The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Destination:Freedom

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

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

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

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July 11, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 27

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

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

  News Items…
US DOT “Obligates” Rail Grant To Improve
   Former Vermonter-Montrealer Right-Of-Way
  Legal Lines…
Amtrak Files Suite Against Trucking Company
   Over Zephyr Accident
  Off The Main Line…
In Europe, Irking Drivers Is Urban Policy
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Commentary…
House Transportation Plan Leaves Us Addicted To Oil
  Other Opinions…
Our Views: Many Steps For New Rail
  Publication Notes …


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

US DOT “Obligates” Rail Grant To Improve

Former Vermonter-Montrealer Right-Of-Way
By DF Staff And From High Speed Rail Updates
Via Progressive Railroading
Found At:
http://www.hsrupdates.com/

WASHINGTON ---- The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has “obligated” $72.8 million in High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program funds to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), which will use the money to restore to passenger rail standards a 50-mile stretch of Pan Am Railroad (formerly Guilford Transportation) freight track that was formerly used as the main route through Massachusetts for the former Montrealer and its current incarnation the Vermonter, which stops at the international border in St. Albans, VT. The plan got Federal approval on January 28, 2010.

Obligating the money, or legally transferring it to the implementing agency, prevents Congress from rescinding the monies; the Tea Party-dominated House of Representatives has threatened to take back the funds for any rail projects not already so obligated, and indeed took back $400 million from Florida’s $2.4 billion rejected by that state’s Governor Rick Scott, reducing by that amount monies for other rail projects in the queue, but not far enough along in the design process to enable obligation

The money will be used to restore a 50-mile rail line between Springfield and East Northfield, Mass., along the Connecticut River Valley. The improvements will enable Amtrak to cut travel times on its Vermonter line — which runs between St. Albans, Vt., and Washington, D.C. — by nearly 30 minutes, because it will eliminate the need to back into Springfield from the present Palmer, MA route.

The project will raise transportation issues with Palmer, where a new casino is planned although not yet approved by Massachusetts, and for Amherst, home to both Amherst College and the giant UMASS-Amherst campus, which will lose passenger rail service. However, the New England Central Railroad, which owns the Palmer line now in use, is proposing improvements to the line to permit passenger service down from Vermont to New London via Storrs, Willimantic, and Norwich, maintaining not only Amherst rail service, but adding Storrs (the University of Connecticut, 17,000 students) Willimantic (Eastern Connecticut State College, 5,300 students), and Norwich (Mohegan Sun Casino, Foxwoods Casino).

The Massachusetts portion of the Vermonter corridor first was built in the 1800s. In the 1980s, Amtrak shifted its service to a line located farther east because of deteriorating track conditions on the original line. The original passenger route is located on Pan Am Southern Railway’s Connecticut River mainline. MassDOT also plans to use the federal grant to build stations in Greenfield and Northampton.

Last year, the USDOT obligated $50 million in HSIPR program funds to the Vermont Agency of Transportation to improve 190 miles of track between St. Albans and Vernon, shaving 30 minutes off Vermonter travel times within the state. Longer term, the improvements being made in Vermont and Massachusetts will increase reliability and enable future service expansion to Montreal.

Canada, especially Quebec, strongly supports restoration of the Montrealer; security and cross-border issues have complicated that return, as has the expense, but observers report that some progress is being made.


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LEGALLINES... Legal Lines...  

Amtrak Files Suite Against Trucking Company Over Zephyr Accident

By David Peter Alan

Five days after a truck slammed into Amtrak Train #5, the California Zephyr, at a remote highway crossing in Nevada, Amtrak filed suit against the trucking company. The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, on June 29th. (Case No. 3:11-cv-00461). The sole defendant is John Davis Trucking Company, Inc., allegedly a Nevada corporation and the owner of the truck that crashed into the train, killing the driver and a conductor on the train. The estate of Lawrence Ruben Valli II, the truck driver who was killed in the accident, was not named as a defendant.

Factually, Amtrak alleged that the crossing gates at the site of the accident were working and that the engineer sounded the train horn as a warning that the train was proceeding toward and through the crossing. The complaint says: “Before the accident, the crossing protection controls were activated, and the horn of the locomotive on the Amtrak train was sounded alerting all vehicle traffic not to enter the crossing and the AMTRAK train’s right-of-way. The Peterbilt tractor-trailer combination operated by Valli failed to heed the warnings, crossing protection controls and the locomotive horn, and entered the crossing, broad-siding a car of the AMTRAK train on the left side. Amtrak employees and passengers in the involved trains [sic] were killed or injured as a result of the accident” (Complaint, paragraphs 9 and 10).

Amtrak alleged that John Davis Trucking had negligently owned, operated, maintained, inspected and entrusted the tractor-trailer to Valli, and that John Davis Trucking knew or should have known that Valli was unqualified to operate the tractor-trailer (Paragraph 13). Amtrak also alleged that Valli knew or should have known that he was not qualified to operate the tractor-trailer, but operated it anyway (Paragraph 14).

Regarding damages, Amtrak alleged that they will exceed $10 million (Paragraph 15), including loss of the use of the damaged cars, loss of business because the cars are out of service, and expenses associated with service interruptions (Paragraph 16). Amtrak also claims damages for other accident-related expenses, including accident investigation and cleanup, cost of meals, lodging and alternate travel for passengers, and medical treatment for employees (Paragraph 17).

Amtrak demanded damages, interest and costs of the case, even though the actual amount of damages has not yet been determined. Amtrak also demanded a jury trial. These are standard practices in cases of this sort.

The complaint itself is a relatively standard one for a property-damage case. What is unusual is that the case was filed in Federal court. Most cases of negligence involving personal injury or property damage are heard in the state courts, in the state where the incident occurred. In all likelihood, there will be other actions filed in the Nevada courts, resulting from the same accident.

The jurisdiction of the Federal courts is specific; many Federal cases involve issues about Federal statutes or rules. For example, issues about copyright law (a Federal statute) or a ruling by the Federal Railroad Administration (a Federal agency), are always litigated in Federal court. In the Amtrak case, Federal jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship of the parties; Amtrak is chartered in the District of Columbia, while John Davis Trucking is a corporation chartered and maintaining its principal pace of business in Nevada. In addition to the different states of “residency” of the parties, the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000, so the case is appropriate for the Federal court system.

Since state courts normally hear negligence cases, the state law concerning personal injury and property damage controls. In this case, the Federal judge is required to apply the state law of Nevada on these issues, including how damages are calculated.

The next step will be for John Davis Trucking to file an Answer. Typically, the defendant will admit its existence, and also deny all allegations of liability. The answer should be filed within the month, unless John Davis Trucking is given an extension of time to file. At some time in the proceedings, Amtrak will be required to file a detailed Statement of Damages, since Amtrak alleged that it does not know the exact amount of damages at this time.

After these papers (collectively called “pleadings”) have been filed, the next step will be discovery. This is a process that the parties use to collect information they need to prepare for trial. The discovery process normally includes demands for documents and information, and depositions, where a potential witness is questioned before trial.

Depending on when all of these steps are completed, as well as any backlog of cases on the court docket, it will probably be at least a year or two before the matter comes to trial. Maybe the case will be settled before a trial begins, maybe it will be settled during trial, and maybe a jury will decide. There may also be cases brought in the Nevada courts by individual victims. Any other state or Federal cases arising from the same accident may be consolidated for trial; a move that allows a single judge and jury to try all of the claims arising from the accident. Consolidation allows a single trial to resolve the issues, but it also makes discovery and trial preparation more difficult.

In the meantime, we know that at least six persons have died, several more were injured, and Amtrak has lost two passenger cars which they needed to provide capacity for passengers during the busy summer season.

David Peter Alan is an Attorney at Law admitted to practice in the State of New Jersey, as well as a Registered Patent Attorney. His practice does not include personal injury litigation, and he does not practice in the State of Nevada. This article is intended to serve as a discussion of general legal principles, and is not intended to constitute a legal opinion on the substantive or procedural merits of the case discussed.


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

In Europe, Irking Drivers Is Urban Policy

Reported In The New York Times By Elisabeth Rosenthal
Opening Commentary By DF Staff

WASHINGTON --- The Paranoid Right in America continues to proclaim, via Amtrak-bashers like pundit George Will, that there is a conspiracy to deprive Americans of their cars so that we are “forced” to take the train “communally” (how else does one do that?) --- never mind that forcing Americans out of their cars is not a “socialist” conspiracy, but rather a result of the price of oil and the expense of highway maintenance (tax-subsidized far more than Amtrak ever has received, or will) and, as petroleum production passes peak and ever more costly and dangerous ways are found to produce fossil fuels, it appears that in Europe some city planners are actually doing just that.

New York Times reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal wrote recently:

ZURICH — While American cities are synchronizing green lights to improve traffic flow and offering apps to help drivers find parking, many European cities are doing the opposite: creating environments openly hostile to cars. The methods vary, but the mission is clear — to make car use expensive and just plain miserable enough to tilt drivers toward more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.”

“Cities including Vienna to Munich and Copenhagen have closed vast swaths of streets to car traffic. Barcelona and Paris have had car lanes eroded by popular bike-sharing programs. Drivers in London and Stockholm pay hefty congestion charges just for entering the heart of the city. And over the past two years, dozens of German cities have joined a national network of “environmental zones” where only cars with low carbon dioxide emissions may enter,” she continues.

“Like-minded cities welcome new shopping malls and apartment buildings but severely restrict the allowable number of parking spaces. On-street parking is vanishing. In recent years, even former car capitals like Munich have evolved into ‘walkers’ paradises,’ said Lee Schipper, a senior research engineer at Stanford University who specializes in sustainable transportation,” wrote Rosenthal.

“ ‘In the United States, there has been much more of a tendency to adapt cities to accommodate driving,’ said Peder Jensen, head of the Energy and Transport Group at the European Environment Agency. ‘Here there has been more movement to make cities more livable for people, to get cities relatively free of cars,’ ” wrote the Times’ reporter.

For the complete report go to http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/27/science/earth/27traffic.html


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)79.1960.29
Canadian Pacific (CP) 62.4914.88
CSX (CSX)26.6281.05
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)59.6126.81
Kansas City Southern (KSU)59.5476.93
Norfolk Southern (NSC)75.6863.44
Providence & Worcester(PWX)14.9060.61
Union Pacific (UNP)104.30106.76


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

House Transportation Plan Leaves Us Addicted To Oil

From Sierra Club “Green Transportation Campaign”

Autos in traffic

Image: Sierra Club   

Imagine a country where 50% of the roads are in “ less than good condition” and one in eight of our bridges is structurally deficient. Only half of citizens have access to public transportation at a time when spiking gas prices are squeezing wallets. Sounds like something from the last century, right? Shockingly, that is the state of America's transportation system right now.

Yet transportation legislation proposed yesterday by House Republicans seems determined to keep our transportation system mired in the last century and leave us addicted to oil.

Unlike previous transportation bills, the six-year transportation authorization from House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Mica (R-FL) is a partisan, tea party-driven proposal that would dramatically reduce spending on our crumbling roads and bridges, rollback critical environmental reviews and under-invest in transportation choices that can reduce our dependence on oil, such as transit, biking and walking.  According to the Federal Highway Administration, such a proposal could cause nearly 500,000 jobs to be lost.

Here are a few of the many elements in the Republican proposal to be concerned about, including the following provisions:

  • Cutting overall investment in our transportation system by 34%.
  • Rolling back critical elements of the environmental review process.
  • Eliminating dedicated funding for biking and walking infrastructure.
  • Reducing funding for public transit and eliminating critical transit programs.
  • Cutting Amtrak's operating budget by 25% and significantly reducing investment in intercity rail.
  • Focuses road spending on a dramatically smaller set of roadways, jeopardizing a critical tool for cities and metropolitan areas to meet their transportation needs.

The Senate, led by Chairman Boxer of the Environment and Public Works Committee, has an opportunity to propose a transportation bill that will invest in America's infrastructure, put people to work and help reduce our dependence on oil. In May, Chairman Boxer and Senator Inhofe released a set of bipartisan principles for a transportation bill which hold promise.

For the sake of our economy, national security and our environment, it is critical that Congress act on transportation legislation that repairs and maintains the infrastructure we have, prepares us to lead in the 21st century and helps end our dependence on oil. House Republicans haven't gotten the memo. Let's hope the Senate has.

-- Jesse Prentice-Dunn, Sierra Club Green Transportation


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OTHER OPINIONS... Other Opinions...  

Our Views: Many Steps For New Rail

From The Advocate Of Baton Rouge, LA
By Advocate Opinion Staff; Used By Permission

Found At:
http://theadvocate.com/news/opinion/299696-64/our-views-many-steps-for.html

Think about passenger trains, and the images might well be the sleek “bullet trains” of Europe and the Acela trains used on Amtrak’s few high-speed routes in the northeastern United States.

The reality is much more modest: While America needs a high-speed rail network, most passenger trains for the foreseeable future will look much like they did 50 years ago.

That’s because passenger rail in this country has to catch up compared with Europe and China. There, high-speed rail is a reality that is changing the way people live and improving the economies of those regions.

At the Press Club of Baton Rouge, a Union-Pacific railroad executive noted that passenger rail is now a subject of much discussion in the United States, but that implies considerable use of tracks now used for freight — also vital to the economy of this country.

“We want to make sure our customers are protected,” Robert W. Turner of the railroad said. “At the same time, if there are opportunities where we can work with passenger rail, we will.”

For genuine high-speed rail, as that envisioned now in California, dedicated tracks will be required for the passenger trains that run at much higher speeds and have other requirements, Turner noted. “You have to have complete separation (because of speed differentials),” he said.

In Louisiana, revival of passenger service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is a goal of business and political leaders in both cities. FutureBR, our city’s new master plan, envisions a $450 million project to launch service on existing tracks.

In 2009, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration said it would not pursue $300 million in federal funds to help launch the passenger rail service, saying it would be too costly to build and maintain.

Given the furor over Jindal’s opposition to the idea, it’s worth noting Turner’s comments. While the difficulties can be overcome, as they have in other states with passenger rail on regular tracks, the process of making passenger rail a reality requires careful planning.

It’s more than simply buying a locomotive, then starting to sell the cocktails to warm the passengers bound for the French Quarter in New Orleans.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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