The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

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

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

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March 28, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 12

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

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

  News Items…
APTA Members Working To Implement PTC But Industry
   Needs Time, $ Says CEO Millar
  Political Lines…
US DOT’s LaHood, Reps. Blumenauer, DeFazio, Schrader,
   Portland Mayor, Join Apollo Alliance To Promote
   American Competitiveness
‘Gang Of 64’ Senators Call For President To Support
   Comprehensive Deficit Reduction
Revitalizing Downtowns In Three Midwest Cities
  Station Lines…
Exhibition Explores Legacy Of New York’s Lost Beaux Arts
   Landmark And Ponders The Future
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Financial Lines…
To Raise Cash, MTA May Sell Some Buildings
  Across The Pond…
United Arab Emirates Launches Etihad Rail
European Railway Agency (ERA) Rejects Ban On
   Multiple Unit Trains In Channel Tunnel
Remembering Cameron Beach (1949-2011)
  Other Voices…
On Right Road With Infrastructure Bank
We CAN Connect New England By Rail (CT - Apr 29)
  Publication Notes …

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

APTA Members Working To Implement PTC
But Industry Needs Time, $ Says CEO Millar

From APTA And By DF Staff

American Public Transportation Association CEO William Millar re-iterated this week his member agencies’ commitment to Positive Train Control --- mandated by Federal law to be in place by 2015 --- but also repeated the widespread industry request that Congress help pay for the technological improvements it has mandated, and delay the deadline for full-scale implementation to 2018

Positive Train Control or PTC, as defined by the Federal Railroad Administration, “refers to technology that is capable of preventing train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, and casualties or injuries to roadway workers (e.g., maintenance-of-way workers, bridge workers, signal maintainers) operating within their limits of authority as a result of unauthorized incursion by a train.

“PTC is also capable of preventing train movements through a switch left in the wrong position. PTC systems vary widely in complexity and sophistication based on the level of automation and functionality they implement, the system architecture utilized, the wayside system upon which they are based (i.e., non-signaled, block signal, cab signal, etc.), and the degree of train control they are capable of assuming. 

Prior to October 2008, PTC systems were being voluntarily installed by various carriers. However, the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA) (signed by the President on October 16, 2008, as Public Law 110-432) has mandated the widespread installation of PTC systems by December 2015.” 

In a statement, APTA CEO Millar said:

“On behalf of APTA’s commuter railroads, I want to express in the strongest possible terms our commitment to implement positive train control (PTC) on the nation’s commuter railroads as quickly as feasible. The safety of riders is our highest priority. We fully support the implementation of PTC in advance of the congressionally established deadline for those commuter railroads, such as the Southern California Regional Rail Authority and other California systems that have committed to do so. We have urged Congress to direct available federal resources to early implementers in order to make those efforts successful and ensure that other commuter railroads can benefit from their experience with the still developing technologies necessary to successfully implement PTC.

“Commuter railroads have worked diligently to implement PTC in order to meet the deadline of December 31, 2015 set by Congress in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. An overwhelming majority of the nation’s commuter railroads have concluded that the still developing technology, the lack of available radio spectrum, and the extremely small amount of federal support which has thus far been provided make nationwide implementation by the deadline impossible. Moreover, directing all resources to one safety technology such as PTC may ironically hurt overall safety on the nation’s commuter rail systems. This important safety mandate jeopardizes other important commuter railroad safety priorities. Safety projects on older, aging systems, such as bridge and track bed improvements, cannot be ignored.

“APTA strongly urges Congress to provide federal funding to address the substantial investment needed to ensure successful implementation of PTC.

“We urge Congress to direct the Federal Communications Commission to make radio spectrum available at no cost to the public agencies that provide commuter rail service, as it does for police, fire, and other safety sensitive functions. We believe that Congress should revisit the deadline issue and set the deadline at a more realistic date of December 31, 2018, so that this new technology can be developed and tested in an operational environment on those commuter railroads that have already agreed to implement earlier.

“If technology develops more quickly, if funding and radio spectrum are made available earlier, PTC can be implemented earlier on a nationwide basis,” concluded Millar.

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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

US DOT’s LaHood, Reps. Blumenauer, DeFazio, Schrader, Portland Mayor,
Join Apollo Alliance To Promote American Competitiveness

From Mass Transit Magazine

PORTLAND, OR --- US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Oregon House Members Earl Blumenauer, Kurt DeFazio, and Peter Schrader, and Portland Mayor Sam Adams were joined by nearly 100 people, among them local elected officials and representatives from labor, business, transit, and green energy communities, at an event recently convened by the national Apollo Alliance at United Streetcar just outside of Portland, Oregon to promote job growth and American competitiveness in the global transit marketplace.

Since 2005, America has sent roughly $10 billion overseas to purchase public transit equipment. The Apollo Alliance estimates that $40 billion per year of federal investment in public transit and rail, coupled with the right policies, could create 3.7 million American jobs – 600,000 in the manufacturing sector alone – and begin to meet the currently estimated $77 billion that is needed just to bring existing systems up to good repair.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “To win the future and ensure America remains economically competitive in a global economy, we must out-innovate and out-build the rest of the world. That means building a transportation network that moves people and goods more safely, quickly and efficiently than ever before. Here in Portland, Oregon, United Streetcar is already realizing that vision by manufacturing the first modern streetcars in the nation, and building them entirely with American parts, labor and ingenuity.”

At the media event, United Streetcar revealed its brand new 3100 foot streetcar track for onsite testing – the only one in the United States – as well as a new 6400 square foot environmental testing bay. “United Streetcar is a perfect example of how good public policy can not only create jobs, but also re-create an entire manufacturing sector. Our story tells exactly how the private sector and the Federal government can partner to grow the economy together,” said United Streetcar’s president Chandra Brown.

“The Federal government believed in us and believed in American manufacturing. Now, we’ve had over $50 million in orders and there will be more to come as streetcars return to communities throughout the country. Should the federal government to adopt policy recommendations in Apollo Alliance’s Transportation Manufacturing Action Plan, United Streetcar’s growth would be even more robust.”

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said:

“Federal streetcar investment creates manufacturing jobs here in my District at United Streetcar. These investments also spur economic growth along transit routes, increase transportation choices, and reduce carbon emissions. I am delighted to partner with Secretary LaHood and the Apollo Alliance to promote the vital and remarkable achievements going on here at United Streetcar.”

Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR) said:

“Instead of sending billions of dollars abroad to buy foreign-made equipment we should be spending that money right here in Oregon,” said Schrader. “By supporting U.S. manufacturers, like United Streetcar, we create good paying Oregon jobs. Initiatives like ‘Buy America’ are key to growing America’s manufacturing sector and a great example of common sense regulations that support our local economy.”

Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) said:

“Oregon has been the leader in the rebirth of domestic street car manufacturing — producing the first American-made streetcar in over 70 years right here. Federal investment in transit and rail creates needed family-wage jobs here in the United States and helps to revitalize the critical U.S. manufacturing sector. We need more federal investment of this type to help long-term economic growth and viability.”

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‘Gang Of 64’ Senators Call For President
To Support Comprehensive Deficit Reduction

From The American Public Transportation Association (APTA):

WASHINGTON---Led by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Mike Johanns (R-NE), a group of 64 Senators sent a letter to President Barack Obama this past week stating that comprehensive deficit reduction must be central to ongoing discussions on the federal budget.  The letter urges the President to engage in a broad discussion with the Senate about a debt reduction strategy that will address discretionary and entitlement spending and tax reform. 

The letter notes that a bipartisan group of Senators has been working on a comprehensive deficit reduction package based on the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Bi-partisan Fiscal Commission that submitted a similar package of recommendations to Congress last December.  Among the Fiscal Commission’s recommendations is to gradually raise the gas tax by fifteen cents between 2013 and 2015.  The commission, while generally not in support of increasing taxes, notes that infrastructure investment is critical to economic growth, and that an increase in the fuel tax is necessary to meet investment needs without costly general fund transfers into the Highway Trust Fund.

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TOD... T.O.D....  

Does Light Rail Really Make A Difference?


Revitalizing Downtowns In Three Midwest Cities

By Curt Ailes - For Urban Indy

Recently, the Center for Transit Oriented Development released a report about three relatively new light rail lines: The Blue Line in Charlotte, the Hiawatha in Minneapolis and the South East Corridor in Denver. The report states that the light rail routes have attracted high levels of private investment; most notably closer to their downtown areas where the built environment is already dense and block size is smaller.


In 1994, Denver embarked on a radical plan of expanding their transit system. They now have five routes and are expanding at a rapid pace in all directions with light rail, commuter rail, and a single Bus Rapid Transit system that will run to the northwest. Their initial line, in the downtown area, was a 5.3-mile light rail system.

Today, Union Station is being rebuilt to accept additional regional rail lines, Amtrak and a dedicated bus facility. These investments have led to increasing mobility for the region’s residents and a combination of increased revenues […from property and other tax growth due to economic development]. Public-private partnerships have allowed construction to continue even in the current economic climate. Census reports show that population increases seem to follow these transit corridors. The rail lines are obviously serving the areas where people are moving.


According to the Charlotte Transit Oriented Development (TOD) report, Charlotte seems to have gotten the most favorable return on investment. I reported on Charlotte and their Blue Line last year (over at my blog, before I joined Urban Indy). They have indeed seen an impressive amount of investment along their light rail line, which has helped increase the population base, especially closer to downtown. Sadly Ailes reports, Charlotte has been heavily affected by the economic downturn. What started as an ambitious plan for a rail network has been scaled down and drawn out over a longer amount of time. Their dedicated funding source is based on a sales tax system and is prone to high fluctuation in revenue collection as a function of local economic activity. However, as the census and Charlotte TOD report show, Charlotte has embraced rail transit and improved their population base as a result.

Charlotte LYNX Light Rail

Photo: Flickr user jbtuohy

Charlotte LYNX Light Rail

[For Ailes report with numerous visuals, go to]

How have they done this in a city that has had a strong car culture for decades? It appears that their light rail line LYNX (or Blue Line) is one key to this success. The line is 9.8-miles long, double-tracked, fully electrified, and offers low headways. It is NOT “commuter rail” as such, which operates at peak commute times only. LYNX is one part of the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS), which is responsible for over 26,000,000 total boardings every year, divided among the light rail, 70 buses and a trolley that operates on the weekends on the light rail tracks.


Minneapolis has had more modest returns on their investment in light rail, but residents are committed to it, and plans for expansion continue. The light rail network has already laid one route, with shovels in the ground for a second one and plans for further expansion. The present line runs parallel to a highway, which, in terms of connectivity, creates a large barrier. However, the downtown has been highly repopulated, and there have been some gains from the investment outside of the downtown area.

[Ailes describes Minneapolis as “a bit of an oddity as a Midwest city in that it is very progressive [and] has a higher proportion of whites (compared to peer Midwest cities).”]

Despite the modest gains from the transit system, there is no “mass outcry by residents of the Twin Cities to reduce spending on transit.”

For more information on TOD investments in the Midwest:

[Curt Ailes is from Indianapolis, where he bemoans the auto-centric culture of that city and the slow progress in investing in transit. CEOs for Cities, a national network of urban leaders, brought its Livability Workshop to Indianapolis last October.]

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STATION LINES... Station Lines...  

Penn Station’s History Lesson


Exhibition Explores Legacy Of New York’s Lost
Beaux Arts Landmark And Ponders The Future

By Phil Patton
The Architect’s Newspaper

Found at:

[“The Once and Future Pennsylvania Station” Exhibit is at the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store at Grand Central Terminal, New York, through October 30].

Like Troy, Pennsylvania Station is best known for its destruction. “New York City has never got over tearing down Penn Station,” observed the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whose name will someday go on its planned successor, in the James Farley Post Office building next door.

Famously, photographs showed statues dumped in New Jersey swamps. Ada Louise Huxtable may have gotten a little carried away but reflected the popular mood when she declared that “tossed into the Secaucus graveyard are about 25 centuries of classical culture and the standards of style, elegance and grandeur that it gave to the dreams and constructions of Western man.”

But surely the loss of the station in 1963 remains a primal cultural wound in New York City and a symbol for a wider loss of public space and public planning. It marked the end of innocence and beginning of knowledge, similar to if not as profound as the death of President Kennedy later that year. The story is familiar to everyone literate about architecture: Penn Station died so that other old buildings could live, so that landmarks commissions and preservation movements could flourish.

1958 Photo of Penn Station Clam Shell ticket area

Photo: MTA Transit Museum

1958 photo of ‘the clamshell,’ an aluminum and steel canopy over Penn Station’s electronic ticketing area designed by architect Lester Tichy, who was a protege of Raymond Loewy.

But there is more to the story as we are reminded by a new exhibit called “The Once and Future Pennsylvania Station” at the Transit Museum’s Annex and Store in Grand Central Terminal. (Check the maps and guides to find the spot.) The small show is made up of a couple of rooms of photographs, artifacts such as a great milky spherical light fixture left from the station, and a few video clips, including a brief sound clip of Philip Johnson and others protesting the station’s destruction.

New York’s great Beaux Arts Monuments are all around a century old—Grand Central’s big birthday comes up in 2013, the Public Library’s this spring; and last year would have been the 100th for Penn Station, which barely made it to age 50.

Inspired by the Baths of Caracalla, the station was conceived to join the transcontinental lines of the Pennsylvania Railroad with those of the Long Island Railroad. It was known not just for its soaring concourse and waiting room with arched glass roof but also for heroic sculpture and murals by Jules Guerin. However, the station was the result of planning, engineering, and building of infrastructure. It is hard now to grasp that to cross the Hudson River—a full mile wide—trains were once ferried on huge barges. To make the station possible trains had to be electrified and new tunneling techniques developed.

The show suggests something else. A wall caption quotes historian Hilary Ballon: “Pennsylvania station embodied the imperial grandeur and self-confidence of America at the turn of the century, a symbol of imperial confidence.” Today, by contrast, one sees long lines of passengers waiting outside the Farley postal building for buses, huddling against the cold like a Depression soup line. They are a symbol, too.

The station was a great piece of architecture, but was it a great piece of city planning? In addition to a close reading of some of the histories of the station, the show also invites comparisons between Penn Station and Grand Central as urbanism.  At Grand Central, the show points out, the New York Central and its planners profited from rights to the space above the station, and the junction of commuter rail lines and subway helped turn the station into the anchor of a commercial neighborhood. Not so over on Eighth Avenue, where Penn Station had to wait eight years before the Westside IRT arrived. Yes, rail traffic dropped steeply after World War II and the arrival of intercity airplane service. But stranded far west, almost like the current Javits Center, Penn Station was never knitted into a vital commercial area. Ultimately, the value of the land above the tracks rose: what replaced the station building was the huge drum of Madison Square Garden so that Mick Jagger and Walt “Clyde” Frazier could cavort in the concourse space once transfixed by sunbeams.

The parable of Penn Station has long been read simply as a cautionary tale about the need to save the grandly-built past. To this lesson might be added: plan well when you build.

The show also includes a look at current plans for the much-revised Moynihan Station in the Farley post office. The plan for the new station, by David Childs of Skidmore Owings Merrill, calls for a large interior space under glass. But the future station, suggested by the show’s title, needs to be part of a wider plan. Without improvements in the tunnels that bring trains to the city and to the wider train system, it risks becoming little more than a memorial to the old station and a memento of what might have been.

[Phil Patton writes on automobile design and culture for the New York Times and teaches in the School of Visual Arts Design Criticism program.]

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Canadian National (CNI)73.7972.99
Canadian Pacific (CP) 62.9664.48
CSX (CSX)79.1676.22
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)57.6354.28
Kansas City Southern (KSU)54.2350.71
Norfolk Southern (NSC)68.6866.28
Providence & Worcester(PWX)16.3515.09
Union Pacific (UNP)97.5995.02

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FINANCIAL LINES... Financial Lines...  

To Raise Cash, MTA May Sell Some Buildings

From The Wall Street Journal And By DF Staff

NEW YORK CITY --- Seeking to close a $100 million budget shortfall, New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is seeking raise cash from its far-flung real estate holdings, reports the Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Grossman.

“The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is looking for cash from the three million square feet of office space it controls to help close a $100 million budget gap. The MTA owns or leases offices in every New York City borough and in White Plains and must pay nearly $89 million each year on rent, taxes and operating costs. The agency wants to close the gap in its $13.4 billion budget by the end of this year without raising fares or cutting service.”

“Clearly, the MTA has a very significant amount of excess real estate that could be converted into cash,” said Robert Knakal, the chairman of Massey Knakal Realty Services, which worked on a review of MTA properties earlier this decade,” the WSJ quoted him as saying.

“Since the end of 2009, the agency has reduced staff by 18%, which has resulted in thousands of empty desks throughout the city. At that point they hired Mr. Knakal’s realty services to help them figure out how to make money from their real estate. Their headquarters on Madison Avenue could be a lucrative source. It has 227,000 square feet of office space and prices have recently reached about $300 a square foot, according to real-estate website PropertyShark,” wrote the Journal.

For the complete story and videos go to:

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

Installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor


United Arab Emirates Launches Etihad Rail

A Key Part Of Rail Network To Connect Arabian Peninsula To Asia And Europe

Via UAE government press release

Abu Dhabi: Etihad Rail, formerly known as Union Railway, the master developer and operator of the UAE’s first railway network, will construct 1200 km (750 mi.) of railway routes in the nationwide project valued at Dh 40 billion (US $ 11 billion) to be fully completed by 2018, it was announced here at a news conference late on Wednesday.

“The network’s aim is to support the country’s economic development, enhance the transportation infrastructure and improve the investment potential of the UAE through offering an alternative transport network that is efficient and provides an ideal logistics platform for current and future industries,” said Nasser Al Suwaidi, chairman of the board of directors of Etihad Rail.

The previously estimated cost of the rail project, which will carry freight as well as passengers, was between Dh 25 billion and Dh 30 billion. The Etihad rail network is poised to connect the Emirates and link the UAE to Saudi Arabia via Ghweifat in the west and to Oman via Al Ain in the east. The project will be completed in three phases — phase I of the project incorporates the Shah-Habshan-Ruwais route — with the link between Habshan and Ruwais scheduled to be completed in the beginning of 2013 and that between Shah and Habshan by the end of 2014.

Phase two of the project involves the construction of the remainder of the Abu Dhabi Emirate Network and a connection to Dubai — covering vital areas such as Mussaffah and the Khalifa and Jebel Ali ports. The third and final phase entails the implementation of the rest of the network in the northern UAE.

“The rail routes will integrate and seamlessly link vital residential, commercial and industrial centers along with sea and land ports in the country. In addition, they will link with the GCC railway network, improving trade among member countries and facilitating passenger travel as well,” said Al Suwaidi.

He said Etihad Rail has successfully completed many economic, technical and feasibility studies to measure the cargo and heavy transport operations in the country and now aims to transport 50 million tons of cargo during the first phase of the project.

Richard Bowker, chief executive of Etihad Rail, said the ownership structure of the company is that it’s owned 70 per cent by the government of Abu Dhabi and 30 per cent by the federal government. Bowker said as far as the financing strategy of the rail project is concerned, the company is working with UBS and in due course the decision on the financing strategy will be made after presentations to the board and higher authorities.

Mr. Bowker stated that the locomotives will run on diesel but there will be "provision for electrification" if traffic demands it. The freight trains on the network will run at speeds of 120 km/h and passenger trains at speeds of up to 200 km/h.

Etihad Rail will finalize design for second and third phases of the project by the end of this year and construction to begin in the second half of 2012. The company will transport approximately 50 million tons of freight and 16 million passengers in the initial stages.

Long-term strategic partnerships with a number of state authorities are to be developed and the new corporate identity will be unveiled. Cargo containers could be transported via a modern and integrated rail network that connects the UAE to neighboring GCC countries thus allowing eventual access to Europe and Asia. The most likely connection to the rail networks in Europe and Asia will be via proposed rail lines into Turkey via Syria and Iraq from Saudi Arabia. One rail line between Turkey and northern Iraq has recently been returned to operations. Turkey and Iran are developing plans to build a southerly “Silk Road” standard gauge rail route between Europe and eastern Asia, which would compete against existing Russian broad gauge rail routes from eastern Europe to China via Russia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

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European Railway Agency (ERA) Rejects Ban
On Multiple Unit Trains In Channel Tunnel

Significant Defeat For Blatantly Protectionist Action Of French Government To Exclude Siemens Velaro EMU Trains From UK – France Rail Link

Source: ERA press release

Paris – In a major set-back to the French Government’s moronic attempts to prohibit Euro Star and Deutsche Bahn AG (DBAG) from operating Velaro™ high-speed electric multiple unit (EMU) train sets through the Channel Tunnel, the European Rail Agency rendered an official technical opinion that rejects unique safety regulations in-place for the Channel Tunnel, which require trains to have either locomotives or power cars for Channel Tunnel operations.

The alleged safety issue raised by the French government is the theoretical possibility that traction motors and step-down transformers mounted under or within the passenger cars of EMU-configured trains pose a smoke and fire risk to passengers. Decades of operations of EMU-configured trains in various land-based tunnels including high-speed rail lines in Germany, Italy, Austria and Switzerland, and on the NEC in the United States, as well as in countless underground urban rail systems all across the world (including subway lines in several French cities) have proven the safety record of EMU-configured train sets in tunnels.

Siemens Velaro D high-speed train set

Photo: Siemens Mobility

London Bound – Siemens displayed its Velaro D high-speed train set at InnoTrans 2010 in Berlin. The Velaro D (DB Class 407) will be placed into London – Cologne – Frankfurt services in 2013 by Germany’s Deutsche Bahn, assuming existing quirks in the Channel Tunnel’s vehicle safety specifications are removed to allow EMU-configured trains. For Channel Tunnel operations Euro Star has also ordered Velaro trains which are somewhat similar to Velaro D, but are twice as long as the eight-car long Velaro D.

The French Government, which has 50% control of the IGC, the safety authority with jurisdiction over the Channel Tunnel, has forcefully argued against changes proposed to the existing Channel Tunnel vehicle safety specifications, which would allow EMU-type train sets to operate in the Channel Tunnel. Senior members of the French government reacted angrily at Euro Star’s decision to order Siemens Velaro EMU train sets made in Germany for future Channel Tunnel operations, rather than ordering more copies of the existing locomotive-hauled Euro Star train sets built by France-based Alstom. Separately Germany’s Deutsche Bahn has officially announced it will start services to London via the Channel Tunnel in 2013, also using its own version of the Siemens Velaro EMU high-speed train set.

Most rail industry observers and technical experts have stated that France’s alleged safety concerns over operations with the EMU-configured Velaro train series in the Channel Tunnel have no valid technical or engineering basis and instead are a blatant protectionist move intended to harm Siemens Mobility, based in Germany, and to assist Alstom, which is headquartered in France. Ironically Alstom had proposed that Euro Star buy its AGV high-speed train (successor to its world-famous TGV train series), which is also an EMU-configured train-set not unlike Velaro, which Euro Star recently ordered instead of trains from Alstom.

In its opinion the ERA stated that safety regulations of the Channel Tunnel should be transparent and should be brought in-line with existing safety regulations for the rest of Europe, and that European safety standards take precedence over national or local safety standards, such as those of the Channel Tunnel’s IGC. It stated that there is no fundamental reason for excluding passenger trains with distributed traction, such as Velaro, if fire and smoke safety features and materials of the vehicle can be demonstrated to be equivalent or better to the existing passenger trains approved for operations in the Channel Tunnel.

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OBITUARY... Obituary...  

Cameron Beach

Cameron Beach
Remembering Cameron Beach (1949-2011)

By David Peter Alan

I was shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden death last week of Cameron Beach, one of the nation’s most ardent supporters of light rail, including heritage streetcars. My last memory of him was three months ago, when he traveled from his home in San Francisco to spend two frigid days in Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey last December. He had come east to attend an APTA (American Public Transportation Association) streetcar meeting and ride a multitude of streetcar lines on SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) in Philadelphia, as well as New Jersey Transit’s River Line, a Diesel Light Rail line between Camden and Trenton.

Cam probably knew more about transit in San Francisco and Sacramento than anyone else. He had spent 44 of his 62 years in the transportation field, working with nearly every mode. He started his career with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MUNI), and was especially fond of the Geneva car barn, where MUNI maintains and stores its collection of vintage streetcars, many of which operate in revenue service. He spent the latter part of his career at the Sacramento Regional Transportation Agency (SacRT), where he helped launch the city’s light rail system in 1983.

After his retirement in 2007, Cam returned to San Francisco and was appointed to the Board of Directors of MUNI; a rare honor for a former transit employee. The San Francisco Examiner reported that his former colleagues at MUNI are considering naming the Geneva car barn or a vintage streetcar after him. Only one other person was accorded the latter honor: longtime San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen.

Cam was very active at APTA, especially its streetcar-oriented committees. I had heard of him through other people I knew at APTA, and had first met him in person when I visited Sacramento in 2004. He took me for a ride on his light rail lines and for a tour of the shops, including a look at a historic streetcar that was operated by the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) in days gone by. He always had good advice for his fellow transit managers and encouragement for advocates, especially those who push for more streetcar service.

The Examiner said: “Mr. Beach celebrated all forms of public transportation with boyish enthusiasm.” Personally, I would not say that Cam’s enthusiasm was boyish. Rather, it was the mature enthusiasm that came from many years of experience with transit and a desire to see more of it serving the nation’s cities. He was enthusiastic for every rail line I rode with him, whether it was called a “streetcar” line or a “light rail” line, and no matter where it was. He especially loved San Francisco’s vintage cars that run on Market Street and the Embarcadero.

MUNI deserves a great deal of credit for having appointed Cam to their Board, a decision that benefited management and riders alike for the past four years. He was a great asset to the streetcar community around the nation, and I am sure that everybody who enjoys a streetcar ride and who knew Cam will miss him.

I certainly will.

David Peter Alan is a Board Member of the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) and has ridden rail transit extensively around the nation. He lives and practices law in South Orange, New Jersey.

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OTHER VOICES... Other Voices...  

From The Boston Globe Editorial Pages


On Right Road With Infrastructure Bank

We have been having the same conversation for decades, a never-ending debate about how best to address America’s infrastructure woes, from our decaying roads to our outdated train systems to our falling bridges. Moreover, a 2009 infrastructure report card by the American Society of Civil Engineers — which gave a “D’’ in 15 categories, from roads to levees — proves America has not only lost its capacity to think big about public works but that we can barely survive on the foundations already in place.

But last week, Senator John Kerry introduced a bipartisan proposal to reinvigorate public works spending through an “infrastructure bank’’ that would provide loans and loan guarantees for bridge, highway, and rail projects.

The idea of an infrastructure bank has been around for nearly 20 years, but Kerry’s proposal provides important amendments that are worth the $10 billion outlay envisioned in the legislation. The Building and Upgrading Infrastructure for Long-Term Development Act creates an American Infrastructure Financing Authority that would serve as an independent fund for the “most important and economically viable’’ projects in the country. The Authority would be prohibited from providing more than 50 percent of a project’s cost, instead relying heavily on private-sector commitment to support projects with national or regional significance that would ultimately be backed by a dedicated revenue stream, such as toll roads, development plans, and freight lines.

The creation of a financing authority is also a significant change to President Obama’s proposal for a $30 billion federal infrastructure investment, a proposal that has limited support in these fiscal times. The authority would be about loans, not grants, and could provide the seed money for up to $600 billion in private infrastructure investments in its first decade.

The BUILD Act focuses investments on three particularly worrisome public woes — bridges, highways, and rail projects — rather than trying to solve all civil engineering problems at once. It does not put as its primary focus job creation (the focal point of most stimulus talk), but on good-old public works priorities. Most importantly, it is not a grant to states and localities that tend to focus on, well, local projects. An independent, Senate-confirmed authority would prioritize investments in only regional and national proposals that had private backing to support the effort.

The BUILD Act is necessary because, given the nature of our federal system, what we do commit to is so limited in impact that we have tied our national projects to parochial priorities — to what can be done rather than what should be done. And it isn’t working. A high-speed rail from Tampa to Orlando hardly seems the visionary image of a new world transportation order, and thanks to Florida Governor Rick Scott’s veto of the effort, it won’t be. Scott returned $2.4 billion in federal funding for the train line because of fears that the fiscally strapped state would be stuck with cost overruns. Similarly, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie killed a federally financed rail tunnel between New Jersey and Manhattan for the same reasons.

Cost overruns for fiscally strained states are a good reason to retract from commitments. But, in all the debate over Scott’s decision, few seemed to notice how pathetic we have become as visionaries when our most ambitious proposal was an 84-mile train ride to Disney World, one that would only shave a few minutes off the same road trip. That Florida had done all the planning and necessary legwork to begin the “shovel ready” project seemed more significant than asking why would we invest federal money in such a seemingly unnecessary proposal. The rail line would have been as futuristic seeming as the Space Mountain ride seems today. It would have been embarrassing proof that America had lost its capacity to think big.

Projects under consideration by American Infrastructure Financing Authority would still need to meet the economic, technical, and lengthy environmental standards that often curtail big projects, and it may be worth having the Authority determine whether those standards should be amended to promote national public work programs. The BUILD Act may not get us all the way to Tomorrowland, but it may be our only hope to get us past Disney World.

Juliette Kayyem, a guest columnist, is former homeland security adviser for Massachusetts and most recently served as assistant secretary at the US Department of Homeland Security.

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EVENTS... Events & Conferences...  



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  •  New England Rail Coalition

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...

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