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 21, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 11

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

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

  News Items…
Gas Prices Driving Up Transit Demand But Congress
   May Take A Walk On Help
  HSR…
Times Urban Reporter Analyzes How Flaws Undid Obama’s
   Plans For Florida High-Speed Rail
Florida’s 2.4 Billion In HSR $ Are Heading North; US DOT Seeks
   Applications From ‘Eager’ States
Northeast Corridor Designated Official “Federal”
   High-Speed Rail Corridor
  Political Lines…
House And Senate Members Launch ‘High-Speed And
   Intercity Rail Caucus’
  New Carriers…
Two Advocacy Veterans Announce Formation Of
   “The New York & Chicago Railroad”
 
  Funding Lines…
Strong Bi-Partisan And Private Sector Support Seen
   For The “Build” Infrastructure Bank Bill
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Commentary…
Times Paul Krugman Blogs On The Viscerally
   Anti-Amtrak George Will
Mica and Shuster Say Obama Rail Program Is “Disaster”
Will Amtrak Get Competition In The Northeast Corridor?
The Amtrak Gateway Project: A New Way Into Manhattan?
  We Get Letters…
  Events & Conferences…
NARP To Host Key March 26 Conference (MA)
We CAN Connect New England by Rail - April (CT)
  Publication Notes …


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

Gas Prices Driving Up Transit Demand
But Congress May Take A Walk On Help

From Internet Sources, APTA, And By DF Staff

WASHINGTON --- Transit ridership is once again spiking in response to ever higher gasoline prices, but transit agency chiefs who turned to Congress for help got little respect, and no money, when they met in Washington this past week.

Meeting in conference March 14-16 in their annual legislative gathering in DC, assembled by the American Public Transportation Association, transit operators from across America reported spikes in demand of 10-20 per cent, and more, as riders abandon their cars in the face of soaring gasoline prices.

A study released this week by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) predicts that as gasoline prices continue increasing, Americans will turn to public transportation in record numbers. APTA is calling on Congress to address this impending demand by providing a greater long-term investment in public transportation.

The analysis reveals if regular gas prices reach $4 a gallon across the nation, as many experts have forecasted, an additional 670 million passenger trips could be expected, resulting in more than 10.8 billion trips per year. If pump prices jump to $5 a gallon, the report predicts an additional 1.5 billion passenger trips can be expected, resulting in more than 11.6 billion trips per year. And if prices were to soar to $6 a gallon, expectations go as high as an additional 2.7 billion passenger trips, resulting in more than 12.9 billion trips per year.

“The volatility of the price at the pump is another wake up call for our nation to address the increasing demand for public transportation services,” said APTA President William Millar. “We must make significant, long-term investments in public transportation or we will leave our fellow Americans with limited travel options, or in many cases, stranded without travel options. Public transit is the quickest way for people to beat high gas prices if it is available.”

Many of the public transit systems across the country are already seeing large ridership increases, some reaching double digits in the month of February. For instance; the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority in Pompano Beach, FL increased by 10.6 percent; Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority of Philadelphia, PA increased by 10 percent; The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority of Oakland, CA increased by 14 percent and Triangle Transit of Research Triangle Park, NC increased by 22.8 percent.

The Crescent, crosses Lake Pontchartrain

Photo: M.S. “Mick” Nussbaum via Amtrak Ink Employee Newsletter

Amtrak on the move - The Crescent, Train #20, crosses Lake Pontchartrain after departure from New Orleans

“We saw this same story in 2008 and several times before where high gas prices caught our country without adequate travel options,” said Millar. “However, this time we can write a happy ending and make sure investment is made to expand public transportation so that more Americans have a choice in how they travel.”

APTA supports the Obama Administration’s transportation authorization blueprint and proposal which increases public transit investment by 128 percent over the next six years. This type of investment would help close the gap for the 46 percent of Americans who do not have access to public transportation.

APTA is encouraging riders to tell Congress they need more transportation options by going to publictransportation.org or text TRANSIT to 86677 and join the “I <3 (heart) transit campaign.”

The projected estimates use the 2010 APTA Public Transportation Ridership Report as a baseline. The ridership is then increased by the reported elasticity multiplied by the projected price change to show ridership growth at a given increase above the average price for regular gasoline as reported in the last 2010 report by the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy.

To see the report go to: http://www.apta.com/resources/reportsandpublications/Documents/APTA_Effect_of_Gas_Price_Increase_2011.pdf  (Adobe PDF File).

The Wall Street Journal’s Melanie Trottman reported a senior Congressmen’s views from the APTA conference that any increase in Congressional funding for transit was unlikely. In an interview with House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) Mica, “he said a six-year-bill is ‘the only thing I will consider.’ But more funding for public transit seems unlikely. “I think it’s going to have to stay about the same.’”

Chairman Mica told transit leaders, the Wall Street Journal continued, that ‘they’re going to have to be much more creative and look at consolidation of some of their operations.’”


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HIGH-SPEED RAIL... HSR...  

Times Urban Reporter Analyzes How Flaws Undid
Obama’s Plans For Florida High-Speed Rail

From Internet Sources

The demise of yet another proposed Florida High-Speed Rail project, this time at the hands of a Tea Party Republican Governor who rejected $2.4 billion in Federal funding based on his stated fears of cost over-runs, has lead to much debate in the advocacy community about the rail program

New York Times urban reporter Michael Cooper, who has produced some of The Times’ best pieces on infrastructure and urban issues in recent years, has taken a look at what happened in Florida, not from an advocates’ point of view, but with the dispassionate eye of a good reporter.

Here in part is what he wrote; for the complete article go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/12/us/12rail.html?ref=michaelcooper

Mike Cooper wrote this past week:

The rest of the world calls them bullet trains because they go so fast. But in the United States, the nickname is apt for a different reason: They keep getting shot down.

The nation’s first true high-speed railroad was supposed to leave the station in 2015, a sleek Tomorrowland-worthy train that would have whisked riders between Orlando and Tampa at speeds of up to 168 miles an hour…

…The fast train was sought, and won, by Florida’s former Republican governor, Charlie Crist. But it was killed last month by his successor, Rick Scott, who joined several other Republican governors in spurning federally financed train projects over fears that their states could be on the hook for future costs. The final nail in its coffin came last week when a Florida court ruled that the new governor could not be forced to accept the [$2.4 Billion in] federal money and start building it...

…The story of the line’s rise and fall shows how it was ultimately undone by a tradeoff that was made when the route was first selected.

The Tampa-to-Orlando route had obvious drawbacks: It would have linked two cities that are virtually unnavigable without cars, and that are so close that the new train would have been little faster than driving. But the Obama administration chose it anyway because it was seen as the line that could be built first. Florida had already done much of the planning, gotten many of the necessary permits and owned most of the land that would be needed.

In the end, though, the state’s new governor decided not to build it at all, worried that those very drawbacks would ultimately make it a boondoggle.

White House Seeks a Legacy

…President Obama announced the selection of Florida in 2010 in the most visible possible setting: his State of the Union address. “Tomorrow, I’ll visit Tampa, Fla., where workers will soon break ground on a new high-speed railroad,” he said, before flying to Florida the next day to promote the project in a town-hall-style meeting.

“There is no reason why other countries can build high-speed rail lines and we can’t,” Mr. Obama told a cheering crowd. “And that’s what’s about to happen right here in Tampa.”…

…A Route Is Seen as Too Short

Florida’s route had some glaring imperfections, though.

Tampa and Orlando are only 84 miles apart, generally considered too close for high-speed rail to make sense. The train trip, with many stops along the way, would have shaved only around a half-hour off the drive….

…When America 2050, a planning group, ranked potential routes in a report called “Where High-Speed Rail Works Best,” the Tampa-to-Orlando route was not even included because the cities are too close together….

G.O.P. Opposition Mounts

Then things began to fall apart. As the 2010 midterm elections heated up, Republicans began running against the federal largess states have traditionally sought…

[But]…Last month, Mr. Scott decided to scuttle the project after reading a report by the Reason Foundation that questioned its ridership estimates. The foundation is a prominent libertarian policy research organization that employs several respected transportation analysts, but it gets some of its funding from donors with ties to the oil industry, including foundations related to Koch Industries, which owns oil refineries.

“The truth is that this project would be far too costly to taxpayers, and I believe the risk far outweighs the benefits,” Mr. Scott said.

But a state-sponsored ridership study, which was released this week, concluded that the proposed line would actually have been a money-maker from the start…


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April 4th Deadline

 

Florida’s 2.4 Billion In HSR $ Are Heading North;
US DOT Seeks Applications From ‘Eager’ States

From The U.S. Department Of Transportation

WASHINGTON  U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that he is making available approximately $2.4 billion, through a competitive process, to states eager to develop high-speed rail corridors across the United States.

“The Obama Administration’s bold high-speed rail plan will create jobs, reinvigorate our manufacturing sector and spur economic development for years to come,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “States across the country have been banging down our door for the opportunity to receive additional high-speed rail dollars and to deliver all of its economic benefits to their citizens.”

President Obama’s vision is to connect 80 percent of Americans to high-speed rail within the next 25 years.  To put America on track towards that goal, the Obama Administration has proposed a six-year, $53 billion plan that will provide rail access to new communities; improve the reliability, speed and frequency of existing lines; and, where it makes economic sense, build new corridors where trains will travel at speeds of up to 250 miles per hour.

The Obama Administration’s investments in high-speed rail are also projected to create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs in the United States. Jobs will be created both directly on manufacturing, construction and operation of rail lines, and indirectly, as the result of economic developments along rail corridors. A report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, projected that high-speed rail would create tens of thousands of jobs in cities and along rail corridors across the United States.

A one-hundred percent ‘Buy America’ requirement for high-speed rail projects also ensures that U.S. manufacturers and workers will receive the maximum economic benefits from this federal investment. And, in 2009, Secretary LaHood secured a commitment from 30 foreign and domestic rail manufacturers to employ American workers and locate or expand their base of operations in the U.S. if they are selected for high-speed-rail contracts.

A merit-driven process will be used to award the newly available high-speed rail dollars to projects that can deliver public and economic benefits quickly. A project’s ability to reduce energy consumption, improve the efficiency of a region’s overall transportation network, and generate sustained economic activity along the corridor are among the selection criteria. Applications for the additional high-speed rail money will be due on April 4, 2011.

Information about the Notice of Funding Availability can be found here: http://www.fra.dot.gov/rpd/passenger/477.shtml


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Amtrak Now Eligible To Apply Directly For Federal HSR Funds

 

Northeast Corridor Designated Official
“Federal” High-Speed Rail Corridor

From Progressive Railroading’s HSR Updates Service

WASHINGTON --- U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has designated the Northeast Corridor (NEC) as the 11th and final high-speed rail corridor. The designation includes the existing NEC main rail line, as well as any alternative routings for rail service between the metropolitan areas of Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Boston, REPORTED Progressive Railroading’s “HSR Updates”

The designation ensures that states in the NEC will be eligible to apply for funding from existing federal high-speed and intercity passenger-rail programs, LaHood wrote in a letter to Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).

“The designation as a high-speed rail corridor will provide new avenues for funding to improve railway infrastructure along the Northeast Corridor, which includes the most densely populated area of the United States,” he wrote.

The designation will enable Amtrak, which owns the NEC, to apply for high-speed rail grant funding, including the $2.4 billion that Florida Gov. Rick Scott has rejected. Previously, only Northeast states could apply for projects on the NEC because the corridor had not been officially designated.

“Permitting Amtrak to apply will allow projects that connect the entire Northeast Corridor to be considered for funding and will bring Amtrak’s extensive knowledge of the operations and maintenance of the Northeast Corridor into the grant process,” according to a press release issued today by Lautenberg.

Sens. Lautenberg, Tom Carper (D-Del.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Christopher Coons (D-Del.) have contacted LaHood to tell them they believe the USDOT should redirect Florida’s funds to their states.

“Given the Northeast Corridor’s strong track record with high-speed rail and the region’s high gross domestic product, improvements to the Corridor’s rail service would be a smart investment of Florida’s rejected high-speed rail funds,” the senators said in a statement. “We believe that Secretary LaHood’s recent decisions are a positive step that will encourage further higher speed rail development along the Northeast Corridor. We will continue to work with the Administration to ensure that the Corridor receives its fair share of the available high-speed rail funds.”

Federal surface transportation legislation has authorized the U.S. Department of Transportation to authorize up to 11 corridors for high-speed rail designation. Since the early 1990s, USDOT had designated 10 corridors, including the Northeast’s Empire Corridor and Northern New England Corridor.


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POLITICALLINES... Political Lines...  

Caucus Will Be Ally For High-Speed Rail Supporters In America

 

House And Senate Members Launch
‘High-Speed And Intercity Rail Caucus’

From Congressional And Senate News Releases

WASHINGTON – The founding members of the Bi-Cameral High- Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus today joined together at Union Station to announce the formation of a coalition that will serve as the leading advocates to advance high-speed and intercity rail programs across the country.

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), along with Congress members Corrine Brown (D-FL), Zoe Lofgren (D-16), David Price (D-4), Tim Walz ((D-MN) and John Olver (D-MA) joined together today at Washington’s Union Station to announce the founding of the Bi-Cameral High-Speed Rail Caucus. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has also joined the bicameral delegation.

The caucus, which will also be recruiting Republican members who care about America’s transportation future, “…will be dedicated to supporting federal legislative and funding policies to ensure the long-term viability of the high-speed and intercity passenger rail program.”

Each founding Co-Chair represents a region containing a major high-speed and intercity rail corridors that, when completed, will make up a national high-speed rail network anticipated to both directly and indirectly spur the creation of hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs across the country.

The Obama Administration has set the goal to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years. Lawmakers gathered together today to argue that funding for high-speed and intercity rail programs are exactly the type of bold investment necessary to increase America’s competitiveness.

“Like President Obama, we share the goal of giving 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years,” said Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, from New York’s 28th Congressional District. “We understand that this investment will more than pay for itself with the jobs created for Americans in need of work, and opportunities it creates for future growth. As rail lines open and communities are brought closer together, the potential long-term impact of rail service will only grow. I represent Upstate New York which is home to the busiest freight corridor in the nation, stretching between Buffalo and Albany. A dedicated third track for high-speed, intercity travel will mean $1.1 billion in new wages and 21,000 estimated new jobs in my home state alone.”

“As a long-time supporter of high-speed rail, I am pleased to join forces with Senator Durbin and my House colleagues to put America’s rail network on the fast track,” said Senator Lautenberg, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, which has jurisdiction over our nation’s passenger rail infrastructure. “This Caucus will help further develop the Northeast Corridor and lead a high-speed rail revolution in America that will create jobs and boost the economy.

“For several years, we have had a strong coalition of leaders in the Midwest advocating for high-speed rail,” said Senator Durbin. “That partnership has resulted in over $1.4 billion in federal high-speed rail funding to Illinois, including funding for the CREATE project, new rail service from Chicago to the Quad Cities and implementing 110 mph service on the Chicago to St. Louis line. This is more than just an alternative mode of transportation – the Midwest high-speed rail network will create an estimated $23.1 billion in economic activity. With job-creating funding like this under attack in some states, forming a nationwide coalition that affirms our commitment to high-speed rail is crucial.”

“High-speed rail is an important component of a modernized transportation system. Without an adequate investment in passenger rail, population growth will create more congested highways and airspace, increased travel delays, and environmental degradation. The creation of this caucus demonstrates our commitment to making high-speed rail a reality across our nation,” said Congressman John Olver.

“As the Ranking Democrat on the Railroad subcommittee, I am more than pleased to serve as an active participant in the newly created High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus,” said Congresswoman Corrine Brown. “Indisputably, the creation and maintenance of a high-speed rail system in the United States would serve as a tremendous boost for our nation’s infrastructure, our economy, and for job creation. I have been a key advocate in the effort to secure a dedicated funding source for high-speed rail and believe that with the creation of this Caucus, we will build even more momentum towards achieving this goal.”

“High-speed rail needs to play a bigger role in our nation’s overall transportation system so we can move people and goods from one place to another faster and more efficiently,” said Congressman David Price (D-NC). “Planned rail investments will relieve congestion, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and create jobs – including 20,000 jobs in North Carolina. If we want to stay competitive in the international economy, we simply cannot continue to lag behind countries like China in developing a 21st Century infrastructure. We must invest in a smarter transportation system that includes high-speed rail.”

“As the demands on our nation’s transportation infrastructure continue to grow, we must ensure that the investments we make today carry us well into the future,” said Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. “By investing in high-speed rail, we give travelers an alternative, one that will lower our reliance on foreign energy sources and create American jobs. I’m proud that California is leading the way – as it is the only state that has passed a high-speed rail measure. It is estimated that California’s high-speed rail program will create nearly 100,000 jobs over its first five years. Nationally, high-speed rail will connect communities and increase our nation’s competitive edge.

“Our ability to move our products to market quickly and cheaply is a major factor in our global economic competitiveness,” said Rep. Tim Walz “This caucus is going to be a voice for making America more competitive and I am proud to serve as co-chair.”

“President Obama’s bold high-speed rail plan will create jobs, reinvigorate our manufacturing sector and spur economic development for years to come,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “If we are going to win the future, we have to move goods and people more efficiently and quickly than ever before, and we look forward to working with Congress to bring Americans all of the economic benefits of high-speed rail.”


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NEW CARRIERS... New Carriers...  

Two Advocacy Veterans Announce Formation
Of “The New York & Chicago Railroad”

From A Company Press Release

CHICAGO --- Two enterprising Chicago high-speed rail advocates are announcing formation of a project to build a 220 mph line connecting Chicago to New York, and other cities located on the Northeast Corridor. 

Long-time rail advocates Mike Lee and Charles Paidock are recruiting individuals from across the transportation community to develop plans, specifications, and secure private/public funding for this project.  While they are supportive of associations that foster passenger train travel, or short local high-speed lines within a state, the two prefer to focus instead on getting down to building a real railroad in the way that hasn’t been seen in a over a hundred years.

Charles Paidock said:  “Putting little high-speed lines here and there is ok, but all you’re actually doing is just putting in another commuter line, and improving public transit.  And I’ve seen all sorts of plans for regional networks, but nobody except us apparently has a map of the United States.  It only makes sense to have a route connecting these two major metropolitan areas.”

The construction of a railroad from New York, to Pittsburgh, and then on to Chicago was actually proposed in 1907.  Approval was granted for construction, but there was an economic panic later that year, and the start of World War I made financing the project doubtful, so it never was built.  The two largest railroads in the United States at the time, the Pennsylvania and the New York Central, later ran competing passenger trains along different routes between New York and Chicago, attracting sizeable numbers of passengers, until the advent of superhighways and airlines.  

Mike Lee added that:  “We can offer travel times equivalent to airlines.   I also would like to emphasize that the railroad is to be electrified its entire length, and using off-the-shelf technology presently found elsewhere in the world.  This isn’t an experiment.  And keep in mind that America presently has a 97% oil-reliant transportation system.  True electric HSR, when applied properly, is a superior substitute for gas guzzling, polluting airplanes.”

There will be a program, open to the public, with a PowerPoint presentation outlining the project on Saturday, April 2, 2011, at 8:00 PM, at the College of Complexes, the “Playground for People Who Think,” which meets at the Lincoln Restaurant, 4008 N. Lincoln Ave, in Chicago.  Other events are planned to recruit and solicit support, including distribution of literature at National Train Day on May 7th at Union Station.  This will be followed with a week of meetings with various Congressional senators and representatives, whose districts are along the proposed route, the following week in Washington, D.C.

For further information go to www.NYChicagoRR.org or email usbullettrain@gmail.com.


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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

Strong Bi-Partisan And Private Sector Support
Seen For The “Build” Infrastructure Bank Bill

By DF Staff And From The Office Of Sen. John Kerry

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a press conference today, Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Member of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, announced legislation to create an infrastructure bank that would help close America’s widening infrastructure funding gap, create millions of American jobs in the next decade, and make the United States more competitive in the 21st century. 

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who also attended the event, underscored the unique coalition of business and labor uniting around this initiative.

“This is a bi-partisan moment to make a once bi-partisan issue bi-partisan once again,” said Sen. Kerry.  ”Democrats and Republicans, business and labor, are now united to create an American infrastructure bank to leverage private investment, make America the world’s builders once again, and close the deficit in our infrastructure investments.  The BUILD Act will create good jobs, strengthen our competitiveness, and do more with less.  Most of all, this bill breaks a partisan stalemate to get America back in the game.  When you’ve got a Massachusetts Democrat, a Texas Republican, the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO preaching from the same hymnal, you’ll find a sweet spot that can translate into a major legislative step forward.”  

“I have been working to overhaul our nation’s aging infrastructure for nearly 20 years. This national infrastructure bank is an innovative way to leverage private-public partnerships and maximize private funding to address our water, transportation, and energy infrastructure needs. It is essential to think outside the box as we work to solve national challenges, particularly in this fiscal crisis. We must be creative to meet the needs of our country and to spur economic development and job growth while protecting taxpayers from new federal spending as much as possible,” said Sen. Hutchison, who served on the Commission to Promote Investment in America’s Infrastructure in 1993 as State Treasurer of Texas and is the Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

“The United States is spending less than two-percent of its GDP on infrastructure, while India spends five-percent and China spends nine-percent,” said Sen. Warner. ”As a matter of global competitiveness, we need to find additional ways to upgrade our nation’s infrastructure, and this bank will help us strike the right balance between near-term discipline and investment in future growth.” 

“A national infrastructure bank is a great place to start securing the funding we need to increase our mobility, create jobs, and enhance our global competitiveness,” said Donohue. ”With a modest initial investment of $10 billion, a national infrastructure bank could leverage up to $600 billion in private investments to repair, modernize, and expand our ailing infrastructure system. While private capital is badly needed, we must also recognize our public financing mechanism is broken. Receipts to the Highway Trust Fund have fallen dramatically, funds are being diverted to non-infrastructure projects, and the gas tax has not been increased in 17 years. We need a multiyear highway bill to meet immediate needs, but we have to figure out a way to ensure we have adequate public investments for years to come.”

The Building and Upgrading Infrastructure for Long-Term Development (BUILD) Act would establish an American Infrastructure Financing Authority (AIFA) – a kind of infrastructure bank – to complement our existing infrastructure funding.  This institution, which would provide loans and loan guarantees, would be both fiscally responsible and robust enough to address America’s needs.

KEY PROVISIONS OF THE BUILD ACT

Independent, non-partisan operations

Strong oversight by Congress and the Federal government

Broad eligibility for infrastructure

Unbiased project selection

Strong rural protections

Addressing market gaps for infrastructure financing

Self-sufficiency of AIFA

Additional BUILD Act provisions


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)72.9974.40
Canadian Pacific (CP) 64.4864.96
CSX (CSX)76.2274.89
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)54.2853.93
Kansas City Southern (KSU)50.7153.03
Norfolk Southern (NSC)66.2866.53
Providence & Worcester(PWX)15.0915.57
Union Pacific (UNP)95.0294.77


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

Times Paul Krugman Blogs On The
Viscerally Anti-Amtrak George Will

From The Blog Of Paul Krugman, Columnist For The New York Times
And Nobel Prize-Winning Professor Of Economics At Princeton University

[ The following may be the lighter side of the pro-rail debate between those who want rail service, such as Paul Krugman,
and those who consider it a form of forced collectivism – such as the writer George Will --- The Editors
]

 

TRENTON --- A bit more on this subject — not serious, just a personal observation after a long hard day of reading student applications. (My suggestion that we reject all applicants claiming to be “passionate” about their plans was rejected, but with obvious reluctance.)

Anyway, my experience is that of the three modes of mechanized transport I use, trains are by far the most liberating. Planes are awful: waiting to clear security, then having to sit with your electronics turned off during takeoff and landing, no place to go if you want to get up in any case. Cars — well, even aside from traffic jams (tell me how much freedom you experience waiting for an hour in line at the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel), the thing about cars is that you have to drive them, which kind of limits other stuff.

But on a train I can read, listen to music, use my aircard to surf the web, get up and walk to the cafe car for some Amfood; oh, and I’m not restricted by the War on Liquids. When I can, I prefer to take the train even if it takes a couple of hours more, say to get to Boston, because it’s much higher-quality time.

Yes, your choices are limited by the available trains; if I wanted to take a train from beautiful downtown Trenton to DC tomorrow, I’d be restricted to one of 21 trains, leaving roughly once an hour if not more often, whereas if I wanted to drive I could leave any time I wanted. Big deal.

And don’t get me started on how much more freedom of movement I feel in New York, with subways taking you almost everywhere, than in, say, LA, where you constantly have to worry about parking and traffic.

So if trains represent soulless collectivism, count me in.


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Mica and Shuster Say Obama
Rail Program Is “Disaster”

From Construction News

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-Fla.) and Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) conducted a congressional hearing on March 11 on encouraging and increasing private sector participation in passenger rail service.

Both Mica and Shuster noted that “the Obama Administration’s passenger rail program has been an absolute disaster,” wrote reporter Tina Barbaccia.

“With Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida rejecting funds, and the California project also looking troubled, I don’t think the Administration’s so-called high-speed and expanded passenger rail program could have had a worse launch,” said Mica. “The only chance of success for high-speed rail is to rely on the private sector and focus on a project that makes sense, particularly the Northeast Corridor. The questions now are how do we regain our credibility after so much damage has been done, and how can we find a better opportunity to bring true high-speed rail to the congested Northeast Corridor with significant private sector involvement?”

Mica also “…highlighted Amtrak’s inability to provide true high-speed service or operate with efficiency” the magazine reported.


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From The Infrastructurist

 

Will Amtrak Get Competition
In The Northeast Corridor?

Posted On Thursday March 17th By Eric Jaffe
Found At:
http://www.infrastructurist.com/2011/03/17/will-amtrak-get-private-competition-in-the-northeast-corridor/

Acela Express at a station, Nose of power unit

Photo: Via the Infrastructurist.

An Acela Express power unit stands waiting at the station platform.

Florida’s high-speed rail line is deader than dead. The man in charge of the state’s aborted project is moving on to a place far-more friendly to fast trains … Qatar. Meanwhile Ray LaHood announced last week that the $2.4 billion in federal funding forfeited by the state will be made available to other bullet lines through a competitive, “merit-driven process.” 

States across the country have already begun to lobby for the money.

While no decision has been made, some of the funding appears destined for the Northeast Corridor. A few days after announcing his $2.4 billion competition, LaHood officially designated the Northeast Corridor a “high-speed rail” corridor — something it strangely was not, despite running the country’s only fast(ish) train, the Acela. The move makes Amtrak, which operates the corridor, eligible to apply for part of the Florida pot, and rail-friendly Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey has made clear that it will.

The Northeast Corridor is far and away the most successful rail region in the country, and lately Amtrak has pushed hard to improve its cash cow. Last fall it proposed the construction of a new, $117 billion bona fide high-speed line in the northeast. More recently it outlined the first piece of this plan: a $13.5 billion tunnel improvement between New York and New Jersey called the Gateway Project. As Yonah Freemark points out in a comprehensive post on the corridor’s situation, Amtrak chief Joseph Boardman knows something needs to be done:

Amtrak sees a massive investment in the Northeast Corridor as a necessary one, both from an economic perspective and in terms of physical infrastructure. Noting the Northeast’s role as the nation’s most productive region, Mr. Boardman argued that its health depends on the transportation systems that connect it. “We’ve lived off investments that were made two centuries ago,” he said. “And we haven’t made the investments that we need to make for the future.” Amtrak, as the provider of intercity rail and the owner of most of the line, can serve an essential role. [Yonah’s emphasis]

From a political perspective, the Northeast Corridor also appears to be the one region where Republicans are amenable to fast trains. During a congressional hearing last week, Republican John Mica, head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, expressed his belief that focusing on the northeast is the smart move:

“The only chance of success for high-speed rail is to rely on the private sector and focus on a project that makes sense, particularly the Northeast Corridor. The questions now are how do we regain our credibility after so much damage has been done, and how can we find a better opportunity to bring true high-speed rail to the congested Northeast Corridor with significant private sector involvement?”


Photo: Amtrak Ink Newsletter

The Auto Train sits awaiting departure at Lorton. VA

But Mica’s position, as the above quote makes clear, has a critical qualification: he believes the private sector, and not Amtrak, is most capable of properly serving the Northeast Corridor. Mica voiced his preference for a public-private rail partnership in the region during a hearing in New York in early February. Yesterday this stance was confirmed in an official 2012 Budget document that was approved by the committee,

Amtrak’s historical failure to successfully execute capital projects strongly suggests that the United States should explore alternative solutions for high-speed rail service on the NEC [Northeast Corridor]. …

To make this kind of successful high-speed rail a reality, the expertise and investment capital of the private sector must be utilized …

So Amtrak has two battles on its hands at the moment: first, proving it deserves part of Florida’s funding; and second, proving it deserves the chance to use it.


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The Amtrak Gateway Project:
A New Way Into Manhattan?

The Advocates’ Proposal

Last of a Series

By David Peter Alan

Last fall, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie terminated the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) Project, because he said that New Jersey could not afford it. The project, which had been a central issue in former Governor Jon Corzine’s re-election campaign, had been thrown onto the scrap heap. While terminating the project because of its price, Christie cited other drawbacks: it would not go into New York’s Penn Station, so it would not allow convenient connections with other trains, and could not feasibly be extended to the East Side of Midtown Manhattan, where a majority of Midtown office space is located. He also disparaged the project as going to a station “deep under Macy’s basement.”

Now, Amtrak has proposed a plan of its own, the Gateway Project, to replace the one that Christie terminated. It includes two new tunnels under the Hudson River, into existing tracks on the West end of Penn Station, which advocates for rail riders in the region consider a significant step in the right direction. Not all of them consider the entire Gateway plan to be the answer to the region’s transit needs, however. A look at history reveals the reason for this.

Advocates for the Garden State’s rail riders had fought vigorously against the final ARC proposal that Christie ultimately scrapped. They had originally expected a project that would build new tracks into Penn Station, and then extending to Grand Central Terminal (GCT) on the East Side. This was a goal of the original ARC Project as far back as 1995, but New York withdrew its participation and the connection to GCT was scrapped in 2003, and the advocates were shocked. They were shocked again when, in 2008, New Jersey Transit (NJT) scrapped the project’s track connection from the new Hudson Tunnels to Penn Station. The new tunnels would, henceforth, go only to the deep-cavern, which the advocates hated, and all trains on the Morris & Essex and Montclair-Boonton Lines would be evicted from the existing Penn Station and sent there, instead. The Lackawanna Coalition, which represents riders on those lines, was incensed and pursued allies for the fight, which appeared to be a fight to the finish.

The rest is history. Other organizations also opposed the ARC Project as NJT had proposed: the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers (NJ-ARP), the Empire State Passengers Association (ESPA) and their umbrella organization, the Regional Rail Working Group, at the local level; as well as the National Corridors Initiative (NCI), the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) and the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) at the national level. Several other state and local rider advocacy organizations from outside the New Jersey – New York area also expressed their concern. On the other side of the issue stood essentially the entire political, business and labor establishment in the region.

In the end, the unaffordable cost of the former project caused Christie to terminate it. The advocates had won half the battle; they had helped turn the tide against an overpriced project that could not deliver the results they wanted. The purpose of the struggle shifted to a far more positive objective: a new project that would deliver trains to the existing Penn Station and connect with other rail services, and eventually be extended to the East Side of Midtown, at an affordable cost.

Exactly four months after Christie terminated the ARC project, Amtrak proposed its Gateway Project, championed by New Jersey’s two U.S. Senators, particular senior Senator Frank Lautenberg. The Amtrak proposal would build two new tracks next to the existing two-track Northeast Corridor (NEC) from Newark Penn Station, under the Hudson River into Manhattan, some 10 miles, ending in a new stub-end terminal south of the existing New York Penn station. Most NJT trains would be sent to this new “Penn Station South” annex.

Gateway would build two new high-level bridges over the Hackensack River, one to replace the existing Portal low-level swing bridge and one for the two new tracks. It would also build a new two-track station on the south side of Secaucus Junction Station, a major inter-line transfer point for NJT. Amtrak trains pass through the station without stopping.

One of the most significant problems with the new Amtrak proposal is its cost, which Amtrak estimates at $13.5 billion. This price tag is almost the same as the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) $14 billion high-end estimated cost for ARC, terminated specifically due to its expense. Given that Amtrak does not have access to major sources of funding for the terminated ARC Project - $3.4 billion from the FTA’s New Starts Program and $3 billion from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and given the parsimonious attitude of the new U.S. House of Representatives, funding for such an expensive project is uncertain, at best.

When Sen. Lautenberg announced the Gateway plan on February 7th, Gov. Christie expressed his approval that Amtrak had proposed a plan so quickly after he terminated the former project, and contrary to many of his critics’ assertions that his killing ARC would delay additional trans-Hudson tunnels for twenty years. He did not specifically endorse the Amtrak plan, but said that he would consider supporting either that plan or the proposed extension of the New York Subway’s #7 (Flushing Line) train to Secaucus, depending on which served New Jersey’s interests. Most rider advocates were more supportive of Amtrak, and the Amtrak plan has some meritorious features. The very fact that Amtrak has presented its own proposal is considered by many advocates to be a major accomplishment. Amtrak had not been a player in the old ARC game, especially after NJT had scrapped a tunnel connection to Penn Station and killed Amtrak’s expectations of redundancy for the 100-year-old tunnels.

Still, an Amtrak-only proposal has the same drawback as an NJT-only proposal: neither offers a comprehensive solution to regional and inter-city needs for better rail service for all riders.

To many advocates, the mere elimination of the proposed deep-cavern terminal was a cause for celebration. Even the stub-end terminal that Amtrak proposed is essentially at the same depth as the existing Penn Station, and not fifteen stories below it.

So the advocates for New Jersey’s rail riders are proposing a plan of their own for improving trans-Hudson mobility at an affordable price. New Yorker Joseph M. Clift, a former director of planning for the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), and New Jerseyan James T. Raleigh, a former Bell Labs and NASA executive, revealed their plan to Asbury Park Press transportation reporter Larry Higgs, who reported it in an “in-depth” front-page article which appeared on Sunday, February 20th in New Jersey’s Gannett newspapers.

The Raleigh-Clift proposal has three major elements, all contained in the Gateway plan; in effect, Phase I of Gateway:

  1. Two new single-track tunnels under the Hudson River to bring the new tracks into Penn Station.
  2. A new two-track bridge over the Hackensack River, next to the NEC’s Portal Bridge.
  3. Two new tracks added to the NEC from Swift Interlocking, where NJT’s Morris & Essex and Montclair-Boonton Line trains enter the NEC, and track capacity to Penn Station, New York becomes strained.

These elements were all evaluated in the ARC and/or Portal Bridge Capacity Enhancement Project Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) efforts, providing a major head start in planning and design of the proposal.

The basic goals of the advocates’ proposal are to increase trans-Hudson train capacity, significantly improve NEC trans-Hudson service reliability, and set the stage for a future extension to the East Side at GCT at an affordable cost (also an objective of two new tracks and tunnels into Penn Station). Many elements of the Gateway plan were not included in the advocates’ plan as necessary to achieve the basic goals and too expensive to be affordable:

  1. Two additional tracks and structures between Newark Penn Station and Swift Interlocking,
  2. Replacement of the existing Portal Bridge with a high-level bridge,
  3. A new two-track station on the south side of Secaucus Junction Station, and
  4. Penn Station South annex, which would require demolition of 1 1/2 blocks of Midtown.

These elements could be built in the future, as funds are justified and become available.

Clift and Raleigh believe that their proposal can be built for about $6 billion, the amount that New Jersey had expected to receive for ARC from the Port Authority ($3 billion) and from the FTA (also $3 billion). U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood added another $378 million to the pot last October, but Christie has asked the Port Authority to spend $1.8 billion of the ARC funds to rehabilitate the Pulaski Skyway and other highway bridges in New Jersey. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made a similar request for the Tappan-Zee Bridge in New York, so it is unclear how much money the Port Authority could chip in toward any proposed rail project.

To ensure that the project is designed from both a regional and inter-city rail perspective, and to maximize access to funding sources, Raleigh and Clift have called for a true partnership between Amtrak and NJT to fund, design and build their proposal. Financial participation from New York State would be expected. NJT could accept FTA New Starts funds, but Amtrak is not allowed to apply for them. Together, the two railroads could obtain $4.5 billion or more in funding from non-local sources, leaving less than $1.5 billion to be funded by New Jersey and New York sources, including the Port Authority; an affordable number and 25% of the project cost or less.

Building the affordable alternative which they propose would keep the hope of East Side Access alive, according to Clift and Raleigh. They say that the line could be built to Penn Station as Phase I and later extended to GCT as Phase II, when funding becomes available. They have expressed their concern that, if the Amtrak Gateway Project is built as proposed, $13.5 billion would have been spent, leaving insufficient political or economic will to spend additional billions for East Side Access from New Jersey, especially during these times of fiscal austerity in the public sector. The cost of the Long Island Rail Road’s own East Side Access Project keeps rising, and it is unclear if there will be enough money available to complete it in the foreseeable future. Under the circumstances, it appears highly unlikely that there will be enough money available to finish the LIRR project, build the Amtrak Gateway plan and still have money left over to extend that line to the East Side. Other cities and regions are competing for scarce transit funds, and it is highly doubtful that the New York – New Jersey region could receive such a large percentage of the money available to the entire country.

Raleigh, Clift and other advocates are making the case for the “affordable” plan. The Lackawanna Coalition at the New Jersey level and the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) at the national level, have endorsed it, and its supporters are now presenting it to other advocacy organizations and to public officials. The proposal’s supporters believe that it complies with Gov. Christie’s request for cooperation between all concerned parties to provide additional trans-Hudson rail capacity, redundancy, connectivity and eventual East Side Access. As part of this campaign, they will take their plan to the upcoming “We CAN Connect New England by Rail!” conference in New Haven, on April 29th. Their presentation will explain how their proposal will improve rail connectivity between New England and points south of New York City, at an affordable cost.

At this time, the advocates who have proposed the plan are hopeful that it will find favor with other rider advocates and, most importantly, with the elected officials who control transportation improvement funds. The plan delivers the best results for Amtrak and NJT riders for the money invested, according to its proponents. It also lays a foundation for a partnership between Amtrak and local rail to build a line that is needed, and extend it later to the East Side, where it should have gone in the first place.

David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition and a Board Member of RUN. He has participated actively in the efforts to terminate the former ARC Project and the campaign for the plan proposed by Clift and Raleigh. Joseph M. Clift and James T. Raleigh are Technical Director and Political Director, respectively, of the Lackawanna Coalition. All three, along with Richard J. Arena, President of the Association for Public Transportation, will discuss this and other proposals for improving rail connectivity between New England and points south of New York City at the upcoming New Haven rail conference on Friday, April 29th.


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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

Dear Editor,

Re: Destination Freedom March 14 newsletter

Lobbying governors and legislators for passenger rail is only a part of advocacy action. It is just as important to convince policy analysts on congressional and gubernatorial staffs of the rightness of our cause. These people strongly influence their patrons. But if they don’t have the knowledge of passenger rail benefits, they will espouse a policy that fits the moment.

Sloan Auchincloss
Harrisburg, PA

NCI replies: Very true, and very important to remember.


Dear Editor,

Genuine conservatives don’t hate trains. Big oil, auto makers & highway lobbyists hate trains.

Of which Randal O’Toole & Wendell Cox are well known highway lobbyists.

Even with “libertarians”, an honest one will admit that roads/streets are an act of socialism.

In transit,

Andrew Dawson
Montreal, Canada


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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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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2011 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

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We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we’d like to hear from you. Please e-mail the editor at editor@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster at webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

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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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