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February 22, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 7

Copyright © 2016
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 16th Newsletter Year

 Destination:Freedom 

A Weekly North American Transportation Update For Transportation
Advocates, Professionals, Journalists, And Elected Or Appointed Officials,
At All Levels Of Government.

Publisher
James P. RePass, Sr.
Editor
Molly N. McKay
Foreign Editor
David Beale
Contributing Editor
David Peter Alan
Managing Editor / Webmaster
Dennis Kirkpatrick
 
 

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

  Editorial…
Paying for Amtrak
  Guest Opinion…
What Planners Of Brooklyn-Queens Streetcar
   Line Can Learn In New Jersey
Shuttle Bus Success Brings Hope To Spread
   Public Transit
  Restoration Lines…
Southern Rail Commission’s Amtrak Gulf Coast
   Inspection Train Draws Thousands To Trackside
  Legal Commentary…
MBTA Sues Amtrak To Block Effect Of New
   Federal Commission Usage Assessments To
   Avoid Paying Rent To Tenant
  Expansion Lines…
FDOT: SunRail Likely Won’t
   Arrive Until 2018
  Funding Lines…
Amtrak Requests $1.8B For Fiscal 2017
Two LACMTA Rail Projects Receive
   Federal Appropriations
 
  Transit Lines…
DC Streetcar To Begin Passenger Service On
   Saturday, February 27th
Analysis: Discord Grows Over Bus Terminal
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Environmental Lines…
CT Audubon President Criticizes Rail Alternatives
   For Northeast Corridor
  High-Speed Rail…
High-Speed Rail Plans Change: Bay Area Could
   Get Trains Ahead Of LA
  Labor Lines…
Bombardier To Cut 7,000 Jobs As Revenue Falls
   In 2015
  Freight Lines…
Canadian Pacific Seeks Ruling On Norfolk Southern
   Deal From U.S. Oversight Board
BNSF Plans $220M Capital Program For
   Washington State
  Publication Notes …


EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

Paying for Amtrak

By James P. RePass, Sr.
Publisher, Destination: Freedom

At this writing (February 20, 2016) and for the foreseeable future, Amtrak and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will be locked in a court battle to determine how much more money --- if any --- Amtrak can get from that, and in all likelihood other, state transportation agencies to help it recoup costs it has long been forced to absorb, and to get capital for long-delayed infrastructure improvements on the Northeast Corridor and elsewhere.

The MBTA and Amtrak are, without question, blameless in this sorry affair. The spectacle of one passenger railroad suing another for more money quite literally begs the question, which is, “When is America going to put in place a reasonable transportation trust fund/revenue generation system to successfully build and operate world class intercity and commuter rail passenger transportation?”

No other industrialized country in the world ignores its passenger rail transportation the way America does. It is well known that Europe and Asia decades ago, facing the ruins of WWII, made a policy decision at the highest levels to tax gasoline heavily so as to rebuild transportation infrastructure --- of all kinds --- while America for those same decades not only raised Federal taxes to be used just for highway construction and operation, but also actively short-circuited --- via state constitutional amendments in 35 of the then-48 states (and still in about half of the 50 United States today) achieved via the oil-lobby’s long, elaborate and successful Good Roads campaign --- the ability of governors to spend state gas tax money on anything but pavement.

While efforts are under way to repeal those mindless and damaging state amendments on many fronts, the damage has been done. Combined with the reckless and irresponsible Bush-Reagan era tax cuts for the wealthy, both have helped eviscerate America’s ability to raise funds for infrastructure investment of almost any kind, but especially rail.

Unless and until basic issues of tax fairness are decided, America’s long and slow decline will continue. Our rail system’s ills are but a symptom, and the fact that Amtrak, or the MBTA or any other transit agency, can operate at all is due to the tremendous grit and dedication of the thousands of Amtrak employees, and transit workers, who go to work every day wondering if they can make it all work just one more time --- and wondering whether they will have a job, or be able to support their families, or collect a pension.

The benefits of a strong passenger rail transportation system lie not in ticket sales, which have never covered the costs of rail, but in economic development, tourism, and freedom of mobility for all people--- with or without cars --- that efficient, safe and cost-effective transportation can bring. Politicians like to claim we are still the strongest country in the world, both economically and militarily.

Really? Well, look around. And then get involved.


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GUEST OPINION... Guest Opinion...  

What Planners Of Brooklyn-Queens Streetcar Line
Can Learn In New Jersey

By Emma G. Fitzsimmons
New York Times

With New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio proposing a streetcar line from Brooklyn to Queens, city planners do not have to search far for an example of a similar system to help guide them.

Just across the Hudson River, traveling from Bayonne through Jersey City and Hoboken to Weehawken, the thriving Hudson-Bergen Light Rail first opened more than a decade ago and now carries about 46,800 passengers each weekday. With views of the Manhattan skyline and sleek cars that glide over 18 miles, it has become increasingly popular and has spurred development in once-blighted areas of the New Jersey waterfront.

On a recent morning, Derrick Ladson, a 32-year-old dance teacher, took the line through Hoboken, looking out the window as snow fell outside.

“It’s so convenient; I love it,” Mr. Ladson said. “You get a nice view as you’re riding into work.”

After opening an initial seven-mile section in 2000, New Jersey Transit gradually extended the line, completing the most recent station, in Bayonne, in 2011. Despite its name, the system never reached Bergen County. Efforts to extend it farther north have stalled over a lack of funding.

The system offers a look at the benefits, and challenges, of creating a modern transit system that blends into the urban streetscape. On Tuesday morning, Mr. de Blasio plans to provide more details about his plans for the streetcar at a news conference in Red Hook, Brooklyn, one of the waterfront neighborhoods through which the route would travel.

New York City’s proposal, which is being called the Brooklyn Queens Connector, is part of a wave of attention-grabbing streetcar and light-rail projects across the country that seek to capitalize on both urban revitalization and nostalgia for trolleys. But several projects have faced major delays and cost overruns — most notably, a still-unopened streetcar system in Washington — and other plans have been scrapped.

The Brooklyn-to-Queens streetcar, which is expected to cost about $2.5 billion, and the Hudson-Bergen line address the same transit reality: Not everyone needs to travel to Manhattan.

The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail shows how a system like this can pay off, said Harris Schechtman, the national transit director for Sam Schwartz Engineering, who worked on a feasibility study for the city’s streetcar system.

Map

Map Via NY Times

Proposed Route

“Those who have any questions need to look across the river,” Mr. Schechtman said, citing the line’s popularity.

The New Jersey system cost about $2.2 billion and encountered plenty of obstacles along the way, stirring up opposition from some residents who worried it would harm their neighborhood’s appeal and produce unwanted noise.

The Brooklyn Queens Connector is likely to face similar resistance over the route and lost parking, said Mayor Steven M. Fulop of Jersey City.

“There was tremendous pushback from the community,” Mr. Fulop said of early hostility to the light rail’s route along Essex Street in Jersey City. “Today, I think the residents there would tell you it was a huge success.”

So far, criticism of Mr. de Blasio’s streetcar plan has focused on whether the idea was prompted by developers, not public demand, and whether it is the best use of time and money among the region’s many transit needs.

In New Jersey, Mr. Fulop and other leaders have called for the light rail to expand north, but officials have not been able to secure federal and state funding, he said. While it was originally supposed to run to Ridgefield, in Bergen County, it currently ends at Tonnelle Avenue in Hudson County.

The feasibility study for the Brooklyn-Queens streetcar route, which was paid for by a group that includes real estate interests, recommended what amounted to a hybrid streetcar and light-rail system.

Light rail generally has clear separation from streets and longer distances between stops, while streetcars fit in more seamlessly with city traffic. The plan under consideration calls for a streetcar with light-rail features, including more space between stations and a dedicated lane when possible. But the streetcar would move at slower speeds than light rail, at an average of 11.3 miles per hour, according to the mayor’s office.

Hudson-Bergen Light Rail trains can travel at 25 m.p.h. in sections where it merges with traffic and up to 60 m.p.h. in areas where it has an exclusive right of way. In an example of problems that can arise when trains and cars mix, a car backed out of a parking space in Jersey City last week and hit a light-rail vehicle, causing delays along the line. Collisions between trains and cars have raised concerns in other cities, like Houston and Salt Lake City.

In Hoboken on a recent evening, Vasko Prasko, 36, said that he had been using the light rail for a decade, as he waited for a train at the Ninth Street station. The cars were nearly empty at first, but now they are packed, said Mr. Prasko, who works as a systems analyst in Jersey City.

“It’s hard to find a seat anymore, it’s that popular,” he said.

Casey Glidden, 26, who lives in Jersey City and works in Manhattan, uses the light rail as part of her commute to work and on the weekends to visit friends.

Ms. Glidden, standing on a crowded car, said it was easier “to take this than to try to figure out a bus schedule or drive.”

Still, some riders had a few complaints.

Tracy Crinion, 44, a marketing consultant who lives in Hoboken, likes taking the light rail to her job in Weehawken, but bemoaned the less reliable service on the weekends. Some friends who live near the route also complain about the trains’ sounds, Ms. Crinion said.

“They say no matter how good your windows are, you can hear that bell,” she said.

Jason Grant contributed in reporting of this item.

From a piece at:
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/16/nyregion/what-planners-of-brooklyn-queens-streetcar-line-can-learn-in-new-jersey.html


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Shuttle Bus Success Brings Hope
To Spread Public Transit

By South Jersey Times Editorial Board
February 2016

After past attempts at east-west service that tanked, Gloucester County has apparently latched onto a shuttle bus with some staying power.

The service, geared toward the 8,500 people who work in the Pureland Industrial Park in Logan Township, runs straight across Gloucester County, with its easternmost stop at the Avandale Park & Ride lot in Winslow Township, Camden County.

Gloucester County officials say the shuttle, which costs $1 for a trip to or from Pureland, has doubled its ridership since it began last year. Within the complex housing 180 businesses, an internal shuttle is fare-free.

Event

Photo: Matt Gray | For NJ.com

Officials gathered in Glassboro on Thursday morning, May 28, 2015, to officially unveil the new Pureland East-West Community Shuttle service, which launches June 1.

It's good news showing that reasonably priced public transportation does work, and is desired by commuters who live in spread-out areas of South Jersey. The line backed by a consortium of government and nonprofit agencies.

Specifically, the shuttle carried 1,028 one-way passengers last month, up from 557 such trips in June 2015, its wide-scale launch. The circulator shuttle in January carried 918 people from point to point within 3,000-acre Pureland, up from a mere 181 trips last June.

On a monthly basis, these aren't earth-shattering or earth-saving numbers. Divided by 25 workdays, they may represent as few as 40 average users a day. Still, it's an accomplishment to see a shuttle bus gain riders rather than lose them over time.

Especially encouraging to shuttle backers is that a single stop in Glassboro, on Main Street between Rowan Boulevard and Victoria Avenue, is picking up 30 percent of shuttle riders. This bodes well for Glassboro as a transportation hub, when and if Gloucester County gets its long-awaited light-rail line. While the proposed train would not operate to Pureland or its vicinity, its Camden-Glassboro route has many other employers along the way.

Apparently, a lot of workers looking for automobile alternatives hail from Glassboro.

Shuttle operators are planning another Glassboro stop at Ellis Street and Higgins Drive, right across from the expanded Liscio's Bakery facility — itself an employment destination.

While saying they're pleased with the current ridership numbers, officials like United Way of Gloucester County's Michael Gower want to emphasize that the bus is not for work commuting only. Anyone can use it reach shopping centers, medical appointments and educational institutions along a 10-mile route with designated stops in Williamstown, Mullica Hill and Swedesboro, as well as Winslow, Glassboro and Logan. The bus will pick up and discharge riders anywhere along the route where it is safe.

Positive thinking should lead planners to consider additional Pureland shuttles, since the site also attracts workers who live other places with limited NJ Transit scheduled bus service, such as northern Salem County.

In the short term, it's good to see success on the initial route even as gasoline prices slide — success for the environment, success for the growing number of adults who choose not to own cars, and success for workers whose only option is to use public transportation.

From an item at:
http://www.nj.com/opinion/index.ssf/2016/02/shuttle_bus_success_brings_hope_to_spread_public_t.html#incart_river_index

Editor’s Note: Gloucester County is located in South Jersey, south and east Camden bordering the Delaware River and northwest of Atlantic City. For several years, there has been talk of converting a freight-rail line to a light-rail line between Camden and Glassboro, which is the home of Rowen University. The area is served by New Jersey Transit buses, and some riders commute from there to Philadelphia. Community transportation services like the one described in the article are usually administered by the counties in New Jersey. Most of the funding comes from the Casino Revenue Fund, from a tax on Atlantic City casino revenue. The revenue from that tax has been cut in half over the past eight years, due to the closure of several Atlantic City casinos and a reduction in business at the casinos that are still open.


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LEGAL LINES... Restoration Lines...  

Southern Rail Commission’s Amtrak Gulf Coast Inspection Train
Draws Thousands To Trackside

By James P. RePass
Publisher
Destination: Freedom

From New Orleans to Jacksonville --- Thousands of people from Gulf Coast towns and cities large and small in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida lined the tracks Thursday and Friday to cheer Amtrak’s Gulf Coast Inspection Train as it travelled the 550-miles rail line disrupted by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, restored to freight service a few months later shortly thereafter, but cut off of the railroad’s famed transcontinental Sunset Limited Route since that disaster.

Coast View

Four Photos: James P. RePass, Sr./ NCI

Pensacola Bay last Friday as seen from Inspection train.

The crowds were large starting not only in the Big Easy, New Orleans, as might be expected, but even in smaller places such as Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi, and Pascagoula, Mississippi, Mobile and Atmore, Alabama, and towns in Florida from Pensacola, through Crestview, Chipley, Tallahassee, Madison, and Lake City all the way to the destination City of Jacksonville.

S. Feinberg

FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg speaks at welcoming ceremonies Mobile. Ms. Feinberg rode the Inspection train from New Orleans to Mobile.

In each of those towns the train, consisting of coaches, sleeping cars, dining cars, and a full-length dome car, stopped, and local, state, and even key elected and appointed Federal officials such as Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL), and Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg, and numerous Mayors, Commissioners, and City Council members from throughout the region spoke to cheering crowds of all ages that never failed to materialize, often lining both sides of the tracks as the train passed slowly into that station and stopped for a few minutes before traveling on.

Cong. Corinne Brown (D-FL) addresses huge welcoming crowd at Atmore, LA.

Also on board were officials from key national transportation organizations, including National Association of Railroad Passengers President Jim Mathews, Transportation For America Chairman and former Amtrak and National Corridors Initiative Chairman John Robert Smith, many of the members of the Southern Rail Commission including its Chairman Greg White of Andalusia, AL, and regional passenger rail organization representatives.

John Robert SMith

Former Amtrak and NCI Chair John Robert Smith.

Indeed, crowds materialized even where the train did NOT stop, such as in the towns of Ocean Springs, MS (population 17,493) and the tiny but picturesque DeFuniak Springs, FL (population 5,584), where it looked to most observers as if the entire town had turned out holding signs saying “Bring Back Our Train” and “We Love Amtrak”.

The two-day trip, organized at the request of the multi-state Southern Rail Commission as an Inspection trip to allow railroad and municipal, state and federal officials to visually observe the condition of the track --- owned by Jacksonville-headquartered CSX Railroad --- was flawlessly executed by the Amtrak crew, despite the difficulties presented by operating a large train in an environment where surging crowds, frequently pressing in to get a better view of the train, were while welcomed enthusiastically by the trip’s organizers, nevertheless a challenge to safe operation. The trip, with a one-night stopover at Atmore, Alabama’s elegant Wind Creek Resort – where the train’s passengers paid for their own accommodations --- was operated on time and to schedule. The inspection car was a specially modified rai; car with a very large rear observation window, and stadium seating, allowing a number of officials to see the track and roadbed as the train made its progress across the Gulf South.

The Southern Rail Commission is seeking to have the New Orleans-Jacksonville route re-opened to regular passenger service again as soon as possible, as well as instituting new daily service New Orleans to Mobile and back. When that will happen is not yet known, but if the signs at the side of the track held by people young and old can be taken at face value, that would be --- yesterday.

Written on board Train 92, Amtrak’s Northbound Silver Star, between 2 and 4 a.m. February 20, 2016 – JPR


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LEGAL LINES... Legal Commentary...  

Million$ At Stake

 

MBTA Sues Amtrak To Block Effect Of New Federal Commission
Usage Assessments To Avoid Paying Rent To Tenant

By David Peter Alan

Disputes about rent are normally heard in Landlord-Tenant court, a local court specifically established under the law of each state, for adjudicating such disputes. But when a dispute between a landlord and a tenant occurs on an interstate railroad, the case ends up in federal court, where cases involving a landlord and a tenant are seldom heard. This time it appears that the tenant, Amtrak, is demanding in effect that its landlord, the MBTA, pay rent. In response to that demand, the landlord is suing to prevent such a result.

Millions of dollars are at stake for the two railroads. Amtrak owns the bulk of the 431-mile Washington-Boston Northeast Corridor, but Massachusetts owns the section from Attleboro to Boston, and Connecticut owns from Cos Cob to New Haven. Federal courts only have jurisdiction in case arising over a question of Federal law, or under “diversity” jurisdiction. That means the parties must be “citizens” of different states, and the amount of money in controversy must be substantial. Most landlord-tenant disputes are local in nature, and involve a few thousand dollars, at most, but there is an exceptional case pending in Massachusetts. It is so exceptional that it could undermine the entire scheme for determining how much regional railroads from Boston to Washington, D.C. must pay Amtrak for the privilege for operating their trains on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) line.

As we reported two weeks ago, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA, commonly known as the “T”) sued Amtrak and the Northeast Corridor Infrastructure and Operations Advisory Commission (Commission) in the Federal Court for the District of Massachusetts. The case, designated Civil Action No. 16-10120, was filed on Wednesday, January 27th. The MBTA is a public entity and a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, while Amtrak, a private corporation created by Congress in 1970 whose stock is held primarily by the US Department of Transportation, but which has been held to be a public agency for purposes of regulation, and the NCIOAC Commission are headquartered in Washington, D.C. The official caption reads: MASSACHUSETTS BAY TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY, Plaintiff, v. NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORP., d/b/a AMTRAK, and NORTHEAST CORRIDOR INFRASTRUCTURE AND OPERATIONS ADVISORY COMMISSION, Defendants.

In its 26-page Complaint, the MBTA alleged that the Commission was not appointed properly, that it is being assessed costs for operations on the portions of the NEC in Massachusetts, which is owned by the MBTA, without Due Process of Law, that the Commission is violating the Administrative Procedure Act, and that Amtrak is violating the terms of its agreement with the “T” concerning operation of the Attleboro Line. Attleboro is the first town in Massachusetts on the NEC, near the Rhode Island state line.

Amtrak operates NEC trains on that portion of the line, and the MBTA operates local trains to Boston. Many of those trains originate in Rhode Island, either in Providence or at the newly-established station at Wickford Junction. Amtrak owns the NEC track in Rhode Island.

The MBTA stated the most pertinent fact in the first page of the Complaint:

“Amtrak has demanded nearly $30 million per year from the MBTA for Amtrak’s use of MBTA’s rail lines, based on a “Cost Sharing Policy” (the “Policy”) developed by the Commission pursuant to a federal statute, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (“PRIIA”).”

The next sentence summed up the MBTA’s allegations against Amtrak and the Commission:

“Amtrak’s demand violates an existing agreement between Amtrak and MBTA, and the Commission’s Policy violates the U.S. Constitution’s Appointments and Due Process Clauses, the Constitution’s separation of powers, and the federal Administrative Procedure Act...”

The MBTA then stated its cause of action, in a nutshell, in Paragraph 1 of the Complaint:

“In exchange for MBTA granting Amtrak access to the Attleboro Line and the right to “dispatch” (i.e., to control) when Amtrak’s high-speed intercity trains and MBTA’s commuter trains are dispatched on the Line, Amtrak agreed to provide MBTA with certain services and maintenance along the Line without charge. Now, however, claiming that it is both permitted and required to do so under a pair of federal statutes, Amtrak is demanding that MBTA pay it tens of millions of dollars each year for the very services that Amtrak already is obligated by the Attleboro Line Agreement to provide MBTA without charge, with no recognition of the value of MBTA’s ownership of the Attleboro Line or the value of the dispatch rights (emphasis in original).”

The second paragraph of the Complaint describes why the MBTA is suing the Commission, as well as Amtrak.

“According to Amtrak, MBTA must pay it this money as a result of PRIIA and the Fixing America’s Service Transportation Act (the “FAST Act”), Pub. L. No. 114-94, 129 Stat. 1312 (2015). Under those statutes, as codified at 49 U.S.C. § 24905, Congress set up the Commission, a body consisting of representatives of the federal and state governments, and tasked it with establishing the Cost Sharing Policy to replace the terms of existing contracts between Amtrak and state commuter rail agencies for rail access. After the Commission promulgated the Cost Sharing Policy this October, Amtrak repudiated the Attleboro Line Agreement and demanded that MBTA enter a new contract implementing the Policy. If MBTA will not agree to do so, then Amtrak is threatening to file an action before the federal Surface Transportation Board (“STB”) to force the Cost Sharing Policy on MBTA.”

The third paragraph of the Complaint expanded on the MBTA’s complaint based on the Attleboro Agreement, as well as its contention that the Commission was not acting according to law.

“MBTA brings this lawsuit because the federal law that Amtrak is invoking to justify its demand for nearly $30 million in cost-sharing payments for this year alone is unconstitutional, and because Congress cannot by statute relieve federal agencies, such as Amtrak, from their contractual obligations without putting those agencies into breach of contract. Whether or not Amtrak should have more money for its maintenance responsibilities along the Northeast Corridor, the answer is not to simply take that money from Massachusetts and a few other states in violation of the constitution and their contractual rights. Resolution of the issues raised in this complaint is urgent, as the allocation of costs between MBTA and Amtrak has significant implications for Massachusetts commuters, Massachusetts taxpayers, and MBTA’s relations with its vendors.”

The MBTA went on to allege that the Commission violates the U.S. Constitution because its members were not appointed properly by federal executive authority (Appointments Clause and Separation of Powers Clause). The next allegation was that the Commission had violated the Due Process Clause, because its members were not fair and impartial, because “the entities that appointed them” (mostly the states through which the NEC runs) “have a direct financial interest in the Cost Sharing Policy’s allocation of fiscal responsibility for work on the Northeast Corridor” which would be unfair to Massachusetts. The Complaint also alleged that the Commission was not established with the proper notice and opportunity to comment, which is required by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

After the allegations concerning federal law, the Complaint stated:

“…claiming the right to do so under PRIIA and the FAST Act, Amtrak has repudiated the Attleboro Line Agreement. MBTA does not accept Amtrak’s repudiation of the Agreement, which remains a valid, binding, contract. As a matter of Supreme Court precedent, PRIIA and the FAST Act cannot excuse Amtrak’s breach of contract.”

In a related allegation, the MBTA added that:

“Amtrak has breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in the Attleboro Line Agreement by threatening to go to the STB unless MBTA agrees to pay Amtrak millions of dollars per year for services that Amtrak already is obligated by contract to provide without charge.” In terms of relief, the Complaint stated further: “MBTA is entitled to a declaration that Amtrak is contractually obligated to continue performing under the Attleboro Line Agreement so long as that Agreement remains in force pursuant to its own terms, and an injunction requiring it to do so.” The MBTA also asked to court “to declare the Cost Sharing Policy invalid and to set it aside.”

In settling disputes, courts do not typically invalidate statutes or dissolve existing authorities, when there is a less-restrictive means for reaching a result. Under this circumstance, the contractual issues that the MBTA raised could become the focal point for any decision that the court might make (and perhaps also the First Circuit Court of Appeals and maybe even the U.S. Supreme Court might consider on appeal).

The MBTA purchased the portion of the line in Massachusetts (known by the “T” as the “Attleboro Line”) for $19,500,000 in 1973 from the Penn Central Corp. (Complaint, Paragraph 21). Paragraph 22 of the Complaint states the importance of this ownership to the MBTA:

“MBTA’s ownership of the Attleboro Line also includes the right to allocate station slots and to decide when to dispatch trains on the line – or the right to bargain away its dispatch rights to Amtrak for other services. Given the importance of high-speed rail service to Amtrak’s profitable Northeast Corridor business, the ability to determine which trains have priority on the Attleboro Line is a highly valuable right”

“The MBTA noted in Paragraph 25 that if Amtrak and a regional railroad that shares operations with Amtrak cannot agree on the compensation to be provided for such access and related services, then the STB would decide the amount of compensation to be paid to the rail owner by the party obtaining rail access based on criteria specified in the relevant statutory provision. See id. § 24308(a)(2)(A); id. § 24904(c)(2). Neither of these provisions provides for the STB to enter a net award of costs against the rail owner with respect to services provided by the accessing carrier; the allocation of such costs is purely a question of contract (emphasis in original).”

The Complaint described the Attleboro Line Agreement (at Paragraphs 26 through 34). It was reached in 2003 and intended to run for thirty years, has been amended several times, and can be terminated by either the MBTA or Amtrak on one year’s notice. The MBTA granted Amtrak access over the Attleboro Line for its trains, as well as dispatching rights over it. Amtrak agreed to dispatch MBTA trains over the line as well, and to maintain the line at its own expense. Amtrak also gave the MBTA access over the portion of the NEC from the state line to Providence.

The Attleboro Line Agreement also called for Amtrak to pay for any capital improvements in the line, except for maintenance that Amtrak performed to improve MBTA operations, which was covered by a separate provision. Amtrak would also be responsible for paying for “re-capitalization projects” if the MBTA did not wish to contribute to them.

The Complaint (at Paragraphs 35 to 48) detailed the recent history of the Commission’s Cost-Sharing Policy under PRIIA §212, along with the “carrot and stick” (Paragraph 46) in the FAST Act to encourage the states to sign new agreements with Amtrak to implement the Cost Sharing Policy. Paragraph 48 of the Complaint specifically addressed the penalties that states could suffer if they failed to sign such new agreements with Amtrak: “Thus, state commuter rail agencies are penalized if they do not enter new agreements with Amtrak. Until they do (and seemingly until they all do), otherwise available Federal funds will not be provided for § 29411 projects within the Northeast Corridor.”

The MBTA chronicled the development of the Cost-Sharing Policy (at Paragraphs 49 to 60), noting that the representatives from Massachusetts and New York, the two states that own track that comprise parts of the NEC, voted against the policy (at Paragraph 51). There would be winners and losers. Paragraph 53 discussed the winners under the Policy, including Amtrak:

“The Policy, determined by majority vote of representatives of the very entities it regulates, results in clear winners and losers when applied against the variety of existing contracts between Amtrak and state commuter rail agencies and the varied degrees of track ownership by state commuter rail agencies. Using the cost sharing formula in the Commission’s Policy rather than the existing contracts between Amtrak and state commuter rail agencies, it has been estimated that Amtrak will save about $56 million this fiscal year, Connecticut will save about $20 million, and New York will save about $16 million in comparison to their previous levels of spending. All told, Amtrak and five of the nine state commuter rail agencies will save money under the Cost Sharing Policy.”

Paragraph 54 described the losers, including Massachusetts and, conversely, the MBTA.

“The gains for Amtrak and those states are losses for other States. In particular, Amtrak has asserted that MBTA must make $28.8 million in cost sharing payments not called for under the Attleboro Line Agreement. Amtrak also is demanding nearly $90 million from New Jersey, nearly $14 million from Pennsylvania, and about $1 million from Maryland. However, whereas MBTA owns the rail line that Amtrak uses, the commuter rail agencies in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland do not.”

The MBTA argues that the Cost Sharing Policy would abrogate the Attleboro Line Agreement at Paragraph 57:

“The Cost Sharing Policy expressly contradicts the Attleboro Line Agreement in material aspects. Under the Attleboro Line Agreement, for example, Amtrak does not charge MBTA for dispatching services – Amtrak performs dispatching in partial exchange for the right to control dispatching, which otherwise belongs to MBTA as to the rail line owner. Under the Policy, however, Amtrak’s dispatching costs on the Attleboro Line must be allocated as common-benefit costs, and Amtrak is demanding millions of dollars per year for them.”

The MBTA claims that Amtrak is already demanding that the Cost-Sharing Policy replace the original Attleboro Line Agreement, stating at Paragraph 61:

“In July of 2015, after the Commission adopted the interim Policy but before the Commission voted on the final Policy, Amtrak proposed that the Attleboro Line Agreement be “amended” to incorporate the Cost Sharing Policy. The proposed “amendments” would have gutted the Attleboro Line Agreement of the careful balance reached by the parties in 2003, and instead would have required all cost allocation to be determined pursuant to the Policy.”

The MBTA also claimed (at Paragraph 62) that Amtrak’s request amounted to $28.8 million for FY 2016: “The amount requested consisted of $16.6 million for operating expenses, principally maintenance, and $12.2 million for capital projects. Under the Attleboro Line Agreement, MBTA has no obligation to pay those sums to Amtrak.”

It does not appear to this writer [who is a practicing attorney] that the MBTA’s attack on the Commission itself will succeed, at least on its face. The complaint (at Paragraph 78) cited Carter v. Carter Coal Co. 298 U.S. 238 (1936). Ironically, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) asked the Court to restore the anti-New Deal jurisprudential theories that were articulated for the last time in Carter Coal when it claimed that the D.C. Circuit court was corrected in holding that Amtrak could not participate in governmental regulation in Dep’t of Transp. v. Ass’n of Am. R.R.s, 575 U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 1223 (2015); the case that held that Amtrak acts as a governmental entity for regulatory purposes. The Court declined to do so.

This writer believes that the MBTA’s contractual theories could be taken seriously. Both Amtrak and the MBTA have contractual rights under the Attleboro Line Agreement. The MBTA stands to lose those rights and be required to pay Amtrak to perform the maintenance to the line that the MBTA states constitutes a pre-existing duty under the agreement. Under those circumstances, a Congressional mandate that the MBTA compensate Amtrak to perform any such pre-existing duty would act to confiscate MBTA funds by requiring that agency to pay Amtrak to perform work which, the MBTA states, Amtrak had previously agreed to perform at its own cost and expense. In addition, in this writer’s view, a result of that sort would discourage the states or private parties from entering into contracts with federal agencies, for fear that Congress, or even the agency itself, could render those contracts unenforceable in the future.

In theory, at least, the Cost-Sharing Policy may have sounded like a good idea at the time; at least for elected officials who believed that Amtrak was not charging local railroads enough for access to the Amtrak-owned NEC. It is certainly not popular with the states whose residents ride on local trains along the NEC, and the implementation of the Cost-Sharing Policy is having disastrous results for some of the states and the transit agencies who operate trains there. New Jersey will probably be one of the states hardest-hit, as Amtrak fees under PRIIA §212 that are assessed against New Jersey Transit will rise sharply this year. At this writing, NJT does not have the money to pay such increased assessments, the Christie Administration and the legislature in Trenton have not been forthcoming with funding for transit, and riders may be hit with a massive fare increase later this year.

It is possible that the representatives of other states, Amtrak and U.S. DOT forced the Cost-Sharing Policy into implementation by the Commission, over the objections of Massachusetts and New York, the two states whose transit entities own segments of the NEC. It probably would have made sense for the Policy to provide for exceptions to the cost-determination rules for those two states, but it appears that there are no such exceptions.

The court could take notice of that lack of an exception and rule that the MBTA’s rights under the Attleboro Line Agreement must be respected. It could also go further, and invalidate the Commission itself, or at least the Cost-Sharing Policy. While it appears highly unlikely that the court would invalidate the entire Commission structure, it could invalidate the Policy. That would require the Commission to go back and devise a policy that would respect the contractual rights of the railroads which own segments of the NEC. How that would affect the various aspects of Amtrak and state funding under PRIIA §212 in its entirety is anybody’s guess.

David Peter Alan is an attorney practicing in New Jersey and Contributing Editor of D:F. This article is published for information purposes only, and is not intended to constitute a “legal opinion” as rendered by an attorney to a client.

The Complaint itself can be found at http://www.railwayage.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&task=download&id=6_881d3a84e53c0ca7e1d411924ba09d5e. This link was provided by Railway Age Magazine.


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EXPANSIONLINES... Expansion Lines...  

FDOT: SunRail Likely Won’t Arrive
Until 2018

By Ken Jackson
Around Osceola.Com

SunRail Phase II South, the stretch of rail that’s coming to Osceola County, is now slated to open in the first quarter of 2018, instead of 2017, Florida Department of Transportation officials told the Osceola County Commission last Monday.

The end of 2017 is an option, but 2018 is more likely, said FDOT District 5 Secretary Noranne Downs, noting a delay in the construction process that will not affect the cost to the county.

“We had a hard time going through the procurement process to get enough bidders for the signal contract work,” she said.

As Downs explained to commissioners last Monday, her office is busy keeping SunRail operating to the north, while trying to bring it to Osceola.

FDOT, along with the Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission, have been in charge of the putting the rail line together since 2004, and opened the 34 miles currently running on May 1, 2014. A funding grant agreement came from the federal government for Phase II South for $93 million that local leaders signed on Sept. 28, 2015.

FDOT operates the train with a handful of agreements with partners: CSX Railroad, Amtrak, the Florida Central Railroad, the CFCRC, Bombardier for the trains, Herzog for the signals, Data Transfer Solutions for marketing, and its five local funding partners (Osceola County and other governments).

Of the $615 million in capital costs to get the train rolling, $153.75 million of that is the responsibility of local governments. Osceola County is responsible for a fifth of that, and in June 2015, it approved a $22 million loan from the State Infrastructure Bank to cover its portion. To pay it back, the county will use a portion of money coming from the 5-cent local option gas tax that went into effect on Jan. 1.

While FDOT is currently responsible for development, design, operation and maintenance, the CFCRC will assume all responsibility for the system on May 1, 2021. Osceola County, as one of the funding partners, will again be responsible for a fifth of that; Downs said Monday it would cost $34.5 million to operate and maintain SunRail in 2015, so 20 percent of that is $6.9 million.

Downs did note that local governments may engage in revenue-producing activities on and off station platforms, and will get to control the land use decisions in station areas except for charging parking fees. That’s already come into play; Tupperware is donating land for the Orange Avenue station planned adjacent to its world headquarters.

The company’s real estate development outfit, Deerfield Land Corporation, will pay the county up to $138,105 for enhancements and upgrades to the train station, money the county will pass on to SunRail, that will include Tupperware’s corporate sponsorship of the station.

Found at:
http://www.aroundosceola.com/fdot-sunrail-likely-wont-arrive-until-2018/


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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

Amtrak Requests $1.8B For Fiscal 2017

By Keith Laing
The Hill

Amtrak is requesting $1.8 billion for fiscal 2017, officials said Wednesday.

The request includes $649 million for operating expenses, $920 million for capital construction costs and $263 million in grants that were authorized by Congress in a transportation funding bill lawmakers approved last year.

Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman said the funding is part of a five-year plan for the company that is necessary to boost the nation’s passenger railways.

“In the years to come, we expect to see continued demand for capacity and performance growth on the [Northeast Corridor],” he said in a letter to Vice President Biden and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

“New trainsets will help, but the current infrastructure remains severely capacity-constrained at its most critical points,” Boardman continued. “The problems of deteriorating infrastructure associated with aging bridges, tunnels and systems are magnified under such conditions.”

Since its inception in 1971, Amtrak has historically received about $1 billion per year from the government for operations and construction projects.

The approved transportation funding includes approximately $10 billion over a five-year period for Amtrak, according to the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

The law, known as the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, combined traditionally separate rail funding with highway and transit spending provisions.

The rail service’s last appropriations bill prior to the 2015 transportation bill provided about $1.3 billion per year to the company for a combination of operations, construction and debt service in 2008.

President Obama’s proposed budget for 2017 includes approximately $7 billion for high-speed rail projects, including Amtrak, in a plan to spend $320 billion over the next 10 years on “clean transportation.”

Amtrak’s subsidies have been hotly debated in recent years. Republicans have pushed in the past to privatize the service on its popular routes in the Northeast, arguing that private companies could operate trains there more efficiently.

The rail service has often countered the criticism by pointing out that most of the money from its Northeast routes is used to maintain money-losing, long-distance routes in parts of the country that have little airline service.

Amtrak supporters have also pointed to record ridership in recent years as an argument in favor of increasing its federal appropriations to pay for improvements along the Northeast Corridor, the only tracks in the country owned and operated directly by Amtrak.

Boardman said Wednesday that the company’s finances have greatly improved in recent years, making it less reliant than ever on federal subsidies for operating costs.

“Over the past decade and a half, Amtrak has undergone a remarkable transformation,” he wrote. “Ticket revenues have doubled, and operating cost recovery is higher than any other U.S. and most international passenger railroads.

“Amtrak has made some small but vital capital improvements and targeted investments in bridges and other infrastructure have helped to sustain the NEC. This company has been a good steward of the national intercity passenger rail system — within the limits of its budget.”

But he said lawmakers would still have to spend more on Amtrak to improve the nation’s passenger rail service.

“Federal investment in Amtrak made the economic benefit of intercity passenger rail possible,” he wrote.

“In the Northeast, the NEC and the intercity and commuter rail services it supports deliver an essential transportation service,” Boardman continued.

“Amtrak’s National Network links cities and smaller communities in other regions with major urban centers. Those benefits greatly exceed the scale of the annual Federal investment, and I think it’s important, in closing, to enumerate on the reach of our system, and the scale of those benefits,” he said.

Transportation advocates pressed Congress Wednesday to grant Amtrak the requested funding.

“When Congress included a long-term reauthorization of Amtrak funding in the recently enacted surface transportation legislation, the FAST Act, lawmakers wisely chose to provide Amtrak with funding certainty and stability and rejected privatization and outsourcing mandates,” AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Ed Wytkind said in a statement.
“Congress must now invest in our chronically underfunded national passenger rail network by appropriating federal resources consistent with Amtrak’s FY 2017 funding request,” he added.

From an item at:
http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/269711-amtrak-requests-18b-for-2017-fiscal-year


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Two LACMTA Rail Projects Receive
Federal Appropriations

The U.S. Department Of Transportation Plans To Award $300 Million To The Los Angeles County
Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) For Two Major Rail Projects In Los Angeles County.

From Rail, Track, And Structures

This federal funding, which was made possible by Congress adopting and President Obama signing into law late last year the Fiscal Year 2016 Omnibus appropriations bill, will benefit both the Regional Connector and Westside Purple Line Extension (Sections 1 and 2) transit projects.

Specifically, the federal government will be providing $100 million to the Regional Connector and $200 million for the Westside Purple Line Extension (Sections 1 and 2) this Federal Fiscal Year (October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016).

“We are deeply appreciative of President Obama, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and the U.S. Congress for this investment in Los Angeles County. This $300 million will allow us to continue our mission to better serve millions of Angelinos with expanded and improved transit services,” said LACMTA Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The Regional Connector, which is currently under construction, extends from the Gold Line Little Tokyo/Arts District Station to the 7th Street/Metro Center Station in downtown Los Angeles, allowing passengers to transfer to Blue, Expo, Red and Purple Lines, bypassing Union Station. The 1.9-mile alignment will serve Little Tokyo, the Arts District, Civic Center, The Historic Core, Broadway, Grand Av, Bunker Hill, Flower St and the Financial District. This new rail extension will also provide a one-seat ride for travel across Los Angeles County. From the Gold Line, passengers will be able to travel from Azusa to Long Beach and from East Los Angeles to Santa Monica without transferring lines.

The Westside Purple Line Extension transit project, which is currently under construction, is a rail project that will provide a high-capacity, high-speed, dependable alternative for commuters to travel between downtown Los Angeles and Westwood in just 25 minutes. The project, which will be built in three phases, will continue from the current station at Wilshire/Western extending westward for about nine miles along Wilshire Boulevard with seven new stations at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax, Wilshire/La Cienega, Wilshire/Rodeo, Century City/Constellation, Westwood/UCLA and Westwood/VA Hospital.

“The announcement that $300 million in federal transportation dollars will be headed to Los Angeles will ensure that Metro can bring more mobility to serve commuters in LA County. I am pleased that these federal dollars will support good paying construction jobs in Los Angeles,” said LACMTA Chief Executive Officer Phillip Washington.

For more see:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/passenger/rapid-transit-light-rail/two-lacmta-rail-projects-receive-federal-appropriations.html


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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

DC Streetcar To Begin Passenger Service On Saturday, February 27th
Fares Will Be Free For An Introductory Period

From A DDOT Press Release

CONTACT:
LaToya Foster (EOM) – 202.727.5011;
latoya.foster@dc.gov
Terry Owens (DDOT) – (202) 671-5124; terry.owens@dc.gov

WASHINGTON, DC – After more than a decade of planning, construction and testing, Mayor Muriel Bowser and District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Director Leif A. Dormsjo announced today that the DC Streetcar will open for full passenger service on Saturday, February 27 at 10:00 a.m., following a brief ceremony.

“I’m proud to announce that Streetcar is ready for passenger service,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser. “I want to thank the residents of the H Street and Benning Road communities for their patience during the construction and testing of the system. As a way of saying ‘thank you,’ fares will be free on the system for an initial period of time.”

The opening ceremony will take place at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 27 on 13th Street, NE between H Street, NE and Wylie Street, NE (intersection of 13th/H). Members of the public are invited to attend the ceremony.

Following the ceremony, the DC Streetcar standard hours of operation will be:

Early in the Bowser Administration, DDOT contracted with the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the streetcar program. The review found that while the system had numerous issues, there were “no fatal flaws,” and the streetcar system could move forward once the issues were addressed. Leif Dormsjo, the Director of DDOT, assembled a team of consultants and managers to fix the outstanding issues and get Streetcar up and running.

“Mayor Bowser charged my team with taking a failed Streetcar program and making it work for District residents. After years of overspending, mismanagement and lack of direction, we made it happen,” said Dormsjo.

H Street/ Benning Road Line is the first segment of the DC Streetcar system. The Mayor has committed to expanding the line current line east and west. For more information on the full DC Streetcar system, visit the DC Streetcar website at www.dcstreetcar.com.

Residents interested in attending are encouraged to RSVP at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dc-streetcar-opening-tickets-21785191093.

Press interested in attending the event are asked to RSVP to press@dc.gov.

WHEN:
Saturday, February 27, 2016 at 10:00 a.m.

WHO:
Mayor Muriel Bowser
Leif A. Dormsjo, Director, District Department of Transportation
Chief Gregory M. Dean, Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department
Current and former District officials
Residents and Community Members

WHERE:
13th Street between Wylie Street and H Street NE
*Closest Metro: Union Station Metro Station*


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Analysis: Discord Grows Over Bus Terminal

By Paul Berger
The Bergen Record

The Port Authority Bus Terminal at 42nd Street in New York City isn’t just depressing and overcapacity, it’s falling apart. But, as with many things related to the massive transportation agency, the project to build a new terminal has become tangled in bi-state squabbling over priorities and money.

Ever since the Port Authority, headed by the governors in New Jersey and New York, released a study last year pegging the cost of a new Manhattan terminal at about $10 billion, the arguments have only become more heated.

On one side are the advocates who want a bigger, better terminal to be built in Manhattan as soon as possible. On the other side are skeptics, who want to find an alternative to the rapidly growing number of buses streaming under the Hudson River and into Hell’s Kitchen, possibly by building a second terminal in New Jersey and requiring commuters to transfer to a train to enter the city.

At stake is how large the new Manhattan terminal will be and whether thousands of bus passengers may be forced to switch to a train before they cross the Hudson. Also at issue is whether the terminal can compete for funding and attention when the agency is committed to two airport projects, costing more than $6 billion combined, and a trans-Hudson rail project estimated at $23.9 billion.

“The way the Port Authority always works is there are projects of immediate priority in both states,” said agency Chairman John Degnan, an appointee of Governor Christie, who added that the terminal project is a priority. “For one to get done, the other has to get done.”

Although New York businesses benefit from commuters traveling by bus from New Jersey, the terminal is viewed by many as a New Jersey project — even though it is located in Manhattan. Scott Rechler, the Port Authority’s vice chairman and a New York appointee, remains the loudest and staunchest critic of a new Manhattan terminal, even as his fellow commissioners prepare to launch an international design competition to come up with a replacement for the current 66-year-old terminal.

But Rechler claims he’s not the boogeyman that people make him out to be. He’s just worried about congestion in the Lincoln Tunnel if, as forecast, bus ridership increases by 40 percent over the next 25 years.

Rechler, in a wide-ranging interview conducted in the Long Island office of his real estate firm, said there’s no use building a bigger terminal if it just means more people are going to spend “an hour-and-a-half commute sitting in the Lincoln Tunnel on the bus.”

His big idea is to not just replace the Manhattan terminal but also to build a terminal or terminals in New Jersey that funnel riders into an expanded PATH system or into the new trans-Hudson rail tunnel being planned as part of the $23.9 billion program known as Gateway.

Rechler said he doesn’t want to force anyone who currently has a one-seat ride to work — a direct commute — onto a two- or three-seat ride. But he does think that commissioners should consider whether people who currently switch from the bus to the subway in Manhattan could be transferred onto the rail network in New Jersey.

Such talk spooks many North Jersey commuters.

According to Port Authority figures, almost 30 percent of regional commuters who use the Port Authority Bus Terminal each day — more than 30,000 people — live in Bergen County.

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg of Teaneck has made the new Manhattan bus terminal one of the main prongs of her campaign for more transparency at the agency. At Port Authority board meetings and in private communications with its leaders, Weinberg has doggedly questioned the authority’s slow progress on the bus terminal.

Weinberg sees Degnan as an ally. “He works in a straightforward manner with a lot of integrity and a lot of feeling to do the right thing” on the bus terminal, Weinberg said.

But she fears that Degnan will be forced to step down soon as chairman when the agency hires a new CEO, a move that could happen in the coming months.

Degnan said he is “optimistic that those who are skeptical of the need for a new bus terminal will be brought around eventually.” But Weinberg, who headed the Legislature’s investigative panel looking into the politically motivated closure of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in 2013, is not so sure.

“I think I’ve seen too many reasons not to have a lot of confidence in some people there,” she said.

Needs Major Repairs

About the only thing that commissioners agree upon is that the current terminal has to go. The building is already overcapacity and in need of major repairs. On congested days, drivers have been known to run laps around the terminal or else be forced to park on city streets while passenger lines snake down stairways and along station concourses.

After a series of crippling delays a couple of summers ago the Port Authority launched a $90 million renovation effort to repair leaky ceilings and update decrepit bathrooms. The agency also reorganized traffic flow through the terminal. But those were just short-term fixes. Engineers predict that the concrete ramps that feed buses through the station will only last for 20 more years, after which the station will have to be knocked down and rebuilt.

Rechler, the 48-year-old CEO of a multibillion-dollar real estate company, RXR Realty, is a futurist when it comes to transportation.

In addition to millions of square feet of Manhattan real estate, Rechler’s company has made a play for high-density developments in suburban downtowns like Yonkers and New Rochelle, N.Y., that have good access to mass transit links into Manhattan.

Sitting at his company’s headquarters in Uniondale, a 1.1-million-square-foot office complex with twin glass towers and a glass-domed atrium, Rechler sketched out a vision of the future in which suburban commuters are transported to work in driverless cars or on buses that link together to form “virtual trains of buses.”

Rechler wants to inject some of that futurism into the bus terminal debate.

“We need 21st-century thinking here because things are changing so fast,” Rechler said.

“We don’t want to spend $10 billion on something that’s already archaic.”

This year, the Port Authority budgeted $15 million for the bus terminal project. Almost half of that money will be spent on cost estimates, program management and public outreach. Of the $8 million remaining, $4 million will be spent on an international design competition and $4 million will be spent on a “trans-Hudson commuter capacity study” that will examine ways of using rail tunnels, ferries and other modes of transport to carry people to Manhattan.

In other words, the bi-state agency plans to solicit designs for a new terminal while it is still unsure how many terminals it wants and where it — or they — ought to be.

That has left Weinberg confused.

“I don’t know how you would ask for a design competition if you haven’t decided where the bus terminal is going to go,” she said.

But Degnan said that approving the design competition and the commuter study simultaneously was the only way to keep the bus terminal project moving forward.

The project threatened to get caught in limbo last fall, when three members of a bus terminal subcommittee — two New Jersey commissioners and one New York commissioner — recommended building a new terminal one block west of the current location at 42nd Street between 9th and 11th avenues. Rechler, the fourth member of the committee, vetoed the plan.

“I do not at this time endorse any of the recommendations,” Rechler told board members at the meeting in September.

Rechler said that he and his colleagues were rushing ahead and should take more time to get detailed reports from consultants. Rechler added that if the agency was going to build a new terminal, he wanted commissioners to consider at least two options, one of which had to be an alternative location “on the other side of the Hudson.”

Degnan, who also served on the committee, said that the best way to proceed was a “compromise” that left open the question of how many terminals were needed and where they would be. He said that the design competition will require firms to come up with ideas that are “scalable and modular,” meaning that they can be made to fit whatever location and size the Port Authority finally decides upon.

Commissioners last October set themselves a deadline of this coming September to choose a winning design. But the design competition has not yet been launched, leaving open the prospect that bus commuters could be left waiting even longer for a plan to rebuild the terminal.

From an item at:
http://www.northjersey.com/news/analysis-discord-grows-over-bus-terminal-1.1512566


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STOCKS...    Selected Rail Stocks...
BRKB – Burlington Northern Santa Fe

CNI – Canadian National

CP –  Canadian Pacific

CSX – CSX Corp

GWR – Genessee & Wyoming

KSU – Kansas City-Southern

NSC – Norfolk Southern

PWX – Providence & Worcester

UNP – Union Pacific


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES... Environmental Lines...  

CT Audubon President Criticizes Rail Alternatives
For Northeast Corridor

By Kimberly Drelich
TheDay.Com

The Connecticut Audubon Society says future rail alternatives proposed for the Northeast Corridor would likely “significantly damage” three of its centers and “seriously impact the state’s human and ecological health.”

Connecticut Audubon President Alexander R. Brash wrote a letter Friday to the Federal Railroad Administration that takes issue with NEC Future’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement, including its effects on Old Lyme.

Alternative 1 includes an additional rail segment from Old Saybrook to Kenyon, R.I., that appears to cut through Old Lyme, “where the Audubon recently established the virtual Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center and is seeking a permanent location,” according to a news release.

Brash wrote in part of the letter that this segment “threatens to essentially destroy ‘main street’ in Old Lyme and substantively alter the character and aesthetics of the surrounding landscape.”

“ ... Given the great ecological values and sensitivities associated with the lands south of the proposed route, any alternative with this proposed new segment should be adjusted to a trajectory north of I-95 and Old Lyme,” he added.

The Connecticut Audubon also says alternatives 2 and 3 appear to “cut through or skirt the border of the 700-acre Bafflin Sanctuary, at the Center at Pomfret, and perhaps Trail Wood/The Edwin Way Teale Memorial Sanctuary, which encompasses 168 acres in Hampton,” according to a news release.

Alternative 2 calls for a new segment of tracks between Hartford and Providence. Alternative 3 includes four options for a “second spine” of rails in the northern portion of the Northeast Corridor, including “routings via Central Connecticut/Providence, Long Island/Providence, Long Island/Worcester, and Central Connecticut/Worcester,” according to NEC Future’s website.

Officials and representatives of community organizations expressed their opposition to Alternative 1 at a press conference at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme last week.

Found at:
http://www.theday.com/article/20160215/NWS01/160219496


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HSR... High-Speed Rail...  

High-Speed Rail Plans Change: Bay Area
Could Get Trains Ahead Of LA

By Jay Barmann
Sfist.com

You may be inclined to think that you will never live to see a high-speed rail link between San Francisco and Los Angeles — and depending on your age and overall health you may be correct. But the project is moving forward, however slowly, and broke ground over a year ago in Fresno despite an enormous funding gap and ongoing disagreements over the necessary land acquisitions. Now, as the SF Chronicle reports, there’s been a change of plans by the California High-Speed Rail Authority, with a move set for approval to build the Bay Area segment of the line ahead of a planned, more logistically difficult and costly segment connecting Burbank and Los Angeles.

The reason for this is an injection of funding for Caltrain and the electrification of Caltrain’s tracks between San Francisco and Gilroy. The electrification project still has a $440 million funding gap, but that’s after $125 million in federal money just allocated by the President in next year’s budget. Electrifying the Caltrain system is the first step in modernizing the rail corridor in preparation for high-speed trains — though at present, the plan is not to have those trains travel at high-speed up the Peninsula, because of the shared rail line with Caltrain, and NIMBY issues there.

Also, regulators believe they will be able to drum up more public interest and private investment if they can get the Bay Area segment built sooner, and series of tunnels necessary to build the final LA segment has the potential to be delayed much further.

The rail authority has not, however, officially announced this change of plan.

Right now, the aim is to have the entire $68 billion rail line operational by 2028 or 2029, with the initial Central Valley segment possibly open by 2022, connecting Bakersfield to the tiny town of Borden, just south of Madera. Ultimately, the trip from SF to LA is supposed to take less than three hours, with a projected ticket price of $97.

Found at:
http://sfist.com/2016/02/15/high-speed_rail_plans_change_bay_ar.php


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LABOR LINES... Labor Lines...  

Bombardier To Cut 7,000 Jobs As
Revenue Falls In 2015

International Railway Journal

Fourth quarter and full-year revenues for Bombardier Transportation fell compared with 2014’s figures, the company has revealed – and it plans to cut 3,200 jobs in its non-aviation transport activities.

In the fourth quarter of 2015 its rail transportation revenues were $US 2.16bn, compared with $US 2.63bn in the same period in 2014. Full-year results also showed a fall in revenues, from $US 9.61bn in 2014 to $US 8.28bn in 2015.

However, earnings before interest and tax (Ebit) rose in the fourth quarter of 2015 from $US 111m to $US 123m. Over the full year Ebit fell by $US 4m to $US 465m.

Despite this performance the company plans to shed 7,000 jobs in total, with the majority, 3,800 going from its aviation activities. 2,000 of the positions being lost are currently filled by contractors. The company expects restructuring to cost it up to $US 300m over the next two years.

Found at:
http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/financial/bombardier-to-cut-7000-jobs-as-revenue-falls-in-2015.html


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FREIGHT LINES... Freight Lines...  

Canadian Pacific Seeks Ruling On Norfolk Southern
Deal From U.S. Oversight Board

By The Canadian Press

Canadian Pacific is seeking an advance ruling from a key U.S. agency that can block its plan to merge with Norfolk Southern.

The Calgary-based railway company (TSX:CP) said Tuesday it will ask the U.S. Surface Transportation Board for a declaration on the viability of a voting trust that CP has suggested as part of its merger plan for Norfolk Southern.

Norfolk Southern has rejected CP Rail’s overtures on several occasions.

The Virginia-based company said on Feb. 9 that one of the reasons for its objection was the lack of a declaratory order from the Surface Transportation Board that would clarify the likelihood of regulatory approval for the proposed voting trust.

CP chief executive Hunter Harrison told analysts in January that the company was reviewing its strategy after failing to anticipate that politics would overtake the regulatory review process.

Canadian Pacific has argued that combining the two companies — both under a new company controlled by the voting trust — would create North America’s largest railway, improve performance and generate about US$1.8 billion in annual costs savings.

From an item found at:
http://www.theprovince.com/business/canadian+pacific+seeks+ruling+norfolk+southern+deal+from/11722509/story.html


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BNSF Plans $220M Capital Program
For Washington State

From Rail, Track, and Structures

BNSF’s 2016 capital expenditure program in Washington state will be nearly $220 million. This year’s plan is focused on maintenance projects that help operate a safe and reliable network and will bring capital investments more in line with forecasted customer freight service demand.

The largest component of the capital plan for Washington state will be for replacing and upgrading rail, crossties and ballast. BNSF said regular maintenance of the railroad allows the railroad to keep its network infrastructure in optimal condition and reduces the need for unscheduled service work that can slow down the network and reduce capacity.

“Freight rail is vital to Washington, where nearly 40 percent of all jobs in the state are tied to international trade. Our sizable operations in Washington help connect local businesses with markets throughout the U.S. and around the globe. This region is important to the success of our overall network and the broader economy. Whether it is moving raw materials headed to manufacturing plants, finished products to retail stores, or passengers riding commuter trains, which operate on our network, we remain focused on operating a safe, efficient and reliable network at all times,” said Jared Wootton, BNSF general manager of operations, Northwest Division.

BNSF’s maintenance program in Washington state includes more than 1,260 miles of track surfacing and/or undercutting work, the replacement of nearly 70 miles of rail and close to 243,000 ties, as well as signal upgrades for federally mandated positive train control (PTC).

This year’s capital projects in the state also include continuing the replacement of the Washougal River Bridge in Camas and follow more than $550 million invested by BNSF in its network in Washington over the past three years.

The 2016 planned capital investments in the state are part of BNSF’s $4.3 billion network-wide capital expenditure program. These investments include $2.8 billion to replace and maintain core network and related assets, approximately $500 million on expansion and efficiency projects, $300 million for continued implementation of PTC and more than $600 million for locomotives, freight cars and other equipment acquisitions.

This item appeared at:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/freight/class-1/bnsf-plans-220m-capital-program-for-washington-state.html


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