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 Destination:Freedom 

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

Publisher:  James P. RePass
Editor:  Molly N. McKay
Foreign Editor:  David Beale
Contributing Editor:  David Peter Alan
Managing Editor & Webmaster:  Dennis Kirkpatrick
 
For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists,
and elected or appointed officials at all levels of government

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January 6, 2014
Vol. 14 No. 1

Copyright © 2014
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 14th Newsletter Year

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

  Guest Commentary…
Rejecting Scrooge-Like Transportation Budgets
From Sailing Ships To Space Ports
   Virginia Transportation Continues To Lead
  News Items…
AASHTO Executive Joung Lee Points To Continuing
   Federal Funding Shortfalls, Need For New Sources
   Of Transportation Revenue
2014 Starts Off with a Bang, as Snowstorm Hits The
   Northeast, But Transit Keeps on Running
Cass County Accident Renews Memories Of
   Lac-Mégantic Disaster
Fallout From Lac-Mégantic Rail Disaster, Subsequent
   Dangerous Train Derailments Roiling North American
   Transportation
  Legal Lines…
Crude Oil Loaders Failing In Hazmat Classification?
  High-Speed Lines…
Fresno Group Files CHSRA Support Statement
  Commuter Lines…
The Bidding Wars Have Started in Boston
SunRail Slated To Begin This Spring
  Expansion Lines…
Rhode Island Planning Considers More Commuter-Rail
   Stops: Cranston, W. Davisville, E. Greenwich, Pawtucket
Sound Transit Announces They Are Ahead of Schedule
 
  Advocacy Lines…
VHSR Looks To Progress In 2014
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Freight Lines…
GWR to Acquire Canadian Pacific Trackage
   In SD and MN
  Business Lines…
Why The London Tube Wants To Help You
   Do Your Grocery Shopping
  Across The Pond…
Russian Rail Station And Bus Bombings
   Raise Concerns For Olympic Safety
  News From Amtrak…
Amtrak President And CEO To Address
   National Press Club Luncheon January 10
Amtrak Adds More Coach Seats To Auto Train
  Publisher’s Note …
Changes at Destination: Freedon
  Publication Notes …



GUEST COMMENTARY... Guest Commentary...  

Rejecting Scrooge-Like
Transportation Budgets

By Edward Wytkind

WASHINGTON --- Ebenezer Scrooge would love America’s approach to funding its transportation needs, but the miserly refusal by too many of our leaders to invest in transportation could haunt us for decades to come. That’s why our nation’s holiday wish list for 2014 must include a comprehensive vision — and adequate resources — for strengthening the country’s transportation systems, which are the lifeblood of a growing 21st century economy.

Several decades of Scrooge-like transportation budgets have left our bridges falling down, our aviation system suffering from outdated technology and inadequate capacity, our rail and transit systems forced to curtail service as demand soars, and our ports and navigation channels unable to compete in a global economy. And amidst an anemic recovery, these policies have left millions of American jobs on the sidelines.

The good news is that we can change course — well, that is if the politicians find the will to do so. They must stop the brinksmanship, reject destructive austerity budgets and start investing in a long-term plan that ends the decades of neglect of our transportation system that have left the entire network in a state of severe disrepair.

This plan must, at its core, focus on job creation. And, if we do it right, we can leverage our investments that we need to make in transportation to rekindle an important aspect of our manufacturing sector. We must get back to building things in America. That’s why we announced our new partnership with the Jobs to Move America coalition that has a plan to direct the billions of taxpayer dollars spent annually on rail car and bus procurement toward companies that maximize job creation and make those jobs available to disadvantaged communities and veterans.

And that’s just the start. When Congress comes back in session, TTD has an agenda to get our economy moving that includes:

Providing long-term funding to ensure a strong national Amtrak rail network. Once a global passenger leader in rail, the United States has fallen far behind much of the developed world, and the reason is simple: we have failed to invest in a modern, integrated rail system. Too often policy makers in Washington have offered Amtrak bankruptcy budgets and advanced an old and tired idea that you can privatize your way to a successful national passenger rail system. Austerity policies and letting foreign private interests cherry-pick those parts of Amtrak that can make them a buck will not deliver better transportation options — these policies will lead to balkanization of the system and abandon much of America.

When it comes to our strong freight rail system, we must direct strategic investments to relieve major bottlenecks that harm our economy and we must advance safety reforms that will keep the public and rail employees safe, and this critical commerce thriving.

Keeping our federal transit and highway funds from going insolvent. We need to fix the broken funding mechanism for our nation’s transit systems, highways and bridges. The fact is that the fuel-tax funded mechanism hasn’t seen an increase in 20 years, meaning that we will be running a 2014 surface transportation system on a 1993 budget. Congress and the President must get beyond the speeches and enact a bipartisan plan — yes, a fuel tax hike should be on the table. Other than impacting our economic future and threatening thousands of jobs, not much else is at stake in the outcome of this debate.

Funding and modernizing our air traffic control system. If we are to maintain the safest aviation system in the world, and continue to compete internationally, we need to make sure the FAA has the funding it needs to deal with a severe staffing crisis, know that projects won’t be delayed or shelved due to more fits and starts, and will have a research and development budget that produces systems on the cutting edge. We cannot have the same crippling stalemates on Capitol Hill over FAA reauthorization like the ones we have seen in recent years, or the government shutdowns that severely impacted the agency and scapegoated its employees.

Reforming harbor maintenance spending and passing the Water Resources Development Act. This legislation, pending in a House-Senate conference committee, will make America more competitive and create thousands of jobs by improving our ports, harbors and waterways. More than 50 years have passed since we opened the world’s first container terminal at the Port of New York and New Jersey. Today, rather than being on the forefront of maritime transportation innovation, we find ourselves staggering to keep up. Many of our ports can’t even receive the new generation of mega-vessels because we’ve slowed channel dredging to a crawl. It is time to get this legislation to the President so that our nation’s ports and waterways can be modernized and catch up with the rest of the world.

Let’s hope 2014 can be known as the Year of Transportation, or at the very least, the year we busted the Washington logjam on providing the essential transportation and job needs of our country. Scrooge would cringe, but for the rest of us that’s a resolution we can get behind.

[Follow labor leader Edward Wytkind on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@EdWytkind]


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From Sailing Ships To Space Ports:
Virginia Transportation Continues To Lead

Virginia Rail Observations & Commentary
By Richard L. Beadles     Volume V. No. 24.   Final Edition

Unless we are content to revert to hunter-gatherer status -- which is of course absurd -- transportation is going to continue to be critical to our national prosperity -- to our survival as a contender for first-tier status among nations. Yet most politicians will tell you that transportation is not normally a “hot-button” issue. Few people appear to take much note of current transportation news, nor the many related issues, excepting only train wrecks! It was for that reason that VA Rail O&C was launched. The hope was to elevate rail as part of a broader public conversation on transport and mobility.

The writer of this VA Rail O&C series has, since his earliest days, been drawn to many of the issues alluded to in the preceding paragraph. He has loved maps and related geographic and commercial data of all kinds. Most of you are aware that the writer enjoyed lengthy rail employment. Less known is that he also maintained an active interest in water transportation -- initially James River and Chesapeake Bay navigation. An observer and admirer of the development of aviation, dating back to the pre-WWII days of air-mail routes, then marked by beacons spaced across the Virginia countryside, he spent many a Sunday afternoon, as a child, at what is now RIC airport. He observed and mimicked road building, from the days of horse-drawn and tractor-drawn road graders with those manually-cranked wheels which manipulated blade angles. Later, when involved in land development, he embraced the traditional developer-mantra: more and better roads. But with retirement and age comes the opportunity for reflection.

Two decades ago this scribe, in cooperation with others, embarked upon a joint campaign to advocate restoration of, and additions to, intercity rail passenger service in Virginia. As result, he is often associated with that subject – including High-Speed Rail -- to the exclusion of other important transportation agenda items. While additions and improvements have been made in Virginia rail passenger services, not nearly enough has been done in rail freight. Nor have we scratched the surface in terms of promoting greater commercial use of our coastal waterways -- once the primary north-south means of conveying passengers and cargo from port to port along the Atlantic coast. Urban transit, which the writer and his contemporaries watched shrivel and almost disappear, is making a comeback in Virginia, but there is more to be done. Spaceports, of which Virginia boosts one on the Eastern Shore, will play a role in our future as well.

Seven years ago, I began researching and drafting a narrative describing Virginia’s still-evolving transportation history, from Jamestown to date. That project -- a “SURVEY” at best -- will take the rest of my active days. For that reason, this issue of VA Rail O&C will be the final one. I want to devote my time to the larger project just described. That said, I may very well, from time to time, write something along the lines of a more-in-depth (than O&Cs) essay on various aspects of the Virginia transportation story. If you want to shield yourself from such, please let me know. Otherwise, you may receive one or more of those epistles in 2014. Thanks for tolerating these blasts, twice monthly, for five years. I hope some were of value. Best wishes to all.    Dick Beadles.

[NCI Chairman Jim RePass replies:

Dear Dick:

I am saddened that your regular column is ending with this issue, although I fully understand the wisdom informing your decision. VA Rail O&C has been a wonderful part of Destination:Freedom, and we will miss it. Your long experience as a professional railroader, at RF&P and elsewhere, gave great credibility and real weight to your comments and observations, badly needed in the transportation advocacy world where a qualified ally like you is truly a blessing.

I would also like to add a personal note: in addition to your deep technical knowledge of railroading, you bring also modesty, humor, and a basic sense of decency that I would value highly in any friend, but especially in one who has fought alongside me, and the rest of us, with such quiet resolve and such noble intent. To quote The Bard:

This story shall the good man teach his son:
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by
From this day to the ending of the world
But we in it shall be remembered.
We few, we happy few --- we band of brothers

It is a joy and a privilege to know you, brother Richard. I look forward to your book!

With respect, and admiration,

Jim RePass ]


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NEWS ITEMS... News Items...  

Continuing Coverage Of “We Are All In This Together”…

 

AASHTO Executive Joung Lee Points To Continuing Federal Funding,
Shortfalls; Need For New Sources Of Transportation Revenue

[Editor’s Note: As promised in our last issue of Destination:Freedom, we will continue to provide reports from our December 13
regional rail conference at UMass-Lowell, “We Are All In This Together/Regional Rail: A New England/Eastern Canadian Renaissance
in the Making”, based on speakers’ presentations.]

By James P. RePass
Published, Destination: Freedom

UMASS-LOWELL NCI CONFERENCE--- The continuing shortfalls in federal transportation funding, and the need to replace those shortfalls with state and private revenue sources, was the theme of Joung Lee’s presentation to the conference.

An expert in project finance, Mr. Lee was emphatic that public-private partnerships must be better utilized, going forward, as a funding source for large, complex transportation project.

Former MA Governor Michael Dukakis (L) with Joung Lee (Right)

Photo: Frank DiMasi For NCI

Former MA Governor Michael Dukakis (L) with Joung Lee (Right) at the NCI Conference, December 13, 2013

Of particular concern is America’s continued and rapid decline among world powers of the quality of its infrastructure. A key slide in Lee’s presentation (see illustration) showed the United States dropping from 9th in the world to 25th between 2008/2009 and 2012/2013.

USA Rankings

Slide: Joung Lee

Where the USA ranks. A slide from Mr. Lee’s Presentation.

Mr. Lee’s complete presentation (Adobe PDF) can be found here ((http://www.nationalcorridors.org/df3/df01062014i.pdf))

Joung H. Lee is Deputy Director of Management and Program Finance for The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

In his role as Deputy Director of Management and Program Finance at AASHTO, Joung reviews surface transportation finance and policy matters with the state transportation departments, Congressional staff, executive branch, and industry stakeholders.

Joung also directs the AASHTO Center for Excellence in Project Finance, which is a comprehensive educational resource on transportation finance. In 2008, he founded Young Professionals in Transportation, a national networking association based in Washington, DC.

Prior to joining AASHTO in 2007, Joung held transportation planner and analyst positions between 2000 and 2007 with the Federal Highway Administration. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of Pennsylvania.

[Ed Note: We have started collecting various presentations that are planned for a conference follow-up section at our web site in the upcoming weeks.]


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2014 Starts Off with a Bang, as Snowstorm Hits the Northeast,
But Transit Keeps on Running

By David Peter Alan

The warnings flashed everywhere in the Northeast Region as early as New Years’ Day. No sooner had revelers gotten home from the “night before” when they were warned of a major “winter weather event” coming to the region. To non-meteorologists, that meant a blizzard was coming. The forecast amount of snow kept rising, and the prediction for Friday’s temperatures kept falling. After the blizzard, the weekend was supposed to be milder with rain, and then bitter cold was due as this week began. These temperatures are slated to be the lowest in years, throughout the Northeast Region. It is too early to say how cold the Northeast will get next week, but we know that transit performed well through the first winter storm of 2014.

The weather forecasts did not bode well for transit. As early as Thursday, outgoing Boston Mayor Thomas Menino announced that the city’s schools would be closed on Friday. He, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and other elected officials in the region cautioned everybody to stay off the streets, not that anybody would go out if they could avoid it. As of Thursday evening, transit in Boston was doing relatively well. According to the MBTA (or the “T”), the system’s commuter rail, metropolitan rail (Red, Orange and Blue Lines) and light rail (Green Line) were operating, albeit with some delays. The exception was that the Mattapan Line, operated with historic PCC streetcars, was down, and substitute bus service ran instead. In New York, some express subway service was curtailed as express tracks running underground were freed to store equipment. The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) ran a week-end schedule on Friday, so there was no service to West Hempstead or Greenport. Metro-North ran a Saturday schedule on Friday and combined a number of trains leaving Manhattan on Thursday evening.

On the other side of New York City, New Jersey Transit (NJT) reported only a few delays on Thursday evening, but said that tickets for one mode (bus, rail or light rail) would be cross-honored on other modes on Friday. That included Port-Authority-Trans-Hudson (PATH) trains honoring NJT tickets to and from New York. This is a standard practice during emergency situations at NJT. NJT also planned to operate an “enhanced week-end schedule” on Friday. That schedule calls essentially for hourly service on most lines, with a few trains added during commuting hours. As of Thursday night, there were no “current Alerts” on SEPTA in the Philadelphia area, and the Maryland Transit Administration reported that MARC trains and local rail in Baltimore were running on time. WMATA also reported that Metro trains in the Washington, D.C. area were running on time.

Amtrak issued only one alert on Thursday, concerning “snow service” on Friday. The alert, issued at 3:50 pm on Thursday, warned of “reduced frequencies, particularly in New England.”

The snow fell hard on Thursday night, and the storm forced the closure of some highways, as the New York area posted its coldest temperatures in five years. Despite the weather, as Friday morning commuting time came, there were few service cancellations anywhere in the region. There were a few bus lines in New Jersey and the Philadelphia area that did not run, but there were only sporadic delays on the rail systems.

As the morning commute went on, some difficulties developed. The weather caused some buses in the Washington, D.C. area to detour. MARC trains experienced “major delays” and service was curtailed on the Brunswick Line to Brunswick, Maryland and Martinsburg, West Virginia. The MARC web site also warned that the area could experience the coldest temperatures in 20 years. Slightly further north, SEPTA and NJT were running well, with system-wide delays, but only a few bus lines and no rail lines were out of service. Transit in New York: the subways, Metro-North and the LIRR, also performed well. There were only sporadic delays due to the weather, but the LIRR reported processing problems with ticketing machines on the eastern part of the island. Shore Line East, which runs commuter service east of New Haven, operated its full schedule, but needed to adjust running times to connect with Metro-North trains to and from New York City, which ran on a week-end schedule.

The Boston area was hit hard by the storm. Still, little of the transit on the MBTA was shut down. As of mid-day on Friday, only the Mattapan Line streetcar was still out of service, and it was replaced with shuttle buses. Some other buses and some commuter trains were delayed, but transit held up well in the city, despite the snow and cold. During the evening commuting peak, the “T” canceled four trains and reported that the entire North Side service (going north and west from North Station) was experiencing delays, due to signal problems. Their web site did not report whether or not those problems were weather-related. Peak-hour subway service ran well in Boston, although some buses were rerouted. D:F Managing Editor Dennis Kirkpatrick reported from his vantage point near Boston that trains on the NEC appeared to be running OK. He also reported temperatures in the single digits (about -15° C) and that over 12 inches (30 cm) of snow had fallen in the area.

On Shore Line East in Connecticut, the two eastbound trains which normally start at Stamford originated at New Haven, where all other trains originate.

Snow totals in the New York area were significantly less; five inches (12 to 13 cm) in New York City and six to eight inches (15 to 20 cm) in New Jersey and Long Island. New York’s MTA did well; a few delays were reported on the LIRR, although that railroad and Metro-North operated on week-end schedules. Some subway lines were delayed in Brooklyn, and there were delays on buses throughout the city. New Jersey Transit did not report any problems on its rail lines, but did report bus delays, especially getting into the Lincoln Tunnel on the way to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Such delays often occur on Fridays, although it is likely that the snow exacerbated them.

Transit providers south of New Jersey also fared well. On SEPTA in Philadelphia, two round trips by train were canceled, and service on one bus line remained suspended. Maryland MTA reported some MARC trains delayed leaving Union Station in Washington, D.C., but Metro reported that its rail lines were running on time in the Nation’s Capital.

Virginia Railway Express (VRE), which runs peak-hour commuter trains from Union Station to suburban towns in Virginia, posted an “alert” that said it all: “VRE operating a full service today. Be careful out there … it’s slick!”

Downeaster

Photo: Dennis Kirkpatrick, NCI

Business as usual. Amtrak’s Downeaster, train #695 boards passengers at Boston’s North Station at Track 7 on Saturday afternoon January 4. The train bound for Brunswick, Maine departed at 5:00 PM - on time. The consist has cab-baggage (“cabbage”) 90214 taking up the rear here. The train is led outbound by a P42 locomotive.

By Saturday, essentially all transit was back to normal. Some bus routes in Boston and one in Philadelphia were still being detoured. The only weather-related service change was that some subway lines in Manhattan that normally run express were running local. There was even some extra service in New York: the Long Island Rail Road ran extra trains on the Long Beach Branch, in addition to the regular week-end schedule. All other changes in the region were planned, or were due to causes other than the weather.

The dire predictions of how a massive storm would disrupt transit in the Northeast did not come to pass. Instead, the region’s transit providers operated most of their normal scheduled service, except for trains in New York and New Jersey, which ran week-end schedules. Elected officials in Boston, New York and New Jersey also shut down government offices on Friday, which served to reduce demand for transit. On the whole, transit riders in the region did better than expected, and certainly did better than air travelers. Many flights to and from the region’s airports were canceled.

Did the transit providers’ preparedness avert a disaster, or was the region just lucky to avoid a major blizzard? Will this storm prove to be the worst of 2014, or will this winter be remembered for its severity, like 1995-96 or 2010-11? Transit riders throughout the Northeast region know what they have known throughout every winter of the past: that only time will tell.


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Cass County Accident Renews Memories
Of Lac-Mégantic Disaster

By DF Staff and Internet Sources

A North Dakota town narrowly escaped tragedy when a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded nearby. The nearby town of Cassleton was forced to evacuate over 2400 residents as thick, black, toxic smoke billowed toward area homes.

No one was hurt in the derailment of the mile-long train which went off the tracks on December 30th. Train crews on two colliding trains managed to escape. Authorities haven’t yet been able to untangle exactly what caused the derailments. BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said a train carrying grain derailed first, and that knocked over several cars of a passing oil train on adjoining tracks.

The collision sent a large fireball and plumes of black smoke skyward about a mile from the small town of Casselton. The initial fire had been so intense that even as darkness fell, investigators couldn’t get close enough to count the number of burning cars. Eventually a spokesperson for Burlington-Northern, Santa Fe (BNSF) railways on whose tracks the accident occurred stated that some 18 tanker cars burned.

Casselton Train Wreck

Photo: Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor via West Central Tribune Press

A fire from a train derailment burns uncontrollably as seen from a mile away Monday, Dec. 30, 2013, just west of Casselton, N.D.

Worries about the toxic smoke prompted officials to ask Casselton’s residents to voluntarily evacuate, and most did. The recommendation was lifted a day later, but officials were urging residents south of the derailment zone to remain vigilant about changing atmospheric conditions.

Residents said explosions endured for hours after the derailment, shaking their homes and businesses.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials arriving on the scene said the agency’s investigation would examine the train recorder, the signal system, the condition of the train operators, train and tracks, as well as the response to the derailment.

NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt said the tankers involved were DOT-111s, a model that has shown a tendency to rupture in other accidents, but he said it wasn’t immediately clear if they were newer, safer DOT-111s or the older models.

The rail tracks run straight through the middle of Casselton, a town of 2,400 people about 25 miles west of Fargo.

Mayor Ed McConnell interviewed by press outlets in the region estimated that dozens of people could have been killed if the derailments had happened within the town. He said it is time to “have a conversation” with federal lawmakers about the dangers of transporting oil by rail.

It was back in July of 2013 when a similar derailment and fire devastated the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing some 47 people and leveling many businesses in the small suburban township.

North Dakota is the No. 2 oil-producing state in the U.S., trailing only Texas. The state’s top oil regulator has said that he expected as much as 90 percent of North Dakota’s oil to be carried by train in 2014, up from 60 percent. Oil drillers increasingly use trains to ship crude to locations not served by pipelines, in part because of the difficulty in securing permits for the structures, Ness said.

The number of crude oil carloads hauled by U.S. railroads has surged from 10,840 in 2009 to a projected 400,000 this year. Despite the increase, the rate of accidents has stayed relatively steady. Railroads say 99.997 percent of hazardous materials shipments reach destinations safely.

Transportation of oil by rail in the region has also seen passenger rail disrupted and various Amtrak runs cancelled due to freight backlogs caused by route over-crowding or the rail routes.

BNSF said each train comprised more than 100 cars.

Service on both tracks was restored on January 2 after repairs were implemented, but BNSF expected delays to continue on that line for a period of time to come. Oil that spilled but which did not burn has been frozen in place due to extremely low winter temperatures and efforts to remove that oil so as to limit the environmental impact is ongoing.


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Fallout From Lac-Mégantic Rail Disaster, Subsequent Dangerous
Train Derailments Roiling North American Transportation

By DF Staff, From Railway Age
And From The New York Times

WASHINGTON --- Yet another potentially disastrous derailment of a freight train carrying crude oil has focused attention once again on the safety systems in place and used by North America’s freight railroads, the shippers whose cars they haul, and the way they both communicate --- to each other, and to the public, especially first responders --- about hazardous materials or “hazmat” shipments.

Unlike the Lac-Mégantic, Quebec accident in July 2013 when a runaway MM&A freight train rolled at high-speed into a small resort town, derailed, and caused massive explosions that incinerated 47 people and the entire downtown of that small village, the accident last Monday near Casselton, N.D. caused no fatalities, but industry observers viewed that as a matter of good luck, as the resulting fire from ruptured oil tankers burned for more than 24 hours. In that incident a tanker-laden train crashed into already derailed cars of grain that had just come off an adjacent track.

While investigators, insurers, and the railroads and shippers themselves continue to investigate what happened in both of those instances, and in other accidents and near-misses involving hazardous materials, these incidents come against a backdrop of vastly increased crude oil shipments on both America’s and Canada’s railroads, from the Bakken fields in North Dakota and the Athabasca Tar Sands of Alberta, Canada. It is also being prompted by recent commuter rail accidents, which while not involving crude oil shipments have also raised questions about basic railroad safety.

Additionally, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has issued a warning, after preliminary testing, that Bakken crude in particular may be lighter and thus more flammable than previously reported.

BNSF, operator of the trains involved in the Castleton accident, also issued the following statement:

“We are thankful there have been no injuries as a result of the derailment near Casselton, North Dakota and are terribly sorry for the inconvenience this derailment has caused residents in the area. BNSF claims personnel are on-site to assist with resident’s concerns. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will lead the investigation into the cause of the derailment and will now handle media inquiries about the accident.”

“BNSF personnel, including BNSF emergency response personnel and specially trained hazmat teams have been working with local emergency responders through the night and will work with local officials to assist those impacted by the incident.”

“BNSF has set up local phone numbers to help residents inconvenienced by the derailment and will also open a Claim Center Thursday Jan. 2, 2014 at the Days Inn Casselton that will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day. Claim Forms will be available at the center for reimbursement of expenses associated with the evacuation.”

“Business interruption claim forms will also be available at the claims center for affected businesses. Requests for the form to be sent to affected businesses can also be made by contacting BNSF’s Fargo Claims office at 701-280-7216 or 701-280-7217. Along with a driver’s license or other identification, claimants will need documentation of residency (i.e. mail with name and address)”

Here is how The New York Times’ Matt Wald covered the latest HazMat story; below that is Railway Age’s coverage of the fall-out from the Lac-Mégantic disaster:

Concern Over Safety Grows
As More Oil Rides The Rails

By Matthew Wald Of The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Safety officials have worried for years about hazardous materials carried on trains, but concern has intensified recently as a drilling surge in remote oil fields has generated heavy traffic on North America’s aging rail-freight networks.

That concern was heightened on Monday when a train of oil-tank cars near Casselton, N.D., plowed into a train carrying grain that had derailed on an adjacent track. The fire burned for more than a day.

That accident was outside the town. But last July, in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, a similar train of tank cars that had been left unattended rolled down a grade and derailed, killing 47 people and burning down much of the downtown.

Even before the accident in Québec, the United States Transportation Department had warned that shippers were failing to follow basic precautions, like determining the temperature at which oil will turn into a gas and burn or explode, and selecting appropriate tank cars to transport the material.

On Thursday, the department told oil shippers and railroads that it was “imperative” to test the oil being transported to determine its volatility. The department is also considering stricter requirements for the tank cars themselves, which are prone to puncture and burn in derailments. Sometimes the problem is as basic as the effect of a derailment, which can throw open valves and spill flammable contents.

Tank car specifications pit the shippers, which own the rail cars, against the railroads, which say they do no more than haul the cars. The National Transportation Safety Board recently called the level of threat to the public “unacceptable.” Municipal officials are worried.

“We have a couple of sets of tracks that run through town and we can see the increased number of cars going through,” said Jeff Lawler, the village manager of Barrington, Ill., about 30 miles northwest of Chicago. Barrington was among several local governments to ask the Transportation Department to put tighter controls on shipments of dangerous chemicals, including oil.

“These tank cars, they’ve known for 20 years, they have failed in different derailments,” Mr. Lawler said. “It’s not like that’s new news.” But “just looking at the math, with the increases, the likelihood of tragedies occurring here or elsewhere increases,” he said.

Deborah A. P. Hersman, the chairwoman of the safety board, said in a telephone interview, “It’s called ‘hazardous material’ for a reason.”

Derailed grain trains attract wild animals to feed at the site, creating another hazard. If the train carries coal, “it’s not a big deal, you pick it up and drop it back in the hopper and move on,” she said. But with oil, “we want to make sure we’re addressing it in a way that’s commensurate with the risk.” And risk rises with traffic, she said.

The cargo involved in Monday’s accident was crude oil from the Bakken formation in North Dakota. The state’s oil production has doubled in the last two years and will nearly double again in the next three, to 1.6 million barrels a day, according to the state Department of Mineral Resources in Bismarck. Rail shipment capacity has increased far faster than pipeline capacity.

The safety board cited national figures that show that in 2012, there were 37 times the number of crude oil shipments by railroad as there were in 2007. Ethanol shipments more than quadrupled between 2005 and 2011, according to the board.

For the full story go to www.nytimes.com


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LEGAL LINES... Legal Lines...  

Crude Oil Loaders Failing
In Hazmat Classification?

By David Thomas, Contributing Editor To Railway Age Magazine

Lac-Mégantic, QÉ, CANADA --- In their quest for a smoking gun, lawyers developing a class action suit on behalf of the victims of the July 6 calamity at Lac-Mégantic say they have found disturbing evidence that at least some managers in the oil industry knew beforehand that the hazmat classification of mid-continent crude oil for rail transport was systematically bogus.

What they found, hiding in plain sight on the Internet, is a June 6, 2013 conference presentation by Irving Oil’s quality manager explicitly stating that the company knew high-volatility oil from multiple sources was being comingled as it was transferred to tank cars, and that no testing whatsoever was done before the cargo was classified as the lowest-risk crude and sent on its way by rail.

Evidence of systematic misclassification at loading terminals is contained in a presentation by Irving Oil’s Gary Weimer to a conference of the Crude Oil Quality Association in Seattle, precisely one month before a cargo of Bakken crude exploded on its way to Irving’s Saint John refinery. The slide presentation is available on the association’s website (http://www.coqa-inc.org/20130606_Weimer.pdf).

If true, the Irving Oil contentions would mean that North American railroads have knowingly been given erroneous hazmat shipping documents to accompany crude oil shipments. As common carriers, railroads are legally bound to accept crude oil certified by the shipper to be correctly classified and legally contained. The railroads have no control over loading practices or the interior condition of tank cars, which are owned and maintained by the shippers and receivers.

Misrepresenting to railroads and customs officials the true nature of hazardous material shipments is an offense in both Canada and the U.S. Nonetheless, Irving’s Weimer told his industry colleagues that oilfield sampling of outbound crude “is almost non-existent.”

For the full story go to: Railway age


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

Fresno Group Files CHSRA
Support Statement

From Railway Age
By Douglas John Bowen

FRESNO---A “support statement” filed with the Surface Transportation Board by Fresno Works, dated Dec. 20, 2013, urges STB to “expeditiously grant the petition for exemption” for construction of high-speed rail between Fresno, Calif., and Bakersfield, roughly 114 miles in length.

The letter, posted Dec. 23 on STB’s website, was submitted by Henry R. Perea, chairman of Fresno Works, a group that “represents a unified effort to bring the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s heavy maintenance facility to Fresno County.”

Fresno Works last May filed letter with STB urging similar action for Phase 1 of the Golden State’s HSR project, linking Fresno with Madera, Calif., a distance of about 65 miles.

“With the projected future population growth in California and the opportunity to expand our valley’s economic base, the construction of high-speed rail will provide additional mobility for California and will provide much needed jobs in the Central Valley. The entire high-speed rail project will help enhance our region’s vitality,” Perea wrote.

“The expeditious approval of the petition for exemption is greatly needed. The high-speed rail project will soon provide thousands of local jobs and contract opportunities for local businesses which are urgently needed. By putting local residents and businesses back to work, the project supports local companies directly contracting with the CHSRA, and local businesses throughout the region when residents have additional income to spend on items for themselves and their families,” Perea added.


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

The Bidding Wars Have Started in Boston

By Dennis Kirkpatrick, DF Staff
And From the Boston Globe, By Martin Powers

According to press reports surfacing after Christmas, limited details of service and operation contract bids have made their way to the public by both the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad (MBCR), and its competitor Keolis. Both have submitted bids to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) in Boston to operate their commuter rail operations. Competitive contract bids to operate the MBTA’s commuter railroad system will be reviewed this month.

The MBCR, the current contract operator, has promised to build a $65 million train maintenance facility, an endeavor the company says would allow for quicker, more efficient train repairs and serve as a job training center. The facility would be built at the site of a former Stop & Shop supermarket warehouse distribution center in the Hyde Park section of Boston, at the city’s southern-most tip, and about 6 miles from the downtown district. The land, zoned industrial, sits astride the Northeast Corridor and a branch junction (Fairmount branch and Franklin branch) at Readville station. A section of the land is currently used by CSX as a freight movement yard.

That proposal, plus a plan to move MBCR’s downtown headquarters to the Roxbury section of Boston, was included in documents submitted to the “T” as part of the bidding for the commuter rail contract. The MBCR is competing against Keolis Commuter Services, which operates commuter rail service in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Keolis is the largest private sector French transport group operating a variety of railways, tramways, bus networks, funiculars, trolley buses, and airport services. The company, based in Paris, is majority-owned by Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF), the French state rail operator. It is the largest provider of public-transportation services in France.

The MBCR is a consortium made up of Veolia Transportation, Bombardier Transportation, and Alternate Concepts, Inc. which is a Boston-based firm which includes several former MBTA executives.

The MBTA, which has a policy to refrain from commenting on the commuter rail proposals, is expected to make a recommendation for the winning bidder in January to the board of directors of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Conditions of the bidding process also require confidentiality.

Keolis spokesman Alan Eisner has responded to press inquiries that the transit company planned to adhere to the “cone of silence” called for in the MBTA’s procurement guidelines, accusing the MBCR of leaking the information to build momentum for its proposal and sway decision-makers.

“This not only represents a blatant disregard for the procurement process, but is yet another attempt by the incumbent to unduly influence the outcome,” Eisner said. “Keolis will continue to honor the integrity of the procurement process by not disclosing any information contained in its proposal to any entity other than the MBTA.”

Keolis has provided only a few general hints of what the company’s proposal contains, including a planned partnership with local community colleges to provide first-in-the-nation, specialized degrees in transportation.

“When the MBTA makes its final decision and releases the information to the public,” Eisner continued, “the merits of the Keolis proposal will become abundantly clear.”

In an interview with the Boston Globe, MBCR spokesperson Scott Farmelant stated, “If selected, MBCR will move forward with innovative infrastructure solutions, while ensuring that diversity and inclusion continue to be fostered on the commuter rail.” Farmelant declined further details of their proposal.

The new maintenance facility suggested by the MBCR would fill a vital role, as trains must now be taken to the MBTA’s current maintenance center in just north of Boston in the City of Somerville for inspections and significant repairs. Moves from the transportation system’s north branch lines are easy as they converge in the same rail yard as the shop. However moves from the south side branches which include the Northeast Corridor and Worcester branches must cross over an at-grade feeder known as the Grand Junction which passes through the City of Cambridge with multiple at-grade crossings. Due to that, most maintenance moves are done at night.

A bridge over the Charles River of which the Grand Junction is a part was closed for many weeks in 2013 for urgent and necessary structural repairs, which cut off direct access to the MBTA’s Somerville shops from the south-side’s operations. During that period repairs and other service moves had to be sent over a 75 mile bypass on tracks owned by the MBTA, Pan American, and New England Central railroads.

If the MBCR is chosen the $65 million facility, is planned to be an energy-efficient LEED-certified structure and include a $3 million green power system, and would serve to train locomotive engineers, with two locomotive simulators.

The plan however, may have hurdles to be jumped.

Currently the land chosen sits in an industrial park cut in two by the boundaries of the City of Boston and the Town of Dedham. As such there is potential for two municipal jurisdictions to be satisfied for any building permits. The land also abuts woods and wetlands associated with the Neponset River reservation presenting environmental concerns. However, the area has been a long-established rail yard and currently has light freight traffic from CSX moves along the NEC, and the aforementioned Franklin branch.

An existing and nearby MBTA car shop used to service coaches only has also been subject of neighbor complaints regarding noise in recent years. As such there could be localized opposition for what might be considered an expansion of rail service shops.

Readville aerial view

Image NCI via Google Maps

Aerial view of Readville Junction shows the proposed site just south/west of Readville Junction where the NEC, Fairmount, and Franklin branches converge at Readville Station.

The MBCR, which is currently based at 89 South Street, close to Boston’s South Station, would also move its offices to a location close to Roxbury Community College and Ruggles MBTA Station. Both construction projects would be in partnership with Richard Taylor, Massachusetts’ first black state transportation secretary and one of the partners of Tubman Transit, a real estate development company. Taylor said that though officials have not pinned down an exact site, they would probably erect a building larger than their needs, serving as an anchor tenant and renting the remainder of the space.

Ruggles Station itself is slated for an upgrade per long-range plans of the MBTA to add a third passenger access train platform. A single center-track platform serves local commuter trains on two of the three tracks in this segment of the NEC but a third track used primarily for inbound runs is not served at all. This requires the MBTA to make train cross-overs at nearby interlockings which can sometimes cause trains to wait for a passing express including the Acela Express and Amtrak Regionals. Adding the third platform would eliminate many of the cross-over moves and allow for schedule improvements. Amtrak does not stop at this station except in emergencies.

Darnell L. Williams, chief executive of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, said he has been in talks with MBCR on the project and thinks it would be a good idea, though the competing bidder has also expressed interest in helping the underserved Roxbury community: Keolis, too, contacted him about working with the Urban League.

** Late Breaking News: As D:F was going to press, the Boston Globe was reporting that sources close to the MBTA say that the MBTA’s general manager is apparently backing Keolis. The proposal would include an 8-year contract with multiple 2-year extensions after that. The selection of a new contractor requires a vote of the MBTA’s Board of directors which will meet later this month. The current contract between the MBTA and the MBCR expires in June of 2014. - Ed.


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SunRail Slated To Begin This Spring

By DF Staff and Internet Sources

Florida will start one of its largest mass transportation experiments in the spring of 2014 when service begins on the first 32-mile segment of the SunRail commuter service. The $1.2 billion transportation project is seen as an effort to ease traffic and protect the region’s long-term economic needs.

At present, thousands of commuters and tourists cram a few main highways and roads in the popular region.

The first part; 12 stations from Debary in Volusia County through downtown Orlando to Sand Lake Road in Orange County, will be a viability test case for an area that has never had this kind of transportation before. With promised federal money for the second construction phase on-hold in Washington DC, the success or failure of SunRail’s initial roll-out will place an even brighter spotlight on the project.

“This is a dramatic evolution step for central Florida. It’s the first time we’re building a fixed transit system — a regional one — with the ability of being able to connect into high-speed (rail),” said U.S. Rep. John Mica, (R-Fla) from Winter Park. Mica is a member of the US House Transportation Committee but has been critical on rail elsewhere.

Gov. Rick Scott of Florida (R-Fla) rejected more than $2 billion in federal high-speed rail funding in 2011 that would have connected Tampa and Orlando. However, after some hesitation, he eventually approved a deal that opened construction for SunRail after being sold on its jobs creation benefits and potential to reduce congestion on Interstate 4, the region’s main east-west highway.

New federal budget cuts have cast at doubt on whether another $80 million in funding will be there for the on-time construction of SunRail's Phase 2, which will extend the rail line farther north into Volusia County and south into Osceola County. When completed, it would stretch the rail to 17 stations and 62 miles.

SunRail Test Train

Image via WFTV.com

SunRail makes a test run. Locomotives are remanufactured units from Motive Power of Idaho and coaches are by Bombardier.

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Democrat who serves alongside Rep. Mica on the transportation committee, said in a statement last month that not having a 2014 transportation budget and the potential for an additional $100 million in cuts next year “has brought a high level of uncertainty and a limitation on the ability to fund new transit projects.”

However, she added she had spoken to Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff about SunRail’s importance and would also reach out to President Barack Obama.

Rep. Mica said Phase 2 will have the system’s highest ridership, according to projections, and he expects that the expansion will be looked upon favorably with Phase 1 nearly complete.

“I hope it’s in the president’s budget. If not, there are alternatives … to continue the work,” he said.

Seminole County Commission chairman Bob Dallari feels SunRail may be “a game changer.”

“SunRail is getting attention from a lot of folks,” he said. “And the younger population wants to be able to live places where they don’t have to be dependent upon automobiles.”

The Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce also got a grant to promote the train and explain why employers should encourage their workers to ride it.

Safety critics have raised concerns that SunRail will begin service without the installation of Positive Train Control (PTC). PTC is a system that can stop a train in instances of operator error or emergencies. It has been specifically in the forefront of rail operation news since the derailment of a commuter train on New York’s MTA which resulted in 4 deaths and dozens of injuries.

While SunRail has funds set aside for the installation of PTC, it must coordinate this with CSX freight, with whom it shares tracks. PTC is a federal requirement that is mandated to be installed on all trains by the end of 2015.


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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

Rhode Island Planning Considers More Commuter-Rail Stops
In Cranston, W. Davisville, E. Greenwich, Pawtucket

Business Seeks Expansion Of Rail
Rail Seen As Key To “Smart Growth”

From The Providence Journal News
Paul Edward Parker, Journal Staff Writer
And DF Staff

The Rhode Island Statewide Planning Program is pondering the addition of several additional commuter rail stations along the recently-added Providence-Wickford extension operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation authority (MBTA). The Planning program is now compiling a state rail plan for the next 20 years, to be finalized sometime this year.

Currently, commuter trains travel between Boston, MA and Wickford Junction in North Kingstown, RI, with stops in downtown Providence and at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick.

Opening day at Wickford Station April 2012

Photo: Frieda Squires/the Providence Journal

People line the platform at the then-new Wickford Junction Train Station in April 2012 as the commuter train pulls in for the station’s grand opening. The MBTA’s MP36 series locomotive No. 010 obtained from the Utah transportation Authority leads the head end.

Additional commuter stops in Kingston and Westerly, where Amtrak Regional Service trains now stop, as well as the old station straddling the Pawtucket and Central Falls border, have been considered for years, but state planners recently added West Davisville, East Greenwich and Cranston to the mix. Other considerations have been voiced for service for Woonsocket and a service extension to Connecticut.

The three proposed stops all have locations along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor main line that runs from Washington, D.C., to Boston.

The West Davisville location came under consideration at the request of the Quonset Development Corporation, the state agency that runs the Quonset Business Park, a state-owned industrial park with 164 companies and some 9,000 employees.

The Town of East Greenwich proposed a stop in the area of Rocky Hollow Road and Greenwich Boulevard. Town officials told state planners that better connections to Providence and Boston would promote “smart growth” in the town.

The City of Cranston proposed a stop in an industrial area of Park, Elmwood and Wellington Avenues. The proposal emerged from the city’s comprehensive planning process.

While those three locations already have commuter trains passing through each weekday, tying Woonsocket into the system would require establishing a new branch service.

To reach Green Airport, trains from Woonsocket would have to travel 11 miles on Providence & Worcester Railroad lines between Woonsocket and Pawtucket and then 14 miles on the Amtrak Northeast Corridor main line. Besides permission from the Providence & Worcester Railroad, the plan would also require establishment of a station in Pawtucket, where Woonsocket passengers could transfer to MBTA trains to Boston.

Pawtucket had been served by commuter rail service historically, through a station straddling the Northeast Corridor tracks on the Pawtucket-Central Falls border but the present structure is dilapidated and unsafe and may not be possible to rehabilitate. Pawtucket officials have proposed building a new station south of that location between Dexter and Conant streets.

Projections estimate that, by 2030, about 1,100 passengers a day would board in Pawtucket to get to Boston, between 269 and 562 would board to get to Providence, and several dozen would board to get to the airport.

Kingston and Westerly would be the easiest stops to establish. They are on the Northeast Corridor main line and already have stations that are in use for passenger service.

The state rail plan projects that some 1,600 riders a day would board in Kingston and 300 in Westerly by 2020. The same projections call for some 500 riders a day at the airport station and 3,400 at Wickford Junction.

Rhode Island officials have also considered connecting to the Shoreline East commuter service in Connecticut by extending the current MBTA service southward along the NEC.

State officials will take comments on the rail plan at two public hearings on Jan. 23, 2014, at the state Department of Administration in the Powers Building, 1 Capitol Hill. The first meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m., to be followed by one at 6:30 p.m.

A link to the complete plan can be found on the state Planning Division’s homepage at http://www.planning.ri.gov.


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Sound Transit Announces
They Are Ahead of Schedule

By DF Staff and Internet Sources

According to Sound Transit, the light rail extension from Westlake Station to Capitol Hill and Husky Stadium is set to be completed earlier than anticipated. Regional press reports show that the station near Husky Stadium may open for service several months earlier than expected, and work on the station by Brooklyn Avenue Northeast was expected to start in mid-December.

Sound Transit spokesperson Bruce Gray said he expects the construction of the light-rail extension from Westlake Station in downtown to Capitol Hill and Husky Stadium to push the service opening date six to nine months sooner than the original goal of September 2016.

“The mining went without a hitch. In fact, it was fantastic,” Gray said. “And drilling from Capitol Hill to downtown Seattle was the riskiest but that went very well.”

Sound Transit Construction Map

Image via Sound Transit Project Maps

Sound Transit’s project map shows plans and progress. For more info see: http://www.soundtransit.org

The line was originally scheduled to reach the University District (U-District) in 2006 when voters agreed to allow Sound Transit, then known as the Regional Transit Authority (RTA), to build a mass-transit system. However, RTA later realized that actual costs were much higher than expected in building a light rail system from Sea-Tac Airport to the U-District.

“They had to go back to the drawing boards to see how soon we can get it done,” Gray said, who joined Sound Transit in 2003. “It became a two-part project, and they started by building the first line from downtown to Sea-Tac [airport].”

The Federal Transit Administration agreed to provide $830 million in grants to help fund the second line from downtown to Capitol Hill and U-District in Jan. 2008. The rest of the $1.9 billion project is funded by the motor vehicle excise tax and local sales tax.

With the Sound Transit station by Husky Stadium about 80 percent complete according to Gray, construction for one of Northgate Link’s station was set to begin Dec. 9 near the Neptune Theatre.

Construction for the U-District station for the Northgate Link is expected to close parts of Brooklyn Avenue Northeast, between Northeast 45th Street and Northeast 43rd Street. Parts of Northeast 43rd Street between 12th Avenue Northeast and the Ave are also set to close with a temporary pedestrian access.

University of Washington Director of Regional and Community Relations Theresa Doherty said she has been working closely with Sound Transit in reaching out to the community to inform them about the Northgate Link construction.

“Sound Transit is looking [to turn to] social media to let the community know that everything is still funky and running in the U-District,” Doherty said.

Sound Transit in Washington State, plans, builds and operates express bus, light rail and commuter train services in urban areas of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.


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ADVOCACY LINES... Advocacy Lines...  

VHSR Looks To Progress In 2014

20 Years Of Virginians For High-Speed Rail!

A Letter from Danny Plaugher, Executive Director

As 2013 winds down, we are ramping up to celebrate our 20th Anniversary in 2014 by making sure that Virginia continues to be a leader in advancing intercity passenger rail.

Thanks to your generosity we’ve made a lot of progress over the last few years. I hope you will consider making a tax deductible end-of-the-year donation today to help us keep up our momentum!

Needless to say thanks to your support over the last two decades, we’ve had a few victories...

Federal:

Virginia:

Today, Virginia’s Regional trains serve 18 communities which connect 74.78 percent of Virginians; 80.85 percent of our economy; 46 higher educational institutions and over 450,000 students; and more than 20 military installations and over 60,000 active members of the military. Further, their ridership has grown by 100 percent over the last five years and their reliability has increased to 84.5 percent over the last three years.

None of this would have been possible without the generous support of our members and donors. A contribution of $20, $40, $80 or $200 will help us keep up our momentum heading into this year’s General Assembly session!

We recently released our vision for intercity rail in Virginia over the next decade in our report The Case for Virginia’s Regional Trains: Foundation for the Future (you can find it here). Our vision is simple, we want to triple the number of regional trains serving Virginia, reduce trip times by up to 35 percent, increase on-time reliability to over 90 percent, and expand Regional service to reach 80 percent of Virginians. We can do this with your continued support.

Thank you for helping to make Virginians for High-Speed Rail one of the most successful transportation advocacy organization in the country!

On behalf of our board, we wish you and your family a very happy and safe New Year.

Sincerely,

Danny Plaugher
Executive Director

PS: Thank you for helping to make a difference! If you would like me to speak to your community group or organization

[Publisher’s Note: VHSR is one of the most successful advocacy groups in the nation. Consider supporting them. They are effective, well-organized, and well-led.]


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

 
Title
 
Ticker
This
Week
Previous
Week
Berkshire Hathaway B (BNSF)(BRK.B)117.57 *
Canadian National (CNI)56.50-----
Canadian Pacific (CP) 149.87-----
CSX (CSX)28.47-----
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)97.02-----
Kansas City Southern (KSU)120.11-----
Norfolk Southern (NSC)91.62-----
Providence & Worcester(PWX)19.51-----
Union Pacific (UNP)166.85-----

* Stocks last reported on December 23, 2013. Please see that edition.


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FREIGHT LINES... Freight Lines...  

GWR to Acquire Canadian Pacific Trackage
In SD and MN

Sale will also pick up lock, stock, vehicles, and employees

From the Wall Street Journal
John Kell, Writer

Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (GWR) has agreed to pay Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CP) $210 million to acquire about 660 miles of rail operations mostly located in South Dakota and Minnesota.

The asset sale, expected to close in the middle of the year, will result in Canadian Pacific taking an estimated $240 million write down, which will be included in the company’s upcoming fourth-quarter results.

The transaction isn’t expected to have a material effect on Canadian Pacific’s future results, while for Genesee & Wyoming, the deal is expected to generate $65 million in annual revenue and immediately add to per-share earnings in 2014. Genesee & Wyoming’s results throughout 2013 were bolstered by the late 2012 acquisition of RailAmerica Inc., a move that combined the two largest short-line and regional-rail operators in North America. Despite the name, GWR is based in Connecticut.

The deal will give Genesee & Wyoming, which also operates freight railroads in Australia and the Netherlands, control of a rail line that shipped about 52,000 carloads annually of grain, bentonite clay, ethanol, fertilizer and other products.

The rail line, currently the west end of Canadian Pacific’s Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Line, will be known as the “Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad” under Genesee & Wyoming’s control.

The track connects Tracy, Minn., and Rapid City, S.D., and also has connecting branch lines to other cities, including some tracks that extend to small portions of Nebraska and Wyoming.

Under terms of the deal, Genesee & Wyoming will also be acquiring inventory, equipment and vehicles. The company expects to hire about 180 employees to staff the new line, and anticipates most of those new hires will come from those currently working on the rail line.

Canadian Pacific’s planned asset sale comes after three recent fiery accidents involving trains carrying crude oil out of North Dakota’s Bakken Shale have puzzled regulators and industry officials. Observers are trying to figure out why the oil is exploding, because while crude is flammable, it is rarely implicated in explosions before being refined into products such as gasoline.

Earlier this week, a blast in Casselton, N.D., 25 miles west of Fargo, is just the latest explosion involving crude pumped out of the Bakken.

[Ed Note: See a story on the Casselton incident elsewhere in this newsletter.]


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BUSINESS LINES... Business Lines...  

Why The London Tube Wants To Help You
Do Your Grocery Shopping

From The Atlantic Cities:
By Eric Jaffe

Does London’s Underground system have a future as a supermarket chain?

Transport for London announced last month that in 2015, it will close the ticket offices in London’s 240 subway stations, obliging users to rely on machines alone. Setting aside the other implications of this staff and service cut, the move means stations will suddenly have vacant space. The commercial potential of these former ticket offices is huge, and retooling them as shopping spaces might provide a possible commercial template for transit systems across the world.

TFL are clearly thinking big on this. Last week, a spokesman told the Financial Times that London’s transit network has the potential to be a massive “supermarket aisle” for time-poor Londoners.

It’s easy to see the attraction of this model for retailers.

Straight off, there are some limitations, though nothing insurmountable. London ticket offices aren’t vast – they vary in size from that of a small studio apartment to a modest corner store – so their future commercial potential isn’t endless. Current plans suggest their aisles will be virtual rather than literal. 

Both Amazon and food and clothing chain Marks and Spencer’s have been exploring using them as pick-up points for online shopping. And supermarket chain Asda has already announced a pilot for something similar: a plan to use a handful of suburban station car parks in North London as rendezvous points for “click-and-collect” deliveries. Users would make their purchases online then pick them up at their convenience, either from staff at a window, or from electronic lockers for which they have been sent a code via email.  It’s easy to see the attraction of this model for retailers, who will get highly visible shop windows for online businesses and simultaneously reduce their delivery costs.

There are logistical hurdles to overcome – no one wants already congested rush hour stations clogged further by lines of people waiting to pick up their pre-bagged dinner. Still, the revenue benefits for TFL are obvious. Currently, the network makes £25 million annually from renting out shop spaces. Many stations have small kiosks, while central stations have other small outlets (such as key cutters and heel bars) and a few stations even open directly into shopping malls. Renting out old ticket offices in prime sites could double this amount, helping TFL towards its goal of being financially self-sustaining by the end of the decade.

Who could possibly fault such a plan? The logic seems seamless: better technology trims unnecessary staff, freeing up space that provides useful commercial services and simultaneously offloads some of the cost burden needed to maintain the system. Along this line, however, there are kinks and problems that should give us pause. 

For a start, a machine cannot replace a human. TFL is already getting sketchy about staffing ticket windows and as a result, I’ve been forced on several occasions to walk to another station when I’ve found that a malfunctioning machine can’t give me what I need.  Essentially unstaffed stations are only going to make this sort of situation more common.

Maximizing income and providing a great service may not be not mutually exclusive, but they are not same thing. Transport for London talks of new ways to cut costs while simultaneously raising fares that are already among the world’s highest. To give an idea of by how high they are, a monthly pass in Paris (zones 1 and 2) costs around $90, while a Berlin pass covering an area the same size (zones A and B) costs $107. To pay for monthly travel across a comparable area of London (zones 1 to 3, as London’s zones are smaller) you have to pay $226. The reason for this higher level is that London has lower state subsidies, hence the scramble for more income from other sources.

A transit network is not an elective luxury, it’s a basic public service without which a city like London cannot function, just like emergency healthcare and a police service. As things stand, London’s high transit prices are already failing much of its population, as the poorest are obliged to give up using the Tube and cross the city via cheaper but much slower buses. Quite aside from the hardship this causes, it’s a sign of a city working at less than efficiency. 

Finding ways to further reduce state support for an already expensive network is not necessarily in Londoners’ interests. Replacing a ticket office with a shop is essentially part of a battle to strip away state support for basic services and push them into the private sector. There are strong arguments to be made for this move, but let’s not pretend it is a simple “common sense” move without either victims or an ideological motor.

Found at: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2013/12/why-london-tube-wants-help-you-do-your-grocery-shopping/7991/


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

Russian Rail Station And Bus Bombings
Raise Concerns For Olympic Safety

By DF Staff and Internet Sources

On Sunday December 29, the world was shaken when a lone suicide bomber detonated an explosive device inside the rail station at Volgograd. This was soon followed by another explosive device detonating in an electric bus the following morning during the daytime rush hour. In all some 30 people were killed between the two events

Volgograd is a city located about 650 kilometers (400 miles) northeast of Sochi, and serves as a major transportation hub for parts of southern Russia. The station provides rail and bus services to volatile provinces in Russia’s North Caucasus, where insurgents have been seeking an Islamic state. Sochi is a designated location for most of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Bomb blast

Image – Screen capture – www.YouTube.com

A security camera captures the moment that a suicide bomber detonates a device inside the Volgograd rail station

Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for Russia’s main investigative agency said the bus explosion involved a bomb similar to the one used in Sunday’s bombing at the city’s main railway station.

“That confirms the investigators’ version that the two terror attacks were linked,” Markin said in a statement. “They could have been prepared in one place.”

The spokesperson also stated said that a suicide attacker was responsible for the bus explosion, reversing an earlier statement suggesting that the blast was caused by a bomb that had been left in the vehicle’s passenger area. At least 14 people were killed and nearly 30 were wounded in that event. A similar bus explosion killed six people last October.

At least one Russian, Pavel Pechyonkin, a 26-year-old former paramedic who allegedly converted to radical Islam in 2011, has been named by Russian authorities as a suspect in the first bombing that hit Volgograd’s train station.

The events which targeted segments of Russians transportation system have raised concerns that the Winter Olympics could be a target for additional attacks. So far, Russia’s leadership has promised to escalate efforts to prevent such a threat. The International Olympics Committee expressed its condolences over Sunday’s bombing in Volgograd, but said it was confident of Russia’s ability to protect the Games.


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NEWS FROM AMTRAK... News From Amtrak...  

Funding Is The Topic

 

Amtrak President And CEO To Address
National Press Club Luncheon January 10

WASHINGTON --- Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph H. Boardman will make a speech entitled, “Bringing Transportation Funding into the 21st Century” at a National Press Club luncheon on Friday, January 10.

Boardman was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer in November 2008 after serving as the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration and as a member of the Amtrak Board of Directors. Prior to his position at FRA, Mr. Boardman was the longest serving Commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation. The luncheon will begin promptly at 12:30 p.m. Remarks will begin at 1:00 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer session ending at 2:00 p.m. Tickets cost $22 for NPC members and $36 for non-members. For questions, email: reservations@press.org or call (202)662-7501. Tickets must be paid for at the time of reservation. “Amtrak has made great progress in recent years—record ridership in 10 of last 11 years, record ticket revenues, new electric locomotives and long distance cars being built to enter service in 2014, plans to relieve the passenger rail bottleneck at New York moving forward, new or extended services across the nation and advances in passenger benefits like eTicketing and Wi-Fi. Federal funding for Amtrak is a continuing issue and Mr. Boardman will address it during his remarks,” Amtrak said in its announcement.


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Amtrak Adds More Coach Seats To Auto Train

WASHINGTON - In response to growing demand, Amtrak Auto Train is expanding capacity by adding more seats for travel beginning on Jan. 1 through March 31.

Auto Train offers both coach and sleeper accommodations. Up to 60 additional coach seats will be available for travel on variety of dates on Train 53 to Florida (Jan. 1 - 9; Jan. 16; Jan. 29 - Feb. 1; Feb 14 - 15; and Feb. 28) and Train 52 from Florida (Jan. 2 - 4; Feb. 22; Feb. 28; March 1; March 15; and March 29 - 31).

“The Auto Train is the easiest and most enjoyable way to travel between the northeast and Florida while your car takes a breather,” said Amtrak Chief Marketing and Sales Officer Matt Hardison. “People love to leave the driving to us. This service continues to grow in popularity, and Amtrak is responding with more capacity.”

As one of Amtrak’s most popular routes, Auto Train is a unique service that allows passengers to travel with their personal vehicles including cars, vans, SUVs, motorcycles, and even small boats or jet-skis. It is the only such service in the U.S. and eliminates nearly 900 miles of driving for travelers between the Northeast and all points in Florida. Auto Train is the longest passenger train in the world with two locomotives and 40-plus passenger rail cars and vehicle carriers.

Recently, Amtrak added Priority Vehicle Offloading, which passengers can purchase so that their vehicle is one of the first offloaded from the train. Vehicle counts can total 200-300 per train, and this service helps passengers get to their destination sooner.

Auto Train departs daily from both Lorton, Va. (near Washington, D.C.), and Sanford, Fla. (near Orlando), with up to 600 passengers. Amtrak passengers travel in wide, comfortable seats, and their vehicles likewise enjoy the journey in enclosed vehicle carriers.


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PUBLISHER NOTE... Publisher’s Note:...  

With this the first 2014 issue of Destination: Freedom, the National Corridors Initiative’s on-line newsletter or “zine”, Webmaster Dennis Kirkpatrick assumes the additional role of Managing Editor, responsible for the day-to-day collection and analysis of news items for our now-15-year-old on-line presence, and for their organization.

Dennis is retired from the high-tech sector having served in various manufacturing and engineering positions in commercial electronics and military electronics. He presently resides in Boston, MA with his wife of 39 years. He has a grown daughter and son

After retirement he turned his attention to the Internet and has been with it since its inception, and can often be found tinkering with computers for family, friends, or his local community center where he serves on the board of directors.

Molly McKay will become Editor of the Newsletter with oversight responsibilities. She succeeded Leo King, founding editor of Destination: Freedom, a long-time transportation journalists and former Amtrak employee, who died in 2011. She is a graduate of Connecticut College and Harvard University, chair of the Transportation Committee of the Sierra Club of Connecticut, and a co-founder of Trail and Rail Action Coalition, an advocacy group concerned with public transit.

Longtime contributors David Beale, a transportation executive, and David Peter Alan, an attorney and transportation activist, will continue in their roles as Foreign Editor and Contributing Editor, respectively, as will NCI Founder and Chairman James P. RePass as Publisher.

– JPR


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PUBLICATION 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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