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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Nov 1, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 45

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

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

  News Items…
US DOT Grants $2.4 Billion More For American High-Speed Rail System
Lautenberg Wants Investigation Into ARC Tunnel Cancellation
  Maintenance Lines…
Amtrak Orders 70 New Electric Locomotives For Keystone And
   Northeast Corridor Service
  HSR…
High-Speed Rail Projects Attracting Partisan Opposition
   In State Campaigns
  Grants And Funding…
Wisconsin, Illinois Awarded $3.7 Million For Hiawatha Line
  Safety Lines…
Metrolink, Parsons First Out Of The Gate With PTC
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Freight Lines…
AAR: Carload Traffic, Intermodal Gain
  Across The Pond…
Siemens Mobility Wins US $466 Million
   Amtrak Locomotive Order
China Opens Latest Section Of Expanding
   High-Speed Rail Network
  Commentary…
The ARC Project: How Did We Get Here?
  Editorial…
An Election To Remember?
  Publication Notes …


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

US DOT Grants $2.4 Billion More
For American High-Speed Rail System

By DF Staff And From The US Department Of Transportation

WASHINGTON, DC --- This past week the Obama Administration, through its Department of Transportation, awarded an additional $2.4 billion in new funds for planning and construction of intercity passenger rail service.

These grants are in addition to the $8 billion for rail appropriated under the Recovery Act in 2009, and along with separate projects funded through Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, bring to roughly $13 billion the amount committed to major rail improvements in the first two years of the Obama Administration.

“With these 54 projects in 23 states, we’re moving full-speed ahead toward a nationwide high-speed rail system,” stated DOT Secretary Ray LaHood. “President Obama signed the Recovery Act to build bridges between the Americans who needed jobs and the infrastructure jobs that needed doing. One of those jobs was creating a 21st century rail system in the United States.

Proposed rail routes

Image: FRA

This map may also be viewed at
http://www.fra.dot.gov/rpd/downloads/HSIPR_Summary_of_Investments.pdf

“The $8 billion in the Recovery Act for high-speed rail was step one, a down payment on a national network that, within 25 years, will give 80% of Americans the choice of traveling from downtown to downtown by high-speed passenger train,” said LaHood in making the announcement. “With today’s awards, we take a second step toward that future. A future that envisions riding from downtown Los Angeles to downtown San Francisco in two hours and forty minutes. Or Chicago to St. Louis in two hours. Or Tampa to Orlando in 55 minutes.

“The intense demand for high-speed rail dollars demonstrates just how important this historic initiative is,” he continued. “We received 132 applications for $8.8 billion, more than three times the funding Congress made available. Across the country, states are seeing the future and clamoring for passenger rail routes. That’s why we’ve already expanded to include a route from Iowa City to Chicago--running through the Quad Cities--and a route in Michigan connecting Detroit to Chicago via Kalamazoo.”

“States understand that high-speed rail represents a unique opportunity to revitalize our manufacturing base, spur economic development, and create jobs. Workers will be needed to lay track and manufacture rail cars. And more than 30 rail manufacturers and suppliers, both domestic and foreign, have agreed to establish or expand bases of operations in the US if they are hired to build America’s next generation high-speed lines. The Obama Administration secured this commitment to ensure that new jobs are created here at home.

And, because proximity to rail stations will be increasingly valuable, growing rail lines will also stimulate economic development,” said LaHood.

“There are other benefits beyond jobs, economic growth, and greater mobility. Rail routes will alleviate congestion on crowded highways and allow freight to flow more freely by truck. Train passengers will forego crowded airports often located more than an hour outside of a city’s central business district. And all of these intercity routes will be cleaner and greener than our current options, easing our reliance on imported oil and mitigating carbon emissions on our environment,” he stated.

“Every vision this nation ever realized began with a few courageous steps. If we put off high-speed rail by saying it will take too long to build, then it will never happen. President Eisenhower took a step forward at the birth of the US Interstate Highway network in the 1950s, and today that system is the life-blood of American commerce and mobility. Now it’s time for another bold step. The America I grew up in didn’t just happen. Our nation’s progress was only made possible through the imagination, investment, and hard work of those who came before. And I’m proud that, today, we’re adding to that legacy with President Obama’s commitment to high-speed rail,” concluded Secretary LaHood.

The specifics of the program announcement are follows in the next paragraphs: for more detailed information go to http://www.dot.gov/briefing-room.html

On October 28, 2010, Secretary of Transportation LaHood announced the second round of recipients selected to receive funding under the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Program (press release). In total, 54 applications were selected to receive approximately $2.5 billion in FY10 and remaining FY09 funding. These projects build off of the first round of projects selected as part of the $8 billion down payment for high-speed and intercity passenger rail made under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The HSIPR Program is intended to help address the nation’s transportation challenges by investing in an efficient network of passenger rail corridors that connect communities across the country. These investments focus on three key objectives:

  1. Building new high-speed rail corridors that expand and fundamentally improve passenger transportation in the geographic regions they serve;

  2. Upgrading existing intercity passenger rail services; and

  3. Laying the groundwork for future high-speed passenger rail services through individual projects and planning efforts.

A complete list of selected FY10 grant applications is available. For information on previously selected applications, a list of FY09/ARRA grant applications received and selected is also available. For additional information on FY10 selections, including the details about selected projects and the long-term vision for funded services, go the FRA Website http://www.fra.dot.gov/rpd/passenger/2243.shtml and then click on one of the corridors listed below:


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Lautenberg Wants Investigation
Into ARC Tunnel Cancellation

From The Asbury Park Press

TRENTON, NJ --- Sen. Frank Lautenberg is calling for an investigation into the cancellation of the Trans Hudson rail tunnel, formerly called the ARC (“Access to the Region’s Core”) Project linking New Jersey and New York City.

Lautenberg says he wants more information about the role state Transportation Commissioner James Simpson played and whether he violated state ethics laws by participating in the process.

Simpson oversaw work on the tunnel while he was the head of the Federal Transit Administration under President George W. Bush.

Simpson officially recused himself on Oct. 5, two days before Gov. Chris Christie first announced that he was canceling the nation’s largest infrastructure project then under way.


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MAINTENANCE LINES... Maintenance Lines...  

Amtrak Orders 70 New Electric Locomotives
For Keystone And Northeast Corridor Service

From Amtrak: Special Employee Advisory
From President & CEO Joe Boardman

Amtrak is announcing the purchase of 70 new electric locomotives for use on the Northeast Corridor (including the Keystone Service), the first of which will be delivered in February 2013. The six-year, $466 million contract has been awarded to Siemens, and will create 250 jobs at its manufacturing plant in Sacramento, Calif., as well as its other facilities in Norwood, Ohio, and Alpharetta, Ga.

The new equipment will result in improved reliability and better service to our passengers, helping meet the growing demand for passenger rail. The engines will replace locomotives that are between 20 and 30 years old, which many of you know we run very hard.

This news follows the announcement we made in the summer to buy 130 new long-distance rail cars and is the next step in our fleet renewal plan. Part of the responsibility of leadership is to ensure that the men and women meeting our mission have the tools they need to do the mission well.

Not only does aging and problematic equipment hurt our ability to deliver good service, but I know it also takes a toll on our crews. Expanding and renewing our fleet is not only critical to meeting our nation’s transportation needs, but also to creating a safer, greener and healthier Amtrak.

The new locomotives will be equipped with anti-climbing technology and push-back couplers that will help keep the train upright and on the tracks in the event of a collision. In addition, the regenerative braking system in the units will return electricity to the power grid.

As we take delivery of the 70 new locomotives, we will retire 64 older locomotives in our current electric fleet, including 20 DC AEM-7s, 29 AC AEM-7s and 15 HHP-8s. The additional units will be put toward service expansion.

This is an exciting time for our company as we approach our 40-year anniversary. We are making important and lasting changes that will help shape the future of transportation in America. Thank you for all your hard work — let’s keep it going.

Sincerely,

Joe Boardman
President and CEO

[ Ed Note: Additional coverage of this item is found in the Across The Pond section below. ]


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HIGH-SPEED RAIL... High-Speed Rail...  

High-Speed Rail Projects Attracting
Partisan Opposition In State Campaigns

From Time Magazine And CNN

NEW YORK --- Time Magazine and CNN are reporting that high-speed rail projects, which have attracted largely bi-partisan support, are becoming the focus of some state’s political debates this campaign season

An October 29 article written by Michael Grunwald and entitled High-Speed Rail Goes Off The Tracks In Wisconsin, reports:

“Wisconsin was one of the big winners in last year’s $8 billion high-speed rail competition, snagging $810 million for a new passenger line between Madison and Milwaukee. So in July, President Obama’s Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, visited to hail the most ambitious transportation initiative since President Eisenhower launched the interstate-highway system. “High-speed rail is coming to Wisconsin,” LaHood declared. “There’s no stopping it!”

Grunwald then comments: “We’ll see,” and continues:

“Milwaukee County executive Scott Walker, the Republican candidate for governor, has denounced the train as a Big Government boondoggle, and has vowed to send the money back to Washington if he’s elected. He has even launched a website, www.notrain.com, attacking Obama and his opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, for supporting the new line. Walker and Barrett don’t agree on much, but they agree that high-speed rail is a defining issue in their campaign.

“High-speed rail was once a bipartisan dream, but ever since it was included in Obama’s controversial $787 billion stimulus bill, it’s become another hyper-partisan issue in a hyper-partisan climate,” reports Grunwald. “Republican candidates for governor in California, Florida and Ohio, three of the other big winners in the rail-funding sweepstakes, are also talking about stopping trains and giving the government its money back. It’s a proxy issue for the role of government at a time when the GOP message is all about less,” Grunwald writes.

For the full Grunwald column sees: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2028182,00.html.


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GRANTS AND FUNDING... Grants And Funding...  

And Speaking Of Wisconsin…

 

Wisconsin, Illinois Awarded
$3.7 Million For Hiawatha Line

MILWAUKEE-CHICAGO --- Even as gubernatorial candidates were slugging it out over their rail project, the federal government last Thursday awarded Wisconsin and Illinois $3.7 million to upgrade service on Amtrak’s Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line, reports Milwaukee City Hall reporter Larry Sandler of the Pulitzer-Prize winning Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel (online)

“That money will be used to replace two railroad bridges, which the U.S. Department of Transportation said would lay the groundwork for eventually raising the speed on the route to 110 mph. Earlier this year, the federal government granted the state $810 million in stimulus money to extend the Hiawatha from Milwaukee to Madison, a 110-mph leg that could one day be part of a Chicago-to-Twin Cities route and a larger Midwestern network of fast, frequent trains,” wrote Sandler.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker, the Milwaukee County executive, has vowed to shut down construction on the Milwaukee-to-Madison line if he’s elected to avoid paying its $8 million annual operating costs. Democratic candidate Tom Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor, backs the route as an economic boon to the state.

But Walker has said he supports the current Hiawatha service, and legislative Republicans voted to accept $12 million in stimulus cash for previous upgrades.

Thursday’s announcement was part of $2.4 billion in high-speed rail grants handed out to 54 projects in 23 states. That included $40 million to renovate the St. Paul, Minn., train station for the Chicago-to-Twin Cities line.

For the complete story go to www.jsonline.com.


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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

Metrolink, Parsons First Out Of
The Gate With PTC

From Railway Age October 29

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA---The Southern California Regional Rail Authority has awarded a $120 million contract to Parsons to design, procure, and install Positive Train Control (PTC) technology on the 512-mile Metrolink regional rail system. Parsons’ responsibilities will include design, installation, documentation, testing, integration, and commissioning. In addition, Parsons will lead the overall radio frequency infrastructure development, manage the development of the network management system, and provide a replacement of the dispatching system, Railway Age reports.

“This significant contract represents the first of its kind to be awarded in the U.S. rail industry,” said Parsons Group President Tom Barron. “It is the first application of PTC in compliance with the U.S. Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which mandates that passenger and freight railroads install PTC by Dec. 31, 2015. We are excited to be the first firm awarded such an industry-changing contract and to have the opportunity to work with Metrolink to improve passenger safety on our nation’s railroads through the implementation of technology.”

Metrolink’s PTC system will be fully interoperable with Union Pacific’s VTMS (Vital Train Management System) and BNSF Railway’s ETMS (Electronic Train Management System) PTC technologies. The implementation program will consist of the following:

Metrolink’s system will be designed to comply with all of the Federal Railroad Administration PTC requirements: enforcing speed restrictions; preventing train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, and casualties or injuries to roadway workers (maintenance-of-way workers, bridge workers, signal maintainers) operating within their limits of authority as a result of unauthorized incursion by a train, and preventing train movements through a misaligned switch.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)64.7867.15
Canadian Pacific (CP) 65.1465.43
CSX (CSX)61.4561.18
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)46.2346.03
Kansas City Southern (KSU)43.8242.06
Norfolk Southern (NSC)61.4962.10
Providence & Worcester(PWX)13.0212.70
Union Pacific (UNP)87.6886.31


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FREIGHT LINES... Freight Lines...  

Also From Railway Age October 28:

 

AAR: Carload Traffic,
Intermodal Gain

NEW YORK --- U.S. carload freight traffic rose 9.6% during the week ending October 23 over the comparable week in 2009, the Association of American Railroads reported Thursday. Intermodal traffic also rose for the week, up 13.6% compared with the same week a year ago. Container volume grew 14.6%; trailer volume increased 8.2%.

AAR said 16 of the 19 carload commodity groups increased from the comparable week in 2009, with metallic ores continuing to post the most significant gain, up 263.5%. Commodity groups posting declines included non-metallic minerals, down 17.9%, and grain mill products, down 4%.

Canadian carload freight volume rose 5.4% for the week compared with last year, while intermodal rose 12.6%. Mexico’s two major railroads reported carload freight traffic rose 9.4% from the same week last year, with intermodal up 10%.

Combined North American rail volume for the first 42 weeks of 2010 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was up 9.8% from last year, while intermodal advance 15.1%.


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ACROSS THE POND... Across The Pond...  

Installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

 

Siemens Mobility Wins US $466 Million
Amtrak Locomotive Order

Seventy ‘Cities Sprinter’ Electric Locomotives For Amtrak Routes in the Northeast

Via Siemens Mobility press release and input from NCI contributor Jim Lashmer

Erlangen, Germany – Amtrak, the U.S. passenger rail operator, has finalized an agreement with Siemens for the delivery of 70 Amtrak Cities Sprinter electric locomotives worth approximately EUR 338 million (US $466 million). By securing this order, Siemens has succeeded in selling its locomotives to the American market for the first time. The U.S. locomotive market recently has shown an average order volume of around EUR 1.5 billion per year. The first vehicles will be delivered in 2013 to Amtrak and will be known as Amtrak class ACS-64, which will replace 25 – 30 year-old AEM-7 locomotives produced by Electro-Motive Division (EMD) under license from ABB (ASEA of Sweden at that time).

ACS-64 electric locomotive for Amtrak

Artist concept image by Siemens AG

The new ACS-64 electric locomotive for Amtrak is a hybrid combination of...

The new Cities Sprinter are a part of the extensive fleet renewal program Amtrak is launching for the next 14 years, with a special focus on passenger rail service in the Northeast. With 2,600 rail connections a day, the corridor between Boston, Washington and Harrisburg, PA is are the most heavily traveled long-distance routes in the USA. The modernization program totals US $11 billion. “In the past months rail transportation has stepped into the spotlight of infrastructure improvement projects in America and is strongly supported by the U.S. administration. This order for the Cities Sprinters is our first opportunity to supply a Siemens locomotive to the American locomotive market, the second largest market in the world,” said Hans-Jörg Grundmann, CEO of the Siemens’ Mobility division. “This order shows that we are capable of offering the right solutions for regional and long-distance passenger rail service in the USA,” adds Grundmann.

Eurosprinter dual voltage locomotive

Photo: David Beale

... Seimens Eurosprinter (dual voltage 3 kVDC / 15 kVAC of PKP – Polish Railways as seen in in Berlin on 22-September-2010, and...

“Amtrak is a critical transportation provider in the Northeast and modern locomotives are essential to meet the service reliability expectations of our passengers and for us to handle the growing ridership demand in the coming years,” said Amtrak’s President and CEO Joseph Boardman.

New Vectron series locomotive

Photo: Siemens AG

...the new Vectron locomotive series, (one of the Vectron prototypes in Erlangen in June 2010)

The new locomotives will be assembled at the Siemens plant in Sacramento, California, with design engineering and a number of major components of the locomotives coming from Siemens Mobility main facility in Erlangen, Germany. In 2009 the Sacramento facility was vastly expanded under a US $26 million investment. Siemens is currently at the forefront of the American light rail market by providing one of every three light rail vehicles to the North American market today.

The Cities Sprinter locomotives for Amtrak will be based on the existing Siemens Eurosprinter series and the new Vectron series with (expensive and heavy) customized features to comply with unique U.S. FRA crash protection and safety requirements. The locomotives will be capable of operating from 25 kV 60 Hz AC power (Boston – New Haven), 12.5 kV 60 Hz power (New Haven – New York City plus several NJ suburban lines), and 12 kV 25 Hz power (New York City – Philadelphia – Baltimore – Washington DC and Philadelphia – Harrisburg PA). There is also the possibility that some of the new locomotives may end up in operation on several rail lines in California, which are planned for electrification in the next 3 – 5 years.

According to UNIFE, the Union of European Railway Industries, the world’s largest network of long-distance railroad lines exists in North America. The locomotive market there is currently regarded as the second biggest after Asia and, in the past, represented an average order volume of €  1.5 billion per year. Amtrak is the largest passenger rail operator on the North American continent and also operator of the only high-speed lines.

The announcement from Siemens Mobility wraps up a rather eventful October for the German conglomerate, which started with the announcement that Eurostar will buy 10 ea. sixteen car-long Velaro train sets for services from London to Paris, Brussels any beyond, possibly to Amsterdam or Bremen and Hamburg. Then Siemens customer Deutsche Bahn announced it would use already ordered Velaro D eight car long train sets between London, Cologne, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. Separately a judge in the UK dismissed a challenge by the French government and Alstom to the Eurostar decision to buy Velaro high-speed trains from Siemens. Alstom and the French government plan to appeal.


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China Opens Latest Section Of Expanding
High-Speed Rail Network

Record Speed For Revenue Service Passenger Train

Via People’s Daily

Shanghai – The Shanghai - Hangzhou Passenger-Dedicated Line opened on the 26th of October, with 350 km/h (218 mph) speeds cutting the 202 km journey between the cities from 1_ h to a fastest journey time of around 45 min. There will also be semi-fast and stopping trains serving the nine stations on the route, and total annual traffic is estimated at 80 million passenger-journeys.

The line forms one side of a triangular high-speed network which will provide journey times of less than 2 hours between Shanghai, Hangzhou and Nanjing, significantly increasing capacity in the Yangtze Delta region. The 301 km Shanghai - Nanjing leg opened on the 1st of July, and construction is underway on the 251 km direct link between Nanjing and Hangzhou.


Photo: People’s Daily

The first revenue service train (Bombardier Zefiro 380) runs through Jiashan on the 26th of October.

The line was completed within 20 months of the groundbreaking ceremony held on the 26th February 2009. It was built by Zhejiang Provincial Railway Investment Group, with funding from the Ministry of Railways, the Shanghai and Zhejiang provincial governments and Baosteel Group.

During trials a CRH380A Bombardier Zefiro train set reached a speed of 416.6 km/h on the 28th September, which the manufacturer said was a record for a normal train set; the TGV train set which reached 574.8 km/h in France in 2007 had been specially modified for the record attempt.

China has invested aggressively in the past decade in its rapidly expanding high-speed rail network, with total route kilometers now exceeding 8000 (5000 miles), it has taken the lead in high-speed rail from traditional leaders France, Spain, Germany and Japan. China plans to have 42 high-speed rail lines totaling 13,000 km (8100 miles) in operation by 2012. One of the longest lines to be completed in that time is the 1300 km high-speed rail corridor, which will link Beijing with Shanghai. That line will reduce the trip between the two cities from ten hours to five hours. There are other, even more ambitious projects underway, including a high-speed line between Shanghai and Kunming in southwestern China. The new rail link, scheduled for completion by 2015, will cut travel time from the current 37 hours to less than nine hours.


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

The ARC Project:
How Did We Get Here?

Sixth in a Series

By David Peter Alan

“The ARC is dead. Long Live the ARC.” said Paul Mulshine in a recent column in the Newark Star-Ledger. Last week, Governor Chris Christie made the first half of Mulshine’s prediction true on October 27th. Rail advocates immediately shifted their attention to the campaign to make the second half of it, genuine Access to the Region’s Core, a reality as well.

In reaffirming that the ARC (“Access to the Region’s Core”) Project as proposed by New Jersey Transit (NJT) will not be built, Christie wrote the finish to an amazing story; at least the first half of it. The second half is just beginning, but a look back yields some insight about where we stand today; a place that seemed beyond reach only one year ago.

The earliest discussions that resulted in the ARC Project proposal took place in 1993. NJT had been operating trains for only slightly more than ten years. The track connection that allowed Morris & Essex and Montclair-Boonton Line trains to reach Penn Station did not exist yet. It would be another decade before the Secaucus Station would open for service and allow riders on NJT’s Main-Bergen and Pascack Valley Lines to reach Penn Station with a two-seat ride, as they do today.

Public participation about ARC began in 1995. At that time, advocates for the riders (many of whom belonged to the Lackawanna Coalition or the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers; the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition did not exist yet) believed that the project would live up to its name and provide true access to the region’s core. That was midtown Manhattan, especially the East Side. The advocates believed that the project would give most commuters a one-seat ride to their offices, and that Alternative G (for Grand Central) would be chosen. It was the only one that made any sense. Alternative P (a stub-end station under the existing Penn Station) and Alternative S (a non-revenue track to help get train sets to Sunnyside Yard faster) appeared to be straw men, placed on the list merely to look worse than going to the East Side, where twice as much Manhattan office space is walkable from Grand Central Terminal (GCT), compared to Penn Station on the West Side.

Amtrak and NJT trains would go to Penn Station and connect with the Long Island Rail Road and future Metro-North service. Some trains would go to Grand Central Terminal and connect with other Metro-North trains at its hub station. Through-running would be possible, as practiced in London, Berlin and even Philadelphia. To the advocates, this was the ARC of the Covenant! But New York and New Jersey broke the Covenant in 2003 and New Jersey broke the Covenant further in 2008.

The advocates were shocked when, on a June day in 2003, the NJT Board announced that the ARC Project was going forward, but without New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the parent of Metro-North, and without access to the East Side via a Penn Station-GCT track connection. NJT was reluctant to talk about that turn of events, although Planning Director Rich Roberts remarked: “We don’t have a dance partner anymore.”

The lack of a “dance partner” allowed NJT Executive Director George Warrington to quicken up the tempo. He had arrived at NJT in 2002, after leaving the top job at Amtrak, and decided that the solution to lack of progress on ARC with the MTA was a railroad exclusively for NJT’s own use. He proposed a new alternative, similar to Alternative P, but with a new terminal north of, instead of beneath Penn Station. NJT trains would avoid Amtrak for nine miles and go into their own terminal. Amtrak was NJT’s landlord at Penn Station, and Warrington was a tenant who wanted to move.

While there was still provision for a track connection between the new line and the existing Penn Station, an NJT operating plan called for the eviction of all Morris & Essex and Montclair-Boonton Line trains from the existing Penn Station. Riders had come to enjoy their trip to Penn Station on the “Midtown Direct” trains, which began in 1996. Now they would lose it, although they were not informed directly of their planned loss. That news was disclosed in supporting documents for the companion Portal Bridge Capacity Enhancement Project. The Lackawanna Coalition found the eviction notice in the Portal Bridge file and sounded the alarm. Other advocates also became concerned.

Meanwhile, costs kept rising, fueling the issue that became Gov. Christie’s sole stated reason for terminating the project. In October, 2008, NJT eliminated any connection between the proposed new line and the existing Northeast Corridor (NEC), owned by Amtrak. NJT would have its own two-track railroad for the last nine miles into Manhattan, and Amtrak would continue to have only the two tunnel tracks that have served Penn Station since its opening slightly more than one hundred years ago. For many NJT riders wishing to change trains, their connection would be separated by two blocks and 150 feet of vertical depth, resulting in a ten minute walk between trains. New Jersey had broken the Covenant, along with convenient connections between lines.

New York and New Jersey now appeared permanently separated, at least on the issue of rail access. NJT would go to a deep-cavern terminal on the West Side, and the Long Island Rail Road would go to a cavern terminal almost as deep on the East Side. The two caverns could not be connected, because they were different depths, and because New York City’s water tunnel lay between the two proposed terminals. New York and New Jersey pursued their separate interests, much to the outrage of rider advocates. Albert L. Papp of NJ-ARP and the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) dubbed the river between the two states the “Hudson Ocean.”

Throughout the years the business and labor establishments advocated for the project, even though the proposed deep-cavern terminal was obviously a flaw. Martin Robins of the Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University said “the perfect is the enemy of the good” and endorsed the project. Other similar organizations called for the proposal to be built, citing the benefits of more capacity and more jobs, especially construction jobs. Rider advocates kept saying that the original goals of track redundancy for both NJT and Amtrak trains (which would improve reliability and operational flexibility) and East Side Access (like New York’s MTA was spending billions of dollars to deliver to LIRR riders) had been sacrificed, and stated their opposition to the proposed deep-cavern and their support for a return to the original goals of ARC.

Amtrak was essentially out of the picture. The nation’s passenger railroad was relegated to a minor role in the proceedings, although former President Alex Kummant and former Northeast Regional Vice-President Anne Witt expressed their concerns about NJTs plans to terminate ARC in a separate deep-cavern terminal, with no access to Penn Station. Neither one works for Amtrak today.

It appears that Amtrak had cause for concern. One of the railroad’s strongest supporters in the Senate is New Jersey’s senior senator, Frank Lautenberg. Lautenberg was fiercely loyal to the ARC Project with the deep-cavern terminal, even though Amtrak could not have used that facility. It is understandable that Amtrak would not wish to risk losing the support of a powerful senator who was normally a strong ally. In fact, nearly all of Lautenberg’s fellow Democrats and many Republicans agreed with him that the ARC project should be built; deep-cavern terminal and all.

Against this backdrop of opposition, the advocates kept doing what they could to raise the consciousness of the media and the public about the issue of where new tunnels should go. They called for a return to the original ARC purpose with new tunnels to the existing Penn Station, even though they were limited at first to their own publications, such as the NJ-ARP Newsletter and the Railgram (the newsletter of the Lackawanna Coalition). With all their efforts, they were given little coverage in the “mainstream” media. Their ideas were ignored, while the media joined the business, labor and political establishments in telling the public that there were only two alternatives. Either the entire project, including the deep-cavern terminal, had to be built, or nothing would be built. The advocates’ plan was seldom mentioned.

Eventually, the advocates were able to convince some news columnists like Paul Mulshine and office-holders like New Jersey Sen. Michael Doherty of the correctness of their position. Advocates made statements at legislative hearings, meetings of the NJT Board, town councils and other forums. Slowly the word got out, and they were able to get word to Gov. Christie about why they objected to the proposed deep-cavern terminal.

Christie articulated those objections as his own when he termed the project “flawed” in his statement on October 7th, when he called for the project to be shut down, due to cost overruns for which New Jersey would be solely responsible. In his comments about the project, he said it would have had no connectivity to other rail services and could not have been extended to the East Side, just as the rider advocates also argued.

If the original ARC Project, including Alternative G to the East Side, had been started in the late 1990s, it would be operating today. There would have been no talk of a deep-cavern terminal, Amtrak and NJT would have shared tracks into the existing Penn Station, and New Jersey riders would have enjoyed East Side Access, too. That did not happen. Instead, costs rose rapidly; so fast that the project had to be scaled back to control cost increases. That is why New Jersey severed the connection between the proposed new line and the existing Penn Station and broke the Covenant.

Former NJT Executive Director Richard Sarles (Warrington’s successor) maintained until he left the agency last spring that the total cost of the project with the deep-cavern terminal would be $8.7 billion. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had each pledged $3 billion toward the cost, and New Jersey would be required to come up with the rest. Any increases were to be borne solely by New Jersey. The FTA had become deeply concerned with cost overruns on two projects planned by New York’s MTA: LIRR East Side Access and the Second Avenue Subway. New Jersey’s biggest project came under similar scrutiny, and the latest numbers from US DOT ranged from $9.8 to 12.7 billion, not including $775 million for NJT’s portion of the Portal Bridge Project, as stated by NJT Executive Director James Weinstein on October 26th. That was all the governor needed to know -- on October 27, Christie reaffirmed the shutdown of the project, solely because New Jersey could not afford the cost. In comments to the press after his statement, he said NJT should work with Amtrak on a plan to bring new tunnels into Penn Station, where ARC should have gone “in the first place.”

The advocates had sounded the alarm about project costs for several years. They pointed to cost overruns in certain areas, while speculating that New Jersey could not devise a plan that would enable the state to pay for its share of the original costs, plus all of the cost overruns and contingencies. They also pointed out that New Jersey would also have to pay for at least part of the Portal Bridge Project, which would only be necessary if the entire ARC Project were built as proposed. They complained that NJT had left out that segment of the project to make costs appear lower. NJT has now acknowledged that “its part” of the ARC Project cost is $775 million for a new bridge (“Portal Bridge South”), separate from an “Amtrak bridge” that would replace the existing Portal Bridge. Until now, that amount was never considered part of the cost of ARC.

The advocates formed their own alliance in 2007, initially with the Lackawanna Coalition and NJ-ARP. The Empire State Passengers’ Association (ESPA) joined the bandwagon, which brought in the umbrella alliance of which they are members, the Regional Rail Working Group. National Corridors Initiative (NCI), the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) and NARP have joined the alliance on the national scene. So have state and local rail coalitions throughout the eastern half of the nation. Pitted against them were the business, labor and political communities.

Throughout the struggle, the advocates held to their message and made a best effort to convince anyone who would listen. They kept the issue alive, even when it appeared that they had no allies whose opinions counted. At one time, a legislative staffer asked the delegation from the Lackawanna Coalition to name other elected officials who agreed that the deep-cavern terminal should not be built.

Now there is at least one, the Governor of New Jersey. He was elected in 2009, defeating Democratic incumbent Jon S. Corzine. Corzine was a strong supporter of the ARC Project with the deep-cavern terminal, and had campaigned on the promise that he would get it built. Christie had supported the project during the campaign, as had Weinstein, who was a Christie campaign advisor at the time.

The consensus among the advocates is the governor made the right decision in that he killed the deep-cavern terminal, but not for the best reason. The deep-cavern plan would not have served the riders well, and the advocates are glad to be rid of it. It was also too expensive, so the advocates also understand the governor’s budgetary reason for ordering the project shut down.

The advocates do not agree with the governor completely. They do not want New Jersey to spend money for highways instead of rail, nor do they want the state to give up the $3 billion (with an additional $378 million added as an incentive) promised by the FTA. They still want a project that will benefit the riders, which means bringing new tunnels into an enhanced Penn Station under the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative. That plan calls for expansion of the existing Penn Station into the Farley Post Office Building across the street. The historic retail post office would remain, but much of the building would be turned into a new rail facility, with financing provided by New York State and Amtrak.

Advocates call for the extension of platforms so any train can use any track, and for improvements in pedestrian access to platforms. That way, they claim, trains can come into and out of the station on each track quickly enough to deliver the capacity that Amtrak and NJT will need.

It may happen yet. Gov. Christie has talked about bringing NJT expansion into Penn Station. Everybody, including the governor, appears reluctant to let more than $3 billion from the FTA go, while they know (or have reason to know) that the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative would perform better than a deep-cavern terminal, at a cost saving of $3 billion. Under the advocates’ preferred alternative, the line can also be expanded to the East Side, if money becomes available in the future.

The new phase of the campaign has already begun. The advocates know how much work lies ahead, as they continue to campaign for new tunnels into the existing Penn Station. The dreaded deep-cavern will not be built; a key goal of the advocates’ campaign. That campaign will continue. It will continue to be a hard fight, but the advocates believe they can win.

Where do we go from here? That question, and some possible answers, will be the focus of the final article in this series.

David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition and has been since 2000. He has participated in the advocates’ campaign in that capacity. He also serves on the Board of RUN and is a former Board member of NARP.

The text of Governor Christie’s statement can be found in a special extra edition of Destination: Freedom released on October 27, 2010 at www.nationalcorridors.org


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

An Election To Remember?

By Jim RePass
Publisher
Destination:Freedom

Tuesday’s mid-term elections are shaping up to be one of the most important such elections in recent U.S. history, with control of the House of Representatives, State Legislatures, Governors, and possibly even the United States Senate in play.

Whatever the outcome, there is little doubt that its impact will be significant not only on President Obama’s ability to govern, but also on what kind of political climate we will inhabit for the next two years.

This campaign season has been toxic, with negative advertising that while very effective turns many ordinary Americans away from politics. It has been funded by unbridled secret corporate campaign spending made possible by a disastrously wrong Supreme Court ruling earlier this year undoing 80 years of law and history, by declaring corporations to be “individuals” under the Constitution and thereby entitled to first amendment Freedom of Speech protection --- which translates, of course, that corporations can buy as much freedom of speech as they can afford.

Turning the funding of this or any other campaign over to the slush funds of secret corporate payoffs was and is a huge error, and may well rank along with the 1857 Dred Scott Decision which declared slaves to be property and thus unprotected by the Constitution, and the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson “Separate But Equal” ruling denying black Americans equal access to public facilities, and not overturned insofar as schools were concerned until 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education.

As important as any belief we have in the need for a strong national infrastructure, including rail, so that we can once again compete in world markets and build back up our decimated middle class, we belief as strongly that democracy sold to the highest bidder is not democracy at all, but rather fascism in democratic clothing. Post-election, as we deal with the outcome, every American ought to turn his or her attention to a new constitutional amendment that explicitly denies corporations --- or unions, or any other non-human entity --- the right to raise and spend political money without public scrutiny.

When Ben Franklin, on the streets of Philadelphia one day not long after the Constitutional Convention of 1787, was asked by a passerby, “What kind of government have you given us?” he replied, “A Republic, madam --- if you can keep it.”

This election day, get out and vote. And then stay involved, to make sure that we don’t have another one so poisoned by secret, unaccountable, and deeply anti-freedom campaign funding.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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