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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October 3, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 39

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

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

  News Items…
ARC Pronounced Officially ‘Dead’;
   New York/NE Region Looks To Future
High-Speed vs Higher-Speed:
   The Debate Continues
  Transit Lines…
Light Rail Comes To Virginia As Virginians
   Ride The Tide
Cash-Strapped Cities Struggle To Maintain
   Mass Transit System
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Across The Pond…
Work Begins On Moroccan High-Speed Rail Line
Voters To Decide Fate Of Stuttgart 21
   Rail Station Re-Make
Brits To Drive Faster - Hamburg’s New Alcohol Prohibition
Rick Arena Live October 5 In HSR Webcast
  We Get Letters …
  Publication Notes …

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

ARC Pronounced Officially ‘Dead’;
New York/NE Region Looks To Future

By DF Staff

WASHINGTON -- Access to the Region’s Core (the “ARC” project that was originally planned as a new trans-Hudson tunnel through Pennsylvania Station, but changed into a far more expensive NJ Transit-only dead-end-terminal project over the objections of national and regional rail advocacy groups, was quietly pronounced dead Friday last in news released by the US DOT:

The death notice was contained obliquely in a statement issued by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announcing an agreement with New Jersey for that state to repay $95 million in Federal funds that had been expended on the project, which New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie halted when projected budget over-runs topped $8 billion, for which New Jersey taxpayers alone would have been on the hook:

“U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today (Friday, September 30) that he has signed an agreement with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for the state to reimburse the federal government $95 million for money that was supposed to be spent building the ARC Tunnel. New Jersey terminated the project and the Department has been seeking repayment of $271 million in federal dollars spent by the state on the project,” the statement said.

“The $95 million settlement will permit DOT to recover all of the $51 million in New Starts money provided to New Jersey for the ARC Project, so that those funds can be made available to other communities for public transit projects. This amount also recovers approximately 50 percent of the funds provided to New Jersey under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and this money will be returned to the United States Treasury. In addition to the cash payment amount, New Jersey will be required under the terms of the settlement agreement to spend more than $128 million in CMAQ program funds on transit-related projects that have been reviewed and approved by DOT,” the statement continued

The cancellation of the project at the insistence of Gov. Christie divided the advocacy community, with those in favor of the New Jersey Transit-only “ARC,” such as New York City’s Regional Plan Association arguing in essence that any tunnel, even one which cut out Amtrak and Northern New England/Canada from future rail service growth, was better than no new Hudson River tunnel at all that; major national and regional rail organizations, such as NCI and the National Association of Railroad Passengers, New Jersey ARP, and the Lackawanna Coalition, disagreed with that view.

Knowledgeable transportation industry observers noted the similarities between the dead ARC tunnel, and the wildly over-budget Central Artery Tunnel (“Big Dig”) project in Boston, which came in at $21 billion including interest payments, as opposed to the original $2.7 billion estimate. Federal investment was, like the ARC project, also capped; Massachusetts taxpayers are now paying the difference, and will be for decades, whereas New Jersey taxpayers have dodged a multi-billion-dollar bullet.

“There is no doubt that n new trans-Hudson rail tunnel is needed, and indeed has been needed for decades,” stated NCI Chairman and CEO James P. RePass on the settlement announcement. “What was not needed was an over-budget dead-end rail terminal under Manhattan, in an era where most industrialized countries have learned that dead-end terminals in major cities are both dysfunctional and anachronistic.”

A proposal to renew the Pennsylvania Station/through station alignment, the “Gateway Proposal,” is seen as one alternative, and is being advanced by groups such as the Association for Public Transportation, headed by Richard Arena, who also leads Massachusetts’ ARP and is the NY/NJ Director for the National Corridors Initiative.

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High-Speed Vs Higher-Speed:
The Debate Continues

By Paul W. Taylor

Some Studies Say That Sticking With Faster (Rather Than The Fastest) Rail
Would Allow The Northwest To Transport More Riders For Half The Cost;

Found At:

CENTRALIA --- Civic leaders still call their town the “Hub City,” a holdover from its role a century ago as a rail center for the movement of goods and people in all directions. A dozen passenger trains a day -- half northbound, half southbound -- still rumble through this western city of 16,000 that sits equidistant between Portland and Seattle.

They are run by the Washington state government-subsidized Amtrak Cascades passenger service, which has taken a deliberately incremental approach to developing the Cascadia corridor running from Eugene, Ore., to Vancouver, B.C.

Passenger rail service has been central to the corridor’s strategy and is reflected in a 15-year track record of increasing ridership (up 10 percent in the last year alone) and fares that cover nearly two-thirds of operating expenses. The strategy has marshaled local investment in infrastructure and forged partnerships with those who have an interest in the shared rail bed, including cities and towns along the corridor, Amtrak, the freight carrier Burlington Northern Santa Fe, federal funding agencies and regulators.

In the Northwest, passenger rail has purposely taken some of the speed out of high-speed. Instead, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) measures its rail initiatives based on a three-part definition of convenience: reducing total trip time while boosting system efficiency and average speed. Scott Witt, director of WSDOT’s State Rail and Marine Office, says a number of studies all indicate that sticking with faster (rather than fastest) rail would allow the region to realize 90 percent of the ridership and revenue targets at 50 percent of the cost of true high-speed rail, which can peak at 150 mph on Amtrak’s Acela service in the Northeast.

The lion’s share of the $781 million in federal passenger rail funding awarded to Washington is dedicated to raising the average speed by eliminating slow parts of the corridor with new bypasses and other upgrades.

This incremental approach to higher-speed rail has not isolated the service from the complexities of establishing a governance structure for the multi-state, binational effort in which five governments must act in concert with one another. As part of that mix, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is transitioning from being a regulatory and safety organization to one responsible for project delivery, funding and management. Witt, whose career has been in project delivery, notes, “The FRA just has not seen this level of funding and complexity before.”

Still, he remains confident that the state will get there. “Our long-range vision is still to establish a dedicated high-speed track with trains running at up to 150 miles per hour,” says Witt, “but we’re laying the foundation to get there step-by-step.”

Back in the Hub City, Flossie Heymann, who owns and runs Heymann Whinery with her husband, notes that visitors who come by car may stumble upon Centralia’s downtown after shopping at the area outlets, but tourists who come by train arrive on purpose. “They come as couples or in small groups. They know we’re here and come for a day trip of antiquing and exploring our historic downtown.”

For Heymann and other local businesses, trains are an integral part of the downtown, bringing in city people from Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, as well as those who don’t have cars. As she pours some wine for the next tasting at her shop across the street from the station, Heymann coyly adds, “There’s nothing like a little wine while you are waiting for a train.”

[Paul W. Taylor is the editor-at-large of GOVERNING, Chief Content Officer for e.Republic, Inc. and senior advisor to the Center for Digital Government.]

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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

Light Rail Comes To Virginia
As Virginians Ride The Tide

By David Peter Alan

After many years of waiting, light rail has come to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Service on The Tide, a line in Norfolk operated by Hampton Roads Transit (HRT), began on Friday, August 19th. The line is named after the Tidewater region of Virginia, which it serves. It has eleven stops and runs for 7.4 miles, entirely within the City of Norfolk. It touches the historic neighborhoods of Freemason Street and Ghent, and a trip takes 26 minutes. Service is relatively frequent; every 10 minutes during peak hours, 30-minutes late evenings and parts of Saturday, and every 15 minutes at other times. Service runs every day, although the Sunday service day is short, from 11 to 9.

Until now, the only rail transit in Virginia was located in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Several lines on the Metro heavy rail system and two commuter rail lines on Virginia Railway Express run from the District to the Virginia suburbs. Now, there is also rail transit in the southeastern part of the state.

TIDE Transit Service Map

Two Images: HRT

Tide Route Map

The base fare on Tide and local buses is $1.50, although locals crowded the cars during the first 10 days of operation, when no fares were charged for the Tide line. That period also brought a challenge; Hurricane Irene severely disrupted transit and many other life activities on the ninth day of operation of the line.

HRT also operates buses throughout the region and three ferry routes across the Elizabeth River, for foot passengers between Norfolk and Portsmouth. A day pass costs $3.50 and a monthly pass sells for $50.00.

The Tide line is typical of modern light rail lines in the nation. It is not scenic, nor is it technically unique. Still, it is a novelty in its region, and locals enjoyed riding it. They still do, even though they must now pay fares, according to C.K. (Ken) Jordan, a member of the faculty of Old Dominion University (ODU). “The line will have two major benefits,” Jordan said. “First, it will improve the public perception of public transportation. Intercity buses have a negative connotation, while rail has a positive one. Second, rail transit cuts down on road congestion.”

Jordan noted that ridership has remained strong since the semester began at the local colleges, but expressed concern that ridership increases will be limited, as long as the line serves only the City of Norfolk. He praised plans to extend the line to the ODU campus on Hampton Boulevard, the Norfolk Naval Base and Ocean View Park, a large development.

One of the light rail vehicles that ply the line.

Until recently, it was expected that the line would be extended east, into Virginia Beach. A park-and-ride station at Newtown Road is as close as it gets now. Virginia Beach has lost its enthusiasm for the extension, in light of higher-than-expected cost of building the line in Norfolk. These overruns were blamed on former HRT head Michael S. Townes. Townes left his position two years ago, and current CEO Philip Shucet, who presided over the completion of the current Tide line, has also announced that he will leave HRT at the end of next January. Local advocates hope that new leadership and good performance will entice Virginia Beach and other cities to extend the Tide system.

Michael L. Testerman, President of the Virginia Association of Railway Patrons (VARP), said that all the reports he heard about the line were positive, including a sustained daily ridership of more than 7000 customers. “This level of ridership is building credibility and desirability for the system,” he said. He called for expansion of the system in both directions, and looks forward to connections with future Amtrak service at an intermodal station at Harbor Park. Amtrak service to Norfolk would be separate from the existing twice-daily service to Newport News, and Norfolk trains are expected to start running sometime in 2013.

HRT spokesperson Thomas Holden is also looking forward to Amtrak trains that will connect directly with the Tide line, as well as expansion of the light rail system itself. “We’re very happy that it’s been embraced by the community. Ridership numbers have exceeded our expectations,” he said. He also expressed satisfaction that a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) being prepared as part of an application for expansion funding can now use actual ridership figures, which are better than the estimates that were made before service began.

HRT and Virginia transportation officials have big plans for the region. They want to extend The Tide light rail system, add ferry routes and operate commuter rail service in the region. These are long-term plans, few of which would be implemented before 2025. VARP has reported a survey conducted by ODU from last year, which indicated that 91% of respondents favored expanding rail transit. Whether or not that actually occurs remains to be seen. If ridership on the existing line continues to grow, that should help.

David Peter Alan reports on new starts and other topics about rail transit. He rode the Tide on Friday, September 26th and left Newport News on the last Amtrak train before Hurricane Irene disrupted service. For more information on rail transit in Virginia, see the VARP web site, The web site for Hampton Roads Transit is

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Cash-Strapped Cities Struggle
To Maintain Mass Transit System

Atlantic Cities/Urban Wonk/ By Matthew Iglesias

Found At:

Budget conditions for America’s cities continue to be bleak, as reported in a new survey from the National League of Cities. Sales tax revenues remain well below the pre-recession trend, financial assistance from state governments has been slashed, and property tax revenues that normally exhibit little sensitivity to the business cycle have been hammered by the current housing-driven downturn. Mayors hoping for the federal government to step into the breach can find a lot to like in President Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act, which would offer billions to help sustain public sector employment and activity. But the plan contains one unfortunate oversight — ongoing transportation costs where the labor market impact of cutbacks could be particularly severe.

It’s no surprise that mass transit agencies are cutting back service and raising fares. The same thing is happening to public services across the board. But the impact of cuts in this area on the employment situation can be quite dire. A recent University of Milwaukee analysis, for example, found that proposed cuts will cause loss of bus service to 997 employers in the Milwaukee area. A decent chunk of the approximately 8 percent of Milwaukee area workers who rely on mass transit for their commute may be literally unable to get to work.

Many more will experience increased costs and inconvenience—longer waits, higher fares—and the same story is playing out across the country.

This a particularly bad time because economic growth in China, India, and elsewhere has left global oil producers out of excess capacity. Under the circumstances, any substantial reduction in American unemployment is overwhelmingly likely to lead to gas price increases, making it highly desirable to give people more options rather than fewer about how to get to work.

And yet while President Obama is proposing both $35 billion in aid to state and local government and $50 billion in transportation infrastructure, the plan neglects to support operation of the mass transit infrastructure the country already has. Consequently, were the program to pass, a transit agency could find itself in the perverse situation of laying off bus drivers today even as it hires construction workers to build a train for tomorrow. Yet not only are cutbacks a double-whammy to the labor market, layoff-prevention is considerably more “shovel ready” than even the most shovel ready new construction. Fare hikes, too, tend to take money out of the pockets of the most economically vulnerable citizens, forcing reduced spending on other goods and services. Avoiding either would be highly desirable during a prolonged economic slump, and with real interest rates extraordinarily low it would be cheap and easy for the federal government to help.

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Berkshire Hathaway B (BNSF)(BRK.B)71.0466.37
Canadian National (CNI)66.5865.27
Canadian Pacific (CP) 48.0947.24
CSX (CSX)18.6719.25
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)46.5246.71
Kansas City Southern (KSU)49.9649.41
Norfolk Southern (NSC)61.0261.53
Providence & Worcester(PWX)12.5010.50
RailAmerica (RA)13.0312.65
Union Pacific (UNP)81.6783.11

Beginning August 29, 2011, we will be adding Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B)
as an indicator for BNSF Railroad, as well as RailAmerica (RA).

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

Installments By David Beale
NCI foreign editor


Work Begins On Moroccan High-Speed Rail Line

Via Euro News

TANGIER – It is the first of its kind in Africa and the Arab world, the start of construction of a high-speed rail line in northern Morocco between Tangier and Kénitra. Construction work was officially started during a ceremony on the 29th of September with the attendance of King Mohammed VI of Morocco, President Nicholas Sarkozy of France and Prince Megrin Ben Adbulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia.

Overview of Moroccan railway network

Image by ONCF

Overview of Moroccan railway network and projects

At a cost of EUR 1.9 billion (US $ 2.5 billion), the 200 km (120 mile) new rail corridor is part of a plan to link the country’s main cities. The existing rail line between Kénitra and Casablanca will reduce the journey time between Tangier and Casablanca from 3h 40min today to 2h 20min when the project is completed in 2015. ONCF, the national railroad of Morocco, already has 14 TGV Duplex double-decker high-speed train sets on order with Alstom.

France is one of the major players in the Moroccan high-speed rail project, along with other countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Algeria and Tunisia have also made major investments in their rail networks in the past few years, also with the cooperation of France and other international investors. Morocco continues to look at expanding its rail system, today limited to the northern half of the country, southwards to Agadir and beyond to the border area with Western Sahara due to growing industry and tourism business along the Atlantic coast south of Agadir.

With the start of construction of the new high-speed rail line, Morocco will join the rapidly expanding club of nations with active high-speed rail projects, ranging from Germany, France, Spain, Japan and Italy to China, Australia, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

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Voters To Decide Fate Of Stuttgart 21
Rail Station Re-Make

Lawmakers Approve Controversial Referendum On Controversial Project

STUTTGART -- Lawmakers in the state assembly of the German state of Baden-Württemberg passed a law this past Thursday (29th of September) to put the controversial Stuttgart 21 Project in front of the voting public in a first-of-a-kind in post-World War II public referendum. It will be the first public referendum ever in a German state since the country was founded in 1949 on the ashes of Nazi Germany. The referendum will take place on the 27th of November 2011.

The state assembly, under new leadership of the Green and SPD political parties since their April 2011 upset electoral victory over the long-ruling conservative-leaning CDU and pro-business FDP political parties in this prosperous state in southwestern Germany, passed the ground breaking law to fulfill one of its major campaign promises to challenge the entire premise of the Stuttgart 21 project. Stuttgart 21 is a massive construction project which proposes to convert the existing surface level passenger rail terminal in downtown Stuttgart into an underground through station. Included in the project is a new high-speed rail line to nearby Ulm, Germany as well as new rail lines in the southern part of the Stuttgart region with a new intercity rail station at the Stuttgart airport.

The concept of a referendum in Germany is itself a highly controversial subject, as many remember how voter referendums were used in the 1930s by the Nazi government to ram through a number of populist measures to support their own agenda. The referendum on Stuttgart 21 is already highly controversial due to the complex and lengthy language to be used in the referendum – a “yes” vote is actually against continuing the project, while a “no” vote means the project shall continue as previously planned. A coalition of businesses in the state has gone on the record to say that the referendum will send a signal that Baden-Württemberg is anti-business, anti-development and anti-growth.

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And Finally . . .


Brits To Drive Faster . . . Legally, As Hamburg Celebrates
A New Alcohol Prohibition In Public Transit . . .
With A Booze–Soaked Friday Evening

In unrelated developments, this past week in Europe saw a formal proposal introduced by British law makers to raise the country’s legal speed limit on expressways and highways (motorways in British English) from the current 70 mph to 80 mph (129 km/h) as well as a boozy end of the grace period for a new prohibition against alcohol consumption and open alcohol containers on trains, buses and subways in and around Hamburg, Germany.

In the UK a number of members of the House of Commons as well as the British Minister of Transportation, Philip Hammond, said that they will introduce legislation to increase the nation’s speed limit to 80 mph in an effort to improve the business climate and competitiveness in the UK. However the British Minister for Environmental Protection, Chris Huhne, stated that the higher speed limit will damage the real-world climate by increasing CO2 emissions from highway vehicles by as much as 20%, regardless of whatever effect it may have on the business climate.

Most western European countries have a maximum speed limit on their highways of 130 km/h, which is almost exactly 80 mph, although speed limits of 100 and 120 km/h are far more common across most of central and Western Europe. Germany is, of course, a stand-out with no speed limits on a significant but ever decreasing percentage of its highway (autobahn) network. At last, drivers in this nation in northwestern Europe, home to legendary automobile makers such as Bentley, MG, Jaguar, Rover and last, but certainly not least, Aston-Martin will soon be able to legally drive as fast as their continental counterparts.

Great Britain is the only country in the European Union which still uses miles and miles-per-hour units on its road network and signs; the rest of Europe uses metric units exclusively on roads and highways, including Ireland, which decided to change signs and units along its road network to the metric system approximately six years ago. Popular Irish music groups such as The Cranberries, The Corrs, The Pogues and U2 have no plans to change the word “mile,” which appears in numerous songs, to “kilometer.”

Meanwhile many kilometers, uhhh, miles away in the city-state of Hamburg, Germany thousands of area residents and visitors had a huge party on the 30th of September to mark the start of full enforcement of a prohibition against alcohol consumption and open containers with alcoholic beverages anywhere in the city’s transit system, including buses, S-Bahn commuter trains and a subway / elevated railway network. The prohibition actually has been in effect since early in the summer, but a grace period meant that there were no real penalties involved . . . until this weekend, when the grace period ended on the 1st of October, thus marking the start of a EUR 40 (US $55) fine per violation.

Party on steel wheels all-night-long in Hamburg

Two Images DPA

Party on steel wheels all-night-long in Hamburg – scene in an S-Bahn commuter train in Hamburg last Friday evening...

The Party is Now Over

...until 12:01 AM Saturday morning when these guys showed up – party’s over.

Numerous transit riders and party makers in the Hamburg region made use of the last full day of the grace period by partying like its 1999 with beer, wine and whatever else contains alcohol on board various trains and buses in the northern German port city last Friday, which also happened to be the start of a three-day weekend in Germany, due to Unification Day on the 3rd of October. Promptly at 12:00 midnight transit security personnel in large numbers began moving in on the alcohol fueled party makers to start full enforcement of the alcohol ban. Taxpayers will be left with the hangover of clean-up costs for the party-till-you-drop celebration of the full start of alcohol ban on-board Hamburg trains and buses. Of the seven commuter / regional train routes radiating out of central Hamburg, three commuter rail lines - one to Uelzen (and Hannover), another to Cuxhaven and a third one to Tostedt (and Bremen) - are operated by Metronom, which has had a ban on open alcoholic beverages and alcohol consumption in its trains and stations in-place since November 2009.

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EVENTS... Events...


Webcast Advert Image


Rick Arena Live October 5
In HSR Webcast


Plan to attend the October 5 webcast ”Marketing High-Speed Rail in a Volatile Political Climate,” featuring Richard Arena, President of the Association for Public Transportation. In his live presentation, Arena will address the uphill battle high-speed rail supporters face in today’s volatile political climate as they work gain more federal HSR funding.

Mr. Arena will discuss the tangible benefits of high-speed rail - and, more importantly, tell how those benefits can be relayed to the American public in a way that helps them better understand (and, it is hoped, support) high-speed rail. Additionally, he will propose a way to help pay for U.S. high-speed rail using a mix of federal dollars and public-private partnerships that he thinks both Democrats and Republicans can get on board with.

The cost to attend this 60-minute webcast, which is sponsored by HSR updates, is just $49.

Live opportunities to hear from someone of Arena’s caliber are rare, so do not let this one pass you by. Register today.

Trade Press Media Group is authorized by IACET to offer 0.1 CEUs for this program.

Do you require additional accommodations to view this webcast?

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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

Dear Editor

Re: “The High-Speed Rail Program That Isn’t,” September 26 edition of DF

While it is disappointing that the Senate Committee on Appropriations awarded only $100 million for high-speed rail programs, blaming such a small number on the Tea Party ignores the composition of the committee.

Of the committee’s 30 members, 16 are Democrats and 14 are Republicans. Of the Republican minority, 12 Senators have served in Congress since before the creation of the Tea Party in 2009, and 11 were in office when the Passenger Rail Investment Act of 2008, authorizing high-speed rail funding of $2 billion per year, was enacted. The Republicans include not only conservatives but also moderates such as Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who defeated a Tea Party-backed rival in 2010, and others with long histories of supporting rail service, such as Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Surely the Democratic majority, working with moderate and pro-rail Republicans, could provide more funding for high-speed rail if it were a priority, just as it has in the past. As they form a large majority in the Senate, likely at least until the next election cycle, rail advocates should push for more funding now.

Christopher S. Edwards
New York, NY


The Publisher Responds:

The nominative make-up of the Senate and House are irrelevant in the current climate, where policy is being dictated a priori by the no-government Tea Party wing of the GOP. If you doubt that, look at news clips of the Republican Presidential debates. The Tea Party has become the base of the GOP; the party’s obstructionism in the House is a direct result of that.

Jim RePass

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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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