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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August 4, 2008
Vol. 9 No. 32

Copyright © 2008
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Home Page: www.nationalcorridors.org

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

  News Items…
China Unveils High-Speed Train For Games
Investing In Infrastructure Is Urged As A
   Top National Priority
  Maintenance Lines…
One In Four US Bridges Needs Repair
  Economic Lines…
Plan to Restore Mountain Division Rail Line Gets Rolling
  News From Amtrak…
New Amtrak Ad Campaign Promotes Re-launch of
   Northeast Regional Service
 
  Political Lines…
Federal Government Struggles to Compensate For
   Huge Deficit In Highway Trust
Northeast Iowa Congressman To Serve On Committee Aimed
   At Reconciling Amtrak Bill
Sen. Carper Sponsors a Bill To Bring More Amtrak
   Jobs to Delaware
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Commuter Lines…
Transit Projects Get EPA Approval
  Publication Notes …


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

China Unveils High-Speed Train For Games

New service chops one hour off regular journey time from Beijing to Tianjin

Reuters News on the Internet


Photo by Siemens Transportation

A Velaro high speed train set in Spain, quite similar to the CRH3 train set which China has contracted for.

Photo: Claro Cortes Iv / Reuters

Passengers sit aboard the Chinese-made CRH3 train on the way back to Beijing after leaving Tianjin Railway Station.

BEIJING/TIANJIN, China, JULY 22 - China has unveiled the fastest rail service on the planet, its luxurious new express link from Beijing to nearby Tianjin.

With its swivel seats, spacious, plush interiors and the largest railway station in Asia, China has high hopes for this state-of-the art new service.

The railway was scheduled to open on Friday, August 1, in time for next month’s Beijing Olympics, and will shuttle people to soccer events in Tianjin, one of the Games’ co-host cities.

Travel time between the two cities will be one hour less than before, reducing it to a 30-minute hop at a top speed of 220 mph.

Reporters were given a sneak preview of the ultra-modern trains on a government-organized trip on Tuesday, zipping through the lush countryside past massive housing developments and deserted highways.

“This is a revolution in terms of ramping up the speed of Chinese railways,” Railway Ministry spokesman Wang Yongping told reporters at the cavernous new Beijing South railway station, which he said was the largest in Asia.

Photo by Kawasaki Rail Car

An E2-1000 high speed train set in Japan in 2007, on which the Chinese CRH2 high speed train set is based.

Trains can run every three minutes, and each train can carry around 600 people.

Ticket prices will be “within the limits of what the masses can accept,” Wang said.

The Beijing South railway station will eventually connect to two subway lines — the Tianjin terminus will connect to three — and there are enough platforms for the future high-speed railway to Shanghai, expected to open within the next five years.

The Beijing South station has solar panels on the roof and 24 platforms to cope with what officials see as massive future demand for travel in the rapidly developing country.

Airports have been included, too, with one of the Shanghai stations planned next to the city’s Hongqiao airport, and space included for a station at Tianjin’s recently expanded Binhai international airport.

“We are planning for the future with this new station,” Wang said.

The seats swivel to face the direction of travel and are wider than those in the European express trains.

Speed during normal operations is 350 kmph although the train is capable of reaching a speed of 394 kmph, said Zhang Shuguang, head of the Railway Ministry’s Transport Bureau.

“Its operational speed is the fastest in the world. It’s very comfortable and quiet,” Zhang said. “There’s a French train that has gone 500 kmph in tests, but only in tests.”


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Investing In Infrastructure Is Urged
As A Top National Priority

By C. Kenneth Orski of Innovation News Briefs
Reprinted with permission

JULY 27 – “Our goal is to inspire Washington and to inspire the presidential candidates to make infrastructure investments their top priority. The country needs to rebuild its infrastructure.” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, April 25, 2008.

While the presidential candidates’ position on this issue remains unclear, in the nation’s capital the need for greater federal investment in transportation infrastructure has been widely acknowledged. Whether infrastructure investment should also serve as a short term economic stimulus and how this infrastructure renewal is to be funded remain open questions. The inadequacy of a stand-alone federal fuel tax to respond to the demands for transportation investment is no longer seriously being questioned. In the words of Rep. John Mica (R-FL), ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, “the mechanism for financing highway and transit projects is obsolete and needs to be reformed.” But what kind of a hybrid revenue system should emerge to take the place of the existing infrastructure funding process remains to be seen. Suggested revenue sources to supplement the fuel tax include a national capital budget, a national infrastructure bank, state infrastructure revolving funds and greater use of private equity capital. While support for public-private partnerships remains strong, some kind of reasonable restraints on private sector investments in infrastructure are increasingly seen as inevitable—and probably necessary.

The Brookings Symposium

A July 25 Brookings Symposium, “Investing in America’s Infrastructure,” chaired by former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, was emblematic of the rising recognition of the need for greater investment in the nation’s infrastructure. Addressing an overflow audience of more than 200 were former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. Their remarks were followed by panel discussions on the strategies for telecommunications infrastructure and physical infrastructure.

Secretary Summers argued forcefully in favor of using infrastructure investments as a short-term economic stimulus. Such investments, he contended, can be used to alleviate the residual effects of the current economic dislocation and the structural unemployment problems in the manufacturing and construction sectors. But, he added, economic stimulus and job creation should not be used as an excuse for poorly thought out infrastructure investment projects. (Note: the possibility of a second economic stimulus bill that would include substantial funds for infrastructure has been discussed by the House Democratic leadership. However, the passage of another stimulus bill during the current session of Congress is uncertain according to Congressional sources.)

Governor Kaine stressed the importance of infrastructure investment both as a short-term economic stimulus and as a key element in the long term economic growth strategy of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Turning to the question of infrastructure funding, he observed that relying on the gas tax has become very problematic. “I have heard people refer to the gas tax as a ‘dinosaur’ but I think ‘fossil’ would be a more appropriate term,” he quipped. We need to diversify our funding sources, the Governor said, and the recent increase in the price of gasoline offers a reason and an opportunity to rethink our approach. Public-private partnerships and private financing are “a great arrow in the quiver” Kaine said, but they are not the answer to all of Virginia’s needs. They represent more like “a 25 percent solution.”

The Infrastructure Symposium is the third time in less than a year that Brookings has focused attention on the problems of infrastructure. An October 10, 2007 Brookings conference featured former Governor Thomas Vilsack arguing for the establishment of a national agenda for infrastructure to be supported by a separate national capital budget (see, NewsBrief, October 22, 2007.) And just two weeks ago, Brookings released a major report, “A Bridge to Somewhere,” authored by Rob Puentes, Director of its Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative, recommending a new federal approach to transportation investment (see NewsBrief No. 14, June 29, 2008). The latest symposium was sponsored by Brookings’ Hamilton Project (Douglas Elmendorf, Director), whose aim is to champion increased public investment in infrastructure as a central element of a long-term economic growth policy. The Brookings Institution is emerging as the premier advocate and center of excellence on issues of infrastructure renewal.

The Governors’ Infrastructure Agenda

Governor Kaine’s emphasis on infrastructure development was echoed by Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell, the incoming chairman of the National Governors’ Association. During NGA’s centennial meeting on July 14 in Philadelphia, Rendell announced that strengthening infrastructure investment will become his key priority as NGA’s new Chairman. “It’s an issue about which I am very passionate,” he said. Rendell noted that when President Eisenhower was in the White House more than 45 years ago the Federal government was spending 11.5 percent of its budget on infrastructure, compared with less than 2.5 percent today. The Governor pledged to work with fellow governors to design and implement strategies “for smarter, more cost-effective infrastructure investment at the state level.” Infrastructure is expected to be a major topic of discussion when the governors reconvene in Washington next February for the NGA Winter Meeting.

Congressional Hearings

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, a Senate Finance subcommittee held two hearings designed to explore the fiscal and tax implications of infrastructure investments. Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) set the tone in his opening statement at the first hearing by pointing out that the current sources of funding for transportation infrastructure are “in jeopardy,” requiring Congress to come up with a wider range of revenue sources and with innovative financing mechanisms to support the next surface transportation program.

But it was the second congressional session that was particularly noteworthy. The hearing was called by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Subcommitee on Energy, Natural Resources and Infrastructure, to consider the public policy implications of long-term leasing of concession rights to existing toll roads. In his opening remarks the Senator noted that there has been virtually no consideration given to the tax and financing aspects of these transactions. Yet tax benefits, he said, are key to making these transactions economically attractive to private companies.

“I would like to say how troubled I am that a desire to derive generous federal tax benefits is driving exceedingly long lease terms,” the Senator said. As Edward Kleinbard, Chief of Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation testified, in order to take advantage of the tax code’s 15-year cost recovery period, a lessor must have constructive ownership of the road for its “useful life,” which is generally construed as 45 years. “There are considerable policy dangers to these very long leases,” Bingaman observed. Referring to the 99-year lease for the Chicago Skyway and the 75-year lease for the Indiana Toll Road, Bingaman said, “I question how a state can possibly predict the future needs for a period that is twice that artery’s operating history.” (The two facilities have been in operation for 47 and 49 years respectively.)

Senator Bingaman concluded, “I think we ought to reconsider the perverse incentive that the tax code creates for such long leases...If current depreciation rules lead to forms of investment that we judge to contravene public policy, then the Finance Committee should consider changing those rules...”

While the skepticism of Rep. Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, toward long-term leasing of existing toll roads is well known, this is the first time that a member of the powerful tax-writing Senate Finance Committee has openly questioned the legitimacy of such deals on public policy grounds. The potential threat of modifying the tax depreciation rules and losing its tax benefits will undoubtedly give pause to PPP advocates. Using the tax code as a disincentive would be a far more deft approach than the heavy-handed alternative considered elsewhere in Congress of establishing a regulatory commission to oversee public-private partnerships.

The National Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission

The congressionally-chartered National Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission continued to refine its conclusions and recommendations at a July 22 meeting. The Commission’s mandate is to provide recommendations to Congress concerning the future federal role in funding surface transportation infrastructure. The Commission is in the process of examining a number of alternative funding and financing approaches to augment the current revenue for highways and transit.

There are indications that the Financing Commission, too, is leaning in favor of recommending restrictions on private toll road concessions and on the use of front-end proceeds from long-term leases of existing toll roads. The restrictions would apply only to facilities on the national highway network and those involving prior federal investment. The Commission’s willingness to consider such restrictions in spite of its acknowledged desire to encourage private sector investment shows how far the pendulum has swung in favor of a more regulated PPP process.

The Infrastructure Debate in the Private Forums

In the coming months, infrastructure financing will also figure prominently on the agendas of several privately-sponsored conferences. These conferences typically attract speakers and attendance from the private sector and reflect the private transportation community’s generally supportive posture toward private investment in infrastructure and its opposition to federal prescription and intrusive restrictions on PPPs. The infrastructure-oriented conferences include the Infrastructure Finance Summit organized by Infocast (Sept 8-10 in Chicago, www.infocastinc.com/infrastructure); the 20th Public-Private Ventures Conference, sponsored by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) (Sept 15-16 in Washington DC, www.artba.org/meetings_events/2008/PPV); the Third North American PPP & Infrastructure Finance Conference, organized by Euromoney (Sep 18-19 in New York, www.euromoneyseminars.com/nappp08); the Second North American Port & Intermodal Finance & Investment Summit organized by Infocast (Oct 21-22 in Houston, www.infocastinc.com/); and the Annual IBTTA Transportation Finance Summit (Dec 6-10, in Washington DC, www.ibtta.org/events/).


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MAINTENANCE LINES... Maintenance Lines...

One In Four US Bridges Needs Repair

By DF Staff from several Internet sources

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) gives a dire warning to the country:

 

PHILADELPHIA, JULY 29 --- America’s bridges are falling down.

Nearly a year after a bridge collapse in Minneapolis killed 13 people and renewed fears about the safety of U.S. roadways, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials released a report saying at least $140 billion was needed to shore up 152,000 of the nation’s 590,000 bridges.

The news conference announcing the report was held in North Philadelphia near the spot where a 6-foot crack in a concrete support pillar beneath Interstate 95 forced three days of emergency repairs in March, shutting down the busy highway and choking secondary roads with 185,000 vehicles that were detoured daily.

Effect On Commuters

Numerous examples may be given regarding the impact of bad bridges on rail travel.

NCI webmaster Dennis Kirkpatrick notes that in Boston, the Red Line subyway has been plagued by numeorus delays and “bustitution” (substitute bus service) while repairs to the Longfellow Bridge connecting Boston with Cambridge is performed. The Red Line shares the bridge in a right of way with normal vehicular traffic on either side. A major artery between the two cities, truck traffic has already been restricted and autos may only use one lane in either direction. The bridge usually serves as an observation point for area residents watching the annual July 4th fireworks in the city, but people were banned for safety considerations this past holiday.

Additional bridge repairs in Boston are also resulting in delays on the Fairmount branch of the commuter rail service, where no less than three bridges are being rebuilt from the ground up.

More recently Amtrak replaced the bridge at Thames River in Groton, CT that resulted in a multiple-day closure of the Northeast Corridor north of New London, CT.

The report, called “Bridging the Gap: Restoring and Rebuilding the Nation’s Bridges,” outlines the difficult challenges ahead. “Almost one in four bridges, while safe to travel, is either structurally deficient, in need of repair, or functionally obsolete, which means they are too narrow for today’s traffic volumes.”

Usually built to last 50 years, the average bridge age in this country today is 43 and approaching the age for replacement. One in five bridges is over 50 years old.

The other staggering fact was the cost: at least $140 billion to make all the necessary repairs.

Officials called on the federal government last Monday to recognize the dire need for infrastructure funding across the country, particularly to deal with the 150,000 aging U.S. bridges. AASHTO Executive Director John Horsley said, “Across the nation, state and local transportation agencies are struggling to keep our country’s bridges safe, sound and fit for the future.”

Bridges are only one element of a pressing need for more federal funding to bring the country’s infrastructure up to a state of good repair. The transportation infrastructure nationwide is deteriorating. At present, 75 percent of the $80 billion spent annually on transportation infrastructure comes from state and local sources. But the states cannot do it alone. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who is part of the bipartisan coalition Building America’s Future, said, “No matter how hard a state applies its efforts and its resources to this problem, it’s never going to make enough of a dent without significantly and radically increased federal help.”

Pennsylvania, with an average bridge age of 51 and roughly 6,000 deficient bridges, is “a poster child for bridges with significant needs,” for repair, said state Department of Transportation Secretary Allen D. Biehler

“States are doing their best to improve them, but construction costs are skyrocketing, forcing states to delay needed repairs,” said Pete K. Rahn, head of the Missouri Department of Transportation. “Without a national commitment to increasing bridge investment, we will see a continuing spiral towards deterioration and, ultimately, bridge closures in order to protect the traveling public,” he said.

Nearly every state faces funding shortages that prevent them from performing ongoing preventive maintenance needed to keep their bridges sound indefinitely. This generation of baby boomer bridges is in need of significant repair or replacement, the report states.

Iowa is fifth in the nation in number of bridges with 24,776 bridges on the state, county and local road systems; 6,373 of these bridges are 50 years old or older. “When you add escalating construction prices, increased freight traffic and lost buying power to the mix, Iowa has a huge hurdle to overcome to meet these needs,” said Iowa DOT Director Nancy Richardson. “We need federal intervention at a big level.”

Soaring construction costs: The costs of steel, asphalt, concrete, and earthwork have risen by at least 50 percent in the past five years, forcing delays of bridge improvements and replacements.

“Thirty months of unprecedented construction inflation are forcing state officials to delay important bridge replacement projects,” the report states.

Funding suggestions include increasing gasoline taxes and new taxes on alternative fuels, adding tolls to free highways, and increasing private investment in public works. Rendell has proposed leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike in order to generate revenue for transportation issues. He likened the infrastructure crisis to the disastrous U.S. mortgage market.

The price tag of $140 billion is based on data from the Federal Highway Administration’s costs to repair or modernize the country’s bridges, but the numbers are in 2006 dollars. This necessarily leads to a flawed estimate since of course the bridges are not going to be fixed immediately. The real costs will be much higher.


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ECONOMIC LINES... Economic Lines...

Plan to Restore Mountain Division Rail Line Gets Rolling

By DF Staff from Internet Sources

STANDISH, MAINE , AUGUST 1- On the southern shores of Lake Sebago, where a bustling train station once stood, a ceremony took place last Friday to celebrate the purchase by the State of Maine of a 5.2 mile stretch of rail between Westbrook and Windham. This acquisition could eventually allow trains to travel from Portland to Fryeburg.

State and local officials drove the golden spike into the former Mountain Division Rail Line in front of a large crowd of area residents who turned out to enjoy music by the White Mountain Boys and hear officials talk of the benefits of the purchase.

“Let the track to the future begin. We cannot and will not let this opportunity go by,” declared Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham. “It’s been 50 years since anyone has ridden on this line. We can do that again. We have to do that again,” said Diamond, who sponsored a bill to study the cost of establishing rail service along the line and held the pocket watch his grandfather carried while working on the same line decades ago. “I have his watch with me today to remind me this is the time.”

A 2007 study commissioned by the Department of Transportation found that not only could the line take 25,000 truck trips off the road annually, but also it could support excursion rail trips to the port of Portland and Fryeburg. It also has the potential for commuter rail service.

Funds from state transportation bonds were used to purchase the section of line, which cost the Maine Dept of Transportation $805,000.

Local groups, including the Baldwin Business Association, Train Riders Northeast, Mountain Division Alliance and the Route 113 Corridor Committee, which promotes area economic development, actively sought the purchase.

The 50-mile-long rail line extends from Portland to Standish, skirts the southwest shore of Sebago Lake and then follows the Saco River and Route 113 to Fryeburg, where it connects to active railways in New Hampshire.

The Mountain Division rail operated as a private line until 1984, when westbound rail traffic shifted south to Massachusetts. Pan Am Railway, formerly known as Guilford Rail Systems, still uses the section of line between Westbrook and Portland and has agreed to negotiate an access agreement for that section when the service is established, according to the transportation department. The remaining sections are either owned by the state or accessible through easements.

“Freight ultimately could move all the way from Portland to Chicago,” said Nate Moulton, Dept of Transportation Rail Director. “You could connect to the national system.”

“It creates a lot of hope and expectation for a lot of people,” Standish Town Manager Gordon Billington said.

“This holds the greatest hope for bringing Maine jobs back to the region,” said Caroline Paras, a planner for the Greater Portland Council of Governments.

“Any time we can look at something like this that can move traffic off our roads, we’re all for it,” said Standish Town Councilor Philip Pomerleau. “We figure we can eliminate about 25,000 trucks a year traveling on the Route 113 corridor.”

And, he said, Portlanders may be riding trains to the Fryeburg Fair in five to 10 years. “There’s all kinds of things we see that can happen, but it can’t happen without the rail being there. It opens huge amounts of opportunity.”

After the ceremony, Moulton drove a railroad car down the old line for members of the media and officials. Although the rail lines have been maintained since they were abandoned 25 years ago, Moulton said, “If we’re going to make this happen it will need a good piece of money to rebuild the track.”

Asked how difficult it would be to rebuild, Moulton said. “It’s not rocket science.”

Making the line suitable even for low-speed travel – 10 to 15 mph – is expected to cost $18 million. Accommodating 25 to 30 mph traffic – a speed suitable for local freight and for excursion passenger service – would cost an estimated $20 million.

Establishing a commuter-speed service – 40 to 60 mph – would require replacing rails and an investment of about $42 million, according to the Department of Transportation.

A commuter line is clearly a more long-term possibility, advocates say, and might someday become feasible if fuel prices keep rising.


Photo: Wikipedia.com

Bay of Naples Inn

The railroad initially provided convenient transportation for summer visitors to large wooden Victorian hotels including the Mount Washington Hotel, the Crawford House in Crawford Notch, and the Bay of Naples Inn reached by connection with Sebago Lake steamboats. The cool, clean air of the White Mountains and Sebago Lake was a refreshing escape from the smoky heat and humidity of 19th century cities. Autumn foliage and winter skiing extended the tourist season.

The track was abandoned by freight trains in 1983 and by passenger trains 50 years ago.


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AMTRAK NEWS... News From Amtrak...

New Amtrak Ad Campaign Promotes Re-launch
of Northeast Regional Service

Source: Amtrak

Campaign Includes New Logo and Integrated Media Plan.

WASHINGTON, JULY 14 -- In support of Amtrak’s re-launch of its Northeast Corridor Regional service as Northeast Regional, the corporation has introduced a new advertising campaign in states along the Northeast Corridor from Virginia to Massachusetts.

The goal of the campaign, scheduled to run from July 13th through September 7th, is to inspire customers who may not be regular Northeast Corridor passengers to try the new Northeast Regional service themselves.

The new Northeast Regional service will feature a number of enhancements for passengers including refurbished cafe cars with new menus. In addition, these new cafe cars will now be positioned in the middle of each train to improve access for coach passengers who account for more than 90 percent of all riders. Other improvements include refurbished Business class seats and interiors. En-route cleaning will help keep the trains clean and fresh.

The new Northeast Regional logo was chosen from among 10 designs tested. Research showed that the logo is a striking, memorable graphic that is modern and up-to-date. It also conveys a good travel experience. The track imagery also easily connects it to the existing Amtrak brand.

“Introducing a strong logo to represent the revitalized service was key as the Northeast Regional service is Amtrak’s busiest, transporting more than 6.8 million passengers last fiscal year alone” said Emmett Fremaux, Amtrak’s Vice President, Marketing & Product Management.

The integrated media plan for the new Northeast Regional re-launch includes newspapers and business journals, radio ads, outdoor gas station and bus placements, and online display ads and search. Messaging focuses on the key elements that draw customers to the convenience and comfort of rail travel, most notably, freedom from traffic congestion, city to city-center trip time, and more recently, higher gas prices.

The entire campaign, budgeted at $2.1 million, is expected to attract an additional 136,000 passengers to the service, valued at $8.9 million in ticket revenue annually. The campaign was developed by Amtrak’s agency of record, Arnold Worldwide in McLean, Va.


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...

Federal Government Struggles to Compensate
for Huge Deficit in Highway Trust

Bush administration calls for reform in spending, i.e., cut money for transit in order to free up more money for roads.

 

The Bush administration is expected to release this coming week figures projecting a deficit of $5 billion or more in the Highway Trust Fund for next year. Since the Eisenhower era, increases in driving throughout the nation have been steady, so the trust historically has run a surplus. It steers gasoline-tax revenue through a federal appropriations process before sending it back to the states.

All this is changing now with the high gas prices. The U.S. Dept of Transportation is releasing a report that shows that over the past seven months, Americans have reduced their driving by more than 40 billion miles. Because of high gasoline prices, they drove 3.7% fewer miles in May than they did a year earlier, more than double the 1.8% drop-off seen in April.

This unprecedented cutback in driving is slashing the funds available to rebuild the nation’s aging highway system and expand mass-transit options. The resulting financial strain is touching off a political battle over government priorities in a new era of expensive oil. Congress members are being pressured by business groups ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association to come up with a quick fix.

The surging costs for asphalt and other construction materials add to the government’s challenge of how to finance highway and mass-transit systems, especially when maintenance and repairs of existing infrastructure are in dire need of shoring up.

The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, whose job is to assess infrastructure problems and recommend fixes, has rated “not acceptable” one of every seven miles of the nation’s roads. Overall, the commission estimated, $225 billion a year is needed to meet the country’s transportation infrastructure needs. Current spending is about 40% of that level.

In many areas, the ragged edges of neglect are already showing. About 25% of bridges in the U.S. are either “functionally obsolete” or “structurally deficient,” like the Mississippi River bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis last August, killing 13 people.

“We were losing ground to these incredible increases in construction costs, but then to see the erosion in driving -- it’s a double whammy,” said John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. On top of the federal gasoline tax, the states charge their own gasoline taxes, which are typically slightly above the federal rate.

“We’re going to spend a lot of time, money and effort on this,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue. “People need to understand that this infrastructure thing is not optional.”

Last week, the House passed a bill targeting $8 billion for highway and mass-transit projects. The measure has a good chance of clearing the Senate as well, despite White House reservations.

U. S. DOT Secretary Mary Peters is calling for reform in the way transportation is funded and new methods of streamlining the process so that projects don’t take so long to be built, which is now an average of 13 years. Peters wants to give states more flexibility to set transportation spending, while making it easier for them to tap private-sector dollars. Also, Congress would be asked to loosen restrictions on states levying new tolls on interstate highways.

But one casualty of the secretary’s new funding plans could be the elimination of the Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality (CMAQ) program, an important source of funding for transit systems, bikeways, and other alternatives to driving.

Environmental activists quickly raised a red flag; CMAQ is a key air pollution project.

“It’s a little bit surprising that they would go so far as wanting to abolish a critical part of the Clean Air Act,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. “The message they are sending is they want money going for asphalt rather than clean air.”

Peters said that CMAQ funding would instead be funneled into a pool that cities could use as they wish. Cities struggling to meet clean air guidelines could use their share to reduce pollution, while others could expand transportation.

Peters’ reform plans also promise a renewed focus on maintaining and expanding federal highways instead of diverting funds to other projects.

The moves are a prelude to a debate expected next year as Congress considers a new, six-year transportation bill that could authorize more than $400 billion in spending.

“Mostly, it is a collection of the same uninspired and uninspiring policies that this administration has offered over the past five years: toll it, privatize it, lease it, sell it, or congestion-price it,” said House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar, D-Minn. “The administration’s plan, presented during its waning months, calls to mind the concept of mortmain — the dead hand, reaching out from the past to affect the future.”

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat who is leading efforts to solve what he calls the “transportation funding crisis,” is hoping the presidential candidates will offer their views at a summit this fall.

Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and other lawmakers have proposed a $60 billion national infrastructure bank that would fund projects that could improve regional and national transportation, such as unclogging freight-rail bottlenecks in the Chicago area.


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Northeast Iowa Congressman To Serve On Committee
Aimed At Reconciling Amtrak Bill

Cong Bruce Braley, (D)
Will Braley be conductor of Dubuque’s rail needs?

From the Internet

JULY 27 – In the heavily congested Northeast, we picture Iowa as wide open space with lots of cornfields. The need for train service might not be the first thing that comes to mind! But we would be wrong. Rail service IS important to Iowans, and Dubuque’s passenger train proponents have good reason to be encouraged.

Their Congressman Bruce Braley, (D) is going to be on the conference committee charged with reconciling differences between the House and Senate versions of the Amtrak Reauthorization bill.

Braley announced his appointment to the committee on July 25, saying he’s excited to support Iowa’s passenger rail needs.

“With gas prices now over $4 per gallon, it’s time to invest in alternative forms of transportation,” Braley said in his press release. “The Amtrak bill will help make passenger rail service between Dubuque and the Quad Cities to Chicago a reality.”

Braley’s seat on the House Transportation Committee worked in eastern Iowa’s favor as he helped get the bill through the House. The proposed passenger rail service between Chicago and Dubuque and Chicago and the Quad Cities would be eligible to apply for funding under a new $500 million per year state capital grant program for construction of new passenger rail service between U.S. cities.

The bill also includes Braley’s provision mandating a Federal Railroad Administration study into the viability of the widespread use of biolubricants in freight and passenger rail as an alternative to petroleum-based lubricants. The nation’s leading biolubricant research center is located at the University of Northern Iowa’s National Ag-Based Lubricant Center.

The Amtrak Reauthorization bill passed the House last month, and the Senate bill passed its version in October 2007.


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Sen. Carper Sponsors a Bill To Bring
More Amtrak Jobs to Delaware

The “Train Cars Act” Could Entice Foreign Manufacturers to Come to the US

From the Internet

AUGUST 1 – It’s an “Ill Wind that Blows No Good.” The US dollar value is down, a condition that worries many economists and makes it more expensive for Americans to travel abroad. But this “ill wind” could help create jobs here.

Senator Tom Carper, D-Delaward, a long time supporter of Amtrak, has sponsored a bill that would provide funding for overseas manufacturers to build rail cars in the United States. The “Train Cars Act.” Carper says, sets the condition that firms would only get the funding if they built the plants here.

“With the shape the US dollar is in right now, it would be a good move for them to do that and possibly bring more jobs to Delaware. We already have a facility in Bear, Delaware, which may give companies from overseas an incentive to come here based on the state’s experience in the field.”

Carper says demand for passenger rail service has gone up so quickly that Amtrak is falling behind in providing the necessary number of trains to keep pace.

As a guest on Wilm Newsradio last week, Carper pointed out the energy savings of using rail to carry cargo and people: “It takes one gallon of diesel to haul cargo on a train from Washington D.C. to Boston, and that’s pretty cost effective.”

Illinois Senator Dick Durban is co-sponsor of the “Train Cars Act.”

Comment by Tadman on Thu Jul 31, 2008 10:28 am from www.railroad.net.

This is an interesting topic. Being in the industrial capital goods business, the dollar devaluation has had a very positive effect on my business. It appears foreigners really are buying American more than they used to. It’d be interesting to see if it becomes viable to build passenger or freight cars in the US, not for our market, but for other markets. Build non-FRA designs and float them over to Europe or Asia. If there was a new non-FRA compliant passenger car builder here with 4 assembly bays, they could build their proprietary design for competition outside our market and license Budd or Viewliner designs and dedicate one assembly bay every 4-8 years to building cars for Amtrak or commuter agencies. If that builder were to mandate a minimum 100-car design, it would encourage the smaller agencies (Nashville to Miami - sized) to piggyback orders with agencies like Metra or Amtrak. It would allow the builder to make a modest profit on domestic sales while building a highly-competitive cutting edge design for foreign sales that doesn’t have to fund the domestic market offering.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
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Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)101.7698.05
Canadian National (CNI)52.6053.28
Canadian Pacific (CP)61.3662.08
CSX (CSX)66.1763.34
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.5162.51
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)39.7341.55
Kansas City Southern (KSU)53.3048.00
Norfolk Southern (NSC)70.6270.11
Providence & Worcester (PWX)18.7018.48
Union Pacific (UNP)79.4477.49


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...

Transit Projects Get EPA Approval

From Metro International on the Internet reported by Greg St. Martin

Green Line extension, Fairmount rail improvement, others OK’d

BOSTON -- A series of MBTA projects the Commonwealth of Massachusetts agreed to accelerate in a 2006 settlement, received approval Thursday from the Environmental Protection Agency, an expected move that found the state’s plan meets federally-required air quality standards.

Many of the projects were promised in 1990 as part of a deal surrounding the Big Dig highway project that depressed over a mile of Rt. I-93 underground. In 2005, a settlement between the state and the Conservation Law Foundation — who argued delays were hampering the transit improvements — pledged to move the projects forward. One of the projects is the Green Line extension from Boston to adjacent towns of Somerville and Medford, though the state is still determining where the extension will end — at Route 16 or College Avenue. Officials will hold a community meeting in Somerville this week to inform residents how the environmental process will work.

Another is the Fairmount branch commuter rail improvement project, which will add four new stops between Readville and South Station, all within the Boston city limits.

The MBTA held community meetings on the design of two of those stations — Four Corner and Talbot Avenue — in recent weeks and plans to hold two more next week on the Blue Hill Avenue (near mattapan Square) and Newmarket (near South Bay) stations.

Connecting the Blue and Red lines — the only two MBTA lines not currently linked — between the soon-to-close Bowdoin station, and Charles/MGH station is also in the works, as is a plan to add 1,000 total new parking spaces at various “T” stations.

Other commitments included last year’s completion of the Greenbush commuter rail line and upgrading multiple Blue Line subway stations and building new platforms. Though the Blue Line work is slightly behind schedule, work will ramp up in mid-September in time for the line’s new six-car trains.


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