The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.

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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November 8, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 46

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

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

  News Items…
Former Senator And NCI Executive Director Lincoln Chafee
   Elected Rhode Island Governor
Transportation Advocates Get Crushing Blow In Defeat
  High-Speed Lines…
Central Valley Is ‘Backbone’ For California
   High-Speed Rail’s Future
  Transit Lines…
Public Transportation Initiatives Win Across Country;
   Success Rate Reaches 73 Percent
  Selected Rail Stocks…
The ARC Project: Where Do We Go From Here?
The Election: What It Was, And What It Wasn’t
  We Get Letters …
  Publication Notes …

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

Former Senator And NCI Executive Director
Lincoln Chafee Elected Rhode Island Governor

By DF Staff

PROVIDENCE --- Former Rhode Island Senator Lincoln D. Chafee, who served as the first Executive Director of the National Corridors Initiative and was a key part of the NCI’s White House negotiating team that led to the completion of the long delayed electrification of the Northeast Corridor, and the start of America’s only true High Speed Rail line, was elected Governor of Rhode Island this past election day, November 2.

The Governor-elect, who also served as Mayor of Warwick and was instrumental more than a decade ago in laying the ground work for the just completed T.F. Greene intermodal rail terminal opened last week, is the first Independent to be elected Governor of Rhode Island. Only Republicans and Democrats have served previously, in elections dating back to just before the Civil War.

A former Republican was driven effectively driven from his party for being seen too “moderate”, Chafee defeated Republican nominee John Robitaille with 36.1 per cent of the vote to the GOP candidate’s to 33.6 per cent.

Democrat nominee Frank Caprio got only 23 per cent of the vote in a state that by registration is overwhelmingly Democrat.

In an article appearing in the Providence Journal shortly before the election, Lincoln Chafee gave his “vision for Rhode Island’s recovery; it is reprinted here in full:

I love Rhode Island, and know that our state has a bright future.

What we need to realize our full potential, however, is the right leadership, a pro-active leader with the experience to govern and the courage to speak the plain truth. Rhode Islanders deserve a leader who is independent, free from politics as usual and the partisan maneuvering that brought about our dire economic situation. The way we will recover is to come together and build consensus among Democrats, Republicans, Moderates and independents — to move Rhode Island on a new way forward.

Our state confronts substantial challenges. Some 65,000 of our citizens are unemployed. Tens of thousands more women and men are anxious — about our future and whether our children will be able to find good jobs here. The state’s budget deficit is projected to exceed $300 million next year. Federal stimulus money is exhausted. The tobacco-settlement money was squandered. Because of poor leadership we have fallen behind.

We also have an ethical crisis in Rhode Island. Each day we hear about corruption, cronyism and pay-to-play schemes that let insiders secure state business and provide no-bid jobs to friends and family. This is wrong and must stop. There is a direct connection between Rhode Island’s unacceptable economic condition and the disappointing reality that some of our public officials betray the public trust.

If we are going to move our state forward — create new jobs, fix the budget mess, improve our schools, repair our roads and protect our environment — Rhode Island must take advantage of its assets. My plan is centered on job-creating investments targeted at the following areas:

Throughout my career I have consistently demonstrated the core elements of effective leadership. Courage: I opposed the Iraq War, which has killed more than 5,000 brave U.S. servicemen and -women and wasted hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. Foresight: I rejected the false promises of President Bush’s reckless tax cuts for the wealthy that have hurt our economy. Building consensus: I alone called for mediation to end the Central Falls teacher dispute. Independence: I called for an open and fair opportunity for our small businesses, instead of the risky gamble with 60 percent of the state’s small-business investment portfolio on a single company with no track record of success — the Curt Schilling deal.

I have always stood up for what I believe. I have a proven record of principled, independent leadership. Every day I do my best to demonstrate thoughtful, balanced and moderate leadership — to do what I believe is best for the people of Rhode Island.

Yes, our great state has tremendous potential. It is untapped, just below the surface, waiting for the right leadership to move our state forward. Rhode Island’s greatest asset has always been its people.

I know that our best days are ahead — with the right leadership team implementing common-sense solutions to the challenges ahead. Together we can make Rhode Island a great place to live, to raise a family, to build a better future for our children.

My dad taught me a valuable lesson: Tell the truth and trust the people. That is what I’ve done in this campaign, and what I will do every day as your governor.

Lincoln D. Chafee is a former U.S. senator and former mayor of Warwick running as an independent for the Rhode Island governorship.

Chafee did not go into politics until later in life; while his father served as Rhode Island’s Governor in the 1960’s and then until his death as one of its United States Senators, Chafee worked quietly as a blacksmith in Canada for eight years, shunning the limelight in favor of a life that he loved, and developing the build that to this day is that of a strong working man.

“I have known Lincoln Chafee for 21 years and I am just thrilled that he has been elected Governor of Rhode Island,” stated National Corridors Initiative Chairman and CEO James P. RePass in learning of his victory. “He was and is a hard-working, completely unpretentious person. While from a background that many would consider privileged, I know from personal experience that both he and his delightful wife Stephanie are people who are completely down to earth and real. Rhode Island is incredibly lucky to have this decent, thoughtful, and intelligent man, who I am privileged to call a friend, as its next Governor. Lincoln is the kind of person we need in American public life; he will set an example that in my view will be seen as a beacon to others, and well beyond the borders of Rhode Island.”

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Transportation Advocates Get Crushing Blow
In Defeat Of Minnesota’s Cong. Jim Oberstar

By DF Staff, And From Minnesota Public Radio

MINNESOTA -- Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-MN), first elected 36 years ago and known by the transportation advocacy community as a visionary and friend, went down to defeat this past Election Day in a race marked, as were so many this past Election Day, by anti-incumbent voter anger. The victor was GOP challenger Chip Cravaack

Oberstar was Chairman of the powerful Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and had led it in a bi-partisan manner with Ranking Minority Member John Mica (R-FL), who like Oberstar believes America needs to modernize its infrastructure, especially the long-neglected rail component of our transportation system.

His concession speech was carried by Minnesota Public Radio s and edited by MPR reporter Elizabeth Dunbar, and is reproduced here in part:

Jim Oberstar: Good afternoon. Thank you all for coming.

In my first campaign in the 1974 primary election, the theme was “the people will decide.” They decided that year, and they’ve decided again this year.

We must always remember -- and I’ve always kept it foremost in my mind -- that this is the people’s seat in this greatest deliberative body in the world: the U.S. House of Representatives.

It’s been an extraordinary honor and privilege to serve the disparate interests, the many different regions of this extraordinary congressional district, and the wonderful people -- those who support you and those who, with dignity and respect, take an opposite view.

I’ve always said after the previous 18 elections, “thank you.” I say “thank you” again for the privilege of serving you, the people of the 8th district, which I love and whom I love.

I thank my precious wife, Jean. We both experienced loss and found each other and created a new and special life together. I’m especially grateful to Jackie Morris who started with me in February of 1974. ... It’s been 36 years of unwavering, unflinching dedicated service to the people of this great district. ...

Everybody worked themselves to the fringe. But in the end, unlike in the business world, when the profits go down and sales go down and the CEOs can say, “Well, it was sales or it was marketing” ... in this arena, you look into the mirror and say, “It was me.”

But there is nothing I would take back. [President Harry] Truman was once asked in his oral biography, “Well, would you have done that differently, Mr. President?” He said, “It’s done, I can’t change it.”

And I can’t change and wouldn’t change any of the votes I cast this year -- to bring us out of this worst recession, chart a course for the future, to lay a foundation for a better America, for better quality of life, a better quality of health care, to rein in the financial institutions, to give everybody an equal opportunity at a better quality of life. I wouldn’t change any one of those votes.

I wouldn’t change any of the votes that I cast to bring forward the stimulus, because the bridge over Interstate 35 at North Branch will be there long after I leave office and long after any successor. It’s a 100-year bridge. The bridge at County Road 17 over I-35 just a little south toward Wyoming -- that will be there long afterward.

Lives are saved every year on Highway 8 in Chisago County for the improvements that I brought at citizens’ committee request. The Lakewalk in Duluth will survive long after my service. People will be walking and biking and enjoying a better quality of life and bringing families together and bringing travel and tourism to Duluth.

The new airport terminal under construction -- I’ll come back to see it completed. But it will serve this Northland long after my service. The Voyageurs National Park, the new customs and border patrol facility at International Falls, the improvements on Highway 61 up the North Shore.

There are also the very personal memories. People often ask, “What’s the bill you feel the most proud of?”

It was my second term in Congress. We had approved a cost-of-living adjustment for federal government retirees, and shortly after that bill was signed into law by President Ford -- no, that was my first term, first term, second year -- I got a letter from a constituent in Two Harbors that said, “I saw that Congress passed an increase in cost-of-living for federal retirees. I’m a federal retiree but I didn’t get one. I was a lighthouse keeper.”

I searched the record and found that there were 174 retirees in the U.S. Lighthouse Service, which in 1939 was merged into the U.S. Coast Guard, but their retirement plan was kept separate. So Congress needed to enact separate legislation to provide those lighthouse keeper retirees with their justifiably earned and deserved cost-of-living adjustment.

So I introduced the bill. ... We had no trouble moving the bill ... even though the Office of Management and Budget said it’s going to cost $1 million. ... I was a little bit concerned President Ford might veto it, but he signed it.

So I sent the slip bill, as we call it, with my signature on it, and the date of enactment by the president, to the constituent in Two Harbors. And a few days later I received a letter that said, “My husband was so grateful to get your letter, and to know that this bill passed and that he would soon be receiving the cost-of-living adjustment, but he died yesterday. But he died yesterday knowing that government could work for even only one person.”

If I can leave that legacy, if time will come back and look on those individual acts of personal relevance, I will be satisfied with my service.

There’s much more of which I’m proud, much more for which I am grateful to have had the opportunity to accomplish. But I go in peace of mind and heart, but with sadness. I’ve loved the opportunity to serve the people of this district.

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

Central Valley Is ‘Backbone’ For
California High-Speed Rail’s Future

The San Francisco Chronicle (Staff Writer Michael Cabanatuan)
And Palo Alto Online News (Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner)

CALIFORNIA, NOVEMBER 5 -- Construction of California’s 800-mile high-speed rail system will start in the Central Valley, not between San Francisco and San Jose or in Southern California, high-speed rail officials announced Thursday.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority was steered toward this decision by the Federal Railroad Administration last week when they said that all of the federal stimulus money awarded to California - $2.3 billion in January and $715 million last week - must be spent in the Central Valley.

High-speed rail officials in California believed they still had a choice on where to use the $2.3 billion, but last week the feds allocated $715 million for the rail project to the Central Valley section of the line. However, the decision does not affect the allocation of $400 million to build the foundation for a high-speed rail station in the new Transbay Transit Center in downtown San Francisco.

Central Valley Controversy:

A feud is still going on in the Central Valley over which route will be chosen: the segment from Merced to Fresno or one from Fresno to Bakersfield. The authority has until Dec. 31 to decide.

The rail project has encountered bitter opposition on the Peninsula, where city officials and citizen activists have persistently derided the authority’s business plan as unrealistic and its ridership projections as unreliable. The Palo Alto City Council, which once supported the project unanimously, recently passed a resolution of “no confidence” in the rail project and has called on state and federal officials to stop funding the project. Palo Alto also joined Menlo Park, Atherton and a coalition of nonprofit groups in a lawsuit against the rail authority.

Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt said at the last council meeting that, given the funding constraints and the rail authority’s choice of the Central Valley as its starting point, “it can be a very long time before a segment connecting to one of the two metropolitan areas gets built.

“When and if this entire system could be built from Anaheim to San Francisco has become more and more in question,” Burt said.

Residents from various Peninsula cities planned to hold a rally at the Burlingame Caltrain station on Sunday (Nov. 7) from 11 a.m. to noon to protest the project in its current form.

Chief Executive Officer of the Authority, Roelof Van Ark, said that starting the project in the Central Valley does not threaten the vision of a statewide fast-train network or the needs of the state’s metropolitan areas.

“The Central Valley is the backbone of the future of transportation in the state,” he said. “We need to connect Southern California and Northern California, then San Diego and Sacramento as well. Our intent is to build the system as a whole.”

Last week’s decision means that the Bay Area segment of the line won’t become a reality for years. The segment between San Francisco and San Jose was among those that the rail authority had considered starting with, but then discarded in favor of Central Valley.

The cost of the Central Valley section is estimated to be $4.3 billion, including about $1.3 billion in matching state bond money, and after December 31 there will be a ground-breaking.

The money is enough to build one of the two segments, van Ark said, but not to construct a rail maintenance plant planned for the valley or to purchase trains. While work on the selected segment must be done by 2017, it will not carry trains running 220 mph. Most likely, he said, the rails will be used by Amtrak San Joaquin trains until the tracks can become part of a larger system.

“It’s illogical at this point to buy trains,” he said. “We don’t have the ability to operate a system. We need to build the infrastructure first.”

Rod Diridon, an Authority Board Member from San Jose, said that the criteria being used to determine where to spend the stimulus funds might have already pointed toward the San Joaquin Valley. To satisfy the feds, as well as the state bond act funding high-speed rail, the project needs to be ready to go by next fall, be completed within six years, and be usable. The segment producing the most high-speed rail track for the lowest cost, and with the last risk of delay or cost overruns, is also favored.

The authority board will consider those criteria next month when it decides which segment wins.

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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

Public Transportation Initiatives Win Across Country;
Success Rate Reaches 73 Percent

From Passenger Transport - The Weekly News Reports From
The American Association Of Public Transportation (APTA)
(Reprinted with permission)

On Nov. 2, voters across the country—from Rhode Island and Ohio to Florida, Texas, Oregon, and California—had more than people to vote for; they had a host of public transportation-related ballot initiatives. Voters considered whether to approve new and increased sales taxes, property taxes, or car registration fees to support transportation; bond issues that would help to finance public transit; possible service changes and establishment of new transit authorities; and even state constitutional amendments.

As of press time, voters approved 22 of 30 transportation ballot measures, for a success rate of 73 percent, authorizing nearly $500 million over the next five years. When added to the initiatives passed earlier in the year, the Center for Transportation Excellence is reporting 43 out of 56 approvals, marking a 77 percent success rate.

“People understand the importance of having a good public transportation system in their communities,” said APTA President William Millar. “That’s why, despite the impact of the Great Recession, Americans overwhelmingly voted to improve or initiate public transportation, even though it means additional local or state taxes.”

The next issue of Passenger Transport will feature an analysis of the Nov. 2 election results, focusing on the potential impact to the public transit industry.

Statewide Measures

CALIFORNIA -- Sixty-four percent of California’s voters approved Proposition 22, a statewide initiative constitutional amendment to keep the state from borrowing or taking funds for transportation, redevelopment, or local government projects and services delaying distribution of tax revenues for these purposes. The measure protects more than $1.8 billion in state and local transit funding.

Joshua Shaw, executive director of the California Transit Association, said: “With this victory, we have succeeded in constitutionally protecting more than $1.8 billion a year in state and local funding for transit, and prevented these funds from being raided, diverted, or outright stolen as part of the state budget process. With nearly $3.5 billion having been raided over the past three years alone—and with state funding for transit operations at one point having been eliminated completely—this victory will allow us to begin the process of recovery from the epidemic of fare hikes, service cuts, and job layoffs recently inflicted on transit providers and those they serve.”

“The passage of Proposition 22 in yesterday’s election sends a strong voter mandate to Sacramento that borrowing or taking vital transportation funds to balance the state’s deficit will no longer be acceptable,” said Los Angeles County Metro Chief Executive Officer Art Leahy. “The action taken by the voters will now prohibit the state from delaying the distribution of tax revenues for transportation purposes and is welcome news to L.A. County and Metro as we strive to ensure that scarce transportation dollars go towards much-needed transportation improvement projects.”

Carl Sedoryk, general manager/chief executive officer of Monterey-Salinas Transit in Monterey, CA, explained the meaning of the measure. “Proposition 22 closes the loopholes that the state legislature has used to redirect billions of transit-related tax dollars to other state general fund programs,” he said. “Californians can be assured that the tax dollars they have approved at the ballot box for specific transit-related purposes will be used for transit and not siphoned away to support the pet programs and projects of the governor and legislature.”

“Proposition 22’s success is not surprising,” said Mike Wiley, general manager/chief executive officer of the Sacramento Regional Transit District, “as voters have overwhelmingly favored past ballot initiatives to dedicate funding to advance public transit and transportation options in California. Prop. 22 is assurance that the Sacramento Regional Transit District and California’s public transit operators will have secured funding to provide reliable transit system operations and potentially restore vital services that were recently eliminated because of budget cuts.”

RHODE ISLAND -- Another statewide measure, in Rhode Island, passed by an overwhelming margin of 73 percent. The ballot initiative includes $4.7 million in bonds to purchase and rehabilitate buses for the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, along with $80 million in general obligation bonds, refunding bonds, and temporary notes to match federal funds and provide direct funding for improvements to the state’s highways, roads, and bridges.

Restoring, Improving Servic

ATLANTA, GA -- Seventy percent of voters in Clayton County, GA—which currently has no public transportation service—approved an advisory measure stating its interest in becoming part of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority area and support for a one-cent sales tax to pay for the new service.

OAHU, HAWAII – Sixty-three percent of voters approved a city charter amendment establishing an independent transit authority for the city to govern over rail and bus services. The authority will have six members, three elected by the mayor and three by the city council.

TEXAS -- Sixty-two percent of voters in Richland Hills, TX, approved remaining part of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority service area.

SOUTH CAROLINA -- In Horry County, SC, voters approved by 63 percent an advisory measure to increase property taxes to support regional public transportation services.

For more on statewide transportation-related ballot issues, go to:

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Canadian National (CNI)64.5064.78
Canadian Pacific (CP) 65.8065.14
CSX (CSX)61.8061.45
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)46.2046.23
Kansas City Southern (KSU)46.5343.82
Norfolk Southern (NSC)62.3161.49
Providence & Worcester(PWX)13.2013.02
Union Pacific (UNP)91.2287.68

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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

The ARC Project:
Where Do We Go From Here?

Last In A Series

By David Peter Alan

Circumstances changed dramatically during the months of September and October. On September 10th, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called for a 30-day moratorium all work on New Jersey Transit’s “Access to the Region’s Core” (ARC) Project, the largest project application in the history of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The project called for construction of new rail tunnels under the Hudson River, ending in a deep-cavern terminal 180 feet below 34th Street in Manhattan.

On October 7th, Christie called a halt to the entire project, saying that the cost was too high and New Jersey could not afford its share of the $8.7 billion previously accepted as the full cost, plus any cost overruns, which would be New Jersey’s sole responsibility. Christie also said the project was “flawed” because it did not call for a line that would go to Grand Central Terminal or the existing Penn Station, and Amtrak could not use it as proposed. Despite two weeks of negotiations between Christie and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, there was not enough new money offered, so Christie pulled the plug on the project once and for all on October 27th.

At least that is the way the situation appears at this writing. Anything can happen in the world of money and politics, but it appears that the deep-cavern proposal is dead. It is much more expensive than originally anticipated; a situation observed by the FTA and acknowledged by New Jersey Transit (NJT). New Jersey is short of money, as are many other states, and nobody seems willing to offer the Garden State enough money to build the project with a deep-cavern terminal.

That is good news for many rail riders, especially on the Morris & Essex and Montclair-Boonton Lines. They were slated for eviction from the existing Penn Station and re-routing into the proposed deep-cavern terminal. Now, it appears that they can continue to enjoy their “Midtown Direct” rides to the existing Penn Station, rather than the “Midtown Indirect” route to a deep cavern.

Advocates for the riders have made a difference. They started with few allies, and their activities went almost totally unreported in the mainstream media. Somehow, they got the word out, and the governor agreed with them in part. They are disappointed that no new tunnels will be built, however. They continue to call for new tunnels to go to an enhanced Penn Station under the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative. That plan would allow any train to use any track at Penn Station, which would allow trains to enter and leave the station more quickly, thereby improving capacity. The project would also bring added benefits of redundancy (for reliability and operational flexibility) and convenient connectivity for riders. In addition, the line can be extended to the East Side when funding becomes available, and through-running would also be possible. An overriding benefit is that the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative can be built for $3 billion less than the proposed deep-cavern terminal.

The resolve of the rider advocates was not unanimous. Some claimed that it would be better to have a deep-cavern terminal than to lose the $3 billion pledged by the FTA, or to spend the money saved on highways. Still, Chicago advocate Fritz Plous expressed the opinion of many of his colleagues in the Northeastern Region, especially New Jersey: “There is always justification for building the right project at the right time. There is sometimes justification for building the right project at the wrong time. There is never a right time to build a wrong project. The ARC tunnel in its present form is the wrong project and once built it cannot be made right. Gov. Christie was right to kill the project, even if he may have done so for the wrong reasons.”

Advocates have now turned their attention to the original objective of the ARC Project, which is “Access to the Region’s Core:” Midtown Manhattan, both East and West Sides. That means a tunnel to the existing Penn Station under the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative, with future expansion to the East Side, into or near Grand Central Terminal.

Time is of the essence if New Jersey wants to keep the money pledged by the FTA. It appears to this writer that the a project to build a new tunnel into the existing Penn Station could be funded, or LaHood and FTA chief Peter Rogoff would not have cone to Trenton to meet with Christie; they would have announced that the money was up for grabs elsewhere.

There are also technical issues that need to be resolved. Eliminating the deep-cavern terminal and replacing it with an enhanced Moynihan/Penn Station is a significant change, which would require a new Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), environmental review and public comment. The process will not be as expensive or time-consuming as it would have been if going to the existing Penn Station were an entirely new idea. Preliminary engineering from the 1990s was undertaken for connection to Penn Station under Alternative G (for “Grand Central Terminal” on Manhattan’s East Side). It is still feasible to build new tunnels there, although some changes would probably be necessary. A Supplemental EIS would probably be sufficient, which would expedite approval and save on engineering costs.

“Near term” improvements planned in the 1990s could be restored to the overall plan. Those included a new track (originally designated as “Track Zero”) south of the existing Track 1 and an upgraded signal system.

There are also issues of “turf” and jurisdiction. NJT decided to push for the proposal with the deep-cavern terminal after New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the parent company of Metro-North, pulled out of the consortium, leaving only NJT and the Port Authority. New York has announced its support for the Moynihan Station plan, although New Jersey advocates maintain that improvements are needed to ensure maximum operating flexibility and, therefore, maximum train capacity at peak-commuting hours. These improvements include lengthening of some platforms so any track can receive any train, and reconstruction of public areas for better pedestrian flow, as well as access to platforms.

With New York back in the picture, the sort of cooperation between Amtrak, NJT and the MTA that existed years ago can be restored. All three agencies could contribute toward funding, with more dollars coming from the FTA and the Port Authority. The result could be a facility where riders could easily change trains to go almost anywhere. It would also require operational cooperation to deliver that level of service to customers but, if all jurisdictions can cooperate on funding, they can also cooperate on operations.

Some advocates have suggested that the ownership of Penn Station (with Moynihan improvements) and the rails in the region be changed to a “union station” concept or a Joint Powers Authority to own and operate the Northeast Corridor (NEC) line on a regional basis. Such a change would end Amtrak’s ownership of Penn Station and the landlord-tenant relationship that Amtrak now has with NJT.

Amtrak’s role in the proceedings so far appears ambiguous and ill-defined. Amtrak owns the railroad and the stations along it, but for years the nation’s passenger railroad has not been a full partner in consultations on how to build the ARC project. Amtrak has also been inconsistent in its dealings with NJT over the project. When the NJT solicited comments on the Final EIS in 2008, Amtrak objected to certain aspects of the plan, especially the line to the proposed deep-cavern terminal, which Amtrak could not use. At another time, Amtrak entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with NJT that gave Amtrak two more slots at the busiest time in the morning, in return for Amtrak’s support for NJT’s proposal. Amtrak does not run nearly as many trains as NJT or the Long Island Rail Road, but Amtrak trains go further, and their schedules must be protected. Amtrak’s role in this drama is important, and advocates will probably attempt to bring Amtrak on board with the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative, now that a deep-cavern terminal is no longer under consideration.

Funding will be problematic, but the advocates hope they can keep other transit providers from getting their hands on the $3 billion pledged for the ARC Project. They do not want to see a deep-cavern terminal, but they certainly want to see new tunnels built into the existing Penn Station. There was a plan reported last week to transfer the money committed by the FTA to Amtrak’s jurisdiction. On the surface, that sounds like a good idea. The money would go toward improving Amtrak’s NEC railroad. Amtrak trains would run on it. Amtrak owns the railroad, so it would be the logical provider to supervise construction of a facility that they would also own (Penn Station).

In practice, such a transfer faces high jurisdictional hurdles. The FTA New Starts Program funds capital improvements on commuter railroads and other transit modes. Amtrak is an intercity railroad, not a commuter railroad, even though some riders commute on it. Amtrak’s mission is to operate only intercity trains. Railroads that joined Amtrak in 1971 to get rid of the intercity trains continued to operate their commuter trains. Today, all commuter service is operated by public-sector railroads, including NJT.

It would probably be better if Amtrak, rather than NJT, built the new tunnels and connected them into the existing Penn Station. Amtrak owns both the existing railroad and the station, and it makes little sense for anyone else to build tracks that would create a four-track main line east of Newark, through New Jersey’s Meadowlands and into Penn Station. Amtrak is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and not the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). That jurisdictional distinction has complicated funding for the Portal Bridge Capacity Enhancement Project, which was slated to replace Portal Bridge, east of Secaucus Station, with two new bridges. Amtrak would use the one to the north, while NJT would use the one to the south, under normal operation. It is now doubtful that a span for NJT would be necessary. Advocates say that one new span, plus rehabilitation of the old bridge for use during peak commuting periods, would be sufficient. The result would be a saving a billion or more dollars.

As much as the idea of turning over the project to Amtrak makes sense, the bureaucracy does not work that way. Amtrak is under FRA jurisdiction. The FRA is not funding capital improvements for commuter rail; the FTA is. The FTA is not thoroughly familiar with railroad structure and operations; the FRA is. Both agencies lie within the Department of Transportation (DOT), but they are administered separately. That could be changed by a new statute, or by procedural changes at DOT, if there is no violation of statute, but both appear highly unlikely. Can oversight of an FTA-funded project for Amtrak’s benefit be established through an agreement between the two agencies? Anybody’s guess is as good as anybody else’s.

Now that the proposal to build a deep-cavern terminal is off the table, rail advocates may find more of a consensus for building new tunnels to an enhanced Moynihan/Penn Station than had been possible before. Such a project makes sense from an operational standpoint, and it would cost at least $3 billion less. With New York and Amtrak contributing some of the funding to build the new project, New Jersey could save even more.

Even now, there is talk of cooperation between the involved parties to make the plan a reality. Larry Higgs reported in the Asbury Park Press on October 28th that Christie said he now favors working with Amtrak on a tunnel plan. Higgs quoted Christie as saying: “It makes sense, especially since Amtak’s tunnels go to Penn Station, which is where it should have gone in the first place.” Christie continued:

“It makes a lot of sense to pursue that in the future.” Higgs also quoted Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole as saying: “We look forward to talking with New Jersey on solutions to the capacity issues in moving intercity passenger and commuter trains from the south into New York City.” According to Cole, “the capacity issues are well-known.” Higgs reported that Port Authority Chair Anthony R. Coscia, who is also a member of the Amtrak Board, understands the need for additional tunnel capacity and New Jersey’s constraints. The Port Authority had previously pledged $3 billion toward the project, and advocates hope that it will also help fund construction of new tunnels into the existing Penn Station.

There seems to be little doubt among rail advocates in the region that new tunnels will be built to Penn Station, sooner or later. Until that time, the campaign continues. The advocates are already reminding their former detractors, as well as the riding public, that they always favored new tunnel capacity; it was the idea of sending their constituents into a deep-cavern terminal that was objectionable. With that threat gone, it is time to focus on doing the ARC Project properly. They want to keep their West Side Access to the existing Penn Station, and they want East Side Access someday, as well. In other words, they want an ARC Project that actually delivers “Access to the Region’s Core,” and they are prepared to fight for it.

David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition, which is participating in the campaign to build new tunnels into the existing Penn Station under the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative. The opinions expressed are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of any other individual or organization.

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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

The Election:

What It Was, And What It Wasn’t

By James P. RePass
Publisher, Destination:Freedom

Last week’s sweeping House victory for the Republican Party, coupled with the gains they made in the Senate, was certainly no surprise to anyone who had been paying even cursory attention to the pre-election opinion polls: the mood was, “Throw the Bums Out,” and that’s exactly what the voters did.

The Republicans, gaining 60 seats in the House and giving them a huge majority, and picking up seats in the Senate to narrow Democrat control there, already effectively hobbled by the Senate cloture rule wherein 60 votes are required to shut off debate, are triumphal; the Democrats are stunned and numb.

In 2006, the last midterm election, almost exactly the same thing happened, except with the roles reversed, when the Democrats took control of both the House and Senate with sweeping victories in both chambers. Then, it was the Dems who were crowing; two years later, a popular young Democratic Presidential nominee helped consolidate those gains.

What is constant in the results of both elections is the violent rejection of the “ins” for the “outs” both times, and that is not because both parties suddenly changed their basic philosophy. It is because the voters have become truly sick of “politics as usual,” even starting what is in effect a new, although still highly disorganized and inchoate, “Tea Party.”

No, this election was not a triumph of philosophy. It was an expression of fear, and anger, at things as they are. It was a warning shot --- again --- that the American people want leadership from their leaders, not merely management. The next two years will be a time of testing, because both parties have become captive to their extreme elements. When that happens, no one wins. There are a few bright exceptions to this rule, but it seems certain that we are in for a wild ride until 2012, and perhaps thereafter, unless the moderates in both parties speak out, and clearly, about the danger that lurks in extremism of any kind.

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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

Dear Editor,

I always enjoy reading the Destination Freedom from across the pacific.

In the latest issue, in the article entitled “China Opens Latest Section Of...”, it is mentioned that “Bombardier Zefiro 380”. However, the unit in the picture is called CRH380A manufactured by China South Locomotive & Rolling Stock Corporation Limited (CSR) and CSR Qingdao Sifang Locomotive & Rolling Stock Co., Ltd. These companies originally manufactured CRH2, based on E2 series Shinkansen in Japan. The CRH380A was developed from the CRH2 using Chinese original technologies and therefore does not have anything to do with Bombardier.

Zefiro380-based CRH380C is expected to roll out in 2012 (according to Wikipedia, Japanese).

Sincerely yours,

Yasunori Hayashi
Kunitachi, Tokyo, Japan  

The trains currently operating on the new rail line, including the train set in the photo are the CRH380A model from CSR, and not the CRH380C from Bombardier: We regret the error and will be upgrading our earlier article accordingly. - Ed.

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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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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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