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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February 14, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 6

Copyright © 2011
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 12th Newsletter Year

This E-Zine is best viewed at
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IN THIS EDITION...   In This Edition...

  News Items…
Obama Administration Strengthens, Expands
   Its High-Speed Rail Proposal
New Hudson River Rail Tunnel Plan Revived
   In Lautenberg, Menendez Amtrak Proposal
House T&I Chair Mica Boosts “True” HSR,
   But Amtrak Won’t Be Leading The Charge
  South Of The Border…
Panama To Start Construction Of First Subway
  Study Lines…
Study Identifies Best U.S. High-Speed Rail Corridors
  Ridership Lines…
Amtrak’s Wolverine Lines From Michigan To Chicago
   See Boost In Traffic And Revenue
  Commuter Lines…
MBTA Introduces New Diesel-Electric Locomotives
  Select Rail Stocks…
  Across The Pond…
German Parliament: Install Positive Train Control
   On All Rail Lines
The Amtrak “Gateway” Project: A New Way
   Into Manhattan?
Egypt Rising
Connecting New England By Rail
  Publication Notes …

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

Obama Administration Strengthens,
Expands Its High-Speed Rail Proposal

By DF Staff And From Internet Sources

PHILADELPHIA, FEBRUARY 8--- In a move that put front and center the Obama Administration’s determination to radically alter the transportation system of the United States, and following up on the President’s explicit State of the Union promise to bring true High-Speed Rail within reach of at least 80% of the American people in 25 years, Vice President Joe Biden this past week declared

“As President Obama said in his State of the Union, there are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation – one of which is infrastructure,” said Vice President Biden.  “As a long time Amtrak rider and advocate, I understand the need to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion and create quality, skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsourced. This plan will help us to do that, while also increasing access to convenient high-speed rail for more Americans.”

The six-year plan was announced at a special event at Philadelphia’s famed 30th Street Station, a key stop on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and a symbol of the revival of Amtrak over the past decade, as increased capital investment, after years of neglect and under-funding by Congress, has at last begun to make gains on the seriously outdated infrastructure Amtrak was handed in 1970 when the freight railroads bailed out of the passenger rail business, which had never made money for them but whose losses had been covered by profitable freight transportation, until the development of the nation’s highway system by the taxpayer enabled thousands of trucking companies to compete against the capital-intensive rail system.

The Vice President made the announcement with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood during a visit to Philadelphia to celebrate, in part, the success of Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor (Pittsburgh-Harrisburg-Philadelphia) where passengers traveling from Pittsburgh and Harrisburg connect to high-speed Acela service to Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

“Since track improvements raised speeds between Harrisburg and Philadelphia to 110 mph in 2006, the Keystone Corridor has seen rail ridership rise by 57 percent.  In fact, more passengers now travel from Harrisburg to Philadelphia – and from Philadelphia to New York City and Washington D.C. – by rail than by plane,” the Vice President noted.

Vice President Joe Biden, long known as a major American rail advocate, said in the announcement last week, the Administration’s “…comprehensive plan that will help the nation reach President Obama’s goal of giving 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years, as outlined in his State of the Union address. The proposal will place high-speed rail on equal footing with other surface transportation programs and revitalize America’s domestic rail manufacturing industry by dedicating $53 billion over six years to continue construction of a national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network.  As a part of President Obama’s commitment to winning the future by rebuilding America’s roadways, railways and runways, the plan will lay a new foundation for the nation’s economic opportunity, job creation, and competitiveness.”

The White House announcement stated:

As the first step in this comprehensive, six-year plan, the President’s Budget for the coming fiscal year would invest $8 billion in expanding Americans’ access to high-speed passenger rail service.  In order to achieve a truly national system, these investments will focus on developing or improving three types of interconnected corridors:

This system will allow the Department – in partnership with states, freight rail, and private companies – to identify corridors for the construction of world-class high-speed rail, while raising speeds on existing rail lines and providing crucial planning and resources to communities who want to join the national high-speed rail network. With rail ridership reaching all-time highs in many areas of the country during 2010, these investments will ensure that more Americans have the option of taking a train to reach their destination.

“In America, we pride ourselves on dreaming big and building big,” said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.  “This historic investment in America’s high-speed rail network keeps us on track toward economic opportunity and competitiveness in the 21st century.  It’s an investment in tomorrow that will create manufacturing, construction, and operations jobs today.”

This long term commitment builds on the $10.5 billion down payment the Obama Administration already devoted to a national high-speed rail system – including $8 billion of Recovery Act funds and $2.5 billion from the 2010 budget. 

“These investments are already paying economic dividends in places like Brunswick, Maine, where construction workers are laying track that will provide the first rail service since the 1940s from Brunswick to Portland to Boston,’ noted Secretary LaHood.

“Private dollars are also gravitating toward Brunswick’s station neighborhood, as investors have financed a number of businesses and residential condos, a new movie theatre, a new 60 room hotel, and a 21st century health clinic.  Similar high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects across the country will create jobs not only in our manufacturing sector, but also in the small businesses that open near modernized train stations.  They will connect large metropolitan communities and economies through a safe, convenient, and reliable transportation alternative.  They will ease congestion on our roads and at our airports.  And they will reduce our reliance on oil as well as our carbon emissions,” he said.

“By clarifying the long-term federal role in passenger rail, this six-year program will provide states and cities with the certainty they need to make long-term transportation plans for their communities.  It will provide businesses the confidence they need to hire American workers.  Strong “Buy American” requirements will create tens of thousands of middle-class jobs in construction, manufacturing, and rail operations.   And the proposal will open the door to new public-private partnerships and attract significant private investment in developing and operating passenger rail corridors,” the Vice President’s statement continued.

The proposal announced by the Vice President “…also streamlines the Department of Transportation’s rail programs, making it simpler for states, cities, and private companies to apply for grants and loans.  For the first time, all high-speed and intercity passenger rail programs will be consolidated into two new accounts:  a $4 billion account for network development, focused on building new infrastructure, stations, and equipment; and a $4 billion account for system preservation and renewal, which will maintain state of good repair on Amtrak and other publicly-owned assets, bring stations into Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, and provide temporary operating support to crucial state corridors while the full system is being built and developed.”

The debate will now turn to the House of Representatives, where new Chairman John Mica (R-FL), successor to Democrat Jim Oberstar who was defeated for re-election last November in the GOP surge that gave them control of the House. Chairman Mica is on record as an advocate of true high-speed rail, but wants to concentrate on a relatively few lines (the Northeast Corridor, California), rather than spend on a national system.

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New Hudson River Rail Tunnel Plan Revived
In Lautenberg, Menendez Amtrak Proposal

From The Transport Politic:

Amtrak will not allow itself to miss the train for President Obama’s effort to “win the future.” Two weeks after the State of the Union address, in which Mr. Obama announced his intention to promote a high-speed rail system that connects 80% of the country’s population, the national railroad has made its first move.

[This past week], Amtrak President Joseph Boardman and New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez headlined a press conference in which the railroad articulated a basic framework for a new rail tunnel into Manhattan. The connection — named the Gateway Project — would generally follow the alignment of the Access to the Region’s Core project, a $10 billion link that would have carried New Jersey Transit commuter trains into a new terminal before it was cancelled last October by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who cited state budget concerns for his decision.

In connection with the replacement of the moribund Portal Bridge just west of Secaucus Station, the Gateway Tunnel would represent the first, $13.5 billion, step in Amtrak’s $117.5 billion plan to upgrade the entire Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston to 220 mph speeds. Completion of this stage is proposed for 2020.

Though the necessity of a new rail link between New Jersey and Manhattan has been evident for years because of increased passenger traffic and decaying infrastructure, the decision by Mr. Christie appeared to have put any such project on hold for a decade or more, since funds committed to the project — $3 billion from both the Port Authority and the Federal Transit Administration — would be redistributed. But this announcement from Amtrak changes the equation significantly. In light of the President’s active support of high-speed rail and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica’s excitement about the Northeast Corridor, it may well be a viable program.

No funding is currently available for the project, not even the $50 million necessary to kick start engineering studies. In addition, the Gateway Tunnel faces competition that has arisen since ARC was cancelled: A potential extension of the New York Subway’s 7 Train, a project that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has endorsed in recent months.

That project could arguably be constructed for fewer funds, since it would require little new tunneling under expensive Manhattan real estate. In addition, the Subway link would have the serious advantage of direct service to Grand Central Terminal and Queens, 24 hours a day — something neither New Jersey Transit or Amtrak will be able to offer. (Amtrak proposes to loop the 7 Train east along 31st Street to serve the station, a questionable proposition.)

Nonetheless, the Gateway Tunnel would service to reinforce the Northeast Corridor intercity rail system far more significantly, and even more than ARC would have. That’s because, unlike New Jersey Transit’s ARC plan, the Gateway Tunnel would be connected to Penn Station, allowing Amtrak trains running from Washington to Boston to use the link. “The right tunnel to the right place” is how advocates describe this new proposal. Several new dead-end platforms would be constructed just south of the existing station, forming a new terminus for New Jersey Transit and opening up more space in the existing Penn Station for Amtrak and potentially Metro-North trains from Upstate New York and Connecticut.

ARC would have dead-ended into a cavern far underground, making it both incompatible with the existing rail network but also deeply inconvenient to its riders, who would have had to ride long escalators to the top.

Gateway Tunnel Suggested Alignment Map

Courtesy of TheTransportPolitic

Suggested alignment

The new tunnel’s capacity would be split between Amtrak and New Jersey Transit, with 8 intercity trains and 13 commuter trains per hour (added to 12 and 20, respectively, today). This represents a decrease from the 25 additional hourly commuter trains ARC would have provided. The plans to connect the Bergen and Passaic lines to ARC to allow for direct service to Manhattan have been abandoned.

Yet the advantages of allowing through trains to use this facility ultimately mean Amtrak will not have to build yet another link under the Hudson in the coming years, as it had planned. In addition, the Gateway Tunnel would provide a vital backup in case something goes wrong with the 100-year-old tunnels currently serving trains between Manhattan and New Jersey.

Amtrak will have to construct a very careful case for its project in order to assemble the necessary funding, especially in the context of a Republican Congress that has made cutting national investments its major priority. Unlike ARC, Gateway would serve intercity as well as commuter traffic, so it is unclear whether the Federal Transit Administration would agree to sign up to aid in sponsoring it. On the other hand, the Federal Railroad Administration, which administers high-speed rail funds, might want to get involved — but this project would do nothing to speed up trains, since it would simply duplicate a service that already exists.

Ultimately, the national railroad’s best argument for the project is that it would serve national economic growth objectives, providing just the sort of infrastructure repair that the President has so forcefully recommended. It would be difficult even for conservative Republicans to argue that this project does not fulfill Washington’s mandate to improve the nation’s transportation systems, since it is of course at its core a connection between two states.

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House T&I Chair Mica Boosts “True” HSR,
But Amtrak Won’t Be Leading The Charge

By Richard J. Arena
Special To Destination: Freedom

WASHINGTON, DC --- America needs true High-Speed Rail, Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-FL) told a summit of the United States High-Speed Rail Association ( last week, but it is not going to be led by Amtrak, the nation’s national passenger rail operator.

At a major conference on the state of high-speed rail (HSR) in America in Washington, DC last week, with over 350 attendees from 28 countries, including businessmen and women, transportation bureaucrats, advocates, and key politicians from both political parties, Chairman Mica declared that putting Amtrak in charge of such a project would be like giving a pension fund “to Bernie Madoff.”

Chairman Mica (R-FL), and his T&I Committee will be at the epicenter of the debate on transportation spending priorities in the upcoming years, and he has been a critic of Amtrak for many years.

This was not the first time Chairman Mica or High-Speed Rail has been in the national news recently: Two weeks ago, he held his first field meeting for the T & I Committee, in the gloriously restored Grand Central Terminal in New York City, with the theme of “true” high-speed rail (average speed greater than 200 mph) on the Northeast Corridor (NEC). Several proposals from different organizations are circulating regarding the NEC.

The cost of the 455-mile route from Washington, DC to Boston is in the $100-$120 billion range for a new, dedicated right of way (ROW). What was so telling about this meeting was not who provided testimony, but who was excluded – Amtrak --- until after the hearing itself, when roundtable discussions took place. Mica has made no secret of his opinion of Amtrak,

Fast forward to last week when Vice President Biden appeared at the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia to announce the Obama Administration’s plan to spend $53 billion on high-speed rail HSR over the six years (see separate story).

Also making HSR headlines was the newly-undead New York–New Jersey Gateway Project, known also as ARC (Access to the Region’s Core), a rail tunnel project to back up and expand the capacity of the existing 100-year-old Hudson River tunnels connecting the two states, recently killed by NJ Governor Chris Christie due to cost concerns. The latest proposal also calls for a new two-track tunnel under the Hudson, but unlike ARC, which terminated in dead-end tracks under Macy’s Department Store, this HSR capable tunnel would go directly at current track level into an enlarged Penn-Moynihan Station.

With the support of Senators Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Menendez (D-NJ), it would be led by Amtrak, with a price tag of $13.5 billion --- close to the projected overrun cost of the dead-end ARC alignment

Mica, a conservative Republican is quite bullish on HSR, but this enthusiasm comes with a caveat, first and foremost of which is Mica’s strong belief that America needs a successful demonstration of true High-Speed Rail --- at world-class speeds --- to convince American taxpayers that the investment will be worth the cost.

He stated that this demonstration project must be built in a corridor that has the ingredients for success: population density, high commercial interests, city pairs within the HSR sweet spot – 200 to 600 miles, and an existing support infrastructure (i.e. commuter rail and rapid transit) to feed HSR intercity routes. His preferred route? The Northeast Corridor. “True” HSR on the NEC would translate into travel times of under 90 minutes from Boston to New York and 90 minutes from New York to Washington, unlike the current Amtrak Acela times of over 3, and 3 1/2 hours, respectively.

Mica does not think that Amtrak has the capabilities or the culture to manage a successful HSR project. The Congressman stated that having Amtrak retool for true HSR is akin to asking Bernie Madoff to manage a new pension fund. And, Mica is adamant that there must be a private sector contribution to any HSR program. He sees a program with a federal contribution, a state match, and contributions by the private sector with public private partnerships (PPP). His objective is to have “as minimum government subsidy and maximum private participation as possible.” Mica noted that Amtrak’s HSR NEC proposal has no private sector component and he pointed out the relative lack of commercial investment around the NEC right of way, unlike that found along HSR programs in other countries.

The Congressman also questioned the role of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in selecting the winners in the HSR sweepstakes. He stated that the FRA is a regulatory organization which does not have the necessary expertise to take on the role of a grant agency. He took issue with the HSR grants awarded to date, noting far too much money was spent on small grants for what the “administration touted as high-speed rail ended up as embarrassing snail-speed trains to nowhere.”

Mica indicated he is not afraid of big megaprojects such as a HSR NEC, but he fully understands that he will need considerable help going forward to make these plans a reality. He also appreciates the need for a multi-year funding plan. This will provide the certainty and security required by equipment manufacturers who will be asked to make billion dollar capital investments to gear up for projects. What was unsaid is that he fully expects to take fire from both sides of the aisle. Support from bi-partisan politicians and cover from HSR transportation advocates will play a major role in determining the future path of high-speed rail in America.

Richard J. Arena is businessman, long-time transportation advocate, and President of The Association for Public Transportation, which is one of the business partners of USHSR.

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SOUTH OF THE BORDER... South Of The Border...  

Panama To Start Construction Of First Subway

From Xinhua General News Service via Lexis-Nexis

PANAMA CITY, FEBRUARY 11 --- Panama will break ground on the country’s first subway next Monday, Public Works Minister Federico Suarez said last Thursday.

The subway aims to modernize the public transport system in the capital, said Suarez, and is expected to take three years to construct.

$1.446 billion U.S. dollars will be invested in Line 1 in Panama City, he added.

It would be the first subway in Panama and the whole Central America.

The 13.7-km subway line, which will have 17 stations, will replace some bus routes that have been in operation in the city for 40 years.

The subway line will connect the city center with suburbs in the east of the city.

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STUDY LINES... Study Lines...  

Study Identifies Best U.S.
High-Speed Rail Corridors

From News

A new study released last week by America 2050, a project of the Regional Plan Association, identifies the high-speed rail corridors with the greatest potential to attract ridership in each of the nation’s “mega-regions”--networks of metropolitan regions that collectively contain more than 70% of U.S. population and jobs.

Corridors connecting populous regions with large job centers, rail transit networks, and existing air markets scored best. The study also recommends that the federal government adopt a quantitative approach to evaluating future investment in high-speed rail.

The 56-page study, entitled, “High-Speed Rail in America,” cites ridership potential as the number one factor in determining if a corridor is suitable for investment, identifies the specific conditions that generate ridership demand, and scores each corridor according to strength in those areas.

The top performing corridors in each region determined to have the greatest potential demand for high-speed rail ridership include corridors, such as: New York-Washington, DC; Chicago-Milwaukee; Los Angeles-San Diego; Tampa (via Orlando) to Miami; Dallas-Houston; Atlanta-Birmingham; Portland-Seattle; and Denver-Pueblo.

Scoring was based on factors that have contributed to rail ridership in other systems around the world: regional and city population size and density, employment concentrations, rail transit accessibility, air travel markets, and the composition of job markets by sector. Based on the analysis, the report proposes that the federal government adopt a similar approach to evaluating where to invest future dollars and calls for prioritizing investments where the potential for ridership demand is greatest.

It also calls for a new nationwide study of long distance travel in America, the majority of which takes place by auto. The last nationwide study of this kind--the American Travel Survey--was completed in 1995 and is outdated.

“America 2050 strongly believes that investments in HSR will be essential to the long-term economic success and mobility of the nation and its mega-regions, and supports the Obama Administration’s efforts to lay the foundation for a national HSR network serving these places,” said Robert Yaro, president of Regional Plan Association and co-chair of America 2050. “The report recommends, however, that the federal government adopt a data-driven, ridership-based approach to choosing rail corridors for federal investment in the future in order to direct funding toward projects with the greatest market demand.”

The next two years are crucial in building public confidence in this long term program as it faces the challenge of an incoming Congress intent on cutting national spending. Congress is expected to vote annually to appropriate funds for the high-speed rail program. The report acknowledges that while ridership is an important factor to screen for investment, it is not the only consideration. The federal government must weigh multiple factors, such as project readiness, ability to acquire rights of way, and local political support for rail projects--as the rejection of rail monies by incoming governors in Ohio and Wisconsin recently showed.

The Obama Administration was also constrained in the first year of this program by a weak pool of projects to choose from--a symptom of states generally not engaging in rail planning efforts prior to 2009 due to lack of federal support. The report only examined corridors of up to 600 miles in length--the range of miles at which high-speed rail can compete effectively with automobiles and airplanes--and collected data for every metropolitan region along each corridor.

The scoring methodology was designed so that corridors with large central business districts, regional populations, existing transit systems, and regional air markets scored highest in the study. Short corridors that concentrate multiple major cities and employment centers tended to score highly in the study.

The report is a follow-up study to America 2050’s 2009 report, “Where High-Speed Rail Works Best,” which analyzed 27,000 potential corridors or “city pairs” and ranked them according to a weighted average of the six survey criteria, but did not consider the alignment of the corridors or the cities in between each pairing. “High-Speed Rail in America” refines this analysis by accounting for the network benefits of having multiple stations along a corridor.

For example, a key advantage of rail over air is that it can make intermediate stops and pick up additional passengers without expending the time or fuel that would be required of airplanes to make stops. It also transports passengers directly to and from city centers, eliminating the time to travel to airports and wait for security checks.

The report also builds on the 2009 report by providing a more comprehensive analysis of population size and the number of jobs in proximity to potential high-speed rail stations by drawing 2-mile, 10- mile, and 25-mile rings around the central station in each region and counting the number of jobs and people living in those areas.

“Now that the initial rush of high-speed rail stimulus grants have been awarded to regions such as California, Florida, and the Midwest, it’s time to build the foundation for a program that will have long-term sustainability and gain public support. Collecting data on long-distance travel and identifying the most promising markets for high-speed rail is essential to ensuring our money is well spent,” said Petra Todorovich, Director, America 2050. “So is educating the public and decision makers about where high-speed rail works best--in corridors that connect dense city centers, transit networks, and large populations, and in corridors with existing regional air markets.”

“To maximize the benefits of high-speed rail, systems must connect to dense city centers and to existing public transit systems,” said Armando Carbonell, chairman of the Department of Planning and Urban Form at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and co-chair of America 2050. “This report sheds light on the most appropriate corridors for investment in each mega-region across the nation.”

The complete report can be found online at the link below.


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RIDERSHIP LINES... Ridership Lines...  

Amtrak’s Wolverine Lines From Michigan To Chicago
See Boost In Traffic And Revenue

From Crain Communications And Bloomberg On The Internet

Writers: Bill Shea And Tim Boyle
And DF Staff

DETROIT -- The daily Amtrak rail service between Detroit/Pontiac and Chicago — known as the Wolverine line — saw a nearly 23 percent increase in ridership, a quarter vs. quarter increase to 1130,683 passengers in the first quarter of the fiscal year ending December 31.

Ticket revenue on the route increased more than 26 percent to nearly $5 million compared with the same period a year ago, the Michigan Department of Transportation said in a statement.

The state’s two other Amtrak routes also saw passenger and revenue gains:

• Blue Water (Port Huron-Chicago): 29.5 percent increase to 46,272 passengers. Ticket revenue was up 25.7 percent to $1.4 million.

• Pere Marquette (Grand Rapids and Chicago): 7.8 percent increase to 25,916 passengers and a 14.1 percent increase in ticket revenue of $801,219.

The increases are attributed to gains in customer opinions of Amtrak and a rise in interest in rail travel in general, MDOT said.

Amtrak saw a record 28.7 million passengers nationally in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, along with a record $1.74 billion in ticket revenue.

Amtrak is the nation’s government-owned intercity passenger rail service, known officially since its inception in 1971 as the National Railroad Passenger Corp. It received about $1.6 billion in federal aid to cover operational and capital costs in its last fiscal year.

The service saw $2.5 billion in total revenue last year, against $3.7 billion in expenses, according to Amtrak’s annual report.

Fifteen states also provide local subsidies. Michigan budgeted $7.8 million in annual operating subsidies for the Pere Marquette and Blue Water routes in the 2009-10 fiscal year. That’s the bulk of the $12.4 million set aside by Lansing for passenger rail service in the state’s Comprehensive Transportation Fund.

The Detroit-Chicago line doesn’t receive any state dollars.

The Wolverine is a passenger train service operated by Amtrak as part of its Michigan Services. The 304 miles (489 km) line provides three daily round-trips along the Pontiac-Detroit-Chicago route. The Wolverine operates over Norfolk Southern Railway, Amtrak, Conrail and Canadian National Railway trackage:

High-speed rail

The Detroit–Chicago corridor has been designated by the Federal Railroad Administration a high-speed rail corridor. A 97-mile stretch along the route of Wolverine from Porter, Indiana, to Kalamazoo, Michigan, is the longest segment of track owned by Amtrak outside of the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak began speed increases along this stretch in January 2002. Amtrak trains currently travel at top speeds of 95 miles per hour along this section of track. Ultimately, speed increases to 110 mile-per-hour service are planned. During October 2010, the State of Michigan received $150 million from the federal government to increase track speeds to 110 mile-per-hour service between Kalamazoo and Dearborn.

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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

MBTA Introduces New Diesel-Electric Locomotives

By DF Staff And From An MBTA Press Release

BOSTON - As part of the Patrick-Murray Administration’s focus on the whole Commonwealth and commitment to improving customer service in transportation, Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray joined commuter rail riders, MassDOT, and MBTA transportation officials on an inaugural ride from Worcester to Boston aboard a new commuter rail locomotive.

MBTA Gen Mgr Richard Davey, Ma Lt. Gov Tim Murray, MassDOT Sec and CEO Jeffrey Mullan

Two Photos via MBTA

Left to Right - MBTA General Manager Richard Davey, Masachusetts Lt. Governor Tim Murray, MassDOT Secretary and CEO Jeffrey Mullan.

The MP36 state-of-the-art diesel-electric locomotive is one of two purchased from the Utah Transit Authority’s Front Runner service at a cost of $7 million and marks the first time in over two decades that new locomotives will join the MBTA’s commuter rail fleet. The MP36 is also used in Maryland’s MARC service.

In June 2010, the MassDOT Board of Directors approved the purchase of an additional 20 new locomotives from Motive Power, Inc. of Boise, Idaho at a cost of $114 million. The additional 20 new style MP46 locomotives will be brought into service starting in 2013 and replace the 20 oldest and least

Also on order are some 75 new passenger coaches from Hyundai-Rotem Corp.

“We are making efficient, strategic transportation investments that focus on the needs of customers who depend on the rail system to get to work each day,” said Governor Deval Patrick.

“A dependable transit system is vital to our entire region,” said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. “These new locomotives are both more fuel efficient and more reliable, improving on-time performance for the benefit of our customers.”

The two new locomotives new engines burn less fuel and emit lower levels of nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons.

The Motive Power MP36 class locomotive

The Motive Power MP36 class locomotive was initially purchased for Utah’s Front Runner Service but has been sold and repainted into the MBTA’s livery. At least one more MP36 will be obtained from UTA.

It is estimated that the MBTA will save approximately $78,000 annually per locomotive, as the new engines burn 36,500 fewer gallons of fuel each year.

Employing new technology that makes the engines more fuel efficient and prevents unnecessary idling, the new locomotives reduce nitrogen oxide levels by 38 1/2 tons per engine annually.

“Governor Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Murray have a proven commitment to improving the Commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure after years of neglect, and these first new locomotives in more than 20 years are a great example of that commitment,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Jeffrey Mullan.

“The addition of new locomotives to the fleet brings immediate benefits to our customers and the environment,” said MBTA General Manager Richard Davey. “Improved on time performance, energy efficiency, and an overall improvement to the customer’s commuting experience are all positives to be applauded.”

The MBTA commuter rail fleet is operated under a contract with MBCR, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company. The fleet consists of 410 coaches including 140 bi-level and 270 single coaches, and 80 locomotives. The fleet ranges in age from seven to 29 years. Commuter rail service carries approximately 148,000 customers round-trip each weekday.

For transportation news and updates, visit the MassDOT website at, the MassDOT blog at or follow MassDOT on twitter at

For an earlier article on this purchase see DF, June 7, 2010:

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Canadian National (CNI)70.3668.38
Canadian Pacific (CP) 68.2366.92
CSX (CSX)73.2469.70
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)53.0552.31
Kansas City Southern (KSU)54.7551.11
Norfolk Southern (NSC)64.1061.07
Providence & Worcester(PWX)17.0017.57
Union Pacific (UNP)99.0294.25

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

Installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor


German Parliament:
Install Positive Train Control On All Rail Lines

Forceful Reaction To Deadly Passenger Train – Freight Train Collision In Hordorf On The 29th January –
Germany’s Version Of The LA Metrolink Accident In Chatsworth, California

BERLIN – the deadly collision between a DMU passenger train and a freight train back on the 29th of January has prompted a number of members of the German parliament (Bundestag) to call for the mandatory installation of the PZB train protection system on all rail lines in Germany which at the moment do not have this PTC system installed. The trigger for this action was the deadly collision of a diesel multiple-unit passenger train (DMU) operated by Veolia’s Hartz – Elbe Express (HEX) regional passenger rail division with a freight train on a single track rail line in Hordorf in the eastern German state of Sachsen Anhalt back on the 29th of January. Ten people died and another forty-three passengers were injured when the Alstom-built DMU was rammed head-on by a freight train, which caused the DMU to derail and roll down an embankment.

Although the accident remains under official investigation by German authorities, including the local district attorney, several eye-witness accounts indicate that the freight train ran past a red signal prior to the collision. Weather conditions in the area at the time of the collision were heavy fog and light rain fall. Because this particular rail line had a speed limit of under 100 km/h (63 mph) it was not required to be equipped with the PZB train control system, which is a German PTC system that will automatically activate the brakes of a train which runs past a red signal.

Veolia HEX DMU next to the rail line in Hordorf in Eastern Germany

Photo: Deutsche Presse Agentur (dpa)

The remains of the Veolia HEX passenger DMU train-set lie next to the rail line in Hordorf in eastern Germany after a collision in day-time fog conditions.

Investigators have already stated that if this particular rail line had been equipped with PZB, the resulting automatic brake application on one or the other train after passing a red signal would most likely have avoided a collision. Germany has PZB installed on most rail lines, and on high-speed rail lines a secondary variable speed / distance positive train control system known as LZB has been in operation for the past three decades. In the past five years a few rail corridors in Germany have been equipped with Level 2 ETCS, which is slated to become the worldwide standard for train signaling and positive train control. ETCS will eventually replace the German PZB and LZB train control systems as funding becomes available to install the required ETCS hardware both track-side and in the trains within Germany and neighboring countries.

The parliamentarian action to require the PZB positive train control system came from the majority CDU/CSU/FDP coalition, but Green Party and social-democratic SPD party members in the German parliament indicated that they will support the legislation.

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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

The Amtrak “Gateway” Project:
A New Way Into Manhattan?

Amtrak Steps Back Into The Picture

First Of A Series

By David Peter Alan

“The ARC is dead. Long live the ARC.” So opined Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine last October at the news that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had killed the “Access to the Region’s Core” (ARC) Project because of its excessive cost. Christie also cited flaws in the project: its lack of connectivity to Penn Station and the infeasibility of extending the line to Manhattan’s East Side. Since that time, rider advocates have continued to push for the Affordable ARC Now – not Later! alternative, which would build new tracks to the existing Penn Station, and eventually to the East Side. Advocates in the region and across the nation were delighted that New Jersey Transit would not waste money on a deep-cavern terminal that would dump riders twenty stories below the street, but many also wondered what had happened to Amtrak. The nation’s passenger railroad had been conspicuously absent through much of the discussion about the project (commented on by this writer in D:F, October 4, 2010).

Politicians, rider advocates and others concerned have waited since then for the other shoe to drop. Certainly, Amtrak has a vital stake in the outcome of the ARC saga. Amtrak owns most of the Northeast Corridor (NEC) between Washington, D.C. and Boston, which it shares with a number of commuter rail providers such as, New Jersey Transit and Metro North, both of which carry far more passengers and move many more trains than Amtrak does. It seemed strange that Amtrak had so little say in the planning of the ARC Project, which was left almost entirely to NJT.

Amtrak occasionally spoke up. Former Amtrak President Alexander Kummant and former Amtrak Northeast Regional Vice-President Anne Witt voiced their concerns as part of NJT’s comment process in April, 2008.

When Christie killed the project last October, Amtrak lamented the loss of the project, even though they would have been shut out of the new tunnels and the deep-cavern terminal. Many observers of the New Jersey rail scene were surprised, if not shocked. It appeared that Amtrak could only benefit from the cessation of a project that would cost billions of dollars and deliver no tangible benefit to Amtrak.

Now, more than three months later, Amtrak is back on the scene. The railroad’s President, Joseph H. Boardman, appeared at a news conference sponsored by New Jersey’s two senators, Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez. Lautenberg, the senior senator, took the lead. The occasion was the unveiling of Amtrak’s new “Gateway Project,” designed to “expand passenger rail access to Manhattan.” The plan calls for a new two-track line from Swift Interlocking, west of Secaucus, to the entrance to New York’s Penn Station. That would include a replacement of the Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River. Amtrak also plans to build a new seven-track, stub-end terminal immediately south of the existing Penn Station. Unlike NJT’s stub end terminal under Macy’s basement, this new line would have the potential to continue east to connect with Grand Central and the Long Island Railroad. It will also connect to the new “Penn Station South” and to the existing station facility. The new terminal would extend from Eighth Avenue to slightly east of Seventh Avenue, and between 30th and 31st Streets. Boardman estimated that the entire project would cost $13.5 billion to complete.

Boardman and Amtrak Board member Anthony P. Coscia held their event at the Gateway Hilton Hotel, across the street from Penn Station in Newark and NJT Headquarters. Since NJT had recently pulled out of building new tunnels to Manhattan on Gov. Christie’s orders, Amtrak could not have gotten any closer to NJT’s own home to step in with a plan of its own.

Boardman was on the train for more than one day last week; his appearance in Newark on Monday was only the start of his tour. He appeared in Philadelphia on Tuesday to promote Amtrak’s vision for a high-speed rail line in the Northeast, and he later went to the Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University in New Brunswick to deliver a speech entitled: “Collaborative and Participatory Planning of High-Speed Rail and Conventional Rail in the Northeast Corridor.”

Boardman spoke before a crowd of about 100 Rutgers students and faculty, rail advocates and managers from the New Jersey and New York region. He stressed the benefits that true high-speed rail would bring to the region and the nation, while reminding his audience that much of the infrastructure that Amtrak owns in the Northeast Region is old and needs substantial and expensive upgrades. He attempted to reconcile Amtrak’s goal of developing high-speed rail in the Northeast with its role of providing conventional trains, both in that region and elsewhere around the nation. He said that trains vastly exceed all other transportation modes in “passenger capacity per meter of width” and that investment of $117 billion would be needed to deliver the level of passenger-carrying capacity that the rail system would need by 2040.

When asked what he thought about the prospect of getting those funds, now that John Mica (R-Fla.) is Chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, Boardman expressed respect for Mica and said that he was a true supporter of high-speed rail. He acknowledged that he and Mica disagreed about Amtrak. Still, Boardman said: “Transportation choice must be supported by the public sector.” He noted that other transportation modes are heavily-subsidized and pointed to Amtrak’s high fare box return of 74%. He said that rental of space and similar revenues bring the return up to 84%. He also acknowledged that the private sector is not willing to invest in rail in the current environment, but Amtrak is now a better risk than it had been, because the railroad has reduced its debt. Mica, along with many other Republicans and some Democrats, have called for more private-sector investment in rail projects as public funds have become scarce.

Boardman has held state-level and national transportation positions in Republican administrations. He was New York State Transportation Commissioner under Gov. George Petaki, where he battled with Amtrak over Turboliner trains sets that had been used in Amtrak’s Empire Service. Later, he was Federal Railroad Administrator in the Bush Administration. He acknowledged last week that he did not like NJT’s ARC Project with its deep-cavern terminal and lack of connectivity with Amtrak. Rider advocates have expressed concern that Boardman did not object to the project at that time, while he was head of the FRA.

The question-and-answer session ended with a wish from Tony Hall, chair of the Union County (New Jersey) Transportation Advisory Board. Hall said that he looked forward to the day when, even when winter weather cripples the airlines, stranded passengers at the airport would hear an announcement over the public-address system that Amtrak trains were running on schedule despite the weather; that Amtrak was honoring airline tickets; and that shuttle buses were loading passengers to take them to the train station. The audience appeared to share Hall’s hope, and Hall also called for Amtrak management to get the word out to more people about the benefits of rail travel.

At the present time, Boardman has the authority and the responsibility to move toward making Hall’s wish a reality. Part of his campaign is to re-assert Amtrak’s role as the Northeast Region’s mainline railroad by proposing a new project to improve access from New Jersey to Manhattan and increase capacity at an expanded Penn Station complex.

The new Amtrak plan is controversial and expensive. For those reasons, its future is uncertain. Some rider advocates have praised it enthusiastically, while others have expressed concern about important aspects of it. Whatever anyone may think of Amtrak’s Gateway Plan, the national railroad has come back strongly into the Northeast picture. Thus far, the plan has received mixed reviews from rider advocates, and it is also impossible to ignore its political implications. The next article in this series will describe the proposed project in detail.

David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition and has participated extensively in the campaigns to kill the deep-cavern terminal feature of the former ARC Project and to build the Affordable ARC Now – Not Later! He authored an in-depth series of articles on the ARC Project and its demise last October and November in D:F.

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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

Egypt Rising

By James P. RePass

There is no Nobel Prize for Courage, but this might be a good time for the Nobel Committee to create one ---- and to present it to the people of Egypt, who this past week took back their country.

The events in Egypt, following closely upon a similar turn towards democracy in Tunisia in January, are triggering still more and more demands for basic human freedoms in countries across North Africa and in the Middle East. The words of the protesters, mostly young, and overwhelmingly secular, are amazing to hear, for this revolt against decades of petro tyranny, echoes the rhetoric, and resonates with the spirit of Sam Adams, and Patrick Henry, and Nathan Hale.

And that is ironic, because one reason the Middle East and North Africa have remained such sinkholes of repression for so many decades is that the United States, to keep itself supplied with ever-increasing amounts of petroleum to be refined, sold, burned, and ejected into the atmosphere, has made the proverbial bargain with the devil. We have kept “reliable” allies in power in order to get our oil, meanwhile turning a blind eye to the way they ruled, or what they did with the billions of dollars in aid we shipped to them to buy their loyalty. For decades it has worked – to the shame of this country --- most of the time. When it has not, it has been bought and paid for with the blood of our children, and that of the people inhabiting those lands.

This sad history and its largely economic causes are complex, not uni-dimensional. The Cold War and its 50-year confrontation with the expansionist Soviets, who wanted to dominate the world, and get control of its resources, prolonged this agony for far too long, and this through no fault of our own other than our choice of freedom and democracy, and resistance to totalitarian communism.

But we allowed other dictatorships in other places, to fend off The Bear, and this is an era, and a behavior, which must end.

As importantly as external affairs, we have exacerbated that addiction for oil by failing to invest in alternative transportation systems here at home --- like urban transit systems, or High-speed Rail, which until the election of Barack Obama were on the far back burner of American policy.

The oil and highway lobby and its paid shills which have for far too long dominated American politics should be treated with the same contempt that the Egyptian people expressed for their corrupt and sclerotic leadership. But that will take a complete reform of our system of campaign funding, which is essentially legalized bribery, and a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s disastrous ruling of 2010 that corporations are “people” and thus entitled to contribute millions secretly to any cause, without restraint or scrutiny --- a sure pathway to fascism.

Perhaps we can do it. Perhaps we can show the same appetite for true democracy as have the people of Egypt, and who will now be tested to see if they can sustain it --- with not just freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, but freedom of religion as well. Yes, it is time for the greatest Arab country, and the seat of one of the world’s oldest civilizations, to join that battle too. And Egypt just may be the leader, again. Let them inspire us.

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EVENTS... Events...  


FRIDAY, APRIL 29, 2011

At The New Haven Public Library

“Connecting New England by Rail”


Sierra Club of Connecticut
Rail Users Network
National Corridors Initiative

Keynote Speaker Art Guzzetti from APTA
Other speakers from New England states and more.

Topics will focus on what is happening now and what are the opportunities to connect the New England states with Eastern Canada to the north and the mid-Atlantic - New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania - and points south.

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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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