The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Destination:Freedom

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists,
and elected or appointed officials at all levels of government

Publisher: James P. RePass      E-Zine Editor: Molly McKay
Foreign Editor: David Beale      Webmaster: Dennis Kirkpatrick
 

Contribute To NCI

March 14, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 10

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

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

  News Items…
House T&I Chairman John Mica Declares: ‘No More
   Highway Bill Extensions After This’
  Off The Rails…
Why Do Conservatives Hate Trains So Much?
  Safety Lines…
Railroads: Establish Emergency Notification System
  TOD Lines…
New Lechmere Station In Cambridge, Ma Will Spur
   Area Development
  Commuter Lines…
Rent To Own?
  Select Rail Stocks…
  Freight Lines…
America’s Freight Railroads’ 2011 Capital Investments
   Will Break Previous Records
 
  Across The Pond…
Hannover – Berlin High Speed Rail Corridor Construction
   In Summer 2011
Locomotive And Train Drivers In Germany Strike Again
Earthquake-Caused Nuclear Disaster In Japan
   Intensifies German Atomic Power Debate
  Events & Conferences…
True High Speed Rail - NARP-APT in Boston (MA)
We CAN Connect New England by Rail Conference (CT)
  Commentary…
Amtrak’s “Gateway” Project:
   A New Way Into Manhattan?
  We Get Letters…
  Editorial…
The Wrath of Mother Nature
  Publication Notes …


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

House T&I Chairman John Mica Declares:
‘No More Highway Bill Extensions After This’

From Internet Sources

WASHINGTON --- Lamenting Washington’s frequent failure to pass legislation in a timely manner, House T&I Chairman John Mica (R-FL) declared that this past week’s recent extension will be the last one, before a full authorization bill is released by his committee.

Mica spoke to county officials gathered in DC for an annual meeting, as reported by The Hill’s

Keith Laing:

“Speaking at the National Association of Counties annual legislative conference, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said that his committee would vote out a long-term version of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).  

Mica stated, “We stabilized the trust fund through Sept. 30th when we passed the seventh extension, but I’m here to tell you that there won’t be an eighth,” Mica said. “That’s no way to conduct business relating to what you all need to know - what the federal government is going to be doing and what the federal government is going to be funding.” 

Mica supports a new long-term highway bill and not simply extensions of legislation.

Mica said that passing a longer term SAFETEA-LU measure could help the sagging national economy, Laing reported: “Nothing is going to put people to work like a major transportation bill for this country,” he said. 

He called President Obama’s decision to back an 18-month extension of the highway bill instead of a six-year proposal supported by Mica and then-Democratic House Transportation Chairman James Oberstar “a major mistake,” wrote Laing.

For the full story go to: http://thehill.com/blogs/transportation-report/highways-bridges-and-roads/148129-lawmaker-no-more-highway-bill-extensions-after-this-one


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OFF THE RAILS... Off The Rails...  

Why Do Conservatives Hate Trains So Much?

Found At: Slate Magazine
Writes Slate’s David Weigel In The Column Politics This Week:

“In the movie version of Atlas Shrugged, there is a scene in which Ayn Rand’s libertarian heroes defy all odds, deploy some untold amount of private funding, and launch the fastest high-speed train in history over rails of experimental metal. “The run of the John Galt Line is thrilling,” wrote the libertarian federal judge Alex Kozinski. “When it crossed the bridge made of Rearden Metal, I wanted to stand up and cheer.”

“That’s in the fantasy world. In the real world, libertarians aren’t cheering for high speed rail but rather trying to stop it from being built. They are succeeding. In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich campaigned against a high-speed rail line funded by the stimulus, got elected, and turned down the funding. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker did the same thing, only more so—his anti-train campaign even had its own website www.notrain.com. In Florida, the state Supreme Court has just approved Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to reject $2.4 billion of federal funds to build a Tampa-Orlando rail line; the state was being asked to contribute only $280 million to finish it off. The funding was originally agreed to by Charlie Crist, one of the Tea Party’s archenemies, so Scott’s victory could hardly be any sweeter.

But it could hardly make less sense to liberals. What, exactly, do Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians have against trains? Seriously, what? Why did President George W. Bush try to zero out Amtrak funding in 2005? Why is the conservative Republican Study Committee suggesting that we do so now? Why does George Will think “the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism?”

To explain this, Weigel turns to William Lind, the acerbic and brilliant Princeton graduate who heads up the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation.

“You need to distinguish between Republicans and conservatives and libertarians when you look at this,” says Lind. “It’s the libertarians who push this crap.”

Libertarians, of course, have no problem with trains, continues Weigel (see, e.g., Atlas Shrugged). They do have a problem with federal spending on transportation, as do many Republicans.  Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957; Amtrak took over the rails in 1971. Since then, conservatives will sing the praises of private rail projects but criticize federally funded projects that don’t meet the ideal. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., for example, pushed a high-speed rail initiative through Congress in 2008. By 2010, he was denouncing “the Soviet-style Amtrak operation” that had “trumped true high-speed service” in Florida. In 2011, as the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, he is interested in saving the Orlando-Tampa project by building 21 miles between the airport and Disney World. This is about 21 miles farther than local Republicans want to go, wrote Weigel.

For Weigel’s complete report go to: http://www.slate.com/id/2287539/

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter and MSNBC contributor. Follow him on Twitter at   http://twitter.com/daveweigel


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SAFETYLINES... Safety Line...  

Proposed FRA Rule:

 

Railroads: Establish Emergency Notification System

From Media-Newswire.Com

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today proposed a rule that would make it easier for the public to report unsafe conditions at highway-rail grade crossings. The proposal would require railroads to establish toll-free telephone numbers to allow the public to report malfunctioning highway-rail grade crossing warning signals, disabled vehicles blocking crossings, or any other unsafe conditions at crossings.

Under the proposed rule, once the railroad receives a call from the public about a malfunctioning crossing signal or a vehicle stalled on the crossing, train operators in that area would be immediately notified of the unsafe condition in an effort to avoid an accident.

“Giving the public the power to report unsafe conditions at a highway-rail grade crossing can save lives,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The proposal to establish Emergency Notification Systems would require railroads to post a toll-free telephone number and the Department’s National Crossing Inventory identification number at every highway-rail crossing and explicitly authorized pathway grade crossing. Currently, all of the larger, Class I freight railroads and larger passenger railroads have some type of system in place by which they receive notification of unsafe conditions at grade crossings. However, not all smaller railroads have such a system in place. Based on National Crossing Inventory data from the end of December 2009, the proposed rule would affect 211,401 highway-rail and pathway grade crossings and 594 railroads.

“With a uniform emergency notification system all railroads must follow, we could cut the number of highway-rail crossing incidents,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “Standardization would simplify the process for both the public and railroads, saving precious time and lives.”

The proposed rule is required by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, and was developed following public outreach efforts by FRA. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is available at http://www.fra.dot.gov/Pages/321.shtml. Comment is due 60 days after the proposal’s publication in the Federal Register.


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TOD... Transit Oriented Development (TOD)...  

New Lechmere Station In Cambridge, Ma
Will Spur Area Development

From The MassDOT Blog And DF Staff

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has announced that a land exchange agreement has been approved to facilitate extending the Green Line streetcar service north of Lechmere Station to the communities of Somerville and Medford, while also advancing the North Point mixed-use development project.  The agreement between the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and Pan Am (formerly Guilford) Railways, which was approved by the MassDOT Board of Directors, allows for construction of a new Lechmere Station on the east side of O’Brien Highway in East Cambridge, MA., across from the current station location. The project will lead to new jobs and economic development for the area.

The MBTA is also obtaining crucial track and property rights necessary for MassDOT and the MBTA to build and operate the Green Line Extension, among other projects. In exchange for granting those rights to the MBTA, Pan Am Railways, a local freight operator, is acquiring the property on which the existing Lechmere Station is located.

Pan Am and development partners, the HYM Investment Group, are moving forward with the adjacent North Point project, which will be a mixed-use development of 2,800 residential units, more than two million square feet of office space, and 185,000 square feet of retail space.  HYM and Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds joined with Atlas Capital Group last year to develop the 44-acre property, the largest remaining parcel of open land in Cambridge, MA. The former Pan Am rail yard is located across the Charles River from Massachusetts General Hospital and within walking distance of Cambridge’s Kendall Square.

Logo via MassDOT


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Among the key elements of the newly-approved agreement, the MBTA and MassDOT will receive:

  • All of the trackage and property rights necessary to build and operate the Green Line Extension, which have a combined value of $12.5 million. In addition to this real value, these rights provide a $5.5 million savings for MassDOT and the MBTA, which had expected to pay $18 million for these rights.

  • Trackage rights off the Worcester Main Line (part of the Boston-Springfield line used by Amtrak) to allow potential future passenger service from Worcester to Ayer, MA.  This will provide a connection between the Worcester and Fitchburg Commuter Rail Lines, and a potential future connection to North Station.

  • Trackage rights to provide future passenger service to the state of New Hampshire. This would allow for the extension of MBTA Commuter Rail service from Lowell, MA. to Concord, NH through Nashua and Manchester, NH. That project would ultimately be sponsored and funded by the State of New Hampshire, similar to current Commuter Rail service to Rhode Island.

  • While not part of the Land Exchange Agreement, Pan Am has agreed to assume costs associated with the required street and sidewalk improvements in the Lechmere area. The Green Line Extension project and the Commonwealth were planning to absorb this $9 million expense, which may now be deducted from the project’s total cost.

The trackage rights have a combined value of $30.7 million.  As consideration for receiving these rights from Pan Am, MassDOT and the MBTA will convey the site of the existing Lechmere Station to Pan Am, following the completion of the new Lechmere Station. 

Originally planned to open in 2011, the Green line Extension was delayed due to a combination of factors including the recent national economic shortfalls, and developers unable to reach agreements. With this agreement it would appear that these hurdles are being surmounted, thus allowing the project to move forward. Expected opening of the extension is now beyond 2014 provided there are no additional unforeseen delays.

For more information, visit the Green Line Extension website at http://www.mass.gov/greenlineextension


COMMUTERLINES... Commuter Lines...  

Rent To Own?

MBTA Evaluates Several Locomotives From Maryland

By DF Staff And Internet Sources

MARC Locomotive awaits evaluation by MBTA at Worcester, MA

Photo: MBTA via TwitPic

This recent TwitPic from MBTA management displays one of the MARC locomotives currently under consideration for lease and possible purchase to carry the MBTA through hard times until new locomotives now on order are delivered.

Plagued by aging equipment and weather-related failures, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) have obtained several locomotives from the Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) system, for inspection and testing in Worcester, MA.

If they pass muster and a price is agreed-upon, they will be pressed into service to compensate for recent and growing failures of its motive power fleet.


Photo: MBTA via TwitPic

In the shop for evaluation, a string of MARC GP40 locomotives sit idle waiting for inspection and evaluation.

In 1993, Morrison-Knudsen was contacted by MARC to assemble a fleet of GP40s for their commuter rail service. These units, type GP40WH-2, are equipped with a Cummins head-end power generator and are rated at 3,000 hp (2,200 kW), allowing the locomotive to push or pull up to 6 bi-levels at up to 100 mph (160 km/h). The MBTA however, will likely configure them in consists of 9-11 coaches operating at a speeds of up to 79 mph.

The locomotives originally entered service at MARC in 1994. They are slated for retirement due to the arrival of newer MP36 locomotives from Motive Power of Idaho.


Photo: Wikipedia

MARC Locomotive #52, a GP40WH-2 now in Massachusetts for possible lease or sale, is seen here in passenger service, at Camden Station, Baltimore, Maryland

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority currently owns a fleet of GP40 class diesel locomotives (along with its also-aging F40 class fleet), known specifically as GP40MCs. These were originally built as GP40-2Ws for the Canadian National Railroad in 1973-75. In a 1997 rebuild, the locomotives were given a Cummins K19TA Head-End Power (HEP) Generator, flared radiators, and a desktop cab. However, the traction motors on these units remained the same. Although they have been traditionally operated in North (Station) side service, these locomotives can also be occasionally seen on the South (Station) side of the MBTA system.

The MBTA recently obtained two MP36 Locomotives from the Utah Transportation Authority (UTA) [See DF February 14, 2011 - Vol. 12 No. 6] which have been repainted in the MBTA’s maroon and gold livery and pressed into service.

An order to the MBTA for twenty-five MP46 locomotives, which are expected to meet Tier 3 emissions standards, are in design at Motive Power with delivery expected to commence in 2014.

In a late breaking release, the MBTA has announced the engineering firm of Parsons-Brinkerhoff will be contracted to oversee the acquisition of the new MP46 locomotives.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)74.4073.86
Canadian Pacific (CP) 64.9666.26
CSX (CSX)74.8974.96
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)53.9353.30
Kansas City Southern (KSU)53.0353.95
Norfolk Southern (NSC)66.5365.30
Providence & Worcester(PWX)15.5716.51
Union Pacific (UNP)94.7795.36


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FREIGHT LINES... Freight Lines...  

America’s Freight Railroads’ 2011 Capital
Investments Will Break Previous Records

From The Association Of American Railroads

WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 9, 2011 – The Association of American Railroads today announced the nation’s freight railroads in 2011 are planning to spend a record $12 billion on capital expenditures, after setting a record with $10.7 billion in capital spending in 2010. According to the Great Expectations 2011, Railroads and Continued U.S. Economic Recovery report, these investments are potentially threatened by regulatory and legislative policies being considered in Washington, D.C.

“Even during the worst recession in a generation, freight railroads have been plowing record amounts of private capital back into the rail network each and every year, achieving one of the highest capital investment rates of any U.S. industry,” said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. “A regulatory framework that provides certainty will foster continued economic recovery and job creation.”

While President Obama and other leaders have called upon private companies to increase capital spending and rev up hiring, the nation’s freight railroads have been spending record sums of private capital on the rail network and bringing people back to work. Railroad hiring at the end of 2010 was up 5.2 percent over the year before, according to the report, and railroads are positioned to hire more workers in the coming years.

“The President has issued a clear call to American businesses, urging them to get off the sidelines and get back in the game by investing capital and hiring,” Hamberger said. “Freight railroads have been in the game for the past 30 years, investing more than $480 billion to build and maintain America’s freight rail network with private capital, and supporting jobs all across the country. Freight railroads have a great track record and are ready to continue investing in the national rail network so U.S. taxpayers don’t have to. But, we must have a regulatory framework that supports, and does not hinder, private investment.”

“President Obama recognizes the role businesses play in putting our economy back on track, and his Executive Order pledging to review and eliminate onerous regulations that stymie growth and economic competitiveness is a significant step in the right direction,” Hamberger said, noting that AAR and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recently agreed to undertake a review of the most expensive federal mandate in U.S. railroad history – the agency’s final regulations for implementing positive train control (PTC). Under a settlement between the railroads and FRA, the agency will issue a new notice of proposed rulemaking addressing areas within the final PTC rule.

“Ultimately, the regulatory environment in Washington, D.C., must be aligned to support freight rail’s continued investments in the national rail network,” Hamberger said. “Now is the time to revisit what regulations stand in the way of reaching our goals, while preserving those that help ensure continued success and growth.”

To read the full report, visit: www.aar.org/greatexpectations.

Contact: Holly Arthur at:   harthur@aar.org,   202-639-2344

About AAR:

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) is the world’s leading railroad policy, research and technology organization. AAR members include the major freight railroads, or Class I railroads, of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as well as Amtrak. For more information, visit www.aar.org. Follow us on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AAR_FreightRail or Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/freightrail (Ed Note: User accounts on these social networking sites are sometimes required in order to view the content.)


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

D:F Travelers Advisory

 

Hannover – Berlin High Speed Rail Corridor Construction In Summer 2011

Track Renewal Will Result In 30 Minute Delays To Most Ice High Speed Train Services To/From Berlin During Summer 2011

Hannover – Deutsche Bahn – Germany Railways – gave notice that it will go ahead with previously scheduled heavy maintenance of the Hannover – Wolfsburg – Berlin high speed rail corridor during the April – September 2011 time period. The majority of the maintenance will take place along the Wolfsburg – Berlin/Dyrotz section, which was extensively upgraded (and built new in some locations) in the mid 1990s in order to create this 250 km/h (155 mph) high speed rail corridor. D:F readers are advised to keep this development in mind, if traveling by train to or from Berlin this summer.

With much of the rails on this section in continuous operation under heavy and frequent traffic since the route was opened in late 1998, the rails are simply reaching their usable life limit. The Wolfsburg – Berlin section handles nearly all ICE high speed trains and many 200 km/h fast locomotive-hauled IC trains between Berlin and western cities in Germany including Hannover, Cologne (Köln), Frankfurt, Kassel, Stuttgart and Würzburg as well as Amsterdam, Holland.

Surprisingly the route also handles a significant number of freight trains, thanks to installation of the latest version and (at that point in time) state-of-the-art of Germany’s LZB variable speed, variable-block control signaling system during construction of the line in the mid 1990s, which provides enough flexibility to mix 250 km/h high speed trains and 120 km/h freight trains on this mostly 2-track corridor. In the meantime the LZB signaling and positive train control system has been superseded by ETCS / ETRMS, which is a universal set of signal and train control systems, technology, and operating standards developed to replace country-specific signaling systems across the European Union, but has now been adopted for use in many other parts of the world, including China, India, South Africa, Australia, Brazil and elsewhere. Germany has taken a “go slow” approach on conversion to ETCS/ETRMS standard signaling and PTC equipment, due primarily to budget and financial constraints, and therefore will continue to use the LZB signal and PTC system well into the next decade or longer, including along the Hannover – Wolfsburg – Berlin corridor.

Local commuter and regional trains on this route tend not to operate on these tracks, but rather run along a set of parallel tracks which are generally separated by 10 meters (33 feet) or more from the high speed line for most the length of this corridor between Berlin and Oebisfelde.

During the April – September time frame one of the two tracks will be out-of-service in order to replace rails, ties and other parts of the track structure. Much of the rail bed on this route is slab-track without conventional rock ballast, therefore additional inspections and refurbishment of this structure will be performed. ICE trains will be re-timed to accommodate the single-track operation and lowered speeds in construction areas, thus adding 30 minutes travel time to most high speed train services on this route. D:F readers who may plan to travel by train to or from Berlin are advised to check the train schedules carefully and avoid short connection times at cities such as Hannover, Braunschweig, Wolfsburg, Cologne, Düsseldorf and Frankfurt when traveling from Berlin. ICE and IC trains from Berlin to Hamburg, Dresden, Leipzig and Nuremberg (Nürnberg) are not affected by this track refurbishment project.


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Locomotive And Train Drivers In Germany
Strike Again

Labor Action On Last Thursday Is Fourth In A Series Of Strikes This Year

Hannover – German train and locomotive drivers took to the picket lines again last Thursday (10th March 2011), but unlike previous warning strikes in 2011, this time they began the strikes in the early hours of the day at approximately 4 AM, and continued until past 10 AM, much longer than the previous actions. This time many freight trains were also targeted by striking train drivers. Although the object of the strikes is the lower pay scales at some independent passenger and freight train operators in Germany, once again trains of Deutsche Bahn, which is not part of the pay dispute, were targeted by train drivers anyway.

ICE-1 train set waits in Zurich central station (Hauptbahnhof) next to an SBB intercity train

Photo: David Beale

Swiss Mess – several Deutsche Bahn ICE trains operating to Zurich, Switzerland were delayed by the warning strikes in neighboring Germany last Thursday – thus causing difficulties for passengers trying to catch connecting trains in Zurich or Basel to other locations such as Geneva, Milan and to various cities and towns in Switzerland via the famously on-time Swiss rail network, which was unaffected by the strikes in Germany. Germany and Switzerland share a common track gauge (1435 mm) and electrification standard (15 kVAC 16.7 Hz) but not much else, the track signaling systems are quite different and the travel direction is opposite – right-hand traffic in Germany (same as on the roads) and left-hand traffic on the Swiss rail network. An ICE-1 train set waits in Zurich central station (Hauptbahnhof) next to an SBB intercity train, which just arrived from Interlaken, for a departure to Hamburg via Basel, Freiburg, Karlsruhe, Frankfurt, Kassel and Hannover on Thursday the 10th of March 2011.

The response from Deutsche Bahn was again very critical, and pointed out that the stoppage of many of its freight trains caused serious problems for a number of its industrial customers, who depend on just-in-time delivery of raw materials such as iron ore, grain, lumber, various fuels such as coal, kerosene and propane and semi-finished products such as paper, steel, milk, sugar, and assorted chemicals via freight train to keep their production lines operating.

Train operations generally returned back to normal by the mid afternoon hours on Thursday, about 5 – 6 hours after the warning strikes ended. D:F readers should remain advised that these warning strikes in Germany may continue for several more weeks. The strikes are generally announced 24 to 48 hours in advance, therefore D:F readers traveling by train in Germany are advised to pay close attention to local news media for indications of another warning strike by the train drivers and plan their travel plans accordingly.


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Earthquake-Caused Nuclear Disaster In Japan
Intensifies German Atomic Power Debate

Berlin – the apparent core meltdown in at least two nuclear power reactors in earthquake and tsunami-devastated northern Japan has taken over the airwaves and news headlines in Germany, where nuclear power has been a long-standing flash point in politics and in the general population for decades, previously coming to a head shortly after the massive explosion and core meltdown in Chernobyl, Ukraine back in 1986, which showered Germany with radioactive fallout for weeks after the nuclear power plant exploded and burned out-of-control for days. During the administration of Gerhard Schroeder, Germany’s parliament, controlled by the left-leaning SPD and Green parties, passed legislation to mandate the total phase-out of nuclear power plants in Germany within a decade. Earlier this year, Germany’s parliament, now under control of the right-wing / conservative leaning CDU/CSU and FDP parties, extended the phase-out date of most of the country’s nuclear power plants by several years, up to 12 years in some cases. Unlike Japan, Germany does not have any active earthquake zones and earthquakes in Germany have rarely exceeded level 5 on the Richter scale in the past 50 years. However many industry experts state that some of Germany’s nuclear power plants were not built with earthquakes in mind, therefore they would be in serious danger of failure in the unlikely event where a major earthquake struck in Germany.

In Germany the rail system is connected to the atomic energy debate on two levels, one aspect is the use of nuclear power for the railway electrification, whereby 20 – 25 percent of the energy for Germany’s electrically powered train fleet comes from atomic power plants. The other aspect is the frequent transport of spent nuclear fuel rods via the so-called Castor trains (from the brand-name of the specialized containers for the nuclear fuel) from France to Gorleben, in northeastern Germany. The Castor transport trains attract anti-nuclear demonstrators by the many thousands all along the rail lines on which the trains use to travel across Germany.

The earthquake and its aftershocks in northern Japan have shut down much of the country’s famous “bullet train” high speed rail lines, but damage to the earthquake-resistant rail lines appears to be minimal at this time. Conventional rail lines near Japan’s eastern coast line near to the epicenter of the earthquake fared far worse, with several regional passenger trains swept away from the tracks like toys by the tsunami floods. In one of the trains all passengers were able to escape the overturned cars, which had been dragged many hundreds of meters away from the tracks by the raging tsunami waters. However news reports indicate that passengers in another regional train overtaken by three-meter tall tsunami waves have not yet been found. Countless bridges and overpasses, including dozens along several coastal rail lines, have collapsed or have been seriously damaged by the earthquake and/or the tsunami floods. In several locations track beds of local rail lines have been completely obliterated by the tsunami floods.


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EVENTS... Events & Conferences...  

Amtrak’s Al Engel To Keynote

 

Association For Public Transportation,
NARP To Host Key March 26 Conference

From APT And NARP

Florida just “gave back” $2.4 billion for its high speed rail project. Might some of that funding find a home on the Northeast Corridor? Join us in Boston on March 26th to find out.

Note to APT & NARP Members - Advanced pricing for this meeting on “True” High-Speed Rail ends this week.

The Association for Public Transportation - Massachusetts Association of Railroad Passengers (APT-MARP) is honored to be the host for an important NARP meeting on the future of high speed rail in the Northeast. Keynote address will be given by Al Engel. Mr. Engel is the Vice President of High-Speed Rail for Amtrak. He is on the Executive Committee and provides leadership for advancing Amtrak’s high speed initiatives. Prior positions include VP of High Speed Rail for AECOM, Financial Advisor with Morgan Stanley Co., and President of SYSTRA Consulting. Mr. Engel has served on the American Public Transportation Assn (APTA) Board of Directors.

The event is co-sponsored by TrainRiders Northeast, Vermont Rail Action Network, and the Rhode Island ARP.

Amtrak is serious about true high-speed rail (avg. speed over 200 mph). Picture an enhanced Northeast Corridor (NEC) that would speed passengers from Boston to New York in less than 90 minutes and Boston to Washington in under 3 hours.

There has been considerable confusion on the topic of high-speed rail. Mr. Engel’s discussion will focus on “true” high-speed rail, i.e. travel times that are more than competitive with air travel in the 200 to 600 mile distance range. Other speakers will discuss what New England must do to ensure that a high speed NEC extends from Washington to Boston (and beyond) and not end in New York City. Ross Capon, NARP President, will also give attendees an update on NARP activities.

The conference will be held Saturday, March 26, 2011, at the John Hancock Conference Center, 40 Trinity Place; Boston, MA 02116. The Hancock Center is within reasonable walking distance from Amtrak’s Back Bay Station.

Agenda Outline:

Registration: 2:30 - 3:00 p.m.
Meeting (including buffet): 3:00 - 6:00 p.m.
Private Reception w/ Mr. Engel for APT Donor Members & Meeting Sponsors: 6:00 - 7:00 p.m.

$40 for APT-MARP and NARP members & guests; $45 for non-members.

This promises to be a very interesting and informative discussion in light of the budget debates in Congress and concerns about transportation funding in a backdrop of $1.5+ trillion federal deficits.

For additional information and to register visit the web site at: www.aptmarp.org


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We CAN Connect New England by Rail !

A One Day Event Sponsored by
Rail Users Network  •   National Corridors Initiative, Inc.  •   Connecticut Chapter of the Sierra Club

Friday, April 29, 2011  •  8:30 a.m. 4:45 p.m.
At the New Haven Public Library  •  133 Elm Street, New Haven, CT
Registration:  $45 up to April 20  •   $55 after April 20   •  $65 at the door
Includes continental breakfast, lunch, afternoon break
Free shuttle from Union Station  •  (Optional tours Saturday, April 30)

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.

For Additional Information and Registration - Click Here


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

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

It’s All About Politics

Fifth Of A Series
By David Peter Alan

The former Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) Project, which would have built new tunnels to bring trains from New Jersey to a deep-cavern terminal twenty stories below Manhattan, is dead. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced last fall that he had ordered a halt to construction on the project, and later said that it would not be built. Christie said that he terminated the project because it was too expensive. He also complained that it would not go to Penn Station, connect with other trains there or be extendable to Manhattan’s East Side.

Last month, Amtrak proposed its “Gateway” plan, which would build new tunnels to bring trains into Manhattan, thus adding two tracks to the NEC (Northeast Corridor) from Newark to New York. The two new Hudson River tunnels would end in a stub-end terminal immediately south of the existing Penn Station, in an annex to be called “Penn Station South.” The cost would be $13.5 billion, about the same as the amount that the Federal Transit Administration said that the New Jersey ARC Project would cost. Why is Amtrak proposing a project as expensive as the one that was rejected because of cost, when there is no clear means of paying for it? If there is an answer, it lies in politics.

If you are not familiar with New Jersey and its politics, you will need some background. New Jersey is a largely urban and suburban state in the Mid-Atlantic region. It is a two-party state, although the Democrats hold a registration advantage at the present time. Until recently, the Democrats dominated the state’s politics, but that is changing. Chris Christie unseated Jon Corzine from the Governor’s chair in 2009, and he has embarked on a program of enforcing fiscal restraint, his main campaign issue. New Jersey’s two U.S. Senators are both Democrats. Frank R; Lautenberg, a strong supporter of labor and usually of Amtrak and transit, comes up for re-election in 2014. At that time, he will be 92 years of age. The state’s other senator, Robert Menendez, comes up for re-election in 2012.

The state’s Congressional delegation is almost evenly split: seven Democrats and six Republicans. Generally, the areas in North and Central Jersey where transit is strong are represented by Democrats. South Jersey, where there is less transit, and West Jersey, where there is essentially no transit, are represented by Republicans. The state is slated to lose one Congressional seat for the next session, so the next Congress may have six members of each party from the Garden State.

In the New Jersey legislature, the Democrats hold control of both houses by small margins. The entire legislature is up for re-election this November. New Jersey elects somebody every year; Federal offices in the even-numbered years (along with the rest of the country) and state offices in odd-numbered years. So there is some sort of campaigning going on in New Jersey most of the time.

The original purpose of the ARC Project’s “Alternative G” was to build new tracks into the existing Penn Station and then eastward to Grand Central Terminal, to give New Jersey rail riders access to the East Side of Midtown Manhattan and preserve their access to the West Side. New York pulled out of the plan in 2003, so it became a New Jersey-only project. Democrats controlled the governorship from 2001 until 2009, and they became closely associated with the project. Corzine made it a central plank in his re-election campaign, claiming that the project was “shovel-ready” and would create thousands of new jobs. He and his party did not stress that many of those jobs would be given to construction workers in New York, not in New Jersey. The voters apparently did not approve of Corzine’s performance in office, and they voted him out and Christie in.

Christie has been a rising star in the national Republican Party since that time. He campaigned on a platform of fiscal restraint and shrinking the size of the public sector, a theme that became popular among Republican candidates, and some Democrats, nationwide last year. In keeping with this platform, Christie has refused to raise the state’s gasoline user fee, the second lowest in the nation and unchanged since 1988. By contrast, he cut the transit budget and allowed (some say ordered) N.J. Transit’s board to approve the largest fare increase in NJT’s history. All rail fares increased by at least 25%, and fares for rail rides outside of peak commuting hours rose by 47% or more; local fares by as much as 64%. In his budget message last month, Christie promised that he would not raise transit fares this year, and that he would improve some bus services. To back up that promise, he has proposed an increase in operating funding for NJT during the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1st.

Christie earned the approval of many rail advocates last October for terminating the proposed ARC Project, with its deep-cavern terminal. He called for all interested parties to work together “to explore approaches to modernize and expand capacity for the Northeast Corridor.” When U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood attempted to convince Christie to change his mind and build the ARC Project by offering $378 million in additional grants and $2.3 billion in loans to cover the $4.6 billion or more in projected cost overruns, Christie refused, saying that New Jersey taxpayers would be responsible for almost all the additional costs. That round went to Christie.

At that time, the Democrats could do little but complain. They continued to complain when the FTA demanded that NJT (and, therefore, the State of New Jersey) reimburse the transit agency for $271 million advanced to NJT for early work on the project. Sen. Lautenberg was able to negotiate that number down to $143 million by getting $128 million transferred to New Jersey from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) account. That gave Lautenberg a chance to say that he was doing something for his constituents, despite the defeat of the ARC Project that he had championed so vigorously.

Last month, Sen. Lautenberg attempted to take back the initiative on the “tunnel” issue with Amtrak’s Gateway Project. Appropriately, the news conference at which the plan was unveiled was held at the Gateway Hilton Hotel, across the street from Newark Penn Station and NJT headquarters. Although the event was the announcement of an Amtrak project, the press kits went out under Lautenberg’s letterhead, not Amtrak’s. Sens. Lautenberg and Menendez, and Amtrak Board member Anthony Coscia spoke before Amtrak President Joseph Boardman explained the project to the audience. Nobody represented New Jersey Transit, the City or State of New York, or New Jersey as a State.

At the news conference, Lautenberg announced that Amtrak was “proposing to spend $50 million to begin preliminary engineering and design on two new rail tunnels from New Jersey to New York City.” This grant would keep some money flowing into New Jersey through next year, when Sen. Menendez is up for re-election. Beyond the preliminary engineering funds, nobody has ventured a guess about how the $13.5 billion project would be funded.

Lautenberg’s announcement did not faze Christie. He said that he had expected someone else to propose a plan to improve rail capacity into Manhattan after he had terminated the former ARC project. If Christie had proposed a plan himself, it is unlikely that Washington would support it. Democrats view Christie as a rising star in the Republican Party, and he has campaigned for Republican candidates elsewhere in the nation. It appears that Democrats are concerned that Christie could have significant influence next year, when President Obama is up for re-election. So a Christie plan would probably fall flat at the FRA and FTA.

On March 2d, Christie called the former ARC Project “a fleecing” before an audience of business and labor leaders. He also said that he would be prepared to invest in transit, but only on the condition that New York City and State did so, as well. He said that he would consider Amtrak’s Gateway proposal or a separate proposal to extend one of New York City’s subway lines to New Jersey.

Meanwhile, the silence coming from New York is deafening. Neither Gov. Andrew Cuomo or Mayor Michael Bloomberg have commented officially on the Gateway proposal. Bloomberg has been pushing for an extension of the #7 (Flushing Line) subway to Secaucus Junction Station on the NEC, where it would connect with NJT trains. This is an unrelated project that could siphon riders off commuter trains in New Jersey and take them to the East Side of Manhattan.

Rider advocates have stepped into the political vacuum in an example of bi-state cooperation. New Yorker Joseph M. Clift and New Jerseyan James T. Raleigh have begun their campaign for an affordable trans-Hudson rail project rail project that could be considered the first phase of Gateway. They would use FTA New Starts Program funds that had been expected for the former ARC Project, FRA high-speed rail and Amtrak funds, along with limited local funds, to build a minimum scale and minimum cost project: two new tracks added to the two existing NEC tracks from Swift Interlocking east of Newark (where NJT’s Morris & Essex and Montclair-Boonton Lines enter Amtrak’s NEC) into the existing Penn Station, a new two-track bridge over the Hackensack River adjacent to the existing Portal Bridge, and two new single-track tunnels under the Hudson River. They claim that a project of that scope can be built for $6 billion, less than half of the Amtrak’s estimate of the cost of the entire Gateway Project.

Raleigh is Political Director and Clift is Technical Director of the Lackawanna Coalition, and both are active participants in the Regional Rail Working Group. They have already begun to promote their plan. The Lackawanna Coalition and the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) have endorsed it, and the plan was the subject of a front-page article in the Asbury Park Press on Sunday, February 20th. Clift and Raleigh plan to take their proposal to other rail advocacy organizations and to public officials in the region.

Advocates believe that more rail capacity across the Hudson River is vital, not just to the region, but to the entire Northeast and beyond. Amtrak trains go from New York to New England, Canada, upstate New York, and as far as Chicago, Miami and New Orleans. The link to New England is particularly weak now, since one track into Penn Station is taken out of service every week-end for maintenance.

The future of rail service between the New York/New Jersey area and New England will be discussed at the upcoming “We CAN Connect New England by Rail!” conference in New Haven on April 29th (co-sponsored by RUN, NCI and the Connecticut Sierra Club). Raleigh and Clift will present the advocates’ proposal, along with an update on how the former ARC Project was terminated and where we go from here. Richard J. Arena of the Association for Public Transportation will speak on the importance of a strong rail connection between New England and the region south of New York.

Until that time, Clift, Raleigh and other rider advocates are spreading the word about their proposal, which they claim will increase rail capacity between New Jersey and New York at an affordable cost, and also allow a future extension to Grand Central Terminal on the East Side of Midtown Manhattan when funding becomes available. This proposal will be the subject of the next, and final, article in this series.

David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition and a member of the Board of Directors of RUN. He has participated fully in promoting the proposal that Clift and Raleigh are advancing. He will also be moderator of the panel on which Clift, Raleigh and Arena will speak at the New Haven conference.


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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

Dear Editor,

I couldn’t agree more with your editorial stance regarding Florida high-speed rail.

I have lived in Florida since I left New England in February 2002 and retired from Amtrak. I have a pro-rail bias, but it is also tempered with practicalities.

I found Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s decision extremely short-sighted.

As you point out, he didn’t believe anything USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood told him, saying, in effect, LaHood was a liar, as I see it.

What is worse, he didn’t even wait for a report he had commissioned regarding the topic. We never learned who the report was being prepared by.

I’m afraid Scott was more interested in pleasing his fellow Tea Partiers than in doing to right thing. Even though I prefer donkeys over elephants, I have always made a point to wait and see how a person does before I jump on the bashing bandwagon. This is the first time I’ve jumped onto a bashing bandwagon so soon. As far as I’m concerned, this political neophyte, who hoodwinked a lot of good people, should be tossed out in 3.5 years. Maybe it’s even time to start thinking about impeachment.

All best,

Leo King
Editor
Florida Transportation Today

http://floridatransportationtoday.typepad.com
...and Destination: Freedom’s first editor


Dear Editor,

Time for us rail advocates to call it a day: the public says “no” to trains and high-speed rail.

Pro-rail organizations like the National Corridors Initiative and the National Association of Railroad Passengers have fought long, hard and valiantly for years - for decades, even - to convince the American public and their elected officials of the excellent value they would get from investing in a well-thought-out, properly financed and -implemented national passenger rail transportation system.

Providing for such a nationwide network of rail service would indeed be one of the most environmentally-sound and pragmatic steps our nation could take to free itself from its unhealthful dependency on foreign sources of oil, reduce its harmful impact on the environment and give people a realistic third travel option to driving and flying. Again and again you have argued for rail including high-speed rail - nobly, consistently and well and, I would add, most eloquently and with the utmost of dedication.

Unfortunately, on these web pages, you are preaching mainly to yourselves, the choir, to use a cliché. Few others are listening, or appear to care to.

As voters in Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa and, now, Florida have recently made it so abundantly clear, when the chips are down and cost/benefit analyses (no matter how flawed and/or politically biased) have been made, Americans are saying “no” in droves to investing public dollars on high-speed rail and, to a lesser extent, on Amtrak. We rail advocates have to remember that it was the VOTERS who elected the governors of these several states which, following the midterm elections, have turned away the federal high-speed rail funding granted to them, and halted these promising projects which had been fought for so long and so hard.

The voters KNEW what they were doing and what they were going to get when they elected these persons to serve as their governors and representatives in Congress.

It is beyond any reasonable doubt that Americans as a whole are unprepared and unwilling to move beyond the status quo as far as funding improvements to transportation is concerned. They may complain long and loudly about the aggravations of high gas prices, traffic congestion and long security lines and invasive check-in procedures at airports, yet despite their loud complaining, Americans in their heart of hearts are quite content to keep things just as they are, thank you!

Given the prevailing national mood and its overriding emphasis on spending cuts, voters in 2012 are more than likely to sweep conservative, Tea Party-oriented Republicans and mavericks like Florida’s new governor into office nationwide, including the presidency and the United States Senate. High-speed rail won’t stand a chance in such an election turnover, and if it does happen, the Republicans and Tea-Partiers will likely de-fund Amtrak and allow it to die as well.

There isn’t enough time remaining in President Obama’s first and probably one term in office to get his high-speed rail initiatives off the ground. The defeat of Florida’s program is, in my opinion, the final blow to high-speed rail’s happening in the United States any time soon. Again, we must remember that the defeat of Florida’s high-speed rail is exactly what the voters wanted when they elected their new governor. I believe it is only a matter of time before California follows Florida’s lead and terminates its high-speed rail program, for the very same reasons.

The time has come for us rail advocates to face these hard truths head-on. We have more than earned the right to step aside graciously and allow this national game of denial and status-quo to play itself out to its inevitable conclusion: at present, Americans are nowhere near ready to make sweeping changes to their transportation spending priorities and reduce their oil-dependency on fickle and unstable foreign nations. It will take conditions far more-dire than anything currently occupying the minds of American voters to convince them to change their ways, to act decisively and differently.

For the present, Americans have spoken, and to them high-speed rail - indeed, rail in any form – as a means to reducing their dependency on foreign oil and improving the environment is not priority, not even remotely.

We have fought the good fight, but regrettably our time has not come.

Eric Talbot  

Editor Replies:    Nuts!


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

The Wrath of Mother Nature

By Dennis Kirkpatrick
DF Webmaster

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the nation of Japan that has suffered massive destruction this week due to one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded in history. We are also reminded of similar destruction experienced in New Zealand from an earthquake just weeks ago.

The video footage of an airport and surrounding city being swallowed by a tsunami wave was both shocking and sobering.

As we went to press, major news outlets were reporting that several trains in Japan were missing in action, and it was uncertain whether these were lost due to the floods, or associated upheavals of the earth, or rock slides.

It will be weeks if not months before the whole of this incident is enumerated.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other transportation initiative sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives – state DOTs, legislators, government offices, and transportation organizations or professionals – as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. If you have a favorite link, please send the web address (URL) to our webmaster.

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