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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September 28, 2009
Vol. 10 No. 41

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…
CSX Agrees To Sell Two Lines To Commonwealth
  Freight Lines…
BNSF Says Texas’ Application For Stimulus Funds Will Help
   Improve The State’s Freight Mobility And Economy
  Selected Rail Stocks…
 
  Safety Lines…
Statement On Public Transit Security
  Editorial…
A Big Congrats To Massachusetts On CSX Rail Line Acquisition
  Publication Notes …


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

CSX Agrees To Sell Two Lines To Commonwealth

DF Staff From Internet Sources

A landmark agreement occurred last week between CSX and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: the freight railroad agreed to sell the Commonwealth its lines from Worcester to Boston and New Bedford to Fall River.

“......we have finally reached an historic rail agreement between CSX Transportation and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Lt. Governor Tim Murray. “ This deal will allow for a major redevelopment of 50 acres in Boston, will improve service between Worcester and Boston, and lay the groundwork for a long-planned line to Fall River and New Bedford – all initiatives that are key to the state’s long-term economic future,” he added.

“This is a great development for the Commonwealth [of Massachusetts], its residents, its environment, and its economy,” said CSX Chairman, President, and CEO Michael J. Ward (pictured above)

The sticking point, which held up the agreement for several years, was liability. The debate centered on CSX’s insistence that it be 100% indemnified for any accident even if the freight railroad was proven to be at fault. As part of the agreement, CSX will contribute $500,000 to help defray the cost of the liability insurance policy MBTA carries for the entire commuter system. In the event of an accident involving a freight train in which CSX is clearly at fault because of ‘willful misconduct,’ CSX will be responsible to pay the deductible on the policy, up to $7.5 million per accident.”

CSX will be paid an undisclosed sum for both routes, as well as for the Boston Terminal Running Track and a rail yard in South Boston. The deal also hinged on a commitment by state transportation officials to upgrade some bridges along the routes to allow for double-stack container train operations. Massachusetts also will help relocate CSX’s operations out of another rail yard in Boston.

The media is calling this “an important breakthrough that should spur economic development and lead to better commuter rail service”

“This is a great development for the commonwealth, its residents, its environment, and its economy,” said CSX Chairman, President, and CEO Michael J. Ward in a statement. “In addition to commuter service, the plan will give the commonwealth a double-stack freight rail route that will help alleviate congestion on Massachusetts highways.”

South Coast Rail Section:

The lines being purchased in the South Coast area are the New Bedford Main Line, running from Taunton to New Bedford, and the Fall River Secondary Line, going from Taunton to Fall River.

Herald News Staffer Jay Pateakos reports, “While many of the key elements of the deal were resolved in 2008, the long-standing debate on liability remained unresolved until now.” When talks with CSX were stalled last year, Senator John Kerry, Lt. Gov Tim Murray and U.S. Rep. James McGovern pushed hard to get this agreement settled. Kerry called the deal “a tremendous victory with countless benefits for Massachusetts.”

“It’s a boost to our economy, it’ll help reduce pollution and it will relieve congestion on the roads. It’s been a long slog. I consider this a consummated sale, with the state taking over these properties and the money being set aside for the commuter rail over time,” Kerry said. “The real key here is now getting the tracks permitted so that we can get this going.”

Officials are pleased that public money can now be used for upgrading tracks and bringing the infrastructure of the South Coast Rail up to a state of good repair.

Roland Hebert, Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District transportation manager, said, “Many rail bridges in the New Bedford area are in critically poor condition, and the general condition of the rail beds throughout the South Coast is poor. CSX will still have a say in getting permission to do track maintenance because they will continue to have a license to use the track for freight service, but the commonwealth is now the responsible party when it comes to track maintenance.”

With the purchase, rail officials claim the 2016 proposed completion date for full South Coast Rail service is still on target.

Boston-Worcester line

For a while the MBTA was actually looking at the possibility of using alternative trackage to connect Worcester to the Fitchburg-Acton line that comes into North Station. “It would add about 30 minutes travel time but would be a back-up to the present situation for some runs in the event that this deal didn’t work out,” said NCI webmaster Dennis Kirkpatrick.

“There is still a possibility that the alternative could be added in at some point later, but for now this will fix things,” he said.

One of the plans is to add a 3rd passing track in a several-mile segment of the 2-track line between Worcester and Framingham that will allow through-trains when freight is otherwise blocking the line. However the press stories are now talking about scheduling of the trains to optimize things. This raises questions of whether the passing track is still on the table.

Liability Resolution A Major Step

Recognizing that this is a huge change in position, Jason Kuehn of Global Consulting Company Oliver Wyman commented in Progressive Railroading on the possible effects of the deal:

Will this pave the way for other big deals such as the Central Florida Commuter Rail package?

Will this become the new pattern that unlocks one of the stickiest issues in mixed passenger and freight corridors?

Will this pave the way for operators other than Amtrak to assume operations of some of the proposed High Speed Rail Corridors such as the 3-C corridor in Ohio?  It seems to me one of the largest barriers to private operators of a state sponsored corridor would be assuming full liability for all accidents regardless of cause.


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FREIGHT LINES... Freight Lines...  

BNSF Says Texas’ Application For Stimulus Funds Will Help Improve The State’s Freight Mobility And Economy

From The Internet

Two Photos: North Central Texas Council of Governments

The infamous Tower 55
FORT WORTH, TXSEPTEMBER 22 -- BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) is anticipating a significant impact on improving freight mobility and the economy in Texas if it receives the $61 million in stimulus funds for the Tower 55 At-grade Improvement Project.

The applicant is actually the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ (NCTCOG) since the money must be routed through a government agency.

Tower 55 is one of the busiest at-grade railroad intersections in the United States. Located near downtown Fort Worth, Texas, it “sees” over 100 freight and passenger trains passing through every day. If the money is granted, it will create several hundred construction jobs and could put more than $130 million into the local economy.

Tower 55 would be able to handle 40 percent more rail volume than is moving through there today. Delays and congestion would be greatly relieved.

Public benefits from this stimulus fund of $61 million could accrue to more than $695 million.

“On behalf of BNSF, I want to thank all of the business and community leaders and public officials who have worked so hard in support of this project,” said Matthew K. Rose, BNSF chairman, president and chief executive officer. “We appreciate Transportation Director Michael Morris and the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ leadership in finding ways to immediately reduce air emissions and congestion while also creating jobs and improving the economy. We would also like to commend U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison; Congresspeople Michael Burgess and Kay Granger; and TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz for their support of this project. Their vision will help ensure Texas will remain one of the most efficient and competitive freight transportation markets in the nation. Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Gary Ridley should also be commended for his support and recognition of the project’s benefits beyond Texas.”

“It is through projects like Tower 55 and the tremendous support from the community that will allow the United States to create and sustain the pre-eminent surface transportation system in the world,” Rose said.

About BNSF Railway Company

A subsidiary of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation (NYSE: BNI), BNSF Railway Company operates one of the largest North American rail networks, with about 32,000 route miles in 28 states and two Canadian provinces. BNSF is among the world’s top transporters of intermodal traffic, moves more grain than any other American railroad, carries the components of many of the products we depend on daily, and hauls enough low-sulfur coal to generate about ten percent of the electricity produced in the United States. BNSF is an industry leader in Web-enabling a variety of customer transactions at www.bnsf.com.

More images of the traffic and complexity around Tower 55.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)80.5783.91
Canadian National (CNI)47.8851.02
Canadian Pacific (CP)45.8549.03
CSX (CSX)42.8245.26
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)30.5332.27
Kansas City Southern (KSU)25.9128.11
Norfolk Southern (NSC)43.9646.34
Providence & Worcester (PWX)11.1011.30
Union Pacific (UNP)59.5062.40


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SAFETYLINES... Safety Lines...  

Statement On Public Transit Security

By Apta President William Millar

Reprinted With Permission

“Recent events have highlighted the need to continue security vigilance and to invest in much-needed transit security infrastructure and operations at our nation’s public transportation systems. While public transportation is one of the safest types of transportation, it is a target by terrorists abroad, and the federal government should do everything in its power to make sure that U.S. public transportation systems are equipped with security technologies that will keep us safe.

Despite the fact that in 2007 the 9/11 Commission Act authorized $3.4 billion for transit security through FY 2011, security needs have remained underfunded.  Only $1.1 billion has been allocated to public transportation systems for security since 2007 and right now, the Congress is considering funding at an even lower level than the previous two years.

This is short-sighted. The millions of Americans who take more than 10 billion trips on public transportation each year should be assured that the federal government is adequately funding transit security.”

I have sent a letter to House Committee on Appropriations Chair David Obey to ask for Congress to fully fund the authorization of $900 million for FY 2010.  We need to move forward, not backward on this very important issue.”


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

A Big Congrats To Massachusetts
On CSX Rail Line Acquisition

By Jim RePass, Publisher, Destination: Freedom

A big step in the right direction was taken by Massachusetts this past week, when it announced the acquisition of a set of certain CSX rail lines in the central and southeastern parts of the state, whose development into commuter and improved freight rail access will have a major positive impacts on the quality of life in the central and western parts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Southeastern Massachusetts as well.

By hammering out an agreement that addressed the liability issue --- the key stumbling block to commuter rail usage of freight tracks in a way that protects the freight railroad from catastrophic, potentially bankrupting legal damages in the event of a major accident involving loss of life --- Massachusetts Department of Transportation, soon to become known as MassDOT under the reforms instituted by Governor Deval Patrick, who also played a role in the successful negotiations, Massachusetts has shown that while it may not be easy to arrive at solutions to the issue of legal liability in our litigious age, it is indeed possible to do so if the will is there and effort is expended.

So, congrats from NCI to Governor Patrick, the Mass DOT, and CSX on this one. This agreement may help set a pattern for other commuter rail projects across America, many of which are facing the same issue of legal liability, and many of which are candidates for funding of intercity and transit trail projects under the Federal stimulus program.


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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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