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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June 27, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 25

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

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

  News Items…
At Least Two Killed As Truck Rams Amtrak Train
  Political Lines…
Rail Caucus Blasts Mica/Shuster Rail Bill: As Anti-Amtrak
   ‘Purely Ideological Gesture’
Amtrak States It Should Be ‘Key Partner’
   In Northeast Corridor High-Speed Rail’s Future
  Legal Lines…
Natural Resources Defense Council Threatens Suit Over
   Diesel Locomotive Emissions At Rail Yard
  Station Lines…
The Mystic Depot Vestibule Project
  Select Rail Stocks…
  Off The Main Line…
A Trip Back In Time in Delaware
Virginia’s Stake In Northeast Rail Corridor
Grade Crossing Safety Is Not An Academic Subject
  Publication Notes …

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

At Least Two Killed As Truck Rams Amtrak Train

From Multiple Internet Sources

NEVADA --- Two people have been confirmed dead, an Amtrak conductor and a truck driver, after a semi trailer truck slammed into an Amtrak train shortly after 11 a.m. local time in rural Nevada.

The California Zephyr was on its way to Emeryville [Oakland / San Francisco] California from Chicago, Amtrak reported this weekend in the aftermath of the deadly crash.

Burning wreckage of the California Zephyr

All images via Reno-Gazette Journal (www.RGJ.Com) and various contributors.

Passengers flee the burning wreckage of the California Zephyr.

The California Zephyr (Trains 5 & 6) operates daily between Chicago and Emeryville, California. The train involved in this incident left Chicago on Wednesday, June 22. It was operating on tracks owned and maintained by Union Pacific Railroad. Approximately 204 passengers and 14 crew members were aboard at the time of the incident, Amtrak said.

Wreckage of the truck that hit the CA Zephyr

Wreckage of the truck that hit the train is scattered about the area of the grade crossing. The train is seen stopped down the track where it finally braked to a stop.

In addition to those killed, at least 20 passengers and crew were reported injured in the fiery crash, which destroyed an Amtrak transition sleeper and a Superliner car.

The lead locomotives sit idle away from the train.

Separated from the burning wreckage, the lead locomotives sit idle away from the train.

A transition sleeper is two-story passenger rail car with a high-level vestibule at one end, connecting to the rest of the train following, and a standard-height vestibule at the front or locomotive end, connecting to the locomotive or in some cases a single-level baggage car. It is used as a crew dormitory car on long-distance trains. “Superliner” cars are also two-story passenger cars. They are used on Western trains; East Coast-to-Chicago trains are restricted to single-level cars by height limitations of 19th century tunnels still in use on the a East Coast, including Baltimore, except for a handful of Eastern trains that use high-clearance tracks such as the Capitol Limited (Washington-Chicago).

The burned out hulks of the two cars

Post mortem. The burned out hulks of the two cars are searched by area fire and rescue personnel.

“We felt the impact and we looked out the window. It was engulfed in flames,” one passenger said, according to news reports from the scene.

“Amtrak’s first concern is caring for their customers and employees. People with questions about their friends and family aboard the train can call 1-800-523-9101 for information,” the railroad said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

[Webmaster Note: An image gallery of 38 photos from the scene are available at the Reno-Gazette Journal:

For a video clip see KTVN, Ch2 at:

For additional commentary on this item please see the editorial section below. As DF went to press the potential for additional casualties was yet to be determined.

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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

‘House Committee Plan Would Destroy Amtrak, Hurt Rail Passengers Nationwide’


Rail Caucus Blasts Mica/Shuster Rail Bill:
As Anti-Amtrak ‘Purely Ideological Gesture’

From The Congressional Bicameral High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus

WASHINGTON – Nine Co-Chairs and Vice-Chairs of the Bicameral High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus have blasted House Transportation &Infrastructure Chairmen Mica and Shuster’s plan to privatize Amtrak’s northeast corridor.

Co-Chairs Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Reps. Louise Slaughter (NY-28), John Olver (MA-1), Corrine Brown (FL-3) David Price (NC-4) and Tim Walz (MN-1) along with Vice Co-Chairs Earl Blumenauer (OR-3) and Laura Richardson (CA-37) said,

“The Northeast Corridor is by far Amtrak’s most successful corridor, exceeding all others in passengers and profit. What it suffers from, however, is the tendency to be used as a political pawn.

“Today Chairmen Mica and Shuster presented a plan to sever the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak’s most-traveled route, from the rest of America’s passenger rail network. It would dismantle the nation’s rail infrastructure and purposely put into jeopardy America’s passenger rail network. It is clear the profits from the Northeast Corridor are the backbone of Amtrak, which carried 10.4 million passengers in 2010, and yet they insist on separating it.

“We’ve seen this proposal before, when the previous Administration presented a similar plan veiling an attempt to dismantle Amtrak under the guise of supposed better service, and again we understand this to be a purely ideological gesture. The authors of this proposal won’t be happy until Amtrak is a distant memory, until every ticket taker and conductor is out of work and the millions of people who ride Amtrak every year are left without.

“We agree that private investment is needed in America’s rail system and support Amtrak’s plan to attract private investment. But what we don’t support is rolling out the red carpet to foreign companies and Wall Street asking them to take over the operations of America’s railroads.

“For too long, the Northeast Corridor has been used as a talking point for anti-government ideology. The Northeast Corridor is profitable and popular. For the sake of rail passengers and tax payers nationwide, it must remain a part of Amtrak.”

In March, the founding co-chairs joined together at Union Station to announce the formation of a coalition that will serve as the leading advocates to advance high-speed and intercity rail programs across the country. Today, the Caucus is bipartisan, bicameral and has grown to include 12 Senators and 41 Representatives.

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‘Mica /Shuster Plan Has Unrealistic Time Schedules And Will Cost Taxpayers More Money’


Amtrak States It Should Be ‘Key Partner’
In Northeast Corridor High-Speed Rail’s Future

WASHINGTON – Below is a statement from Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman who testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this past week regarding proposed high-speed rail legislation introduced by Reps. John Mica and Bill Shuster.

Attached is written testimony with a letter to the committee describing Amtrak’s concerns.

In his prepared testimony Boardman stated:

“Amtrak Acela service demonstrates that high-speed rail can be competitive in the United States. Without it, this debate would not exist.

“Our next-generation high-speed rail plan has received many positive international peer reviews and we are now moving forward on implementation.

“Key to that progress will be for Amtrak to secure private funding using more creative approaches than we have been open to in the past. The world’s infrastructure needs have created new financial tools for major world class projects such as ours. Amtrak intends to use those tools to realize our plan.

“We believe the approach outlined in the Mica / Shuster legislation risks slowing, rather than advancing the development of high-speed rail on the Northeast Corridor. It will introduce unrealistic time schedules and assumptions; it will fail to provide adequately for transportation safety and security; and it will be more expensive.

“Under the Mica / Shuster proposal, the potential for service disruption, safety failures and the failure to understand the environmental protections is too great a risk. It would set back the development of high-speed rail by ten years or more and will cost the economy of the Northeast and the United States taxpayer a great deal more money.”

[Amtrak’s high-speed Acela service was made possible by the completion of the electrification of the Northeast Corridor 1991-1999 between New Haven and Boston, a project itself made possible only when the bi-partisan National Corridors Initiative negotiated at the White House an end to Bush (I) opposition to the project. In September of 1991, the first $125 million, authorized by the Congress when Jimmy Carter was President, was finally appropriated. The project was first proposed in 1912, upon the electrification of the line between New York City’s Grand Central Terminal and New Haven — Editor’s note.]

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LEGAL LINES... Legal Lines...  

Natural Resources Defense Council Threatens Suit
Over Diesel Locomotive Emissions At Rail Yard

From Internet Sources

LOS ANGELES--- While environmental groups have become increasingly pro-rail in recent years, one organization, the Natural Resources Defense Council, is taking a different tack because of concerns over diesel pollution.

“California’s two major rail yard operators are illegally disposing hazardous waste, thereby increasing the risk of serious health problems such as chronic respiratory disease and cancer in neighboring communities,” according to a 90-day notice letter sent June 21 by the Natural Resources Defense Council, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, and the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice.

The letter contends “…that the rail yard operators are in violation of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act due to the high levels of particulate matter released by their diesel-based operations.

“People living near these rail yards are exposed to startling levels of pollution and carcinogens every day,” said David Pettit, NRDC senior attorney. “Poisoning people should not be a cost of doing business in California.”

The letter of intent is directed to Union Pacific Corporation (UP), Burlington Northern Santa Fe, LLC, and BNSF Railway Company (BNSF), the only two major railroads that haul freight in California. Much of the containerized freight that travels from Asia to the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland is transferred onto diesel trucks that transport the containers to local and regional rail yards for transfer onto trains powered by diesel locomotives and then shipped throughout the United States. 

“Communities surrounding rail yards need relief now,” said Angelo Logan, executive director for East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice. “We have been patiently working with both regulator and the rail companies for years, with no resolve. Health protective technologies and fixes exist. It is time for the rail companies to be good neighbors and right the wrongs they have imposed on California communities.”     

“Millions of Californians inhale toxic diesel particulate pollution generated annually by rail yards,” stated the NRDC in a press statement. “California’s Air Resources Board has struggled for years over how to regulate diesel pollution from railroads, and despite recent efforts by federal EPA, communities in close proximity to rail yards remain vulnerable to the serious health risks posed by these facilities. The health dangers of diesel particulate emissions are well-known. Increased incidence of cancer, asthma, and respiratory and cardiac conditions are attributed to inhaling diesel particulate matter. Communities residing even miles away from busy rail yards can face increased risk of cancer”.

“Families at the fence line of the rail yards and rail lines pay an exorbitant price in terms of their health and quality of life,” said Penny Newman, Executive Director for CCAEJ. ”While the railroads have outlined extra steps they are willing to take at proposed new facilities near the ports, they drag their feet at implementing these same technologies at rail yards where health damage has been documented. Before they are allowed to expand their operations, UP and BNSF must take steps now to stop the harm they are doing to these families.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. “Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at“the NRDC stated.

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STATION LINES... Station Lines...  

The Mystic Depot Vestibule Project!

A small-scale improvement at The Depot will help you get to and from Home by Train

By DF Staff

We all know that we could use better train service to and from Mystic, Connecticut, not only for residents, but also for visitors who might like to come other than by the highway – especially with gas at $4-$5 a gallon. We also know there have been many transportation studies over the years that call for just that. Well, we are doing something about it.

View of Vestibule from main waiting room

Two Drawings of to-be-built 24-hour Mystic Depot Vestibule by Katie Bertsche of Mercer Bertsche Architects

View of Vestibule from main waiting room.

This project was assembled by the non-profit National Corridors Initiative ( with the help of the Town of Stonington First Selectman Ed Haberek, the Boy Scouts, Mercer Bertsche Architects, Amtrak, the Mystic Chamber of Commerce, State Sen. Andy Maynard, Mystic Community Bikes, craftsman Peter Roper, Chelsea Groton Bank, Cong. Joe Courtney, Mystic Seaport, the Mystic Aquarium, the Sierra Club of Connecticut, the Old Mystic General Store, and other leaders, friends, and ordinary citizens of the Mystic region. Today’s celebration is a gathering of the community; we will gather again later this year when the project has been completed.

View of ATM and Amtrak Ticket Machine

View of ATM and Amtrak Ticket Machine.

Here’s what it is, and why it is important: Mystic Depot is a small Amtrak station unstaffed by Amtrak. It is open, and its ticket machine accessible, only when volunteers are there during Mystic Chamber of Commerce business hours. That means you often can’t pick up your ticket there and so, for security reasons, you then have to make special arrangements on line with Amtrak, in advance, to board at Mystic without ticket-in-hand. The conductor then has to check you out, confirm that you have a reservation, and issue you a paper ticket on board --- time consuming, and frustrating for all concerned, especially the Amtrak conductors who are busy enough as it is! This makes stopping at Mystic, frankly, a pain.

The solution: we are going to make that ticket machine available 24/7!

Photo: NCI

Station Entrance - The Mystic Depot Amtrak Ticket Machine, and an ATM, will be accessible 24/7.

Ceremony at Mystic Train Station

On a cloudy but pleasant morning last Friday, a small crowd gathered on the flower- bedecked terrace of the historic train station in Mystic, Connecticut, to celebrate the kick-off of the Mystic Depot Vestibule Project. Described in the poster-text above, this enhancement at the Depot will make traveling by rail better for customers and for Amtrak conductors. The ceremony was led by Jim RePass, President and CEO of the National Corridors Initiative, who is spearheading the project. It’s the community helping Amtrak and getting something back when more trains stop in Mystic. Involved in the project --- Northeast Corridor Amtrak officials, a local carpenter, an architect’s design specialist, the Boy Scouts, the First Selectman, a State Senator, local Sierra Club activists and tourism leaders --- all agreed this was a great idea and look forward to the grand opening in the fall.

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Canadian National (CNI)75.2975.44
Canadian Pacific (CP) 58.3360.45
CSX (CSX)24.9924.81
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)55.4854.60
Kansas City Southern (KSU)55.5953.53
Norfolk Southern (NSC)71.6770.97
Providence & Worcester(PWX)14.0014.97
Union Pacific (UNP)100.04100.01

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OFF THE MAIN LINE... Off The Main Line...  

A Trip Back In Time In Delaware

By David Peter Alan

Few tourist railroads are accessible by public transportation, but there is one in Delaware, within a day trip of New York, Washington, D.C. or anywhere in between. It is the Wilmington & Western Railroad, a short line that runs excursions over a ten-mile line from an outlying neighborhood of Wilmington to the town of Hockessin.

The railroad does not go to downtown Wilmington, but it is only one bus ride away from the Wilmington Station, from which Vice-President Joseph Biden commuted to Washington for his entire Senate career. Wilmington is served by most Amtrak trains on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) line, and SEPTA runs local trains between Philadelphia and Wilmington every day except Sunday. Saturday service is limited, but the schedule allows a convenient day trip to ride the Wilmington & Western. The #6 DART First State bus to Newark stops within walking distance of the Greenbank Station, where the trains originate and terminate. From there, you can take a ride back in time.

The Leaf Train

Three Photos - Wilmington & Western Railroad

The “Leaf Train”

The line began service in 1872, as a 20-mile line between Wilmington and Landenburg, Pennsylvania. For many years, it was operated as a branch of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O), and its mileage was cut back twice, to the 10.2 miles operated today. Historic Red Clay Valley, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation that owns the railroad, started running tourist excursions on the line in 1966, leasing trackage rights from the B&O. In 1982, Historic Red Clay Valley bought the railroad and continues to run the excursions today. The railroad also operates local freight service at other times.

A round trip to Hockessin is scheduled to take 2 1/2 hours, so the pace is leisurely. The scenery is not dramatic, but it is pleasant. The railroad describes itself as “Delaware’s operating railroad museum” and there is some truth to that statement. The coaches used on the regular trains were built for the Lackawanna Railroad in 1914 and 1915, and feature open vestibules and rattan walk-over seats. They were known as “Boonton Cars” because the Lackawanna usually ran them on the railroad’s non-electrified Boonton Line, which is still not electrified. The western part of the old Boonton Line is now part of New Jersey Transit’s Montclair-Boonton Line, while the eastern end is part of NJT’s “Main Line”; commuter trains run to and from Hoboken Terminal on both ends today. The historic Boonton cars ran in revenue service until the early 1970s. There is also a de-electrified Lackawanna multiple-unit (MU) car that has been converted to a parlor car for special events. When this writer rode the line last October, a couple got married in that car.

Old #58

Number 58 still does the job.

The railroad owns two operating steam locomotives, which they use on special occasions, usually on holidays and during foliage season in October. Other trains are pulled by 1950s-vintage diesel locomotives, which are considered antiques today. On days when ridership is light, the railroad runs #4662, a 1929-vintage “doodlebug” which saw service on the Pennsylvania Railroad. A doodlebug is a self-contained passenger car, forerunner of the famous Budd Rail Diesel Cars (RDCs) from the 1950s.

Riding the railroad requires planning, and the best experience is only available on selected days. Most trains only go to Mount Cuba, half way to Hockessin. There is a picnic grove there, but opportunities to ride the entire line are comparatively rare. Trains go all the way to Hockessin only on the last Saturday of the month (one run, at 2:30) and on summer holidays. There are more Hockessin runs in October, during foliage season. There is food available in town during the short layover, but watching the crew split and turn the train is interesting (although sometimes the crew backs the train up for the entire return trip).

The Doodlebug

The Doodlebug.

There is another historic attraction within walking distance of the railroad, Greenbank Mill, which is open only on Saturdays. Greenbank Mill is a grist mill that dates back to the early 1800s, and was designed by famed inventor Oliver Evans. The 1794-vintage Phillips Farm, with a historic farm house and livestock, is also located on the grounds. A visit to the mill in the morning and a ride on the train in the afternoon combine to make an interesting and historic Saturday day trip. The train from Hockessin returns to Greenback Station in time to walk to the bus stop, then take the bus to downtown Wilmington and catch the train for home from there.

In addition to the regular excursions, the Wilmington & Western offers a number of special-event trains; the next one is on the Fourth of July to view the evening fireworks in Hockessin. There are also dinner trains, trains for school groups, holiday trains and events that include a Civil War re-enactment and hay rides in the fall.

The complete schedule can be found on the railroad’s web site,, and their phone number is (302) 998-1930. The web site for Greenbank Mill is, and their phone number is (302) 999-9001.

Wilmington is Delaware’s largest city and boasts a number of museums, historic city buildings and other attractions. More attractions, such as historic New Castle, are also located one bus ride away from downtown Wilmington or the Wilmington train station. So are Greenbank Mill and the Wilmington & Western Railroad, a tourist railroad that is unusual because you don’t need an automobile to get there.

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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

Virginia’s Stake In Northeast Rail Corridor

Virginia Rail Observations And Commentary
By Richard L. Beadles
Volume III, No. 11; June 14, 2011.

[We missed running this column last week; our apologies – the Publisher]

Look at a map, look at census data, look at population density, look at transportation options and challenges:  Much of Virginia is arguably an integral part of the Northeast Corridor, with all the benefits and challenges that such proximity to major northeastern urban areas provides.  However, with regard to intercity passenger rail (currently Amtrak), we are in another operating zone:  non-electrified, slow-speed, freight conflicts, etc.  Whether by air, highway or rail, the majority of Virginia-originated or terminated north-south passenger trips are anchored, on one end or the other, in the so-called NEC.  We have a vital interest in what happens north of DC.  That is the subject of the following Virginia Rail O&C --- Dick Beadles.

Let’s hope Virginia transportation officials, and our elected representatives on Capitol Hill, are paying attention, and considering the possible consequences -- some perhaps positive and many others very negative -- associated with House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John L. Mica’s (R. Florida) proposal to strip Amtrak of its exclusive intercity passenger service franchise on, and its current physical control of, the Northeast Rail Corridor (“NEC”) between Washington and Boston.

Mica, a long-time Amtrak critic, who is fond of describing the National Rail Passenger Corporation as a “Soviet-style” ward of the U. S. federal government, does not inspire confidence, nor credibility, in his assessment of Amtrak, nor – to the extent we understand it – by his plan for “privatizing” passenger rail in the Northeast. From the point of view of many informed Virginians, Mica’s “privatization” scheme would likely have some very unsatisfactory ramifications for rail development south of the Potomac.

For starters, all current passenger rail service operating in Virginia, as well as much commuter rail (which is the dominant user of NEC), are to varying degrees dependent upon NEC infrastructure. Obviously, this is particularly true with respect to Amtrak long-distance, regional, and state-sponsored services. The so-called “freight railroads” over which Amtrak operates outside the NEC have shown no enthusiasm whatsoever for a proliferation of private passenger train operators on their lines. Clearly, this could change if the financial rewards perception changed from negative to positive. Mica and company are in no position to award franchises for intercity passenger train operation outside the NEC. What happens if Amtrak is shut out of the NEC? How would Virginia-sponsored service from Boston to Richmond, Lynchburg and Norfolk be impacted?

On the other hand, the NEC has huge infrastructure investment needs, including replacement of post-Civil War-era tunnels in Baltimore and one-hundred-year-old tunnels under the Hudson in New York. Is Mica going to have the U.S. Treasury, through D.O.T., promptly fund replacements, etc.? If the Mica scheme is to produce a European-type high-speed rail line linking D.C., N.Y. and Boston, and then auction off franchises at below-cost (the highway and aviation model), then many operators could do better than Amtrak does today. In fact, Amtrak itself could do much better under that scenario.

Clearly, we do not yet know enough about what is proposed, nor what is possible, but the proposition bears watching, and official intervention in the legislative process by the Commonwealth of Virginia, its legislative representatives, and others is warranted.

It is often easier to find fault than to fix transportation challenges. Pragmatism, rather than ideology, is usually more productive. Keep an eye on Mica and other Amtrak critics. Usually, they are not very well informed. Virginia has too much to lose to sleep past this Approach signal. There may be a STOP signal coming up!

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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

Grade Crossing Safety Is Not
An Academic Subject

By James P. RePass
Publisher, Destination: Freedom

It will come as no surprise to Destination: Freedom readers that this e-zine has railed against our neglected grade crossing safety system, or perhaps more correctly, the non-system.

Re: Amtrak’s Zephyr accident Friday, June 24: How many more lives must be lost in this manner until we start grade-separating crossings as other countries have been doing, aggressively, for decades.

As we have said in the past, no one in his right mind would propose that trucks be allowed to cut across the runway of an airport as a 747 is rolling into take-off, yet at hundreds of thousands of grade crossings in America, every day, that is what we in effect permit.

We say “BTC --- Bridge, Tunnel, or Close It”, starting with any grade crossing used by passenger trains. But the danger isn’t just to the passengers on the train. One day, a tractor-trailer running a grade crossing is going to hit freight rail cars carrying anhydrous ammonia, or some other hazardous material, in an urban environment, and thousands will die. Perhaps then America will get serious about grade crossing safety.

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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.

Web page links as reproduced in our articles are active at the time we go to press. Occasionally, news and information outlets may opt to archive these articles and notices under alternative web addresses after initial publication. NCI has no control over the policies of other web sites and regrets any inconvenience experienced when clicking off our web site.

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

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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.

Destination Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.

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