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 31, 2009
Vol. 10 No. 37

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

Home Page: www.nationalcorridors.org

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

  News Items…
APTA Legislative Wrap-Up And Upcoming Congressional Agenda
  Commuter Lines…
New Jersey Transit Celebrates Thirtieth Anniversary
   In Low-Key Style
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Freight Lines…
Traffic Throttles Up At Large Railroads
 
  Stimulus Lines…
Lincoln’s Home Town Worried High Speed Rail Will Cut City In Half
Final Applications Submitted for Phase I Of High-Speed Rail
   Stimulus Dollars
  In Memoriam…
Thinking About Ted Kennedy
  Publication Notes …


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

 

APTA Legislative Wrap-Up And
Upcoming Congressional Agenda

From website of American Public Transportation Association
(with permission)

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 28 -- On August 7, the U.S. Senate adjourned for four weeks, marking the beginning of Congress’ annual August recess. The U.S. House of Representatives adjourned for the recess the prior week. Both chambers are scheduled to return for remaining legislative business on September 8. While health care reform is expected to dominate the remainder of the legislative session, Congress must tackle several outstanding issues important to public transportation. These issues include completion of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 Appropriations bills, the passage of a long-term surface transportation authorization bill or an extension of current transportation programs, and climate change legislation. APTA members should contact their members of Congress in the weeks ahead to make transit’s case on all these legislative issues.

Fiscal Year 2010 Transportation Appropriations Bill

Among the top priorities for Congress when it returns in September will be completion of the annual appropriations bills, which will fund all federal agencies and programs for FY 2010. The House of Representatives has completed all of its bills, while the Senate has completed five of the twelve bills.

The full House of Representatives passed its version of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations bill on July 23. The Senate

Appropriations Committee completed its work on the FY 2010 THUD Appropriations bill on July 30, and it awaits floor consideration in September. Once the full Senate passes its version of the bill, House and Senate Appropriations Committee members will meet in conference committee to develop a compromise version of the legislation for final passage and the President’s signature. If the THUD bill is not completed by the end of the fiscal year on September 30, a continuing resolution may be required for programs funded by that bill.

The House-passed THUD Appropriations bill contains $10.484 billion for public transportation programs for FY 2010. This includes $10.334 billion for current Federal Transit Administration (FTA) programs, a 1.5 percent increase over last year’s levels. It also includes an additional $150 million for capital grants for Washington-Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA), as authorized last year in the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA). The Senate bill provides $10.915 billion for the current FTA program, and like the House bill it includes an additional $150 million authorized under PRIIA for WMATA. This is a 6.7 percent increase over FY 2009 levels. The most significant funding difference in the FTA program under the Senate bill, compared to the House level and the Administration request, is an increase in funding for the Capital Investment Program for New Starts and Small Starts. The Senate bill provides $480 million more for the FTA New Starts program than the House bill and Administration request.

Briefs concerning the various programs in the 2010 Transportation Appropriations Bill which the House and Senate must vote on after the recess:

Formula and Bus Programs:

The Senate and House bills set funding for the Formula and Bus Programs at slightly over $8.343 billion, the level requested by the Administration. Funding for individual programs under this category is identical in both versions.

New Starts/Small Starts

One major difference between the House and Senate bills is the $480 million increase that the Senate Appropriations Committee bill provides for Capital Investment Grants (New Starts). It sets funding for New Start and Small Start projects at $2.307 billion, while the House-passed bill provides $1.827 billion for this program.

Separately, the House-passed bill includes language that would provide a 90 percent federal match for the capital costs of a bio-diesel bus or a factory installed or retrofitted hybrid-electric system or equipment.

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA): High Speed and Intercity Passsenger Rail

The Senate Committee bill also chose a different direction than the House by providing $1.2 billion to high-speed and intercity rail, as opposed to the House proposal to fund the program at $4 billion. The Administration had requested $1 billion for high-speed passenger rail.

The Senate bill provides full funding of $50 million for the authorization included in Sec. 105 of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 [RSIA] for deployment of Passenger Train Control (PTC) systems. This is in addition to a provision that allows the FRA to retain $50 million of the intercity and high-speed rail funding for research and demonstration activities that will support the development of high-speed rail, including the engineering and development of high-speed rail locomotives.

With regard to Amtrak, the Senate bill provides $553.3 million for operating grants, the same as the House level and $19 million less than the budget request. The bill also provides just over $1 billion for capital and debt service grants for Amtrak – exceeding the House passed level by $72 million.

Multimodal Infrastructure Investment

The final major difference between the House and Senate bills is $1.1 billion allocated in the Senate bill for a multimodal competitive grant program, whereas the House provided no such allocation.

Outlook

Once the Senate completes its bill, the House-Senate negotiations will begin, and these will affect the fate of both the increase in funding for New Starts (Senate) and for high-speed and intercity rail (House). Transportation industry advocates will possibly be looking at a continuing resolution for at least the beginning of October, as Senate floor consideration and conference committee negotiations will likely go beyond the September 30 fiscal year end date.

ACTION ALERT

Contact your members of Congress and urge them to pass the THUD Appropriations bill prior to the end of the fiscal year on September 30.

• Urge your elected representatives in the U.S. House and Senate to support the higher levels of funding for public transportation in the Senate bill.

• Ask them to support $4 billion for High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail as included in the House version of the bill.

Surface Transportation Authorization Outlook Unclear

Upon its return from August recess, Congress will also be faced with enacting a long term surface transportation authorization bill, or an extension of current programs, prior to the expiration of SAFETEA-LU on September 30. Considering the short time remaining prior to the expiration of SAFETEA-LU, it is likely that an extension will be required.

House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman James L. Oberstar (D-MN) is still working on gaining broader support for the six-year legislation that sets federal transportation policy and spending ceilings for public transportation, rail, highway, and bridge programs. This draft bill, jointly introduced by Chairman Oberstar and Ranking Member John Mica (R-FL), would increase public transit funding by 90 percent over current levels over the six-year authorization period. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) would receive $99.8 billion for public transportation funding. The legislation also authorizes $50 billion for the creation of a High Speed Rail network. Chairman Oberstar has indicated that if the bill is not completed prior to the September 30 deadline, he would favor a short, 3 to 6 month extension of SAFETEA-LU, to keep pressure on the Congress to pass a long-term bill as quickly as possible.

Due to the crowded legislative agenda and limited time remaining before SAFETEA-LU expires, the Obama Administration is backing an 18-month extension of the current programs. In the Senate, the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee have separately approved bills extending the current program for 18 months, but the exact length of any extension is expected to be a major topic of discussion in September.

Putting aside questions over the bill’s timeline for passage, the most challenging aspect of the legislation is reaching consensus on how to finance the increased investment in transit, high-speed intercity passenger rail and highway programs that authorizing committees in both the House and Senate are considering.

In addition, even a short-term extension must also include new revenues to ensure that the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) remains solvent into the future, since current revenues will not cover the costs of even the current program funding through the upcoming fiscal year. On August 7, President Barack Obama signed H.R. 3357 into law, which provides funding to cover an anticipated shortfall in the HTF through September 30. Funding for the Mass Transit Account of the HTF was not included, because projections indicate that there will be sufficient funds to cover spending for transit programs through FY 2010. However, if an 18-month extension is approved, it may be necessary to add funding for both the highway and mass transit accounts of the HTF to ensure that there are sufficient resources to fund all programs for the duration of that period.

ACTION ALERT

APTA supports the immediate passage of a well-funded long term surface authorization bill, prior to the expiration of SAFETEA-LU. We urge all members to contact their members of Congress and encourage them to support passage of a full, 6-year authorization bill that includes significant funding increases and program improvements as outlined in APTA’s authorization recommendations for public transportation.

Action on Senate Climate Change Bill

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is expected to take up climate change legislation in September. APTA has been urging Senators to dedicate a portion of cap and trade allocations to transportation investments that reduce carbon emissions which contribute to climate change, including formula funding for investment in public transportation and high-speed intercity passenger rail.

As part of that effort, APTA has supported the Clean Low-Emissions Affordable New Transportation Equity Act, or CLEAN-TEA bill (S.575), sponsored by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) that would in fact dedicate 10 percent of cap and trade allowance revenue to public transportation and other transportation improvements. A separate Legislative Alert will be published on this issue next week.

For more information on APTA’s legislative wrap-up, go to http://www.apta.com/government_affairs/washrep/2009august28.cfm


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COMMUTERLINES... Commuter Lines...  

New Jersey Transit Celebrates Thirtieth Anniversary
In Low-Key Style

By David Peter Alan

New Jersey Transit celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in two installments this summer. The presentations at the July 8th and August 12th meetings of the Board of Directors stood in marked contrast to the corporation’s 25th anniversary celebration in December, 2004. The 2004 event lasted all day and featured lunch, tours of several facilities, and an evening event.

The celebration of thirty years of NJT began in at the July Board meeting, commemorating the day the agency was founded, July 17, 1979. That was the day the New Jersey Legislature passed the Transportation Act of 1979 and then-Governor Brendan T. Byrne signed it into law. Executive Director Richard Sarles honored several people from NJT’s past, most notably long-time NJT Board member John L. McGoldrick. McGoldrick, an attorney from Princeton, won fame in the mid-1970s, when he fought in court to save the rail shuttle between Princeton Junction and downtown Princeton, known locally as the “Dinky.” McGoldrick was one of the original Board members and continued in that capacity until 2005. There were no special events to mark the occasion, except that a commemorative cake was served.

The commemoration continued at the August Board meeting, with a guest who was not on the official schedule for the day. He was former Senator Francis X. Herbert, who had guided the transportation bill through a perilous course in the Senate and thereby earned the unofficial title “Father of New Jersey Transit.” In his brief remarks, Herbert recounted the state of transit in New Jersey in the 1970s and related the political difficulties he had with his colleagues.

According to Herbert, passage of the transportation bill was far from assured. While most Democrats favored it, several from Hudson County -- where Hoboken and Jersey City are located across the Hudson River from Manhattan -- opposed it. They were concerned about the future of some of their strongest constituencies -- private bus operators. Some of these companies still co-exist with NJT, but the formation of a public corporation to provide bus service scared the bus companies thirty years ago. Most Republicans also opposed the formation of a public transportation agency, so the future of transit in the Garden State looked grim.

Despite Republican efforts to make the transportation measure a “party discipline” bill, six Republicans voted with most of the Democrats and the bill passed by one vote. Herbert specifically paid tribute to the six Republicans who voted against party leadership and for better transit. He praised them for their courage and for their commitment to mobility for the people of New Jersey and told the audience that we need leaders with that sort of courage today.

In its early days, NJT provided only bus service, except for the Newark City Subway, the sole surviving remnant of a once-extensive streetcar system in the state. These assets had been owned by Transport of New Jersey, which had been spun off by Public Service Electric & Gas Company (PSE&G), a major utility provider. PSE&G established streetcar lines during its early history, as many electric utilities did. They later switched to buses but eventually got rid of the bus operation as well.

NJT did not provide rail service until 1983, after the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) was required by Federal statute to discontinue all commuter trains at the end of 1982. Today, NJT operates an extensive rail network, three light rail lines, and a bus network with routes throughout New Jersey and into New York City and Philadelphia. Several new rail starts have also been proposed.

Frank Herbert served for many years on NJT’s Senior Citizens and Disabled Residents Transportation Advisory Committee (SCDRTAC). He has retired from politics, although he still campaigns for an increase in the State’s Motor Fuels Tax and for funding for NJT.

“I can’t believe it’s been thirty years since we started NJ Transit,” Herbert told this writer. He remains proud of his accomplishment. “It was the right thing to do at the time, and better transit is the right thing for today.”

Herbert went on to say that another “right idea” is to raise the state’s gas tax, currently among the lowest in the nation. New Jersey’s gas tax reach its present level in 1988 and has not been raised since then, although transit fares have increased several times. New Jersey Transit has not called for an increase, but many rail advocates have. Many wish that Mr. Herbert had not retired from politics so he could help lead the battle.

David Peter Alan is Vice-Chair of NJT’s SCDRTAC, among other affiliations, and has served on that Committee with Mr. Herbert.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)84.0384.77
Canadian National (CNI)49.3949.40
Canadian Pacific (CP)50.0747.85
CSX (CSX)43.7345.06
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)31.4331.01
Kansas City Southern (KSU)24.9924.00
Norfolk Southern (NSC)46.9147.54
Providence & Worcester (PWX)11.1511.05
Union Pacific (UNP)60.6361.95


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FREIGHT LINES... Freight Lines...  

Photo: Christopher_&_AmyCate @ Flickr.com

Traffic Throttles Up At Large Railroads

From Journal Of Commerce On Internet

Railcar loads of coal, metal scrap and metallic ores went up by 2,990 units for major U.S. railroads in the week ending August 22.

This rise represents the strongest traffic level since March 7.

According to the Association of American Railroads, carloads of Class I and large regional carriers trailed by 16.1 percent in the same week in 2008 and intermodal was 16.2 percent behind during the same week last year.

Although this is the time of year when intermodal traditionally surges with import container numbers rising toward a September peak, ahead of late-year sales by retailers, 2009 has seen international traffic run sharply behind what was already a weak 2008. Domestic intermodal has remained stronger by comparison.

Shipments of motor vehicles and other equipment, aided by “cash for clunkers,” were also lifted to their strongest levels since March.

That program ended this week after spurring nearly 700,000 new-car sales, and will have some lingering effects. Several car builders including General Motors and Ford said they were increasing production after the federal incentive helped clear out unsold inventories.

That makes it hard to know how much of the recent growth in rail traffic is a temporary push, or may reflect a more fundamental pickup in the economy.


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STIMULUS LINES... Stimulus Lines...  

Lincoln’s Home Town Worried High Speed Rail
Will Cut City In Half

From the Illinois Statehouse Examiner

SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS – AUGUST 27 - In the rush to compete for Federal Stimulus money, the State of Illinois finds itself in an ironic situation: the town fathers of Springfield – President Lincoln’s hometown – are opposing the high speed rail route because it will cut their downtown area in half.

The Examiner’s editor, Jarid Brown, describes the dilemma:

“.... city officials, business and community leaders are coming together for the first time in years to lobby the Illinois Commerce Commission to abandon their current high speed rail plans and relocate the system to a more favorable route. The current plans for high speed rail are set to run along a corridor that will essentially cut Springfield and its downtown in half, causing major disruptions to traffic flow and long term development plans centered around the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.

Lincoln Museum

“The current $2.3 billion agreement reached between Union Pacific and the State of Illinois calls for an upgrade to accommodate high speed rail access along the Third Street corridor in the capitol city. Included in the plans would be the elimination of multiple railroad crossings and the installation of railway overpasses with lead-ins extending nearly a quarter of a mile on each side. The route would position the high speed rail within a block of the Capitol complex, dividing the downtown in half and dividing access to the cities medical district. In addition, the proposed route would run through the heart of densely populated neighborhoods and increase traffic upon the tracks to upward of 40 trains per day.”

The City of Springfield has spent millions of dollars to revitalize the downtown area centered around the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and has also invested in developing a new medical district centered around the city’s three hospitals, two of which rank among the nation’s top 100. The present route, which is more “shovel ready” for high speed rail than any alternative at this point in time, would dissect the medical district by an overpass and limit some of the present access to the three hospital networks.

The local officials and community leaders are not opposed to high-speed rail; they simply want an alternative route, one which goes through a less populated, more industrialized area. The Tenth-Street Corridor, which they are proposing, “would provide less disruption to traffic patterns, already has a system of over and underpasses in place and would not have a negative impact upon a downtown area that the city and private businesses have spent millions of dollars revitalizing.”

The problem is, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Tenth Street Corridor has not been studied, so they cannot meet the deadline for applying for Stimulus money.


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Final Applications Submitted for Phase I
Of High-Speed Rail Stimulus Dollars

Applications are for projects that are ready-to-go; another round of applications is due in October.

From Transport Politic on Internet

AUGUST 25 – When President Obama announced that the stimulus funds for high speed rail would be competitive, state departments of transportation scrambled to find the most “shovel ready” rail projects, not an easy task in a country which has poured the lion’s share of its transportation money into highways for t he last eighty years. Thick volumes of highway studies filled the shelves of transportation planning departments, but a few regions like California and the Midwest had long been planning for the inevitable -- America would one day see the economic and quality of life advantages of rail.

A wild deluge of pre-applications, topped by California’s request for more than $20 billion, flooded federal offices in July, totaling more than $100 billion for high speed rail projects. But this time, knowing the stimulus provides $8 billion in total, states refined and improved their plans, submitting far more modest proposals mostly focused on improvements. Calilfornia, with its already partially financed 220 mph system, asked for $1.1 billion to create a space for trains to enter under the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco and to get started on a number of smaller projects along the north-south main line.

Maryland’s request to replace the 140-year-old tunnel through West Baltimore that has become a bottleneck on the Northeast Corridor, will greatly improve service for the entire system.

Michigan asked for money to improve service between Detroit and Chicago.

The Federal Railroad Administration, hoping to approve projects whose construction can begin right away and whose engineering had already been completed, pushed states that had more long-term plans to apply for the second round, due in early October.

Below is an incomplete list put together by Transport Politic:

Applicants for Ready-To-Go HSR Projects

StateAmountProject Description
California$1.1 bTransbay Terminal “box,” upgrades to sections of the San Francisco-Anaheim main line in preparation for major work.
Connecticut$64 mMostly for the New Haven-Springfield commuter line.
Delaware$17 mThird rail between Wilmington and Newark.
Florida$270 mConstruction of SunRail commuter rail system.
Illinois$550 mCREATE Project, upgrading of sidings between Chicago and St. Louis, double-tracking of nine miles of track,
“Midwest regional passenger rail planning needs.”
Indiana$71 mIndiana section of the Detroit-Chicago line.
Maryland$360 mEngineering for the replacement of the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel (from the 1870s), plans for the redevelopment
of the BWI station, replacing bridges through northern MD, increasing storage at Union Station, third track from Perryville to Elkton.
Massachusetts$69 m +Restoration of the Connecticut River line for Vermonter service, upgrade of Springfield-Worcester route.
Michigan$830 mRenovation of route between Pontiac and Chicago, new stations at Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Troy, and Pontiac, renovations at other stations.
MissouriUp to $201 mImprovements on line between Kansas City and St. Louis.
New Jersey$39 mReplacement of the Portal Bridge West of Secaucus (minor part of the whole project).
New York$565 mElimination of bottleneck at Schenectady, third track near Rochester, general improvements from Albany to Buffalo,
small improvements from Albany to Montréal.
North Carolina$76 mImprovements to track between Raleigh and Virginia state line.
Pennsylvania$28 mPreliminary engineering on projects to improve speeds between Harrisburg and Philadelphia.
Texas$1.8 bT-Bone corridor, Dallas-Houston, San Antonio-Houston.
Vermont$52 mUpgrading of the tracks between St. Albans and Brattleboro.
Virginia$75 m11 miles of third track from Arkendale to Powell’s Creek.
Washington$435 mImprovements to track between Seattle and Portland.


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IN MEMORIUM... In Memoriam...  

Thinking About Ted Kennedy

By Jim Repass
Publisher, Destination Freedom

For those of us of a certain age, it is impossible not to reflect, with a sense of irretrievable loss, upon the final ringing-down of life’s curtain on Senator Edward M. Kennedy this past week, and upon the era his death brings to a close.

Impossible, too, not to think back over the decades, first as a young boy watching JFK’s inauguration, and then as a youth when I witnessed the men of the Kennedy family, propelled by an utterly ruthless patriarch who nevertheless infused his children with an abiding sense of public service, enter one by one onto the world’s stage, only to be cut down in turn: Jack and Bobby, both assassinated, who were themselves predeceased by the original golden boy of the family, Joe Jr., killed in WWII.

Only Teddy, the baby, was spared that fate; only Teddy, of all of that star-crossed family’s men, got to die in bed, at home, surrounded by his family.

Ambitious and noble, venal and grand, magnanimous and grasping, the Kennedys were and will be for all time remembered and measured on a different scale than the rest of us, simultaneously Falstaffian and Faustian, not simply because they were such giants, but that they chose to be giants.

Thinking about Ted, his passion and his appetites, his rage and his humor, his coming to terms with himself at last in a life played out so publicly, one wonders where he found real solace, other than on the sea, in the Maya, sailing with his true friend Chris Dodd.

I only met him twice to talk with him for any length of time; once, in 1975, in a bar on Nantucket Island where he liked to hang out, and where that Summer afternoon long ago he was three sheets to the wind and ready to hoist the spinnaker; and then again, years later, at a fund-raiser for the late Congressman Joseph Moakley (D-MA), with his then-new bride, Victoria Reggie, who hails from my native state of Louisiana. I joked with them both about Louisiana Hot Sauce, and observed that Irishmen like Ted think “hot” food is simply food that’s been heated --- which is definitely not the spicy Louisiana gustatory reality he was about to meet via his lovely new bride. She was and is so gracious, and she was his rock. She didn’t just marry Ted; she saved his life.

Our other interaction with Ted was his support of the Rail Link proposed to connect North and South stations; he made sure, despite the efforts of the governors following Weld in Massachusetts who have tried to kill it, that the funding for engineering work remains available; Senator John Kerry (D-MA), and Congressmen Steve Lynch (D-MA), are working to make that project go forward again.

But this is a day for deeper things; the Kennedys brought, among many other things, an appreciation of poetry to public life, and I very distinctly remember the aged Robert Frost struggling to read his poem in the glare of that bright January 1961 day’s sun at JFK’s inaugural.

Ted’s death for some of us, no matter the party or political leaning, is the closing of a door; here is a poem, then, for Ted, and all of us who will miss him, and the generation of leaders he so fully came to inhabit. It is by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

To a young child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By & by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep & know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy
(D-MA) 1932-2009


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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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