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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April 18, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 15

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

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

  News Items…
Budget Deal Reached For Remainder Of FY 2011 Transit
   And High-Speed Rail Programs Among Cuts
Massachusetts Closes In On Cause Of
   ‘Big Dig’ Lighting Fiasco
  High-Speed Lines…
Budget Cuts Could Harm Some California High-Speed Rail
High-Speed Rail Will Be A Long-Term Effort
  Commuter Lines…
Massachusetts To Confront Poor Commuter Rail Service
   With New Equipment, Staff Retraining
  Transit Lines…
Austin Plans For More Transit, But It Will Be A Long Time Coming
  Revitalization Lines…
Reviving Pawtucket: Back To The Future Analysis Reveals
   Blueprint For Today
  Safety Lines…
Senate Bill Would Lift Truck Weight Limit From Existing
   80,000 Lb. Max To 97,000 Lbs.
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Freight Lines…
Coal Shippers, Others To Seek Relief At Rescheduled
   STB Hearings June 22
“High-Speed Rail Is Down, Not Out” Says RPA Through
   The America 2050 Project
  Upcoming Events…
Jonathan Rose To Speak April 26 At Partnership For
   Strong Communities
We Can Connect New England
Railway Age Magazine’s Railroader Of The Year
   Acceptance Speech
  We Get Letters…
  Publication Notes …

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

Budget Deal Reached For Remainder Of FY 2011
Transit And High-Speed Rail Programs Among Cuts

From The American Public Transportation Association

WASHINGTON --- A government shutdown was narrowly averted late Friday night when U.S. House and Senate leaders negotiated a deal to fund government operations through the remainder of FY 2011. This agreement reduces spending by $38.5 billion from FY 2010 levels. A one week continuing resolution (CR) through April 15 was signed by President Barack Obama early Saturday morning. This stopgap CR gives Congress time to finalize a bill that adheres to the deal struck.

The total subcommittee discretionary budget authority allocation for Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development is $55.5 billion in FY 2011, a reduction of 18 percent from the FY 2010 total of $67.9 billion. The agreement includes steep reductions in the High-speed Rail program, and cuts in transit funds from FY 2010 levels.

Federal Transit Administration (FTA)

Under the agreement, transit formula programs will remain at FY 2010 levels of $8.34 billion.

Funding for Capital Investment Grants (New Starts) would be reduced by $400 million in FY 2011, for a total investment of $1.6 billion. In addition, the legislation would rescind $280 million from FY 2010 New Starts funds.

Other reductions proposed from within the transit program include a $25 million cut from the FY 2010 level for the FTA Energy Efficiency Grants (TIGGER) thereby funding the program at $50 million in FY 2011, and a $6.67 million reduction in the Research and University Research Centers program, leaving $59 million for the program in FY 2011.

The $150 million annual appropriation for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) was left intact.

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

The budget deal would eliminate FY 2011 funding for the High-speed Rail program. The program was funded at $2.5 billion in FY 2010, but the final bill also rescinded $400 million from FY 2010, meaning that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will not be able to redistribute the funds that Florida turned back from its high-speed rail project.

Amtrak Capital and Debt Service Grants were cut by $78 million to $923.6 billion. The FRA Railroad Research and Development account is reduced to $35.1 million from $37.6 million and as noted in previous alerts, funding for the Railroad Safety Technology program for grants for Positive Train Control (PTC) was eliminated earlier.

Other Transportation Programs

Funding for National Infrastructure Investments (TIGER) is reduced to $528 million, compared to the FY 2010 enacted levels of $600 million, a $72 million cut.

Transit and rail were not the only transportation accounts to receive cuts. The bill contains a $2.5 billion rescission of prior year highway contract authority, and a $630 million rescission of highway project earmarks that had been provided in TEA-21 and previous authorizing bills.

Under Department of Homeland Security appropriations, the Rail and Public Transportation Security Grant Program was reduced to $250 million, a $50 million cut from FY 2010.

Republican leaders in the House have announced that they plan to hold votes on this proposal Wednesday evening. Senate leaders are hoping to take up the bill on Thursday in advance of the expiration of the stopgap CR on Friday and the scheduled two week spring recess. Votes in the House on Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget blueprint for FY 2012, discussed here, are also expected this week.

Action Alert

• APTA members are urged to contact their Members of Congress to tell them to oppose the reductions for transit and High-speed Rail programs in the FY 2011 Continuing Resolution.

• Please explain that these funds are vital to maintain transit assets in a state of good repair, and allow for the expansion of mobility options in our nation, which are critical as gas prices continue to rise.

For questions regarding FY 2011 appropriations, please contact Paul Dean of APTA’s Government Affairs Department at (202) 496-4887 or

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Massachusetts Closes In On Cause
Of ‘Big Dig’ Lighting Fiasco

From The Boston Herald And By DF Staff

BOSTON — The Big Dig, the wildly over-budget project that re-located an elevated expressway to a series of tunnels beneath Boston, and which made unfortunate news five years ago when a section of suspended ceiling mounted via expansion bolts gave way, killing Melinda Del Hales and injuring her husband Angel, was in the news again recently when a heavy light fixture collapsed onto the roadway, this time killing no one.

The Boston Herald reports: “State Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Mullan says investigators are close to determining what caused a corroded 110-pound light fixture to fall from the ceiling of a Big Dig tunnel in February.

Mullan told a legislative committee Tuesday the corrosion may have been started by contact between two different kinds of metal in the light fixture, and made worse by salt from snow and ice removal efforts.

No one was hurt when the fixture crashed to the roadway but it prompted a review of about 25,000 in Big Dig tunnels. Mullan says fewer than 2 percent were found to have similar problems.

Two per cent would seem like a trivial number, noted one outside expert, until you realize that a similar crash rate in, say, the airline industry, would kill more than a hundred thousand people a year.

The Herald continued: “Mullan says it’s not determined if the corrosion resulted from a design or installation flaw. But he says the state could go after contractors for the cost of replacing the defective fixtures.”

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HSR... HSR...  

Budget Cuts Could Harm Some
California High-Speed Rail

From The McClatchy Newspapers
Reporter: Michael Doyle

WASHINGTON --- California’s ambitious high-speed rail project could slow down a little under the last-minute budget deal that’s kept the federal government open.

As a lead-up to what lawmakers call the largest spending cut in U.S. history, negotiators lopped $1.5 billion from federal high-speed and intercity rail funding.

The move lets states keep high-speed rail funds they’ve already been promised, but reduces the new money they can obtain.

“It would have helped,” California High-Speed Rail Authority spokeswoman Rachel Wall said Monday. “Obviously, if there was money available, we could put it to work.”

The cut still preserves $1 billion for federal high-speed and intercity rail projects, for the fiscal year that ends Oct. 1.

The high-speed rail funding cut is part of $2 billion in housing and transportation spending reductions agreed to by White House and congressional negotiators late Friday night.

Negotiators folded the reductions into a stop-gap measure, which keeps the government open while the finishing touches are put on a much-larger $38 billion package of cuts.

“(These initial) spending the American people that we are serious about cutting spending wherever and whenever we can,” declared Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

The House and Senate will vote on the overall $38 billion budget-cutting bill sometime this week. Few details were available Monday about the specific additional reductions.

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Other Voices:


High-Speed Rail Will Be A Long-Term Effort

By Rick Harnish
Executive Director
Midwest High-speed Rail Association

Thanks to everyone who sent emails to Congress last Monday night (April 4). Unfortunately the high-speed rail appropriation in the FY2010 budget was cut from $2.5 billion down to $2.1 billion. Worse yet, the entire $1 billion FY2011 appropriation has been completely eliminated.

While these cuts are very upsetting, we should not be discouraged at this setback. Just as high-speed rail is a long-term investment, making high-speed rail happen will be a long-term effort.

Our economy is changing quickly, and high-speed rail - linked with expanded transit - will help us adapt to the new reality. But, as Ohio Governor Kasich says, “Change is hard.” We are working for a massive change in transportation policy, and it will take a lot of work to make that happen.

President Obama has done more to change the transportation paradigm in this country than anyone in the last half-century. We need to celebrate the huge progress we have made, and then get out and fight for more change.  The next fight starts soon, as Congress deals with the debt ceiling and the 2012 budget, so it makes sense to send Washington another email:

Also, it is critical that we continue to build a much stronger case for the President’s vision.

And we are doing that now. Please join us at our annual meeting on April 30 in Chicago: We will announce a new initiative to help make the vision of high-speed rail a reality.

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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Massachusetts To Confront Poor Commuter Rail Service
With New Equipment, Staff Retraining

By DF Staff And From The Boston Globe
As Reported By Sean P. Murphy

BOSTON --- Massachusetts transportation officials are scrambling to confront and reverse declining reliability in its commuter rail service, once seen as one of the best-run systems in the nation.

The system has been operated since 2003 by a private company, MBCR, when Amtrak refused to so much as bid on a state Request For Proposals that it said at the time would lead to poor service.

The Boston Globe’s Sean Murphy reports this week that the MBTA is promising major changes in the way MBCR, its contractor, operates the extensive rail system, once one of the most successful in the country and created by former Governors Frank Sargent and Michael Dukakis in the 1970’s and 1980’s:

“Passengers will definitely see improvement,” said James O’Leary, head of the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail Co.

After a winter of repeated commuter rail failures, top state public transportation officials assured a panel of legislators [this past week] that acquisition of new locomotives, retraining of maintenance staff, and other steps would get the trains running on time, reported the Globe’s Sean Murphy.

“We want to make it clear that the level of service that our customers experienced this past winter season is absolutely unacceptable,” said state Transportation Secretary Jeffrey B. Mullan. “We are not here to make excuses.”

Mullan said on-time performance for January for the 13 commuter lines running out of North Station and South Station in Boston was 72 percent — far lower than its goal of 95 percent, the Globe reported.

“We failed in our mission of excellence,” said Mullan during a two-hour afternoon hearing in the State House called by the Legislative Joint Committee on Transportation in response to commuter rail complaints.

Several legislators, including Thomas M. McGee, Senate chairman and a Democrat from Lynn, and Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan, Democrat of Leominster, made it clear that late and delayed trains had many of their constituents peppering their offices with complaints.

“Do you know how long 2 1/2 hours can seem when you are stuck on a train after working all day and you have to get home to pick up your kid at day care?” said state Representative David Linsky, Democrat of Natick, referring to a Feb. 28 train out of South Station that took four hours to reach its last stop in Worcester because of engine troubles.

But for the most part, Mullan and Davey appeared to placate legislators with repeated references to the recent purchase of two diesel-electric locomotives, the leasing of another half-dozen locomotives, and the expected delivery of 20 more in 2013.

In addition, they said 75 coaches will be delivered next year, the Globe reported.

“Passengers will definitely see improvement,” said James O’Leary, who heads the private sector company, Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail Co., that has operated the commuter rail system under contract with the MBTA since 2003. Some 70,000 riders are on the system daily, according to the MBTA.

Noting the current contract with MBCR expires in two years, the House chairman, William M. Stauss, Democrat of Mattapoisett, asked what plans the MBTA had for the future operation of the system.

Davey said the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority must decide by the end of the year whether to operate the commuter service itself, solicit bids as before from contractors for a five-year contract, or follow the example of Denver in putting the contract out for a 30-year contract.

The advantage of a 30-year lease is that it would “incentivize a private sector” contractor to make private investments in the system, Mullan said.

Much of the discussion focused on the woeful fiscal condition of the state’s transportation system, which by some estimates requires hundreds of millions a year more in funding for proper maintenance.

But, Mullan noted, the state is still billions of dollars in debt for the Big Dig and other large-scale projects.

What’s more, he said, little help appears likely to come from Washington, where President Obama agreed to a short-term $38 million budget cut. More significant cuts may be in the offing, he said.

“I think that’s going to loom quite large for the Commonwealth, particularly its capital program going forward in both highway and transit,” Mullan said. “We definitely anticipate that happening and need to be prepared for it.”

Sean Murphy can be reached at:

For the complete story go to:

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TRANSITLINES... Transit Lines...  

Austin Plans For More Transit, But It Will Be
A Long Time Coming

By David Peter Alan (While Traveling In Austin)

Austin, capital city of Texas, has a small amount of rail transit; the rest, operated by Capital Metro, is still on buses and will be for the foreseeable future.

There is only one rail line currently operating in Austin, known as the Metrorail Red Line, and it appears that rail transit got off to a rocky start with problems at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and a service that began running only at peak commuting hours.

Now things are looking up in the capital city of the Lone Star State, at least slightly. Since January 17th of this year, mid-day service has been running hourly between the Convention Center in the downtown and Lakeline Station, the next-to-last station on the line. The furthest station, Leander, is still served during peak hours only. Lyndon Henry of Capital Metro’s planning department suggested the addition of mid-day service, and senior management apparently agreed.

Click Image for full-sized map in a new window. ~480k.

Ridership is doing well, according to Scott Gross of the City’s Department of Transportation. Gross said that the line had less than 1000 daily riders when it opened last year, and now it has about 2000. He credited the new mid-day service for much of the increase. There is no regular evening or week-end service yet, but for a major music festival not long ago, South by Southwest operated a special evening service. It was very successful.

Elsewhere on Capital Metro Rail, a second suburban line to Elgin is in the planning stage. Like the presently-operating line, it would feature diesel light rail cars built by Stadler, a Swiss firm. New Jersey Transit runs similar cars in South Jersey, between Trenton and Camden.

Against this backdrop, Austinites are asking for more transit, and the City of Austin is planning to give it to them. Transportation officials have held “scoping meetings” to present their plans for improved transit, including “Urban Rail” and “better bus service.”

The Urban Rail project would provide a new transit corridor between the Mueller Development northeast of the city, through the downtown area, and south to the airport. There would be two corridors on a north-south alignment through downtown: on Guadalupe and Lavaca Streets west of the State Capitol Building and on Congress Avenue and San Jacinto Streets, east of the Guadalupe/Lavaca line. Robert Spillar, Director of Transportation for the City, said that “Urban Rail” means streetcar technology in a light-rail operation.

City transportation officials contemplate a city-run streetcar system that would integrate with the existing Capital Metro bus system and diesel-light-rail “commuter” lines, similar to the system in Portland, Oregon, where there is full connectivity and fare integration between the city-owned Portland Streetcar and the light rail and bus lines operated by Tri-Met (Tri-County Metro).

The scoping process is taking place now in Austin and a Record of Decision (ROD) is expected in the spring of 2013. Construction can begin after that, so it will be another five years or more before service could begin.

Austin rail advocate David Dobbs said, “We need priorities that will get the most bang for the buck. The goal is to get people to the central city, the University [of Texas] area, and other places where the jobs are.” Dobbs is Publisher of Light Rail Now (at and Executive Director of the Texas Association for Public Transportation.

Meanwhile, a new rail corridor is being planned for central Texas. “Lone Star Rail” would run from Georgetown, a college town about an hour north of Austin, southward to San Antonio. Plans call for hourly service every day, with half-hour headways during peak commuting times. Much of the line is historically Missouri Pacific track, now owned by Union Pacific. At the present time, there is only one train between Austin and San Antonio, the Texas Eagle, which makes only one intermediate stop at San Marcos.

Lone Star Rail Map

Part of the Lone Star Rail plan includes building a freight bypass east of the existing line, which would free it for corridor-level passenger service. Trains could go ninety miles (144 kilometers) per hour along Class V track, with positive train control (PTC).

Rider advocates in Austin would welcome the service, but they are concerned that it would cost $3 billion and that funding would not be available in the foreseeable future. According to Dobbs, planners for Lone Star Rail are attempting “to leap from the bottom to the top of a flight of stairs; not an incremental approach.” He suggested that Amtrak run a few more trains on the line to provide a rudimentary corridor operation until a full-service corridor can be developed.

Transit has come a long way in central Texas. Planners anticipate creating 30,000 to 40,000 new jobs in central Austin, and the planned lines should help create those jobs and take people to them. Transit-oriented development (TOD) is also under construction along the existing Metro Rail line, so there is reason to believe that more transit will bring more such development to Austin, giving residents good reason to stay off the highways and take to the rails.

Details on the proposed Austin Urban Rail System can be found at Comments can be submitted through that web site, and will be accepted through Friday, April 29th. Details on the Lone Star Rail project can be found at

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REVITALIZATION LINES... Revitalization Lines...  

Reviving Pawtucket: Back To The Future
Analysis Reveals Blueprint For Today

Guest Post By Maia Small, A Partner At Thurlow Small Architecture.

Pawtucket, Rhode Island --- A city of roughly 73,000 situated just a few miles north of Providence on the Blackstone River. Like many small New England cities, Pawtucket has seen its fortunes ebb and flow with history. It expanded with the industrial revolution in the 1800s, suffered an outflow of manufacturing in the 1930s, lost residents and density to suburbanization and urban renewal in the 1950s and ‘60s, and resurged with real estate growth in the early 2000s.

Many of these eras introduced plans to redesign Pawtucket’s physical environment, and the city today reflects these layered efforts. Its unused train station deteriorates slowly above a closed rail stop. Interstate 95 coarsely cuts off the downtown from its neighborhoods. The core of the city, once a meeting point of historic routes, is now a confusing set of one-way streets and inescapable loops.

Last year, the City of Pawtucket’s Planning Department and the Pawtucket Foundation initiated a project to fix the downtown. Called the Pawtucket Downtown Design Plan, the project’s goal is to improve the city’s infrastructure and, as a result, foster sustainable economic and residential development. The city selected my office, Thurlow Small Architecture, to lead a team of traffic engineers, landscape architects, and regulatory consultants on a 10-month project to study traffic, public space, and zoning.

Before we could solve Pawtucket’s problems, we had to trace their roots. In 1790 Pawtucket presented a vision of America as an urban industrial nation to a receptive Alexander Hamilton, then Secretary of Treasury, as he crossed the Main Street Bridge. The city soon emerged as a dense urban hub connected to commercial corridor spokes. That clear pattern, though still evident today, was later interrupted by major projects intended to benefit the city, like the interstate and the northeast rail corridor, as well as a succession of planning decisions that altered the function of short segments of roadway and intersections.

While likely made with good intentions, these choices inevitably undid established connections. The design team found that linking existing routes, instead of reconfiguring them, could allow people to use their natural instincts to get around. All we had to do in a town developed during the textile era was knit its original threads back together.

The Pawtucket Downtown Design Plan proposes five concepts that look backward to move forward — not through nostalgia but common sense. The first concept reconnects the historic turnpike system, including the former Boston Post Road, so that travelers see clearly how to get to and from Main Street.

Historic turnpike routes all go to Main Street in downtown

The second concept proposed in the Pawtucket Downtown Design Plan identifies Exchange Street as a true place of “exchange” between the highway, the river, the coming train station, and the delineated systems for bicycles, local car and bus traffic, and pedestrians; Exchange Street supports bicycles, buses, pedestrians, and cars.

The third concept in the plan is a parking system that will discourage the creation of new surface parking and decrease the city’s environmental impact. The fourth concept would develop a Riverway that supports public spaces along the mostly undeveloped river and connects them to local neighborhoods; Riverway links green spaces to downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

The final concept, Downtown Guidance, cleans up zoning and land use issues to encourage the pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use development the city wants and discourage the car-dominated, low density it doesn’t.

So the Pawtucket Downtown Design Plan is not really a single “plan” so much as a set of ongoing projects. These efforts may not fix downtown, but they will give the city a solid infrastructural base that provides healthy and clear ways to get around by allowing the city to leverage its many strengths.

Pawtucket is what so many places are not — a small, walkable urban center filled with new and old buildings, neighborhoods of people from all over the world, hardy entrepreneurs, and accessible city government. At just one corner, Fountain and Exchange streets, you can find a world-class theater, a silkscreen company, a high school, a renovated mill full of design companies, a historic armory, and, just across the adjacent river full of wildlife, you reach City Hall, a post office, a public library, and a historic site soon to be the center of a new National Park. What we learned from the downtown plan was that sometimes the best design is simply to make a place evident to itself.

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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

Senate Bill Would Lift Truck Weight Limit
From Existing 80,000 Lb. Max To 97,000 Lbs

By DF Staff And From The Journal Of Commerce Online

WASHINGTON ---Continuing its decades-long assault on the taxpayer-financed public highway system, the trucking lobby this week engineered the introduction of a Senate bill that if approved would allow states to decide whether to allow 97,000-pound trucks on highways, “breaking a 20-year federal freeze on truck sizes and weights” as reported by the Journal of Commerce. The bill is named “The Senate Safe and Efficient Transportation Act,” although many would disagree with the title’s allusion to “safety.”

JOC Reporter William B. Cassidy writes: “It’s the latest action in a long-running battle over the freeze on federal truck size and weight limits Congress imposed in the surface transportation law of 1991. The bill would give states the authority to lift the 80,000 pound gross vehicle weight limit, but only for tractor-trailers with six axles instead of the usual five.

The additional axle does not affect truck size, but it does allow shippers to utilize extra cargo space in the trailer, effectively adding capacity without adding trucks. The Coalition for Transportation Productivity, a group of more than 180 shippers and trucking companies, supports lifting the truck weight limit.

However, the rail industry and many consumer safety groups oppose heavier trucks.

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has urged Congress to continue with policies that support the develop of the US rail infrastructure - and indeed called on it to reject plans like allowing bigger trucks on the roads, which would undermine railroads' ability to compete.

The Senate Safe and Efficient Transportation Act matches an identical bill in the House of Representatives and a Senate bill introduced in the last Congress.

The sponsors of last year’s bill, Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Herb Kohl, D-Wis., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, re-introduced SETA. Each of the sponsors hails from a state where businesses produce and ship heavy goods such as lumber and paper that would benefit from bigger trucks.

[Contact JOC reporter B. Cassidy at Follow him on Twitter at

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Canadian National (CNI)72.7073.88
Canadian Pacific (CP) 62.9563.13
CSX (CSX)76.6676.92
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)59.2056.79
Kansas City Southern (KSU)52.6052.01
Norfolk Southern (NSC)67.7467.69
Providence & Worcester(PWX)15.7016.50
Union Pacific (UNP)98.2795.66

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FREIGHT LINES... Freight Lines...  

Is It Rail Re-Regulation? Or Fairness?


Coal Shippers, Others To Seek Relief
At Rescheduled STB Hearings June 22

From Platts Service And By DF Staff

WASHINGTON --- The on-going struggle between shippers and the railroad industry moves on to the next confrontation June 22, when the Surface Transportation Board hears coal producers’ and others’ complaints that Class I railroads are price gouging “captive shippers” who have no transportation alternative other than their local railroad.

“Coal will play a prominent role in an upcoming hearing on rail industry competition at the Surface Transportation Board, as 10 or more groups representing coal-fired power plants make final preparations to submit comments ahead of Tuesday’s filing deadline.  Five coal producers and traders involved in international coal markets have already filed comments with the STB, as the agency prepares for a June hearing in which it will set out to study how railroad consolidation since industry deregulation in 1980 has affected transportation competition, prices, access and service,” reported Peter Gartrell ( of Platts Service (

“Among the utility groups expected to file Tuesday are the Edison Electric Institute, American Public Power Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Large Public Power Council and the Western Coal Traffic League, sources involved in the process said on condition of anonymity ahead of the filing. Coal-fired power plants will join a diverse coalition of shippers including grain, chemical and industrial shippers, the sources said,” reported Platts.

“Utility groups are expected to support the board’s legal authority to alter its regulation of bottlenecks -- which limit rail customers’ access to multiple railroads -- and reciprocal switching. Utilities also will likely push the board to rethink how the agency evaluates the rail industry’s financial health in relation to regulation and the overall reduction in rail competition, sources said.  Railroads have lined up dozens of letters of support from companies, industry groups and political allies arguing against implementing new regulations that they say would upset the industry’s current business model.  James River Coal, Consol Energy, Rosebud Mining, XCoal Energy and Resources Robinsdale Energy Services are coal producers or traders involved in export shipments that are seeking to keep railroad regulations as they are,” reported Gartrell.

Some 10 members of Congress, including leaders from both parties on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the US House of Representatives, have sent letters opposing additional industry regulations.  Six of the congressional members taking up the rail industry’s cause also are among the top 15 beneficiaries of railroad campaign contributions in the House of Representatives during the 2010 campaign cycle. The group had more than $406,000 donated to them by the industry, led by Florida Democrat Corrine Brown, who alone collected $148,000 from railroads, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.  Another top recipient is Representative John Mica, Republican-Florida, who chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  ”We don’t oppose the idea of the STB holding hearings on these issues but we want to be very clear that deregulation has worked and re-regulation will send this tremendous success story, the freight rail industry, back into the tank,” Mica spokesman Justin Harclerode said.

The Association of American Railroads has vociferously opposed any measures that would re-impose, even slightly, the regulation of the twentieth century (abolished in 1980) that many railroaders identify as the crux of the economic decline endured by the railroads until that regulatory repeal.

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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

The RPA Opinion On The Budget Deal:


“High-Speed Rail Is Down, Not Out” Says
RPA Through The America 2050 Project

From The RPA Of New York City

NEW YORK --- Yesterday, the budget deal hammered out over the weekend by Congress saw the light of day, revealing deep cuts for programs to expand rail infrastructure in the United States. The High-Speed Intercity Rail Program, which had been appropriated $1 billion in the temporary bill passed last week to stave off a government shutdown, was slashed to zero and $400 million was rescinded from the FY 2010 budget.

These cuts to the high-speed rail program are completely out of touch with continued and growing support for passenger rail in the United States. Just last week, 24 states, including 12 Republican governors, the District of Columbia, and Amtrak, half the country, applied for 98 rail projects totaling nearly $10 billion. Amtrak recorded its 17th straight month of year-to-year growth in ridership and is on track to set an all-time annual ridership record, which was set last year.

So why is high-speed rail getting such a bad rap among some Republicans in Congress and in the news media?

The news media smells blood in the water, and has amplified the doubts of those who expect instant success on long-term, complex, multi-year infrastructure projects. Meanwhile, conservative think tanks, like the Reason Foundation, Heritage Foundation, and Cato Institute are waging an effective, coordinated war on the high-speed rail program. Their commentary is recycled in Ken Orski’s weekly Innovation Briefs email, which highlights every commentator’s doubts as evidence that the program is dying on the vine.

High-speed rail’s critics know what advocates ignore at our peril – that a program reliant on annual congressional appropriations is vulnerable to attack. Who is surprised that a wave of newly-elected Republican members of Congress in 2008 seized the opportunity to single out one of President Obama’s signature initiatives and attack it? Until high-speed rail has a dedicated source of funding, like the highway and transit programs, it will always be subject to annual budget battles and the changing political winds of Congress.

Advocates know what the critics ignore at their peril – that high-speed rail creates jobs, boosts economies, promotes regeneration in underperforming cities, and that economists agree that building infrastructure is key to our economic recovery.

While the FY 2011 appropriation is a setback, it should be seen as a minor one in light of the President’s own modest $1 billion proposal for the high-speed program this year. (Why did he set the bar so low in FY 2011? I have no idea.) The battle for next year’s budget begins today for the President’s ambitious, forward-thinking funding proposal of $53 billion over 6 years for high-speed rail.

Yesterday’s budget news underscores the importance of securing dedicated funding for high-speed rail, such as a penny on the gas tax, a percent tax on oil imports, and a passenger rail ticket surcharge that would grow as the program grows over time. Until we secure dedicated funding for this program, it will be no better off than Amtrak has been in waging the annual budget battle in Congress.

About America 2050

America 2050 is a national initiative to develop an infrastructure plan for the United States that will position America for equitable, sustainable and prosperous economic growth. We are developing strategies that anticipate the challenges of rapid population growth, climate change, mobility, and ensuring national prosperity in a changing global economy.

A major focus of America 2050 is the emergence of mega-regions – large networks of metropolitan areas, where most of America’s growth by mid-century will take place – and how to organize infrastructure investments, environmental protection, and economic opportunities for all at this new scale.

America 2050 includes a network of partners in mega-regions across the country developing long-range strategies for sustainable growth and prosperity. For more information, visit our website at

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EVENTS... Events...  

Jonathan Rose To Speak April 26
At Partnership For Strong Communities

Jonathan Rose, the widely accomplished and recognized developer of energy-efficient/green affordable housing, comes to The Lyceum April 26th at 8:30 a.m. for ““We Can Have Our Cake and Eat It Too: Create Affordable, Energy-Efficient Homes Near Transit - And Save The Economy!”  

“The opportunity to create affordable and mixed-income housing in mixed-use developments near the forthcoming Springfield-Hartford-New Haven rail stations and other projects cry out for the experience, ideas and guidance of developers such as Rose,” said Partnership for Strong Communities Executive Director Howard Rifkin.

‘Smart-growth housing and development in transit-rich neighborhoods will enhance the state’s ability to keep and attract skilled, educated labor and new jobs and investment,” said Rifkin. “We will have a thoughtful panel of respondents and hope that you and your colleagues can attend to listen, learn and offer your thoughts and comments at the event. Please have a look at the attached flyer, distribute it widely and register for the event by contacting Laura Bachman at 860-244-0066 or”

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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  •  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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Wick Moorman:


Railway Age Magazine’s Railroader Of The Year
Acceptance Speech

Remarks By Charles W. Moorman
Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer; Norfolk Southern Corporation
Railway Age Railroader of the Year Award
Chicago, Illinois, March 15, 2011


[We thought Mr. Moorman’s acceptance speech was one of the best histories on the leadership of modern American railroading we have heard in a long time, in which he very generously deflected praise for his achievements, giving credit to his predecessors and colleagues. We reprint it here with the permission of Railway Age Magazine ( and of NS Corp]


Thank you very much. Let me start by saying what an extraordinary honor it is for me to be here tonight and to accept this award. As many of you know, I was a self-described kid who loved trains and to be honored with the title of Railroader of the Year by Railway Age is something that is so far beyond anything that I could have conceived of when I was younger, as to be quite simply breathtaking.

Last week I was having dinner with someone who knows our industry well and is very bright, and she asked me why I thought that I had received this honor. She was kind enough to not use the words “how on earth” when she asked, but I think that it’s a question that’s been on a number of people’s minds, as in “Wick Moorman? Railroader of the Year? What’s that all about?” Well, it took me a couple of minutes to figure out, but of course the answer is obvious: This award is really about Norfolk Southern and the great team that we have in our company, and it is with the clear understanding that I’m accepting this award on behalf of everyone in our company that I stand before you tonight.

There are a number of people in the audience that I would like to recognize tonight. First, while there are too many Norfolk Southern folks for me to recognize and thank individually, I would like to say a big thank you to all our senior team—Deb Butler, Jim Hixon, Mark Manion, John Rathbone, Don Seale, and Jim Squires—who like everyone at NS, are not only great railroaders, but great people as well. There are also a lot of great Norfolk Southern customers and suppliers here tonight, and I want to thank all of you as well. Thanks for being here tonight, and thanks even more for the relationships that we have with each and every one of you.

As I mentioned, I was a kid who loved trains, and I often tell people that I am possibly the most fortunate person that one could ever meet. Put another way, I’ve been very lucky and very blessed. The two greatest strokes of good fortune in my life—and I want to be careful to point out here that I’m giving you them in chronological order, and not order of importance—were to go to work for the Southern Railway as an engineering co-op student in 1970, and then to meet my wife, Bonnie, who is here with me tonight, some years later and persuade her to marry me.

Some of you have seen the picture of me in Railway Age from those days when I was a track supervisor, have already probably questioned her judgment, but fortunately, I drove a big yellow Southern Railway pick-up truck, and she told me later that that’s what sealed the deal. Anyway, she has been enormously supportive of me, and tolerant of the railroad throughout the years, and I wouldn’t be standing here tonight were it not for her. By the way, that’s a pretty commonly held belief on the part of those who know me.

In thinking about what to say tonight, I did look at a couple of speeches from past award winners, which seemed to follow an air of reflecting on the past, discussing the present, and then talking about the future. I actually thought about just lifting large parts of Matt Rose’s excellent speech from last year, changing the BNSF stats to NS numbers and giving it again. Of course, Matt had the additional advantage of quoting Warren Buffett, but don’t worry, I’ve figured out a way to get Mr. Buffett into this talk a little later.

Reflecting on the past turns out to be an incredibly easy thing to do when you look at the list of past winners of this award. I’m obviously honored to be up here tonight with several prior honorees, all of whom made great contributions to our industry. I also particularly want to mention David Goode, who at the last minute couldn’t make it here tonight. David, who is one of only two people to be twice awarded the title of Railroader of the Year, was the principal architect of the Norfolk Southern of today. He has been a great friend and mentor to me, and I am very grateful for all of his support over the years.

Another thing that I did in preparation for tonight was to review the list of past Railroaders of the Year and do a little counting, and I’m very proud to say that as of tonight, leaders of NS and its predecessors have won the award more than any other company. It is an extraordinarily illustrious list from start to finish, but, in addition to David, there are three in particular from my formative years that I want to mention. As some of you know, the first recipient of this award in 1964 was D. W. Brosnan, the then-president of the Southern Railway.

Mr. Brosnan was arguably the most influential leader in the past 100 years. Through what one of his contemporaries described as “a strange mixture of genius and ruthlessness,” he almost single-handedly invented or implemented the mechanization of track gangs and car repair facilities; the use of large-scale information technology and telecommunications; the wide-scale use of modern hump yards; what we now call distributed power; modern, high-capacity freight cars which many of you know took a Supreme Court case to make viable, and the list goes on and on. You can look around our company and our industry today and still see his fingerprints.

Mr. Brosnan was succeeded by the equally remarkable Graham Claytor, who truly was what so many people wrongly labeled as, a renaissance man. He was a destroyer captain during the war—the first to arrive at the sight of the sinking of the Indianapolis where he ignored his orders and sailed in with searchlights blazing to find the survivors. After the war, he was a distinguished lawyer, ran the Southern Railway, served as Secretary of the Navy, and ended his career as president of Amtrak. At the Southern, Mr. Claytor brought in a whole new level of management discipline and rigor, and during his administration, the predecessor of Fortune Magazine named the Southern as one of the 5 best-managed companies—not just railroads, but companies—in the nation.

Mr. Claytor was then succeeded by L. Stanley Crane, who as head of Research & Testing, had been one of Mr. Brosnan’s principal assistants in much of the innovation at Southern. Mr. Crane continued the drive for innovation as well as the implementation of more rigorous management principles at Southern, and then took those practices and principles to Conrail where he largely re-invented much of the company and transformed it from a government ward to a profitable company.

All of us who were in MW&S at the time were very supportive of Mr. Crane because of his belief in a strong track structure and the use of welded rail, to the point where one year when we all expected a Christmas bonus and were told that he had decided to buy several trainloads of rail instead, at least the people in the track department thought it was a pretty good idea! So why reflect on these folks tonight? Several reasons: First, I now qualify as an old railroader, albeit with a young wife, and old railroaders like to tell stories about the past.

Second, and more seriously, I was fortunate enough to come to work for the Southern during that time, and while most of the people who work for NS today started their careers with NS, I believe that there is a strong component of SR DNA still in our company today which has been at least partially responsible for our success over the years. For those of you who tell David about this speech, let me hasten to say that there’s some N&W in there, too. Third, and most important, I think that it is instructive to look at the similarities and differences between their days and now to see what lessons might be learned, and that’s what I’d like to spend a few minutes doing this evening.

I’ll start with the differences. While technology has improved dramatically in the past 40-50 years, if Mr. Brosnan were to walk out on the right-of-way today, the changes from the operation of the 70s are impressive but not startling, at least not in the sense that the changes from, say, steam to diesel were. The radical transformations of the industry are in terms of profitability and industry structure. Southern Railway in the 1970s was one of 30-some Class I carriers, only a handful of which were profitable and well-maintained. Much of the industry, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest, was in shambles, and all of us were burdened with excess capacity, burdensome work rules, onerous over-regulation, and what seemed like a never-ending onslaught of competition from the highway.

Well, what a difference 40 years makes! I won’t belabor you with the whole story, but the industry has transformed for the better. We’re down to five Class I’s, all of which are profitable, and all of which are almost as well maintained as NS! Even more remarkable, we all maintained profitability through the Great Recession of 2009, and, as all of you know, we all continued to make significant capital investments as well. Put simply, the rest of the industry looks a lot more like NS than it used to! This transformation was neither slow nor easy, and it had several drivers:

Obviously, the passage of the Staggers Act in 1980 not only allowed the industry to compete on more level terms, but also set the stage for the consolidation and rationalization that was absolutely essential. Second, Presidential Emergency Board 219 and the crew consist agreement of 1991 gave us a huge boost in labor productivity. Third, continued progress in technology of all kinds has also driven substantial improvements in productivity. Needless to say, Norfolk Southern has been an industry leader in this regard.

The last factor in this transformation has had less to do with changes in our industry than fundamental changes in the transportation marketplace. Simply put, by the end of the 1990s, the major railroad companies had largely “right-sized” themselves, both financially and from a capacity standpoint, to handle the traffic levels that they were seeing. Then in the early 2000s, the seemingly unending increase of capacity in the motor carrier industry finally did come to an end. The reasons for that are well known—higher fuel prices, truck driver shortages, and increased highway congestion—all leading to higher motor carrier costs, which drove more and more motor carriers to question if more capacity and the resulting lower prices were really such a good idea.

This tightening of capacity and increased prices drove more volume to the rails, along with the ability for us to realize more value in pricing for our services. This was obviously good for our industry, and I will tell you that it has been equally good for our customers. The reason for that is that our returns have improved, and we have all chosen to invest more and more in our companies to maintain infrastructure, add capacity, and improve service. NS has a record 2011 capital budget of $2.2 billion, and the industry a record $12 billion. As I said before, the industry is in the best shape that it’s been in for many, many years, and that’s good news for not only our companies, but our customers, the communities we serve, and our country.

Let me conclude by talking a little bit about the future. Speculating about the future is always risky, and I heard a great line about this the other day, which reportedly was from Warren Buffett who was quoting, of all people, Mike Tyson. Tyson said, “You know, there were a lot of people who got in the ring with a strategy of how they were going to beat me—and then I hit them.” Regardless of how hard you plan for the future, something is likely to hit you, and that leads me to what hasn’t changed since the days of Mr. Brosnan, Mr. Crane, and Mr. Claytor.

Not long after I got this job, one of my old bosses sent me a few copies of speeches that each of the three had made. I will tell you, incidentally, that when I received them, it really hit me that I now have the same position that each of them had, and they were industry legends, which was a very sobering experience. Anyway, as I read the speeches, a pattern emerged: Half of what they said had no relevance to the present, and the other half were things that I might say tonight. Well, no prizes if you guess that the relevant half had to do with Washington. Washington, with the threat of adverse legislative or regulatory action, is the Mike Tyson in the room, fully capable of knocking the industry back into the shape it was in, in the 1970s.

I’ll give you a couple of examples of how excessive regulations are hurting our industry. Everyone, including me, is pointing to Positive Train Control as one of the most costly and ill-advised pieces of regulatory legislation ever passed, and it is. But while I could rail against PTC all night, I want to instead use the old metaphor about the frogs who are slowly, unknowingly cooked as the water in the pot they’re splashing around in is slowly brought to a boil. PTC is a hot plate—any intelligent frog that hops on it is going to hop right off again. But it’s important to realize while we’re all focused on PTC, regulators are continuing to turn up the temperature on water that is already simmering.

A great recent example is the FRA’s proposal for standards to implement emergency escape breathing apparatus. The proposed standards will cost the industry about $80 million, go well beyond the mandate the FRA is charged to enact, and while the estimated cost-benefit ratio is 6:1, somewhat better than PTC’s 22:1, it’s still wasteful and over-burdensome.

Another example of temperature-raising regulation is the current requirement that we inspect our locomotives every 92 days. This is actually a vestige from steam locomotive days, when there was an actual chance that a locomotive could blow up. It’s an enormously wasteful and expensive practice, which was long ago made obsolete by advances in technology.

Fortunately, there is at least a modicum of hope that some of the more egregious examples of this kind can be changed. President Obama in a recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal called for a fresh look at federal government regulations and then followed it up with an Executive Order on January 18th. The President ordered that regulatory agencies ensure that regulations are cost effective, based on performance standards rather than specifying behavior, as minimally intrusive as possible, and derived collaboratively. To top it all off, in his editorial, the President called for the elimination of regulations that are “just plain dumb.”

As an old industry with long history of regulation, we have a laundry list of regs that clearly need re-thinking. Under the auspices of the AAR, we’ve submitted a list to the FRA and look forward to working with them to come up with better ways to do business. With any luck, we frogs will breathe a little easier at the end of the process.

Beyond all of the regulatory issues that we face today is the possibility of a significant negative change in our current rate regulatory structure. Here I will say that some of the recent comments coming out of the STB as well as their upcoming hearing are a cause for some concern. However, at the end of the day I am confident that no lasting damage will be done.

For one thing (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), our government is much more like George Foreman in his grill-selling days than Mike Tyson in his prime. More important, the vast majority of public policy leaders now believe that the freight railroads are an important part of the solution to the transportation infrastructure problems that confront our nation. The elected officials—federal, state, and municipal; Democrat and Republican alike—that I speak with, all want to talk about how we can invest more to get trucks off the highway and promote economic development. Norfolk Southern has been the industry leader in developing win-win public/private partnerships with the states and the federal government, and we continue to work with government officials at all levels to promote rail investment.

I mentioned earlier some of the factors that contributed to our increasing success over the past 10 years—systemically higher fuel prices, a chronic shortage of truck drivers, and ever-increasing highway congestion. They are all still with us, and coupled with this change in the perception of public policy leaders and the fact that the railroads are the most energy-efficient and ecologically friendly form of freight transportation, they give me reason to believe that the railroads have a bright future, and Norfolk Southern’s future in particular, is very bright indeed. We’re making strategic investments through our corridor strategy, which will make our franchise stronger. We have led, and continue to lead, the charge on corporate sustainability and environmental responsibility, two issues that are very important to me personally.

We understand that we’re a service company, and although we’ve had a couple of recent hiccups, we’ve led the industry in service quality for many years and will continue to do so in the future. Perhaps most important, we have a great culture that has, as its bedrock, our belief in safety, a belief and culture that have led us to 21 consecutive Harriman Gold Medals, and another industry-leading performance in 2010. In short, we have world-class infrastructure, assets, and systems, and above all, Norfolk Southern people who are the best in the business.

It is my high honor to be one of them and to be able to stand here tonight and accept this award on behalf of all of them. Thanks to everyone at Railway Age, thanks to all of you for coming tonight, and be careful going home. Thanks and good night.

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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

Dear Editor:

I read on the National Corridors Initiative’s website the disappointing (but hardly surprising) news of Governor Malloy’s decision to go ahead with the New Britain Busway, despite the powerful arguments and public pressure against it.

Is Governor Malloy’s decision to proceed with the New Britain Busway the last word on the subject, or can it still be stopped? I read on your pages of a move to kill it. What has become of that move? Also, why can’t the monies allocated for this project be spent on the rail alternative instead of being forfeited, as Malloy states?

Why do our elected officials keep on making one bad decision after another?

For the most part, I have concluded that, on some deeply fundamental level, the United States of America is nearly completely unable to stomach rail projects of any kind, and Governor Malloy’s decision here to proceed with the Busway, despite its limitations for the long term, especially its precluding rail in the future, just underscores that fact.

You good bike-rail people might as well be conversing with brick walls for all the good it does you to persuade any of these decision-makers to honestly and fairly consider the rail alternative.

I ask you, at this point: why waste any more of your precious time on these intransigent people?

In my opinion, Connecticut will be the LAST of the fifty-state Union to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into adopting any truly sensible approach to matters concerning rail.

Connecticut’s movers and shakers are 100% highways-oriented, and you MUST face that fact head-on. Governor Malloy is only the latest in a long line of people who WILL NOT CONSIDER RAIL, PERIOD!

Don’t waste another moment of your life trying to persuade him! He may have convinced you he was giving you an honest hearing to your ideas and recommendations, but pretense to listening is all he ever offered.

Eric Talbot
Chicago, Illinois

PS: I used to live in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, so I have first-hand knowledge of how your state works. ConnDOT will do anything to widen highways (just look at I-84 east of Hartford, for a good example of its taking highway widening to an extreme) but don’t fool yourselves for one moment that ConnDOT or Connecticut politicians will ever favor a rail project. The New Britain Busway was a done insider deal from the very beginning, and you were all just being strung along.

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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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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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