The National Corridors Initiative Logo

July 3, 2017
Vol. 17 No. 26

Copyright © 2017
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Founded 1989
Our 17th Newsletter Year


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

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

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

  An Important Announcement From Jim RePass
  Guest Opinion…
Federal Funding Should Include Amtrak
  Amtrak Lines…
Amtrak Names New Chief Executive
Report Says “No Significant Impact” Of Chosen
   Route For New Amtrak Susquehanna Bridge
  Funding Lines…
California, New York State Legislation Looks To
   Bolster Transit Funding
Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board
   Approves Six-Year Improvement Program
  Expansion Lines…
Elevated LRT Alignment To Be Studied For
   Sound Transit Extension
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Ridership Lines…
Ride Free In July – Wickford-Providence, RI.
  Maintenance Lines…
Sound Transit Finalizes $87.7M TIFIA Loan
   For Maintenance Facility
  Political Lines…
Hall Named FRA Deputy Administrator
  Across The Pond…
Siemens Marks 500th Vectron Order
  To The North…
Liberal Donor, Ex-Nomination Candidate Named
   To Via Rail Board
Ottawa’s VIA Rail Board Appointments: Same
   Old Circus With New Performers
  Publication Notes …


IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT... An Important Announcement From Jim RePass.
Founder Of The National Corridors Initiative
And Publisher Of Destination: Freedom

To Our Faithful Readership:

For almost 30 years, since 1989, the National Corridors Initiative has fought at all levels of government for investment in rail transportation. As the voice of NCI for the last 18 years Destination: Freedom (DF) has worked diligently to bring to you, the readership, information and commentary on the issues facing our nation and our North American neighbors with respect to long-distance rail, mass transit, transit-oriented development, rail funding, and safety, which represents considerable growth from our original mission, which was “to further the rapid development of practical, attainable High-Speed Rail transportation.”

Original materials, news aggregation, conference materials, and the occasional feature have graced these digital pages.

It has been a daunting task, made possible only by the truly incredible dedication of our people, such as founding editor the late Leo King, whose suggestion to me in 1999 led to the creation of Destination: Freedom, and then, for the bulk of that time, first as Webmaster and then as Managing Editor, the indefatigable Dennis Kirkpatrick, and European contributor and then Editor the skilled and dedicated David Beale, plus contributors such as columnist and editor David Peter Alan and longtime environmental activist Molly McKay.

Words cannot adequately express my gratitude to all of them for the long hours, dedication and professionalism that helped give strength and meaning to our work.

For a group of ordinary citizens, we have achieved a lot.

In 1990 and 1991, at three meetings at The Whites House, we convinced President George H.W. Bush to reverse his Administration’s opposition to the stalled Northeast Corridor Electrification Project that would finally electrify the last non-electric gap on the Northeast Corridor, from New Haven to Boston. Those meetings included our first executive director, Lincoln Chafee, who went on to become Senator from and then Governor of Rhode Island; former New York Power Authority Chairman and CEO Richard M. Flynn; former Rhode Island Governor J. Joseph Garrahy, former Meridian, MS Mayor John Robert Smith who served as our Chairman and then as Chairman of Amtrak, Rhode Island governor’s Counsel William G. Brody, and others. We have also had the consistent support and active participation over the years of former Democratic Presidential Nominee and Massachusetts Governor Michael J. Dukakis.

The NECIP project was re-started in 1991 and completed in 1999 at a cost of $1.9 Billion, cutting travel times from the former 5-6 hours (in practice) to 3 hours and 22 minutes, and more than quintupling ridership on the Boston-New York City segment of the Northeast Corridor. It also helped justify Amtrak’s purchase, for about $800 million, of Acela trainsets that went into full service in early 2000, which can and do achieve speeds of 150-160 mph on straight segments of its very curvy Shoreline Route.

There are other achievements as well, but those who have read this far will already know where I am going with this.

The year 2017 has brought to the forefront a series of issues that have placed continuation of DF into question, predominantly the time and availability of its core writing and editing staff. In the last few years, the workload has grown even as available hands have decreased. This, coupled with other human factors that inevitability impact us all, has led to the decision to end weekly publication of Destination: Freedom.

The edition of July 31, 2017, will therefore be the last weekly edition for the foreseeable future. Our newsletter archive, some 18 years’ worth, as well as the many feature articles and rail conference lectures and white papers, will continue to be available for some time to come, as a valuable reference archive. Many historical items can no longer be found on the Internet except on our pages, and those remain searchable by word, phrase, and topic.

We have no intention of going away; our Board and leadership remain active nationally, and NCI will persevere. To do otherwise in a time when the current Administration is actively targeting Amtrak would be unconscionable. DF will remain regularly in the digital realm if a new webmaster, managing editor and/or contributing staff can be found.

Are you one of those people? We have also considered the possibility of hosting an interactive forum as well. All well-reasoned suggestions are welcome, and will be weighed carefully.

So, please enjoy the remaining editions of DF through this month. We expect to publish additional thank-yous to the many people who have helped make this publication a dream, a reality, and a passion, these many years. We also thank you, our readership, for being faithful, and for offering us encouragement to push forward with the dream.

James P. RePass
Founder and Publisher
July 3, 2017

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GUEST OPINION... Guest Opinion...  

Federal Funding Should Include Amtrak

By Richard Lathrop
Opinion To The Wisconsin State Journal News

A few weeks ago, a New York Times editorial reprinted in the Wisconsin State Journal highlighted how President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget cuts would be devastating to sick, hungry, disabled and low-income Americans.

I agree.

What gets less attention is the proposed elimination of money for long-distance Amtrak.

I have traveled by Amtrak many times throughout the country. The trains are full, picking up and dropping off people at stations along the routes. Many stations are in remote communities where Amtrak is an important connection to the rest of the country.

People of diverse economic means use Amtrak, though probably not many super-rich. While not everybody has time for train travel, many people do not have easy access to regional airports. Amtrak is cheaper than flying, and to some people it is the only travel alternative. This includes the many people afraid to fly.

The federal fiscal year 2016 subsidy for Amtrak was only $1.4 billion, including the northeast corridor service. That’s peanuts compared to the annual multibillion-dollar federal subsidies of roads and airports.

Long-distance Amtrak is an important part of our nation’s transportation infrastructure. It needs increased funding to upgrade its aging equipment, facilities and tracks -- not elimination of all federal funding, as proposed in Trump’s budget.

Found at:

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AMTRAK LINES... Amtrak Lines...  

Amtrak Names New Chief Executive

By Lori Aratani
Washington Post

Amtrak has named Richard Anderson, the former chief executive of Delta and Northwest airlines, as its new president and CEO.

The announcement comes less than a year into the tenure Charles W. “Wick” Moorman, who took over as the passenger railroad’s chief executive in September. In a recent meeting with The Washington Post’s editorial board, Moorman had indicated that his role was to serve as a “transitional CEO,” working to reorganize and streamline Amtrak’s operations before turning it over to new leadership.

In an interview, Moorman said that being able to attract a leader of Anderson’s caliber signals that “Amtrak has a great future ahead of it.”

Anderson will begin the job on July 12 — just a few days after Amtrak launches an ambitious rebuilding program at New York’s Pennsylvania Station, which is already threatening to upend the commutes for thousands of New York City commuters. Amtrak already had announced service reductions along the Northeast Corridor as a result of the rebuilding program.

ImageFile Photo: Amtrak

Amtrak has named Richard Anderson, the former CEO of Delta and Northwest airlines, as its new president and CEO.
As part of the transition, Anderson and Moorman will serve as co-CEOs through Dec. 31, officials said. Moorman will then remain with Amtrak as an adviser to the company. That arrangement is designed to help Anderson make the transition from airlines to passenger rail. Before taking Amtrak’s top job, Moorman was the longtime head of Norfolk Southern Railway.

“Richard brings to Amtrak his experience running one of the largest global commercial air carriers. The board believes he is the right leader at the right time to drive the quality of customer service that our passengers, partners and stakeholders expect and deserve while continuing our path toward operational and financial excellence,” Amtrak board Chairman Tony Cosia said in a news release announcing Anderson’s appointment. “The board also appreciates all that Wick continues to do to improve Amtrak’s safety culture and strengthen our operating performance, including the important renewal work at New York Penn Station.”

Given his previous jobs at Delta and Northwest, Anderson brings with him existing relationships with key players on Capitol Hill, including members on the House and Senate transportation committees. That may help as Amtrak tries to stave off proposed cuts to long-distance rail service and fights to secure funding for ambitious rebuilding programs such as Project Gateway.

Anderson, 62, does not have railroad experience, but he does have decades of experience in the airline industry. He served most recently as executive chairman of the Delta Air Lines board of directors after serving as the airline’s CEO from 2007 to 2016.

He also was executive vice president at United Healthcare from 2004 to 2007, and CEO of Northwest Airlines from 2001 to 2004, which later merged with Delta. Anderson began his airline career in the legal division of Continental Airlines. Before that, he was a county prosecutor.

“It is an honor to join Amtrak at a time when passenger rail service is growing in importance in America. I look forward to working alongside Amtrak’s dedicated employees to continue the improvements begun by Wick,” Anderson said in a statement. “Amtrak is a great company today, and I’m excited about using my experience and working with the board to make it even better. I’m passionate about building strong businesses that create the best travel experience possible for customers.”

Moorman called Anderson a “best-in-class industry leader.”

While the idea of hiring an airline executive to focus on customer service may raise some eyebrows given that industry’s recent troubles, Moorman said that Anderson is a leader who understands the importance of customer service.

“I know his focus is on trying to provide a good customer experience for everyone,” Moorman said.

Anderson received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston at Clear Lake City and a law degree from South Texas College of Law. He is a native of Galveston, Tex., where his father worked for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.

From an article appearing at:

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Report Says ‘No Significant Impact’
Of Chosen Route For New Amtrak
Susquehanna Bridge

By David Anderson
The Aegis / Baltimore Sun

The Federal Railroad Administration has issued a “Finding of No Significant Impact,” or FONSI, for the selected route of the replacement of Amtrak’s Susquehanna River Rail Bridge.

The finding means Amtrak will not have to conduct a more in-depth environmental review of a project that is expected to have a significant impact on the landscapes of Havre de Grace and Perryville.

“The project will have a huge impact on the city and the region, and we’re urging everyone to get familiar with the FONSI,” Patrick Sypolt, Havre de Grace’s director of administration, said during a recent City Council meeting.

Despite its overall finding, the report details a number of impacts, such as street alignments in Havre de Grace that will have to be changed, acquisition of a small sliver land from the Havre de Grace Middle School property where Harford County is planning construction of a nearly $100 million combination high and middle school and changes to one of Havre de Grace’s waterfront parks, as well as to the Perryville waterfront on the eastern shore of the river.

The bridge project, whose estimated cost approaches $1 billion, would be the most costly public works project ever undertaken in Harford and Cecil counties.

The planning process, which began nearly four years ago, has proceeded amid a growing national discussion about the need for massive infrastructure projects, spurred by last fall’s election of President Donald Trump, but also how to pay for them.

Hard copies of the report are available at Havre de Grace City Hall, which is at 711 Pennington Ave., plus the FONSI is online at the city’s website,, and the project website,, according to Sypolt.

Amtrak, the national passenger railroad line, owns and operates the aging two-track bridge, which was built in 1906.

“Amtrak, as the bridge owner, will continue to maintain and evaluate the bridge and make sure it’s safe, so right now not much will change until funding is available for a full design,” Jacqueline Thorne, the Maryland Department of Transportation project manager for the rail bridge project, said Monday.

The issuance of the document, dated May 31, comes toward the end of a four-year period of gathering public input, reviewing a slew of alternatives for new bridge routes, preliminary engineering and completing an initial environmental assessment.

The research period, which started in 2013 and ends June 30, was funded by a $22 million federal stimulus grant.

It will take 10 to 12 years to design and build the structure, according to Thorne; however, the start date for that process depends on the availability of funding.

“We will continue to work closely with Amtrak and the FRA to seek out grants or sources [of funds],” Thorne said.

The bridge, which crosses the Susquehanna River between Havre de Grace and Perryville, is a key part of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. The FONSI describes that corridor as “the most heavily-used passenger rail line in North America, both in terms of ridership and service frequency, and one of the most heavily-traveled rail corridors in the world.”

The existing bridge supports Amtrak’s high-speed passenger rail service, as well as regional MARC commuter rail traffic and Norfolk Southern freight rail traffic.

The new bridge would consist of four tracks on two separate spans. The first span would be built just north of the existing bridge, then the old bridge would be demolished and the second span built in its place.

The FONSI indicates minimal impacts to wetlands, forests, floodplains wildlife, air and water quality, as well as an overall insignificant increase in noise except for a “moderate” increase in areas close to the rail line with the new bridge.

“The Project is anticipated to have an overall positive impact on the regional economy by improving railroad mobility and connectivity. Further positive cumulative effects include the promotion of energy-efficient transportation options, aimed at improving regional air quality and reducing highway and airport congestion with improved rail service,” according to the report.

The finding of no significant impact means officials do not have to complete a more in-depth environmental impact statement, according to the project website.

Thorne, of the MDOT, called an environmental impact statement “the most detailed study there is in terms of the environment.”

Project leaders conducted their environmental assessment during the four-year study period, as they evaluated impacts in areas such as water quality and wildlife.

“All of those things were evaluated, and it was not felt that we needed to go much deeper,” Thorne said.

Project leaders are also expected to work with local, state and federal agencies to minimize impacts to districts and structures in the path of the rail line, such as the historic district in downtown Havre de Grace, Rodgers Tavern in Perryville and the historic interlocking tower at Perryville’s train station complex, according to the report.

The plan anticipates 2.84 acres must be acquired within the right of way to accommodate the project, including a portion of the Havre de Grace High School athletic fields, a section of Jean Roberts Park in Havre de Grace and one commercial property, National Tire & Glass Sales Inc., according to the report.

The business is at the intersection of North Adams and Warren Street, just south of the approach to the bridge.

The existing bridge is considered a bottleneck on the Northeast Corridor. High speed passenger trains traveling between New York and Washington, D.C., must slow down to cross it, as the rail line narrows from multiple tracks to just two for the bridge, plus the structure must occasionally swing open to allow marine traffic navigating the river to pass through

“The bridge’s functionally obsolete design and age require increasingly frequent major rehabilitation and repairs, which result in increasing maintenance costs and conflicts with the need to maintain continuous rail operations on the corridor,” according to the report.

The new bridge will be designed to eliminate those issues, as it will allow train speeds of up to 160 mph, and it will have 60 feet of vertical clearance over the river and at least 230 feet of horizontal clearance for marine traffic, according to the report.

“Without the Project, the existing bridge would continue to deteriorate and may eventually need to be taken out of service, causing a major disruption to transportation and the regional economy,” the report states. “Therefore, FRA finds that the Project would have benefits and no foreseeable significant adverse impact on the quality of the human or natural environment.”

From an item at:

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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines....  

California, New York State Legislation
Looks To Bolster Transit Funding

By Mischa Wanek-Libman
Rail, Track, And Structures

Two pieces of legislation, one introduced in California and the other in New York, aim to support transit funding for Caltrain and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) cites delays and historic failures on the MTA system as the reason for introducing his legislation, “Better Trains, Better Cities,” modeled after the “Safe Streets, Safe City,” program that resulted in reduced crime rates in the 1990s.

Sen. Gianaris’ bill would establish an emergency manager to oversee the maintenance and operation of MTA trains and create a temporary, dedicated revenue stream to fund urgent repairs. This funding would be created by a temporary three-year surcharge on personal income taxes for those in the MTA region earning more than $1 million annually, as well as on New York City hotel/motel taxes. The surcharge would increase for those earning between $5 million and $10 million, as well as those earning more than $10 million. Sen. Gianaris estimates the two surcharges will raise more than $2 billion annually, which would be dedicated exclusively to maintaining and upgrading the MTA system at the discretion of the emergency manager.

Across the country, a group of California state legislators, led by State Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), introduced legislation that would authorize the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which oversees Caltrain, to put a one-eighth-cent sales tax measure before the voters of San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to fund the rail service’s capital and operating costs.

Sen. Hill says Senate Bill 797 lays the foundation to end fluctuating voluntary contributions with dedicated funding, but explains that several conditions would have to be met before such a measure is put on the ballot in the three counties, including:

“Our region is an economic powerhouse for our state, but its continued growth is jeopardized if our residents cannot get back and forth to work, school and their families because our main transportation corridor cannot accommodate them,” said Sen. Hill. “SB 797 would enable Caltrain, which is now operating at 125 percent capacity, to meet demands for increased service while easing traffic along the Highway 101 corridor.”

From a piece at:

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Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board
Approves Six-Year Improvement Program

By Maggie Lancaster
Rail, Track, And Structures

The Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) approved the latest Six-Year Improvement Program (SYIP) for the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT).

The SYIP allocates $18.6 billion to transportation projects over the next six fiscal years beginning July 1, 2017. Projects include highway, road, bridge, rail, transit, bicycle/pedestrian paths and other transportation improvements across the state.

The SYIP provides funding to more than 3,600 transportation projects to improve the state’s infrastructure. This SYIP is the second program to include projects funded through the new funding structure provided by the Governor and General Assembly in 2015, including SMART SCALE distributed High Priority Projects and District Grant programs and State of Good Repair.

The FY 2018-2023 Six-Year Improvement Program breakdown includes $15.2 billion allotted for highway construction. $3.4 billion of the budget will go towards rail and public transportation, with $817 million allotted for rail initiatives.

The Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) annual budget for Fiscal Year 2018 is $689 million. The overwhelming majority of these funds are directed to a variety of grant recipients, including: public transportation providers, local and regional government entities, freight railroads and Amtrak.

The DRPT budget breakdown includes:

More than 50 percent of these funds are dedicated to capital improvement projects. The annual budget is based on the most recent official state revenue forecast from December 2016 and estimated federal funding.

From an item at:

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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

Elevated LRT Alignment To Be Studied
For Sound Transit Extension

By Mischa Wanek-Libman
Rail, Track, And Structures

Sound Transit will study an option to elevate the planned extension of light rail to downtown Redmond per a directive from the transit agency’s board.

The study is one of the refinements Sound Transit could incorporate into the extension, which is planned to begin construction in 2019 and be in service in 2024.

The proposed refinements were identified in conjunction with the city of Redmond and other partners following regional voters’ November 2016 approval of the project. Sound Transit says they fit within the project budget and schedule and would improve service reliability and safety by separating trains from vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Additionally, the extension route would be shorter by approximately 600 feet, ending at an elevated station in the Redmond Town Center area.

“Shifting to elevated tracks in downtown Redmond is cost-effective and will create a win for transit riders, drivers and pedestrians alike,” said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair and Redmond Mayor John Marchione. “Redmond and Sound Transit have built a strong partnership that will continue to move this project forward to an expedited opening.”

The proposed refinements will undergo additional environmental review and engineering prior to the board’s scheduled 2018 adoption of the final project, which will be constructed under a design-build contract.

The project extends the East Link project that is now under construction by approximately 3.5 miles. While the Sound Transit Board adopted a previously approved route to downtown Redmond in 2011 as part of the broader East Link project, the downtown extension was not funded until regional voters’ November 2016 approval of the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure. With the refinements, the project is estimated to cost $880 to $915 million, which is within the $950 million financial plan estimate for the extension. A baseline cost estimate for the project will be developed as preliminary engineering advances in the coming months, the board approves the final alignment and the agency launches a competitive procurement for the construction contract.

Though not funded by the Link project, the refined alignment also facilitates a future key trail connection through the SR 520/SR 202 interchange that will tie together the Redmond Central Connector and the East Lake Sammamish Trail. This connection is a long-standing goal of the City of Redmond and King County.

Found at:

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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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RIDERSHIP LINES... Ridership Lines...  

Ride Free In July – Wickford-Providence, RI.

Free In-State Commuter Rail Trips Between
Wickford Junction, T.F. Green And Providence, RI
Stations in Rhode Island Starts Monday

Promotion Runs From July 3 Through The End Of 2017

From a Rhode Island DOT Press Release

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is reminding Rhode Islanders of free in-state travel starting next week on Monday, July 3 on trains between Wickford Junction, T.F. Green and Providence stations. The service provides an opportunity to try transit, leaving the car at home for the daily trip to work, to catch a flight, or visit the capital city.

RIDOT is making commuter rail service free for a limited time, from July 3 running through the end of the year. The promotion will raise awareness of this convenient transit service, encouraging more people to use the train instead of the busy Route 4 highway corridor.

Information about the service with links for schedule, parking and more can be found at

Parking at Wickford Junction Station is free year-round. The facility - located minutes from Exit 5 on Route 4 in North Kingstown - includes covered garage parking, restrooms, a climate-controlled indoor waiting area, electric car charging stations and vending machines.

Wickford Junction and T.F. Green stations offer 20 weekday stops with service to Providence. The free travel is only to Providence, however travelers wishing to continue to Boston may purchase tickets on the train or through the MBTA’s mobile ticketing app on their smart phones.

Wickford Junction Station is located at 1011 Ten Rod Road, in North Kingstown. T.F. Green Station is located at 700 Jefferson Blvd. in Warwick. Providence Station is located at 100 Gaspee St., Providence.

For more info contact:
Charles St. Martin
(O):401-222-1362 x 4007

[ Editor Note and Commentary:  The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) operates this service under contract to Keolis Transportation, and it is financially supported by RIDOT.  The MBTA recently held free ride days on its Fairmount branch in Boston as a way of generating interest in the service, and to restore faith in the branch’s operation after a period of train cancelations due to a shortage of trainsets system-wide.  The service to Wickford Junction is a great boon to commuter rail transit but its current schedule serves a limited ridership in the very early morning and late evening hours.  Additional non-peak service would be a boon to the line as well as make its connection to TF Green Airport that much more desirable.  Hopefully this free option will generate the numbers that will justify an improvement in this area. ]

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MAINTENANCE LINES... Maintenance Lines...  

Sound Transit Finalizes $87.7M TIFIA Loan
For Maintenance Facility

By Mischa Wanek-Libman
Rail, Track, And Structures

Sound Transit and the U.S. Department of Transportation executed an $87.7-million Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan to build a new maintenance base in Bellevue, Wash., to support future light-rail expansions.


Image: Sound Transit

A rendering of Sound Transit’s Operations and Maintenance Facility: East.

The 25-acre Operations and Maintenance Facility East in Bellevue is needed for continuing expansion of the region’s light-rail system. By 2024, the system will grow from 22 to 62 miles and the existing light-rail fleet will more than triple in size, from 62 to 214 vehicles. The current facility in Seattle can store and maintain at least 104 light-rail vehicles. The new eastside facility will be designed to maintain, store and deploy an additional 96 vehicles.

The loan is the second Sound Transit has secured under a $1.99-billion credit agreement approved by USDOT in December. Sound Transit said the credit agreement is the first of its kind in the nation in supporting four separate Sound Transit projects. It is expected to yield regional taxpayers long-term savings of between $200 million and $300 million in reduced borrowing costs.

“The people of Puget Sound stand to benefit the most from this needed U.S. Department of Transportation loan that will make possible a second storage and maintenance facility for upcoming light rail expansions,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. “Securing the nation’s first master credit agreement last year was a big win for our region, especially when one considers the taxpayer dollars we’ll save on borrowing costs. I want to thank Secretary Chao and her team for our continued federal partnership through the TIFIA program.”

Found at:

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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

Hall Named FRA Deputy Administrator

By William C. Vantuono
Railway Age

The Federal Railroad Administration has named public relations practitioner Heath Hall as Deputy Federal Railroad Administrator, a post that does not require Senate confirmation. Hall will serve as Acting Administrator and is known to USDOT Secretary Elaine Chao from her days with the Deputy DOT Secretary’s office and the Peace Corps.

ImageFile Image via Railway Age

Heath Hall

Hall is currently a vice president in the marketing and external affairs department of non-profit Innovate Mississippi. He also manages Pointe Innovation magazine. Prior to joining Innovate Mississippi, he served as senior vice president of external affairs at the Mississippi Economic Council, the State Chamber of Commerces. He served for two years (1998-1999) as executive director of Mississippians for Civil Justice Reform/STOP Lawsuit Abuse in Mississippi. In 1998, he was a Republican candidate for the U.S. Congress in Mississippi’s fourth congressional district. Hall also served as Governor Kirk Fordice’s director of public affairs, deputy press secretary, and deputy director of communications for Fordice’s re-election campaign.

Hall began his public relations career as an FRA intern, later moving into the USDOT deputy secretary’s office. He was also an intern in the White House Office of Political Affairs during the George H. W. Bush Administration. Following his position at the White House, Heath became a staff assistant to the director of the Peace Corps. He later became a public relations/financial development specialist for the American Red Cross of Mississippi.

Hall received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from The American University in Washington, D.C. in 1993.

Based on information from Capitol Hill Contributing Editor Frank N. Wilner, Railway Age predicted on June 4 that Hall would be named Deputy FRA Administrator. FRA is still without an Administrator (Patrick T. Warren is FRA Executive Director), and it doesn’t look like there will be an appointment before August. Meanwhile, the FRA is without an official mandate from the Trump Administration.

From an article at:

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

Siemens Marks 500th Vectron Order

By Stuart Chirls
Railway Age

European Locomotive Leasing, a provider of full-service leasing of electric locomotives, has ordered an additional eight Vectron locomotives from Siemens.

The units will in turn be leased to Czech railway Ceské Dráhy for passenger service on the Prague-Berlin route, Siemens said.

The multi-system locomotives have a maximum output of 6.4 MW and a top speed of 200 km/h. With this order, Siemens has sold a total 507 Vectrons.

“This milestone highlights the success story and reliable service of our Vectron locomotives throughout Europe. We’ve already convinced 31 customers in 14 countries with our flexible platform and customer-tailored equipment packages,” said Jochen Eickholt, Chief Executive of Siemens’ Mobility Division.


Image via Siemens

Siemens Vectron locomotive shown in European Locomotive Leasing scheme for Czech Republic.

First delivered in 2012 and used in freight and passenger service, the Vectron can be delivered as a purely electrical version for alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC) power systems, as well as a multisystem (MS) variant in the power classes 5.2 MW, 5.6 MW and 6.4 MW. Along with the desired national train control system, the locomotives can also be equipped with the latest European Train Control System (ETCS). The locomotives will be built at the Siemens plant in Munich-Allach, Germany.

The Vectron fleet has accumulated more than 75 million kilometers of service so far, and are currently certified for operation in Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.

From an item at:

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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Liberal Donor, Ex-Nomination Candidate
Named To Via Rail Board

Jonathan Goldbloom, Who Has Donated $20,000 To The Liberal Party
Of Canada And Ran Unsuccessfully To Be A Federal Liberal Candidate
In Quebec In 2014, Has Been Named Among Nine Directors
Appointed Or Reappointed This Month To Via Rail’s Board.

By Samantha Wright Allen
The Hill Times

A new government appointee to the Via Rail board has donated about $20,000 to the Liberal Party of Canada and its affiliates, including to his own campaign when he unsuccessfully ran for the federal Liberal nomination for a Quebec riding in 2014.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau (Notre Dame de Grâce-Westmount, Que.) announced on June 27 the appointment of Jonathan Goldbloom of Westmount, Que. to a four-year term as a board director in a move the NDP ethics critic is calling “blatantly partisan.” Mr. Goldbloom campaigned for the Mount Royal Liberal candidacy unsuccessfully in 2014 and donated $20,046 between 2006 and March 2017 to either the Liberal Party of Canada, his own campaign, or a Quebec Liberal riding association, Elections Canada figures indicate.

A spokesperson for the department that supports the prime minister and cabinet said by email the government’s approach “supports open, transparent, and merit-based selection processes” to identify diverse and qualified candidates that reflect and represent Canada.

“Mr. Goldbloom was appointed following such a process,” said Paul Duchesne, a spokesperson for the Privy Council Office, which helps handle the selection process for federal cabinet-appointed positions. The Prime Minister’s Office referred questions to the PCO.
Duchesne added by email the appointees are considered public office holders and are subject to the Conflict of Interest Act and must comply with ethical and political activities guidelines.

But NDP MP Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley, B.C.). said the choice, and the appointment process, is anything but transparent.

“This is becoming a pathology for this government. The more they talk about open merit-based appointments, the more Liberals get appointed. There’s no other way to describe this,” said Mr. Cullen, his party’s ethics critic.

“Anyone saying [Mr. Goldbloom’s] Liberal affiliations and donations meant nothing in this is living on another planet. Yet it’s not about him, it’s about [Justin] Trudeau and not having a credible appointment process. And so then everything is suspicious, particularly when it’s so blatantly partisan.”
In February last year Mr. Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) overhauled the appointments system, making hundreds of part-time positions subject to a formal selection process open to all Canadians.

The Via Rail appointment comes in the wake of controversy around a former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister’s proposed appointment as official languages commissioner. The fallout ultimately forced Madeleine Meilleur to withdraw her candidacy. And as iPolitics reported in April, the Liberals named Jennifer Stebbing, a failed Liberal candidate, as a director of the Hamilton Port Authority.

Reached by email, Mr. Goldbloom declined to comment and suggested questions about his appointment be directed to Via Rail Canada Inc. A Via spokesperson said by email his appointment is the responsibility of the federal government, but added that the new board maintains a “high-caliber, regionally diverse, and gender-balanced composition. We are confident that the appointment of these highly qualified people will contribute to the sustainable development of Via Rail, and its strong governance.”

Marc Roy, the transport minister’s communications director, sent a statement in response to The Hill Times’ questions reiterating some of the language used by the PCO.
“These appointees bring a wide array of technical knowledge and senior executive and corporate governance expertise to the transportation portfolio,” he said by email.

A 30-year public relations and communications veteran, Mr. Goldbloom is president of JGA Strategic Relations, which offers strategic communications, crisis management, media relations, and brand development services. Among his experience, his company biography states he was once a senior adviser at Canada Post, a Crown corporation.

He campaigned for his party’s nomination in a longtime Liberal riding unsuccessfully in 2014 to replace outgoing Liberal MP Irwin Cotler in Mount Royal. He lost the nomination battle to Anthony Housefather, the former mayor of Côte Saint-Luc, a community in the riding. Mr. Housefather went on to win the electoral district for the Liberals in 2015.

Mr. Goldbloom’s family has deep ties to the provincial and federal Liberals. In 2006 Mr. Goldbloom ran former MP Bob Rae’s run for Liberal leadership. His father Victor, who died in 2016, was a former Quebec provincial cabinet minister. He served in provincial politics for 13 years and in 1991 was appointed by then-prime minister Brian Mulroney as Canada’s commissioner of official languages, a term he held eight years. Jonathan Goldbloom’s brother Michael is principal of Bishop’s University and used to be the publisher of The Montreal Gazette and The Toronto Star.

Tuesday’s roster of nine Via Rail appointments includes other members who appear to have donated smaller amounts to political parties, according to Elections Canada records. Calgary’s Stanley Ross Goldsworthy donated $4,000 to the Conservative Party of Canada between 2011 and 2015, and Toronto-based Jane Mowat donated $1,000 to a Conservative candidate in 2014. Daniel Gallivan of Halifax donated $250 to a Liberal candidate in 2005. None were recorded as having donated to the NDP.

Via Rail, which is a Crown corporation, pays its directors an annual retainer of $6,000 plus a $450 daily fee for meeting attendance, travel time, or events where they act as representatives. In 2016 it paid its board members $177,194 in cumulative fees.

Mr. Cullen said “powerful and other lucrative appointments” are not about the direct money. He called on the government to suspend such selections until a “credible” process is in place.

“It’s the ability to influence decisions and leverage that into other opportunities—personal and financial,” said Mr. Cullen. “The ability to say ‘I sit on the board of Via’ or ‘I sit on the board of CBC’ is for some people certainly a lucrative thing—not in the remuneration but in what it leads to next.”

From an item appearing at:

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Ottawa’s VIA Rail Board Appointments:
Same Old Circus With New Performers

Press Release From All Aboard St Marys

By letting patronage rule in its selection of a new slate of VIA Rail Canada directors, the Trudeau government has passed up a major opportunity to revive and renew the publicly-owned passenger railway.

“We’re not surprised, but we are disappointed,” says Chris West of the All Aboard St. Marys citizens’ committee. “This is a clear indication that VIA isn’t a priority for this government, just a place to plant some of the party faithful. It’s more proof that our rail passenger service is broken and headed for serious trouble in the near future.”

The government’s June 27, 2017, announcement of the VIA board appointments is available at

The appointment of the new chairperson was previously announced on April 19, 2017.

VIA’s new board makes for an unflattering contrast with the one guiding its U.S. equivalent, Amtrak. While politics is invariably involved in such appointments, the U.S. has been more even handed in selecting directors who put Amtrak ahead of partisan interests. The nine-member Amtrak board is composed of members identified with both political parties and includes five directors with relevant rail or public transportation experience.

Says West, “Planting a failed Liberal candidate from Montreal on the board speaks volumes about the federal government’s lack of real concern about VIA’s future compared with the U.S. approach. There is not a soul on the new VIA board with anything close to the rail passenger experience, knowledge or enthusiasm that guides Amtrak. This has largely been the case through the 40 years since VIA was created by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s government to allegedly revive and modernize our rail passenger service.”

Most troubling is the absence of any of the highly-skilled, non-partisan candidates available to fill the VIA board positions. The prime one is former Amtrak president David Gunn, who is now a resident of Nova Scotia. The knowledge and insights he gained through his 41-year career in the rail and public transit industries would be invaluable to VIA at a time when it needs such expertise the most.

“As Mr. Gunn has said on many occasions – and VIA’s corporate plan confirms – this railway is headed for collapse,” says West. “VIA has received no funding for new equipment, which the corporate plan says is vital if it is to keep running its current services beyond 2020. It also makes clear that the first pieces of this desperately-needed new fleet – even if the government suddenly authorized its purchase today – couldn’t be on the rails until at least 2021.”

At the same time, the provincial government has made a pre-election promise to build its own high-speed rail passenger system between Toronto, London and Windsor, with completion optimistically pegged at 2031. At a cost of more than $30 billion, the provincially-funded system would duplicate and likely decimate the federally-funded VIA services. Communities such as St. Marys, Stratford, Brantford and Woodstock, which aren’t on the proposed high-speed line, would be left with no rail service.

Says West, “Between VIA’s longstanding woes, these partisan board appointments and the province’s overblown promises, we see nothing that resembles a logical plan to improve mobility in Southwestern Ontario. We need the type of fast and affordable rail passenger improvements now being delivered in regions all over the U.S. This is going to undermine Southwestern Ontario’s competitiveness and its desirability as a place to live, visit and invest.”

All Aboard St. Marys has long advocated incremental improvement of the two existing VIA routes between Toronto and London, and then westward to both Windsor and Sarnia. The group’s view is that the high-performance rail improvements now being successfully and quickly implemented on comparable U.S. corridors offer realistic and cost-effective blueprints for Southwestern Ontario.

“We fail to see how a trainload of political appointees with no discernible rail experience is going to deliver what we require,” says West. “The message to us is clear: All Aboard St. Marys must escalate its advocacy efforts in the face of the government’s failure to give VIA the right team and the resources to halt the continuing deterioration of our rail service.”

For more information, please contact:

Chris West
All Aboard St. Marys
Tel: 519 284-3310
Fax: 519 284-3160
Toll free: 1-866-862-5632 Ext. 238
Visit us at:

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