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 23, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 35

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

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

  News Items…
Business, Labor And Environmental Leaders Unite In Demand
   For Freight Rail Expansion
Creating Green Jobs through Freight Rail Expansion
  High-Speed Rail Lines…
FRA Receives 77 Applications For High-Speed Passenger Rail
   Funding Totaling $8.5 Billion
New York State Seeks $138.1 Million In Federal Grants For Rail Improvements
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Commentary…
American Rail: The Best of Times, and the Worst
  Publication Notes …


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

 

Making Common Cause For Tax Credits

 

Business, Labor And Environmental Leaders Unite
In Demand For Freight Rail Expansion

From The Roanoke Times, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
And By DF Staff

ROANOKE, VA ---Forging the kind of alliance that will be essential if America can ever hope to free itself from its dependence on foreign oil, key business, labor and environmental representatives came together here last week to create a common front in support of a freight railroad tax credit.

A group calling itself the BlueGreen Alliance which includes members such as Norfolk Southern Railroad, the Sheet Metal Workers International Association and the Sierra Club have a common goal -- to promote increased investment in freight railroads, which will create much needed new jobs, conserve oil since trains consume far less fuel than trucks, and in turn reduce air pollution by a reduction of truck traffic. (Editor’s note: the BlueGreen Alliance together with the Economic Policy Institute released a report in May on green jobs and expansion of freight rail. See Sidebar.)

Editor’s comment: this recent report should receive far more attention in the national media, given the dire circumstances of our present economy and the need to reduce our dependence on oil.

Full Speed Ahead:
Creating Green Jobs Through
Freight Rail Expansion

A joint report by the BlueGreen Alliance
and the Economic Policy Institute

By Ethan Pollack
May 4, 2010

Over the past two centuries, rail has helped America realize its potential and become the world’s leading economic power. In this new century, rail’s eminence as an economic engine has the potential to be as great, and also produce significant energy savings, reduce pollution, move cargo across the country efficiently as part of a multi-modal freight network, and create an estimated 7,800 green jobs per billion dollars invested.

The recent recession, and the massive job loss that accompanied it, shows that a status quo approach will not suffice if America is to leave the 21st century stronger than when it entered. A truly balanced transportation network that achieves higher efficiencies among passenger and freight modes will help create an infrastructure platform that makes America more competitive in the global economy. Freight rail occupies an important role in this multi-modal network, and merely maintaining share within a growing freight market would forego the significant opportunities presented by rail’s demonstrated ability to reduce oil consumption, achieve system and vehicle efficiencies to reduce pollution, as well as create and sustain quality employment throughout the economy.

Freight rail expansion would create thousands of quality green jobs and induce overall employment and economic growth while strengthening many of America’s goods-producing industries. Furthermore, freight rail has already demonstrated its ability to achieve significant efficiencies resulting in lower fuel use and reduced pollution; increased investment would advance this progress, which has doubled the overall industry’s efficiency in a few decades.

As America moves full speed ahead to a clean energy economy, freight rail’s crucial role in that transition can be expanded through sound policy choices that maximize the public and economic benefits of this industry.

Read the full paper in PDF format at
http://www.epi.org/page/-/pdf/050410-freightrail.pdf

Legislation for the proposed federal income tax credit was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2009. The tax cut directly applies to private, rail-related capital investments.

Earlier this month, Congress received a Senate version of the measure which is based on the concept that even if it offsets potential government revenues, a tax credit makes sense because freight railroading returns public benefits.

Bruce Wingo -- a vice president at Norfolk Southern Corp., the $8 billion freight railroad based in Norfolk -- said the tax credit would boost the ability of the railroad to upgrade and expand their infrastructure necessary to meet the growing demand for freight services. The freight industry has been growing exponentially since the 1950’s and now carries three times more freight in terms of tonnage than it did in 1950. And yet, so many miles of track have been ripped up during the last few decades that where we once had 250,000 miles of trackage, there are now only 100,000.

Also, freight railroads have made major advancements in fuel efficiency. At the gathering in Roanoke, Wingo repeated the oft-quoted line that a train can move a ton of freight 436 miles on a gallon of fuel. The source of the claim, the American Association of Railroads, also says a train can carry the freight of 280 to 500 trucks.

“It is heartening to see this development, involving groups that certainly don’t always see eye-to-eye on environmental issues, working together on freight rail investment,” stated Jim RePass, Chairman and CEO of the National Corridors Initiative, “as we have been encouraging such alliances since our very inception in 1989. I hope the BlueGreen Alliance spreads, like the green wildfire that it could become.”

A 2008 article by Alex Roth in the Wall Street Journal, “Railroads roll with a Greener Approach,” cites the advances made by the freight rail industry in fuel efficiency:

“Freight trains now use much cleaner and more fuel-efficient diesel engines, and railroad companies are testing new engines that the industry is touting as “ultra low-emission.”

“‘In general, train transportation is much more fuel efficient than trucking, and we should be doing more of it,’ says Colin F. Peppard, transportation policy coordinator for Friends of the Earth, an environmental advocacy group.

“Several rail companies are rolling out their own statistics to make the case that the switch to trains is good for the environment. Norfolk Southern Corp. is running a series of environmentally themed television spots and has a ‘carbon footprint analyzer’ feature on its Web site that allows customers to measure the environmental advantages of shipping by freight rather than truck.

“Union Pacific Corp.’s Web site touts the company’s ‘cleaner and greener’ fleet of locomotives and argues that if 25% of truck freight was diverted to rail, there would be ‘nearly 800,000 fewer tons of air pollution’ by 2025.

Freight rail: a robust industry for business and labor

Salaries in freight rail are more attractive, too, as the industry grows. The average wage of $26.33 an hour is nearly 30 percent higher that the average of all occupations, which was $20.32 in 2008.

The rail freight industry in the U.S. today comprises over 500 railroads and employs more than 180,000 workers.

“We’ve got to have people back to work to get this economy going,” said Jeffrey Collins, a Tennessee-based general chairman of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, which represents rail employees.

Economic advantages of freight rail:

One dollar spent on rail infrastructure yields $3 of economic activity, according to a report released jointly by the BlueGreen Alliance and the Economic Policy Institute in 2008.

Each $1 billion in additional spending on freight rail capacity -- such as track and trains -- will create 7,800 jobs, the report said.

Tori Williams, representing the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce, spoke in favor of the tax credit.

He said one capital project the chamber supports is a planned intermodal rail yard in Elliston jointly funded by NS and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation to the tune of $35 million, including road work.

“There are a lot of local businesses that are very, very excited to get that project under way,” Williams said.

The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors, however, filed suit to block the facility from being constructed. The case is ready to be argued before the Virginia Supreme Court, said Kathleen Wright, a county attorney.

Meanwhile, in another capital-intensive project, Norfolk Southern is scheduled next month to begin running double-stack trains along the newly improved Heartland Corridor between Norfolk and Chicago now that work to raise the clearances of 28 tunnels has been completed.

The Heartland Corridor project cost $151 million shared by NS and various government entities.


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HIGH SPEED LINES... High-Speed Lines...  

FRA Receives 77 Applications For High-Speed
Passenger Rail Funding Totaling $8.5 Billion

U.S. Dept Of Transportation
Sent To Destination: Freedom From APTA
(American Public Transportation Association)

WASHINGTON, DC, AUGUST 17 -- In an overwhelming show of support for the Administration’s high-speed rail initiative, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood today announced that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has received 77 applications from 25 states for the most recent round of High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) grant funding. Application requests total more than $8.5 billion and will be considered for funding from more than $2.3 billion appropriated in FY 2010.

This is in addition to the $8 billion appropriated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) as a down payment for the HSIPR program.

“The response to our call to transform America’s transportation landscape has been tremendous and shows the country is ready for high-speed rail,” Secretary LaHood said. “We have received strong bi-partisan support for President Obama’s bold initiative that will enhance regional mobility, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, ease highway and airport congestion and reduce our carbon footprint.”

FRA received 20 applications from 10 states totaling $7.8 billion for high-speed rail corridor development programs. FRA also received 57 applications from 18 states totaling $700 million for smaller, individual projects within rail corridors that are ready to begin construction. While not all proposed projects can be funded, the Department will evaluate the applications to identify the projects that will deliver the greatest public benefits and give American taxpayers the highest return on their investment.

“These historic investments will allow states to take the next step in making their high-speed intercity passenger rail development plans a reality,” said FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “The states and FRA have been working hard to establish a solid foundation for a long-term program that will reshape our transportation system.”

Total funding to date for the HSIPR program comes from several sources:

Grant selections for the $2.345 billion in FY2010 appropriations are intended to help states further develop their corridor plans. From this amount, $245 million has been reserved for individual projects within a corridor that is ready to begin construction. Recipients of this funding will be announced in the fall of 2010.

To date, FRA has awarded more than $583 million to states for HSIPR.


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New York State Seeks $138.1 Million
In Federal Grants For Rail Improvements

From Internet Sources

ALBANY – The State Department of Transportation submitted ten applications for $138.1 million in competitive grant funding for high-speed rail improvement projects across the state from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) under the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program. Applications were invited in support of high-speed intercity passenger rail corridor development and rail congestion relief projects and were submitted last week. The grants require a minimum 20 percent non-federal funding match.

“The new projects we’re proposing will move us toward that goal, benefiting New Yorkers and their businesses from Long Island to Plattsburgh to Niagara Falls and everywhere in between,” State Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Stanley Gee said.

FRA will award funds from a discretionary program with $245 million for individual projects for enhancements to high-speed rail corridors, including four segments in New York State: the Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C. and Boston, the Empire Corridor between New York City and Niagara Falls, and the rail line between Albany, N.Y., and Rutland, Vt., and the Adirondack Corridor from New York City to Montreal.

The 2009 New York State Rail Plan was released in March 2009. It was the first time in 22 years the state had produced an update of New York’s rail strategy, and it was a prerequisite for future federal funding for rail capital improvement projects.

“Rail transportation is critical to New York State’s economy, mobility and environmental health,” said Governor Paterson. “We are seeking these grants, in addition to the $151 million already received, to further assist our efforts to modernize our rail infrastructure, increase the speed and reliability of passenger rail service, reduce travel times, strengthen our freight rail system and create and maintain jobs across the state.”


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)60.6460.59
Canadian Pacific (CP) 56.8457.39
CSX (CSX)49.7950.39
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)38.1338.60
Kansas City Southern (KSU)33.7134.44
Norfolk Southern (NSC)54.4454.68
Providence & Worcester(PWX)12.6012.25
Union Pacific (UNP)74.2673.45


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

American Rail:
The Best of Times, and the Worst

By David Peter Alan and James P. RePass

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only ---- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

 

Nothing much has changed in 200 years, has it?

Dickens was writing about the period surrounding the French Revolution (1789) that followed so quickly on the heels of the one in America, yet had such disastrous results.

Today we are in the midst of a worldwide tumult as broad, and certainly as intense, as that which led up to the French Revolution. While the subject of rail and its fate may seem minor in comparison to discussions of freedom or democracy, the fate of our transportation system, including rail, is in fact central to our own fate, and its state of affairs is both a cause, and a symptom, of our present crisis in governance, as well as in the economy as a whole.

And so, these are the best of times for rail in America. The leadership of the Obama Administration has forged a new vision of ground-based transportation, where the automobile is no longer The Only Thing, but rather where a series of rail corridors will link city center to city center, and where development around transportation nodes has something other than a highway interchange to latch onto.

We are grateful to note that the Obama vision is lock, stock, and crosstie the same one that the National Corridors Initiative has advocated over the past 21 years, and that NCI’s vision has at last become national policy. We worked closely with the Obama campaign --- we offered our views on infrastructure to all the candidates in a 2008 conference in St. Louis, because we are and always have been bi-partisan --- but only Obama, and Hillary Clinton, responded to our overtures. And, as many readers know, Obama’s Rail Stimulus Program is in fact NCI’s.

How then, can it also be some of the worst times for rail and transit in decades?

Because of the way we fund transportation in America, because of the disconnect between capital requirements and operating needs.

Even as the President boldly seeks to re-create the robust and reliable transportation system we once had, transit service has been reduced and fares jacked sky-high almost everywhere in the nation. Both the Obama Administration and Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, for the most part, are once again skimping on Amtrak, and contributing to the operational decline of mass transit while continuing the traditional generosity to the automobile and oil interests.

Transit managers continue to spend on flashy mega-projects, because Congress will fund capital grants, and because there isn’t a politician born who doesn’t want to wield the scissors at the ribbon cutting of some new service they can then take credit for creating .At the same time, transit operating costs are left un-funded or grossly under-funded, and transit operators justifiably plead poverty as an excuse to raise fares and eliminate service, sometimes on the very same lines for which the ribbon-cutting has just been held.

Intercity rail corridors are for the first time since Abraham Lincoln, literally, being funded as a function of national policy, yet, at the same time, the Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak and the freight railroads continue to wrestle with the sticky issues of how to accommodate the movement of both people and goods on a rail system where track miles have shrunk dramatically --- although the rights-of-way are thank goodness still largely there. Over the past 80 years, since 1916, with the passage of the National Highway Act, whose federally-subsidized roads immediately impacted freight railroads’ profitability, track mileage in the United States has dropped from 250,000 to 100,000 --- no wonder it is so hard to put passenger service back, quickly! The capacity that was once there is gone.

The fundamental problem is that no one --- not the Congress, not the Administration --- is taking steps to secure the funding not simply for capital projects – ribbon –cutting --- but for a funding structure to support on-going operation and maintenance, so it can meet the demand for both freight and passenger capacity.

These issues have been reported and discussed thoroughly, in this column and elsewhere on this site. Curiously, one item has attracted far more reader interest than any other in recent months. That is the difficulty faced by one of the author’s of this commentary in his effort to get from LaGuardia Airport in Queens to Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan, to catch a train (D:F, August 2d).

That odyssey was the subject of four Letters to the Editor, published in recent editions of D:F. The commentators had differing opinions, which they seemed to defend with the vigor of New Orleanians praising their favorite recipe for gumbo or jambalaya. One suggested that Jim RePass should have stayed on the M60 bus to Harlem, for transfer to a downtown-bound subway. Another suggested the Q33 to a subway stop in Queens, instead. Still another recommended Newark Airport, instead of LaGuardia, as a better place to arrive. The other had some good ideas, although he also admitted the institutional impossibility of their implementation. Their one point of agreement was that it is not easy to get from LaGuardia Airport to Midtown Manhattan.

It appears that Jim’s difficulty in getting from the airport to the train station, along with his act of writing about it, has placed him in the position of the paradigmatic “Everyman” who stands in the shoes of everyone else who has difficulty connecting from one mode of transportation to another. His experience is a personal one, just like the experience of any other airline passenger who finds it difficult to navigate a transit labyrinth that is owned by different entities who refuse to coordinate their services or integrate their fares.

We know about the institutional problems with airport transit, from the lure of revenue from airport parking lots to the lack of coordination between airport management and the local transit operators. The New York area may be the worst example; the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey owns the airports and operates non-standard transit (the JFK Air Train and Newark Airport Monorail) on airport property, which effectively keeps New Jersey Transit and New York’s MTA away.

Looking at the big picture, difficulties with intermodal connections are commonplace for many transit riders, even within the purview of large transit agencies like NJT or New York’s MTA. If Jim’s first-hand account raises public consciousness, or at least the consciousness of our readers, about the need for improved connectivity between transportation modes, he has done a service for all of us. Everyone who believes that Jim described only an “airport problem” has missed the point.

And, as our editor, Molly McKay, said: “It’s a disaster out there,” and she is right. Transit is in trouble everywhere and Amtrak seems to be going nowhere, as highways continue to benefit. The social, economic and environmental consequences of the current policies could be catastrophic. If we all realize that, we will have taken a strong and useful message from Jim’s experience.

But that lesson has to take solid form, and once again, we urge the Congress and the Administration to study, learn, and understand the notion of Value Capture along the corridors built up by capital investment in new or restored track, and in the development nodes that surround train and rail transit stations.

Value Capture is simply a commitment that a portion of the growth in some or all tax revenues taking place in close proximity to a rail corridor or a transportation node flow back to the entity that operates that rail corridor, so it can provide for its own maintenance. Ticket sales do not and never have covered the true cost of rail and transit operation; the value of rail is in the commerce it enables, not the ticket sales it produces.

Indeed, you can make the argument that intercity and rail transit travel should be free --- just as freeways are “free” --- because the impact on the environment is so much less costly, and less damaging, than that caused by the automobile, starting with 40,000 deaths a year and millions of injuries, never mind the resulting air pollution which is the direct cause of the huge increase in cancers and lung diseases in our society.

Yes, it is the best of times for rail, thanks to the Obama Administration and people like Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-MN), but it is also the worst of times for rail. Let’s understand and employ Value Capture, and make our transportation self-funding, reliable, and strong. It can be done. All that it requires is the intelligence, and the will.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2010 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

Web page links as reproduced in our articles are active at the time we go to press. Occasionally, news and information outlets may opt to archive these articles and notices under alternative web addresses after initial publication. NCI has no control over the policies of other web sites and regrets any inconvenience experienced when clicking off our web site.

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 editor@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster at webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

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

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