based Vouchers: $18.2 billion, $406 million above the request and $1.2 billion above 2009, to support 2.1 million vouchers to individuals and families.

Veterans Affairs Housing Vouchers: $75 million, matching 2009 and $75 million above the request, to provide 10,000 housing vouchers for homeless veterans.

Section 8 Project Based Vouchers: $8.7 billion, $600 million above the request and $1.6 billion above 2009, to provide affordable housing to 1.3 million low-income families and individuals, two-thirds of whom are elderly or disabled.

Housing for the Elderly: $1 billion, $235 million above the President’s request and the level provided in fiscal year 2009, to rehabilitate and build housing for low-income elderly people. Ten eligible seniors are on the waiting list for every one unit of housing available.

Housing for the Disabled: $350 million, $100 million above the request and 2009, for grants to rehabilitate and build housing for disabled people.

Homeless Assistance Grants: $1.85 billion, $56 million above the request and $173 million above 2009, for grants to local communities to provide housing and services for the homeless. This increase will help fund new competitive projects in communities with capacity and demonstrated need for this housing.

Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation: $196.8 million, $30 million above the request and $15.8 million above 2009, to provide counseling for families in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure.
Housing for Persons with AIDS: $350 million, $40 million above the request and 2009, to help address homelessness within this vulnerable population.

Housing Counseling Assistance: $70 million, $30 million below the request and $5 million above 2009, to continue pre-purchase counseling for prospective homebuyers.


Community Development Block Grants: $4.6 billion, $174 million above the request and $725 million above 2009, to fund community and economic development projects in 1,180 localities.

Brownfields Redevelopment: $25 million, $15 million above 2009 and $25 million above the request, to remove blight and spur economic development on formerly vacant commercial and industrial sites.

HOPE VI: $250 million, $130 million above 2009, to fund competitive grants to transform neighborhoods of extreme poverty into sustainable mixed-income neighborhoods through the demolition of severely distressed public housing.


Essential Air Service: $175 million, matching the request and $38.8 million above 2009, to continue essential air service to small and/or rural communities. The Administration has committed to working with Congress to develop a more sustainable program.

Rural Transit Formula Grants: $607 million, $69 million above 2009, to support public transportation in rural communities.

Rural Innovation Fund: $25 million, matching the request, for a new initiative that will encourage innovative practices in rural communities to further economic development.

Native American Housing Block Grants: $750 million, $105 million above the request and 2009, to rehabilitate and construct housing on Native American lands.


Aviation Safety Programs: $1.2 billion, $15.4 million above the request and $67.2 million above 2009, including $9.5 million to hire additional flight standard inspectors and $4.5 million to hire additional aircraft certification inspection staff.

Highway Safety Programs: $867 million for the programs of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the same as the request and $11.2 million above 2009, to make America’s roads safer by encouraging safety belt use, preventing drinking and driving, improving child safety, motorcyclist safety, and other initiatives.

Pipeline Safety: $105.2 million, matching the request and $12 million above 2009, for the state pipeline safety grant program. This increase will allow a 70/30 federal/local match for pipeline safety grants, which is a five percent increase in the federal match over fiscal year 2009.

Federal Railroad Safety Research: $64 million, $30 million above the request, and $30.2 million above 2009, for passenger and freight railroad research and development. The increase will enable FRA to conduct research into high-speed rail and advanced diesel locomotive design.

National Transportation Safety Board Investigators: $99.2 million, $3.8 million above the request and $8.2 million above 2009, to provide additional investigators to respond to and investigate transportation crashes.


Choice Neighborhoods: No funding for this new initiative, requested by the President at $250 million. This program is unauthorized, and duplicative of activities in the HOPE VI program.

Energy Innovation Fund: The President requested $100 million for this fund and the bill provides $50 million. Some activities of this new initiative are duplicative of other Federal programs, particularly at the Department of Energy.

National Infrastructure Bank: No funding directly provided, however, bill language is included to allow the Secretary to use or transfer up to $2 billion to the Bank if authorized by the end of the fiscal year.


Sustainable Communities Initiative: The bill includes $150 million within the Community Development Block Grants program, as requested in the President’s budget, for a new sustainable communities initiative to provide grants to assist local communities with integrated housing, transportation and energy planning efforts.

Loan limits for FHA and GSEs: The bill extends the loan limits enacted in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the end of the 2010 fiscal year.

Reverse Mortgages: The bill provides for the continuation of the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage program, which provides an important option for seniors to remain in their homes.

Flight 93 National Memorial: $4 million to improve road access to the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

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SAFETYLINES... Safety Lines...  

Dozens Hurt In San Francisco
Light Rail Train Crash

By DF Staff

SAN FRANCISCO --- Scores were injured, a few severely, July 18 when a San Francisco Municipal Railway L Train rear-ended a stopped K Train at the system’s West Portal Station.

It was the third serious transit system accident in America in just three months (Boston in May and Washington in June). This accident had no fatalities, although many were hurt.

In a report written before these accidents, the Obama Administration called attention to the state of maintenance of the nation’s transit systems, which were and are severely under-funded on capital and maintenance needs over the past two decades.

Press Releases Found at:

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LEGAL LINES... Legal Lines...  

Future Of Transit In California Remains Uncertain,
Despite Court Victory

By David Peter Alan

Last in a series

Representatives of California’s transit agencies and their riders remain concerned about the future of transit in their state, despite the victory won by the California Transit Association in court last month. The Third Appellate District Court held on June 30th that State financial officials had improperly transferred funds form the Public Transportation Account to other transportation purposes, including debt service, school buses and special transportation for disabled persons.

The court’s opinion said that “mass transit” and “public transportation” referred to transit available to the general public, distinguishing transit from other transportation purposes that also use government funds generated by taxes. The court also directed that certain funds be returned to the Public Transportation Account. While State financial officials have announced their intention to appeal the ruling to the California Supreme Court, Jeff Wagner, Communications Director for the California Transit Association (CTA), has not yet received word of such an appeal.

California State Controller John Chiang was named as lead Defendant and Joshua Shaw, Executive Director of the CTA lead Plaintiff. Public Advocates, Inc., a public-interest law firm represented a broad coalition in support of the CTA position. This alliance includes transit riders, environmental organizations and groups dedicated to improving livability in cities.

According to Wagner, an appeal serves two purposes for the State. It buys time to negotiate a settlement with transit providers, who are the “official” winners at the appellate court level. It also allows the state to delay actual compliance with the court’s directive to transfer funds from other accounts into the Public Transportation Account. The fiscal year for California begins on July 1st, so the 2011 fiscal year will not start until more than eleven months from now.

While California’s transit providers, and their customers, are celebrating their victory, they are uncertain about the ultimate resolution of the case and the status of funding for transit in the state. Wagner noted that California is one of only thirteen states that provide no operating funding for transit. Sacramento had given transit agencies such aid in the past through the State Transit Assistance Program, but the program was suspended last February. The suspension is scheduled to last through 2013.

“While we certainly see the ruling as grounds for celebration and we have reason for optimism, our optimism is cautious” said Wagner. “We don’t know how long we have to wait for a resolution.” In the meantime, California’s transit providers cannot benefit directly from the court ruling. When the party which lost the case below files an appeal, the effect of the ruling is normally not implemented until the appeal itself is decided. If that happens in this case, the State buys time and transit providers and their riders continue to do without funding they need.

Thomas A. Rubin, a transit consultant and manager who has been observing the California transit scene for over thirty years, shares both the celebratory and apprehensive components of Wagner’s mood. “The Legislature does not have as much power to avoid the Constitution as the pretended,” Rubin told this column. According to Rubin, the Legislature also pretended that they could present a balanced budget by transferring funds earmarked for transit to other purposes.

Rubin expects elected leaders and transit providers to negotiate during the upcoming year. So far, the court has directed that money diverted for other purposes must be redirected to transit. Transit providers need the funding to keep their operations going, and state officials need to eliminate the risk that they could face further liability to transit agencies. If the Supreme Court specifically affirms last month’s holding, such a decision would be final and state officials would have no choice but to give transit providers the money in question and resume allocating funds for transit.

Bart Reed, Executive Director of The Transit Coalition in the Los Angeles area, expressed an unorthodox view: “This financial situation could be a wake-up call for transit, not only statewide, but nationwide. Transit, for the last couple of decades, has been artificially propped up with government subsidies, with the user paying less of the costs to provide service. In cities like Toronto, where the user pays 85% of costs of the service, transit remains robust; even those fares are among the highest in North America.” Reed said that transit properties throughout California are beginning to charge $2 to 2.50 in fares, when they used to be $1 or $1.25. According to Reed, prices are rising due to inflation, so transit fares must rise, too. “The new economic reality is that taxpayers don’t want to pay for subsidies to transit or other state services. This could be a potential business model for transit to get back onto the break-even route, rather than the heavily subsidized route. The days of freely-available subsidies to cover operating costs seem to be coming to an end.”

California has become an acknowledged leader in transit expansion during the past thirty years. In the 1970s, there were only three daily trains between Los Angeles and San Diego. Service on that line now runs throughout the day, other trains go as far north as San Luis Obispo, and the San Joaquin and Capitol Corridors have been developed and strengthened. Thirty years ago, only the San Francisco area had any rail transit. Since then, the Los Angeles area has built an extensive network of commuter and local rail, and more lines are under construction. There have also been new starts in the Bay Area on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) systems. Light rail systems now operate in San Diego, Sacramento and San Jose. Commuter rail lines were established between San Jose and Stockton (Altamont Commuter Express or “ACE”) and between San Diego and Oceanside (Coaster). A diesel light rail line also opened between Oceanside and Escondido (Sprinter) in 2008.

Despite these successes, continued operation of this expanded rail system is problematic, due to lack of operating funds. So is any expansion of the rail system, if transit providers cannot be sure that they will be able to operate the new starts which they now contemplate.

Wagner noted that $5 billion was raided from transit and used for other purposes during the past three years. He wonders how Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger can claim to be an environmentally-conscious leader while making such massive cuts to transit funding. In all likelihood, millions of California transit riders are wondering the same thing.

David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition and practices law in New Jersey. The documents connected with the case of Shaw v. Chiang can be found at

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)78.8974.80
Canadian National (CNI)45.9343.72
Canadian Pacific (CP)40.3536.93
CSX (CSX)40.7237.87
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)29.1827.32
Kansas City Southern (KSU)20.3518.36
Norfolk Southern (NSC)44.8441.39
Providence & Worcester (PWX)11.5011.38
Union Pacific (UNP)57.9956.83

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LABOR LINES... Labor Lines...  

Via Rail Locomotive Operators Strike - Briefly

By DF Staff and Internet Sources

On Friday July 25 some 350 Via Rail locomotive engineers and yard masters walked off their jobs at noontime in protest over a lack of a formal labor contract. The act effectively shut down rail service across Canada.

“As a result of this strike, we have had to cease operations of all trains across the country, apart from service between Sudbury and White River and on Vancouver Island as these are operated by third parties,” Ashley Doyle, a spokesperson for Via Rail.

The union representing the operators, The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, stated that workers left their positions soon after a contract negotiation deadline passed. Talks that had been underway had broken off just hours before.

Passenger in empty terminal due to Via Rail strike

Photo: Chris Young/Canadian Press  

A passenger stands in the center of a nearly empty concourse at Union Station in Toronto on Friday.

“We’re sincerely sorry about what’s going on for the passengers, but we didn’t have any other choice,” said Stephane Lacroix, director of communications for the union. They had to “draw the line” with Via Rail.

The locomotive engineers and yardmasters have been without a collective agreement since Dec. 31, 2006.

“We’re not happy. We’re not pleased with the fact that we’re on strike right now,” continued Lacroix. “We understand the consequences in Canadians’ lives throughout Canada.”

Passengers were forced to board replacement bus services that were pressed into operation in order to make their connections between work, home, and elsewhere.

However Denis Pinsonneault, a Via Rail spokesman and chief “people officer,” noted that the company made “a very fair offer” to the employees.

The railroad last experienced a strike in 1995.

Over the weekend, both parties met again and have tentatively agreed to settle their differences ending a nearly two-day walk-out.

The agreement was reached early Sunday morning with the aid of a federally appointed mediator.

Train service was expected to be restored sometime on Sunday with full service in operation in time for the beginning of the work-week.

Among the issues at the negotiating table that have remained unresolved for the last two-and a half years are improved work schedules, benefits, and training.

Via Rail will be looking at “innovative” ways to apologize to customers for the inconvenience. At press time, no refunds were being offers to ticket holders effected by the strike.

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BUSINESSLINES... Business Lines...  

Bombardier Signs Contract To Supply, Operate And Maintain
Phoenix Automated People Mover System

From Bombardier

BERLIN --- Bombardier Transportation has signed contracts with the City of Phoenix for the supply, operations and maintenance of a BOMBARDIER INNOVIA automated people mover (APM) system at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. The design-build contract, valued at approximately $186 million US (133 million euros), includes the design and supply of all of the system-wide Electrical and Mechanical (E&M) equipment, and the construction and equipping of the Operations and Maintenance and Storage Facility (OMSF). Under a separate operate-maintain contract, valued at approximately $69 million US (50 million euros), Bombardier will provide operation and maintenance services for 10 years. Completion of stage one of the 3.5-kilometre (2.2-mile) PHX SkyTrain is scheduled in 2012.

Artist rendition of new people mover in Phoenix

Inage: Bombardier

Artist rendition of new people mover.

Michael Fetsko, Vice President APM, Systems Division, Bombardier Transportation said: “We truly appreciate the opportunity to develop a long-term relationship with Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport through this exciting project. This is the largest new-start APM project in North America in a decade and we are confident it will serve as a role model for other cities and airports seeking modern transit solutions. With our team of strong local contractors, we look forward to becoming a sustainable and viable business partner in the Phoenix community.”

Bombardier Transportation’s facility, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, will be responsible for the design and supply of the 18 driverless INNOVIA vehicles, BOMBARDIER CITYFLO 650 automatic train control, power supply and distribution and communications systems; and the OMSF; as well as project management, systems engineering and integration, and test and commissioning.

Weitz Construction, as the prime subcontractor to Bombardier, and general contractor of the project, will be responsible for all of the E&M installation, including the construction of the OMSF. Weitz will employ a team of local Phoenix area contractors led by Suntec Concrete and Wilson Electric Services Corp., which are both experienced in airport construction. Suntec Concrete, a civil construction company, will provide the civil running surface, guide beam installation and mechanical installation. Wilson Electric Services Corp. will provide the electrical installation of the E&M work. The Bombardier team will also employ numerous local minority, women-owned and small business enterprises to implement the project, including the CK Group Inc., which will provide civil design services to the team.

Bombardier’s highly reliable automated people movers have served commuters in major cities and international airports around the world for over 35 years. These include Beijing, China; Frankfurt, Germany; Rome, Italy; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Singapore; Madrid, Spain; London, United Kingdom; Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Seattle-Tacoma, Tampa and San Francisco, USA. Bombardier Transportation is currently implementing APM systems for Atlanta, Las Vegas, London Gatwick and Sacramento Airports, extensions to the existing systems at Houston and Kuala Lumpur Airports, as well as an urban APM system in Guangzhou, China.

About Systems Division

Bombardier Transportation’s Systems Division has delivered 60 transit systems in 16 countries around the globe; 32 of which are operating in urban applications and 22 in world leading airports. The Division's solutions include driverless rapid transit, people mover and monorail systems, as well as light rail, metro and intercity systems. The Division also has more than 35 years of experience in providing comprehensive operation and maintenance services.

About Bombardier Transportation

As the global leader in rail technology, Bombardier Transportation offers the broadest portfolio in the rail industry and delivers innovative products and services that set new standards in sustainable mobility. 

BOMBARDIER ECO4 technologies – built on the four cornerstones of energy, efficiency, economy and ecology – conserve energy, protect the environment and help to improve total train performance. Bombardier Transportation is headquartered in Berlin, Germany and has a presence in over 60 countries. It has an installed base of over 100,000 vehicles worldwide.

About Bombardier

A world-leading manufacturer of innovative transportation solutions, from commercial aircraft and business jets to rail transportation equipment, systems and services, Bombardier Inc. is a global corporation headquartered in Canada. Its revenues for the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2009, were $19.7 billion US, and its shares are traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange (BBD). Bombardier is listed as an index component to the Dow Jones Sustainability World and North America indexes. News and information are available at

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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

A Modest Proposal For The White House

The current dust-up among friends between the Obama White House and House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) over the timing of the passage of the new, multi-year Surface Transportation Act of 2009 authorization bill is important and understandable on many levels, but nevertheless needs to be confronted, and overcome, and that needs to happen soon.

Jim Oberstar is the most visionary T&I Chairman in many years. More so than many, he understands that transportation needs to be seen --- and acted upon by Congress --- as a system, rather than a mere collection of different modes, but that the rail system, for so long so badly neglected, really needs a major infusion of capital after decades and decades of not-so-benign neglect.

Oberstar also understands that delay can mean defeat --- as indeed does the President who, speaking this week re the debate over health care, said that very thing, and that in Washington, to get action, deadlines need to be set --- and that is why, as House Committee Chairman, Jim Oberstar has been pushing so hard for full passage now , rather than going along with the White House request for a stop-gap 18-month continuing resolution.

The White House has good technical reasons for seeking a continuing resolution, as opposed to immediate passage of the full bill. The sheer amount of work needed to create and review the historic $450 billion, multi-year bill, which for the first time in American history will include major funding for rail, not just highways, is daunting, and will require much input from the already badly overworked staff of the US DOT, especially the Federal Railroad Administration, which is already dealing with the $8 billion rail section of the Stimulus bill, and the Federal Transit Administration, also with about $8 billion in Stimulus money to deal with (and more), yet staffed for an operation a small fraction of that size.

But that is not the only or even principal issue for the delay sought by the White House: what is at the center of it all is the $450 billion, plus an additional $50 billion specifically for high speed rail, authorized in the bill: finding out where the money will come from to fund that level of expenditure, which effectively doubles annual transportation Federal spending, is going to be a major challenge.

Having said that, we think the President ought to follow his own logic, and the arguments in favor of speed being put forward by Jim Oberstar and indeed many of the Administration’s loyal supporters, go for full passage now, without delay. To do this, and to make this possible, we make the following modest proposals to the White House:

  1. Staff up at the FRA and the FTA to deal with this bill, and, importantly, appoint former FRA chief Gil Carmichael as a special assistant, reporting directly to the Secretary to help craft the bill. Gil Carmichael, head of the Federal Railroad Administration under George Bush (I), is the visionary who invented the concept of “Interstate II” as a paradigm for rebuilding the American rail system, and he has incredible energy and decades of wisdom. The President should make use of him.

  2. Agree to agree on the funding sources, but pass the bill now: it will take time to craft the details of funding this enormous bill, and as we all know, the Highway Trust Fund is already broke. We are going to have to find new sources of revenue, among them “value capture” techniques based on the growth in commerce that improved transportation infrastructure creates, including real estate development and increased business around better utilized and /or newly revived train stations. We should pass the Oberstar bill now, with the proviso included in the language of the legislation that funding sources be specifically identified before the end of fiscal year 2010.

  3. Appoint Louisiana Secretary of Transportation Dr. William Ankner, former Presidential candidate and Amtrak Board Vice Chair Michael Dukakis, former Amtrak Chair John Robert Smith, and former US DOT Deputy Administrator Mort Downey to the Amtrak Board now. The plan had been to wait until passage of re-authorization bill to make the appointments; don’t wait on that; we have some incredible resources on the sidelines right now, who can assist in getting the bill structured. Let’s use them.

That’s a full plate, but this President has already shown he can handle it. Let’s get this show on the [rail] road now; since the Senate has delayed passage of the health care bill, let’s make the most of that and turn the Congress’ attention towards transportation re-authorization, and do it full bore. Time to get cracking….

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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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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

Photo submissions are welcome. NCI is always interested in images that demonstrate the positive aspects of rail, transit, intermodalism, transportation-oriented development, and current newsworthy events associated with our mission. Please contact the webmaster in advance of sending large images so we can recommend attachment by e-mail or grant direct file transfer protocols (FTP) access depending on size. Descriptive text which includes location and something about the content of the image is required. We will credit the photographer and offer a return link to your web site or e-mail address.

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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