The National Corridors Initiative Logo

July 11, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 27

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...

  Funding Lines …
Massachusetts State Budget Plan Locks In Trolley
   And Fairmount Commuter Spending
New Bill Could Bring Funding To
   Caltrain Electrification
  High-Speed Lines …
Work Starts Soon On High-Speed Rail Trench
   Into Downtown Fresno, Ca.
  News From Apta …
APTA’s Rail Conference Highlighted Growth,Technology, And Funding Issues
  Transit Lines …
NJ Transit Unveils Expanded Light-Rail Vehicle
   On Newark Lines
  Selected Rail Stocks …
 
  Safety Lines …
For SEPTA’s Train Commuters, The Worst
   May Be Yet To Come
  Political Lines …
With 13 Miles Of Federal Way Light Rail, ST3
   Is Officially On Ballot This November
  Across The Pond …
Speed Boost On Paris–Strasbourg
    Rail Corridor Arrives
DB and Georgian Railways Sign MOU For
   Silk Road Rail Corridor
  Off The Main Line …
A Community Transportation Provider
   Expands The Reach Of Amtrak In The Middle
   Of The Night
  Publication Notes …


FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

Massachusetts State Budget Plan Locks In Trolley
And Fairmount Commuter Spending

By Jennifer Smith
Dorchester Reporter News

Several Dorchester and Mattapan [Boston, MA.] transit investments have been locked in for funding in the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) $14.8 billion Capital Investment Plan, which the MassDOT Board approved on June 20.

The five-year statewide plan, which funds projects like road, bridge, and improvements for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) , involved a collaboration between the MBTA and MassDOT on the final budget. A prioritization system was implemented across the plan, identifying crucial or guaranteed investments in order of importance.

Long promised, the Blue Hill Avenue infill station on the Fairmount commuter rail branch line is slotted to receive about $26 million, completing the final component of the Fairmount Corridor Improvement project.  According to the investment plan, the station is budgeted for more than $3 million in Fiscal Year 2017, with an additional $22 million to be allocated during Fiscal Years 2018 to 2021.

The Mattapan community’s commuter rail station’s status was uncertain until recently. New Fairmount Line stations, including this one in Mattapan, were mandated in a settlement resolving a 2003 lawsuit against the MBTA and other state agencies for failure to comply with the “Big Dig” highway construction project agreement funding rail projects in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan.

Now, guaranteed by priority in the five-year plan, the Blue Hill Avenue commuter rail stop is the fifth and final station left for construction under that agreement.  

Two different line items in the plan involve a related “Fairmount/Indigo Commuter Rail Study,” budgeted for about $332,000 in Fiscal Year 2017. No future funding is noted for the subway-like railcars known as diesel multiple units (DMUs), which MassDOT announced in April would not be included in the capital plan.

Another Mattapan project that has received significant support from local elected officials has found its place in the budget. The Mattapan High-Speed trolley, which travels between the MBTA’s Ashmont station and Mattapan station, is approved for about $9 million in maintenance and improvement investments. Its existing President’s Conference Committee cars (PCCs) are preferred as the line’s service vehicles by nine local officials that signed a letter authored by state Rep. Dan Cullinane in March.

“About $3.7 million is allocated to keep the 70-year old PCC trolleys operational,” according to MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo.

The same officials who support the trolleys oppose any radical line changes, like electric buses, which may be considered years down the line. The capital plan allocates $5 million over the next five years for “PCC Car Replacement-Alternative Service.”

Pesaturo said in an email that this is aimed toward future funding for the line, after a study has assessed the best form and service vehicles.

According to MassDOT, the Capital Investment Plan would cut the MBTA’s State of Good Repair backlog from $7.3 billion to $3.5 billion over the five-year period. About $4 billion will be re-appropriated to repair and rehabilitate aging MBTA infrastructure. The amount includes $1 billion dedicated to signal and power improvements and $1.6 billion for new buses and train cars for the Red, Orange and Green Lines.

[ DF Editor Note:  At the Rail Users Network (RUN) conference last April, representatives from MassDOT and the MBTA noted they are considering modifications to a few of their existing commuter rail stock locomotives to use on the Fairmount branch.  This would create a dedicated group of trainsets with a modified gear ratio different from its intercity train sets that would be better suited for short starts and stops and reduced speeds from which the Fairmount branch would benefit.  That suggestion is still under consideration.  While a few locomotives would become dedicated to this service, coaches would remain interchangeable with the rest of the fleet.]

From an item at:
http://www.dotnews.com/2016/state-budget-plan-locks-trolley-fairmount-spending" TARGET="BLANK"


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New Bill Could Bring Funding
To Caltrain Electrification

By James Ayre
Clean Technica

A new bill that’s being advanced in California (AB 1889) by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, (D-South San Francisco), may lead to the freeing up of “funds” intended for use by the troubled San Francisco to Los Angeles high-speed rail project, with the funds being made available for other projects such as the electrification of Caltrain’s Gilroy to San Francisco route, according to recent reports.

To be more clear, the “funds” in this case refer to the sale of $1.1 billion in voter-approved high-speed rail bonds (the sale of ~$10 billion in such bonds was approved by state voters back in 2008). The state treasurer’s office sold the aforementioned $1.1 billion in bonds following the vote, but these funds have since been legally tied up.

The previously approved high-speed rail project also included plans for the upgrade of various Caltrain routes — such as the electrification of the 55-mile Caltrain commuter line that connects Silicon Valley to San Francisco. It’s not completely clear, though, what the legalities of the situation are.

KQED News notes that “Mullin’s legislative director, Andrew Zingale, said the bill is meant to clarify a portion of prior legislation that authorized $1.1 billion for transit improvements at both ends of the high-speed rail project. Zingale said there was a concern that the wording of existing law could mean high-speed rail would have to be up and running to fund an electrification project, which was not what lawmakers intended.”

In his own words, Zingale stated: “What we’re trying to clarify is that this does serve the purpose of that, but we don’t have to wait for the entire corridor of high-speed rail track to be built for the money to be ready to be spent.”

A spokesperson for the San Mateo County Transit District by the name of Seamus Murphy commented, “officials are poised next month to approve the first portion of the approximately $2 billion Caltrain electrification project to speed up travel times and train frequency, and they want to get financing in place. He said the state’s share of the cost would be about $713 million.”

He added: “This is a critical improvement for Caltrain service. We’re experiencing a capacity crisis.”

Considering the “necessity” of such upgrades, and the increasingly troubled outlook for the San Francisco to Los Angeles high-speed rail project, it would probably be a very good thing for this legislation to move forward.

Found at:
http://cleantechnica.com/2016/06/30/new-bill-bring-funding-caltrain-electrification/


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HIGH-SPEED-LINES... High-Speed Lines...  

Work Starts Soon On High-Speed Rail Trench
Into Downtown Fresno, Ca.

By Tim Sheehan
Fresno Bee

Motorists on Highway 180 through downtown Fresno will start seeing the effects of high-speed rail construction in July as crews begin building a trench that will take the bullet-train tracks beneath the freeway.

The 40-foot-deep trench is the first underground construction for California’s high-speed train system. The two-mile long trench, from Roeding Park to about Stanislaus Street in downtown Fresno, will go under the freeway as well as a San Joaquin Valley Railroad line and an irrigation canal.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority reports that the initial work will include improvements to the shoulders of Highway 180 between G and H streets.

That will require closures of the eastbound lane and shoulders on Highway 180 and occasional closures of the connector ramps from Highway 180 to northbound and southbound Highway 99.

Most of the work is scheduled to happen between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. and will continue for about two months.

The shoulder work will include paving bypass lanes that will be used by drivers in later stages of the construction project.

Once the shoulder work is completed, traffic lanes will be shifted in stages as the trench is excavated beneath the freeway over the course of about 18 months.

Image

Map:  Fresno Bee via Google Maps

Map of planned construction zone

The Fresno Trench is one of several sites in Fresno and Madera counties where work is happening on the statewide high-speed rail line. Crews also are building major viaducts, or elevated structures, to carry tracks over the Fresno River, Highway 145 and Raymond Road in Madera and over Cedar Avenue and Highway 99 south of downtown Fresno. A new Tuolumne Street bridge is under construction over the Union Pacific railroad freight tracks and the future high-speed rail line in downtown Fresno.

Work also is taking place on a bridge over Cottonwood Creek in Madera County and over the San Joaquin River near Highway 99 on the Fresno-Madera county line.

All of the work in Fresno and Madera counties is part of Construction Package 1, the first construction contract awarded by the rail authority. A contracting consortium led by Tutor Perini Inc. of Sylmar won the $1 billion contract, initially awarded for a 29-mile segment from American Avenue at the south edge of Fresno to Avenue 17 in Madera.

Earlier this year, the segment was extended northward by about three miles, to Avenue 19 near Madera’s Amtrak station, adding about $155 million to the contract.

Read more here:
http://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article86262842.html#storylink=cpy


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NEWS FROM APTA... News From Apta...  

APTA’s Rail Conference Highlighted Growth,
Technology, And Funding Issues

From Progressive Railroading

More than 1,400 passenger-rail professionals attended the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) 2016 Rail Conference June 18-22 in Phoenix. The conference featured APTA’s Safety & Security Excellence Awards, the 2016 International Rail Rodeo, more than 45 concurrent sessions, and technical tours led by conference transit-agency host Valley Metro.

Sessions included panel discussions and/or presentations on emerging technology, mega capital projects, rolling stock, safety regulations, streetcar systems, state-of-good repair challenges, and funding trends from local, state and national perspectives.

Also, a two-day exhibit showcased the latest in business members’ rail equipment, products and services.

For more information on APTA Rail Conference goings-on, take a look at Progressive Railroading’s photo gallery of some of the highlights.

View at:
http://www.progressiverailroading.com/photogalleries/details/APTAs-rail-conference-highlighted-growth-technology-and-funding-issues--48645?source=prhome1


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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

NJ Transit Unveils Expanded Light-Rail
Vehicle On Newark Lines

From Progressive Railroading

New Jersey Transit has rolled out the first expanded light-rail vehicle on the Newark system, the agency announced earlier this week.

The unit is first of 10 expanded vehicles for the system, NJ Transit officials said in a press release.

The remodeled vehicles feature more seating capacity and standing room than earlier models.

NJ Transit has been using a prototype of the expanded light-rail car on the Hudson-Bergen line for nearly three years “with great success,” agency officials added.

Image

Photo: NJT

Newark’s improved railcar

As part of a program approved by the agency’s board in July 2014, a total of 35 light-rail vehicles were authorized for expansion, with 25 slotted for the Hudson-Bergen line and 10 for the Newark system. The agency is modifying the vehicles in response to customers’ calls for more capacity, NJ Transit officials said.

“The roll out of this new expanded vehicle on Newark Light Rail allows for 50 percent increase in capacity per car, which will help us to alleviate crowded conditions particularly at the platform level,” said NJ Transit Interim Executive Director Dennis Martin.

The agency partnered with Kinkisharyo International LLC and Twenty-First Century Rail Corp. to find a solution that wouldn’t significantly impact system infrastructure or require a costly investment in new cars. Kinkisharyo then developed a design for an expanded vehicle that adds two additional sections to the existing light-rail vehicle, increasing the number of sections from three to five.

The additional sections increase the car length by 37 feet, expand seating capacity from 68 seats to 102 seats and provide additional standing room.

The retrofitting work costs about $1.55 million per car. More than 80 percent of the project costs are federally funded under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program jointly administered by the Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Highway Administration.

Found at:
http://www.progressiverailroading.com/passenger_rail/news/NJ-Transit-unveils-expanded-light-rail-vehicle-on-Newark-lines--48672


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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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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

For SEPTA’s Train Commuters,
The Worst May Be Yet To Come

By Jason Laughlin & Justine McDaniel
Philadelphia Media Network
Via Philly.Com

[ Ed Note: This is a follow-up story from last week’s edition regarding the pulling from service all SEPTA’s Silverliner V rail cars.]


Jammed platforms. Brutal delays. Passengers left stranded as packed-to-capacity trains sped past.

And, because some people were likely off Tuesday for the holiday, things will probably get worse, especially for riders from inner-ring suburbs who will have to contend with the most crowded trains.

“It could be a little worse tomorrow,” said Jeff Knueppel, SEPTA’s general manager, during a news conference Tuesday. “I wish I didn’t feel that way but I’ve got to say it.”

And the problems could last all summer, officials said, because they don’t know whether a temporary weld can get the trains back in service until new beams are installed.

On Friday, SEPTA officials said they discovered cracks in a key load-bearing component of the Silverliner V’s, their newest rail car, that forced the authority to pull all those cars, a third of SEPTA’s total rail fleet, from service.

Tuesday was the first day of commuting since the Silverliner V’s were taken off the rails. SEPTA normally runs 788 trains a day. Tuesday it ran 560.

Bella Smith, 42, waited an hour for her train Tuesday morning from Chestnut Hill West to work at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

“I was out there at 7,” she said. “The 7:19 didn’t show up. The 7:38 didn’t come until 8.”

Stations closer to the city got the worst of it, and SEPTA reiterated that people using stops such as Wayne Junction should find other means of travel. Six trains Tuesday became so overcrowded that they sped past stops on their routes without stopping.

“It was much more crowded than usual when I got on,” said Cliff Sachs, 56, who waited an hour before his train arrived to take him from Trenton to his job at University City Science Center. “As we went down the line, it got to a point where it was standing room only in the aisle.”

SEPTA is offering refunds to weekly and monthly pass holders, the authority said Tuesday, and is seeking additional rail cars from other transit agencies, though there likely won’t be many available.

SEPTA engineers are also determining why 115 of their newest cars, some of them in service for no more than three years, are dangerously defective. They may have some answers by the end of the week, Knueppel said.

On Friday a SEPTA inspector found a 10-inch-long crack in an equalizer beam, which distributes the weight of the 146,000-pound car to the axles, near a welded part in the steel. By the end of the day, SEPTA staff found similar, though less severe, fatigue cracks on all but five of the 120 Silverliner V’s.

“They don’t happen quickly,” Knueppel said. “It doesn’t happen in days. It doesn’t really happen in weeks.”

Something so widespread could have only a few causes. The metal used could be the problem, the welding could have been done poorly, or the design itself could be flawed. Hyundai-Rotem, a South Korean company, was awarded the $274 million contract for the rail cars in 2006 and assembled them at a plant in South Philadelphia. Workers there were quick to maintain that their craftsmanship was not to blame.

The problem, said Joe Coccio, secretary treasurer of Local 234 of the Transportation Workers Union, was “due to a defective part and has nothing to do with the manufacture of those cars in Philadelphia.”

SEPTA officials said the equalizer beams were assembled outside Pennsylvania. They said they did not know the source of the steel that the beam was forged from or what company had handled the welding.

The same model rail car is used by Denver’s Regional Transportation District. Those cars are newer, received in 2015, and, while that agency conducted inspections of their vehicles after learning of Philadelphia’s troubles, it has not found similar fatigue cracks.

Boston’s MBTA also uses Hyundai-Rotem vehicles and is inspecting its cars, as well, though they are not of the same design as Philadelphia’s.

“Hyundai-Rotem is working very closely with SEPTA to resolve the current issues literally around the clock to get the cars back into service as soon as possible, safely and soundly,” Andrew Hyer, a company spokesman, wrote in an emailed statement.

Hyundai-Rotem employs 77 people at its Philadelphia facility and is bidding to build 45 bi-level cars for a $190 million contract likely to be awarded this fall.

City Hall has pushed for SEPTA to favor local vendors, including in a letter sent May 18 to Pat Deon, chairman of SEPTA’s board. But the authority declined to include a local preference clause in the recent request for bidders.

Workers at Hyundai-Rotem are concerned that the equalizer beam problems will reduce the company’s chances of getting the contract, and Coccio suggested that SEPTA had timed the discovery of the flaw and suspension of the Silverliner V’s to coincide with the Democratic National Convention at the end of this month.

“The timing of this particular announcement, we believe, has to do with SEPTA management’s desire to send this work to a low bidder in China,” Coccio said in a statement Tuesday.

Knueppel said again Tuesday that he and SEPTA’s upper management had no warning of cracks in the equalizer beams before Friday. He and officials from the Federal Railroad Administration also said that federal law required them to withdraw rail cars with that kind of structural weakness.

SEPTA’s Silverliner V’s marked Hyundai’s entry into the U.S. heavy rail market, and it has been a rocky beginning.

In the South Philadelphia factory where the Korean-made cars were finished, local workers fell far behind schedule as they clashed with Korean managers.

When cars did get on the tracks, communication systems didn’t work right, the computer software was "glitchy," and wheels slipped backward. Workers also made mistakes, such as damaging wires and drilling through wiring harnesses, SEPTA told the Inquirer in 2011.

As the new trains went into service, the agency’s inspectors identified problems on the new trains and sent them back for fixes.

Factory workers said they were sometimes told to substitute wrong parts for missing parts, that they could not get answers to questions from their bosses because of the language barrier, and that the need to go back and fix problems delayed work.

Transportation advocates at the time worried that such errors could cause problems that would not show up for years. Earlier, critics also said that Hyundai-Rotem, the lowest bidder for the contract, had no experience doing such work.

The Seoul-based company’s problems are not limited to Philadelphia. The Boston Globe reported in that city, the manufacturer delivered rail cars behind schedule.

In Los Angeles, other Hyundai-Rotem trains were found to have flawed parts after a deadly derailment in 2015, though an investigation had not concluded what caused the crash.

SEPTA officials said the equalizer beam cracks could have eventually caused a serious accident. Amid the inconvenience for riders, they have emphasized that everything they’ve done is driven by safety concerns. Some got the message.

“Safety is paramount,” said Mike Bottino, 35, of Holland, “versus people being 20 minutes late.”

Staff writers Daniel Block, Lauren Feiner and Steven Bohnel contributed to this article.

[Ed Note: Boston’s MBTA did pull a couple of their Hyundai-Rotem coaches from service for a spot check but found no issues. While those coaches are from the same manufacturer, the bi-level coaches in Boston are somewhat different in design and are not powered.]

From an item appearing at:
http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20160706_For_SEPTA_s_train_commuters__the_worst_may_be_yet_to_come.html


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

Seattle

 

With 13 Miles Of Federal Way Light Rail,
ST3 Is Officially On Ballot This November

By Jason Ludwig, Editor
Federal Way Mirror

The Sound Transit Board voted unanimously last week to send its final Sound Transit 3 measure to the ballot this November.

The final plan being put before voters will have an extension to the Federal Way transit center completed in 2024. It also increased its estimated cost of the project to $53.8 billion from the previous $50 billion. Funding for the project would come through new voter-approved sales taxes, vehicle taxes and property taxes.

Image

Map Courtesy of Sound Transit

Proposed route

Federal Way would be linked to the Tacoma Dome by a 13-mile light rail line under the plan, which would build 62 total miles of light rail with stations serving 37 additional areas. Additional light rail lines, new commuter rail lines, and bus route changes are also included in the plan.
For more information, visit soundtransit3.org.

Found at:
http://www.federalwaymirror.com/news/385587951.html#


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

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor


 

Speed Boost On Paris–Strasbourg
Rail Corridor Arrives

LGV Est Phase 2 Completes Paris–Strasbourg High Speed Line Thus Cutting
Travel Times On Paris–Stuttgart And Paris–Frankfurt Trains

Via SWR TV, Railway Gazette And Luxemburger Wort Newspaper

Phase 2 of LGV Est-EuropČenne high speed rail corridor opened on the 3rd July, completing the high speed line between Paris and Strasbourg France, which sits next to the German border at the Rhine river. There are 16 trains a day each way between the cities, with a fastest journey time of 1 h 46 min compared to around 4 h before the opening of phase 1 nearly a decade ago. Completion of the line also reduces travel times between Paris and Germany and between Paris and Luxembourg.

Phase 2 covers 106 km between Baudrecourt and Vendenheim France, extending from Phase 1 which opened in June 2007. The Phase 2 project has cost an estimated € 2.1 billion (US $2.5 billion) with funding coming from the French government at approx. € 680 million, former national infrastructure managing company RFF at approx. € 540 million, the European Union at € 118 million and 16 local authorities plus the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg at € 680 million.

The construction project was tendered in 10 sections, including the 4 km Saverne tunnel under the Vosges mountains. Construction began in June 2010, ahead of a groundbreaking ceremony in November 2010. Tracklaying was completed in March 2015, but the opening date was delayed from April 2016 following the fatal derailment of a test train at Eckwersheim, France in November 2015. The cause of that accident appears to be excessive speed, with data recovered from event recorders in the test train showing that the test train was significantly exceeding a local speed limit in a curve where the LGV Est-EuropČenne high speed line comes to its eastern end and merges with the “classic” rail line leading into Strasbourg.  The investigation of why the train had seriously exceeded the speed limit is still in process.  

SNCF predicts that LGV Est will carry 12…8 million passengers/year by 2020, an increase of 700 000, with 10…7 million coming from France and 2…1 million from other countries.  ICE 3 high speed trains from German operator Deutsche Bahn also operated along the LGV Est-EuropČenne high speed rail line from Munich and Frankfurt to Paris.  

The LGV Est-EuropČenne high speed rail line is a major part of the Paris–Munich high speed rail corridor.  Travel times by train on this corridor will decrease further in 2019 when the Stuttgart–Ulm high speed line and the completely reworked Stuttgart central station go into operation.  The Augsburg–Munich part of this important rail corridor was converted into a high speed rail line about five years ago.  The Strasbourg–Stuttgart and Ulm–Augsburg sections of this corridor are not true high speed rail lines, but have been upgraded in the past decade to support 160 – 200 km/h (100 – 125 mph) speeds.

The other principal high speed route between Germany and Paris, France is the Cologne (K–ln), Germany–Brussels–Paris corridor.  Between Brussels and Paris trains run at approx. 300 km/h en route, between Brussels and Cologne at 200 – 250 km/h en route speeds.  


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DB and Georgian Railways Sign MOU
For Silk Road Rail Corridor

From Railway-Technology.Com

Deutsche Bahn (DB) and Georgia’s national rail operator have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to start developing a new Silk Road rail corridor between China and Europe.

This follows the agreement signed between DB and China Railways earlier this year.

The MOU covers cooperation on international freight transport and consultancy services for a range of projects related to transport in the coming five years.

The two companies will work on the new routes, which will be connected via Central Asia and Georgia, opening up options for customers who seek overland travel.

Image

Photo: Courtesy of Deutsche Bahn AG.

Image: Proposed route, New Silk Road connecting Central Asia via West Asia and Middle East with Europe.

Deutsche Bahn’s economic, legal, and regulatory affairs management board member Ronald Pofalla said: “We are proud that DB has the chance to contribute to the renaissance and modernization of these ancient communication routes between the continents.

“With a rail history reaching back to 1871, Georgia has a key role to play in this undertaking.”

DB plans to make the most of the opportunities afforded by China’s Silk Road initiative, ‘One Belt - One Road’, which envisions a range of infrastructural undertakings covering 65 countries.

Deutsche Bahn’s international business development head Niko Warbanoff said: “We look forward to contributing to the Silk Road initiative and helping to promote international rail transport.

“Our work will also offer us access to a large and growing market in Asia.”

Separately, DB and Georgian Railways will also look to grow rail freight traffic between Europe and Iran. At a later date, the project also plans to extend connections to India.

From an item at:
http://www.railway-technology.com/news/newsdb-georgian-railways-sign-mou-silk-road-rail-corridor-4941730


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

A Community Transportation Provider Expands
The Reach Of Amtrak In The Middle Of The Night

By David Peter Alan

Fulton, Kentucky is not known for much these days.  It was a stop on the Illinois Central Railroad, and Amtrak’s City of New Orleans still stops there every night on its journey between the Windy City and the Crescent City.  Fulton is located almost halfway between the two endpoints, so the train stops there in the middle of the night, in both directions.

In the past, there was a large train station, with a facility for shoveling ice onto fresh fruit, as it was shipped on the railroad.  For many years, the town held a Banana Festival to commemorate the ice stop that the trains made to keep the fruit cold on its way to market.  Until 1971, there were several passenger trains between Chicago and New Orleans, and there was also service to Miami that branched off at Fulton.  The “IC” took the train as far as Birmingham, Alabama, where it continued on the Central of Georgia and then the Atlantic Coast Line to Florida.  Today, the station is gone.  It was replaced by a trailer.  

Fulton is located in southwestern Kentucky, across the state line from South Fulton, Tennessee.  There is a railroad museum in South Fulton, in a previously-abandoned strip mall that has become the town’s Municipal Building.  The Railroad Museum is itself a work-in-progress, which commemorates the area’s railroad history and contains a model of the old station that no longer exists.

Fulton Transit, the region’s community transportation provider, also observes an interesting practice that extends the reach of the Amtrak train, even though it stops there in the middle of the night.  By day, Fulton Transit is an ordinary provider of demand-response transportation, taking people to various places around Fulton, and to other nearby locations in Kentucky and across the line in Tennessee.  

By night, it serves as the “last mile” connection that makes Amtrak service to Chicago, New Orleans and other places available to people throughout the region.  Executive Director Kenney Etherton says that Fulton Transit has a special mission at night.  “We operate 365 nights a year to take people to and from Amtrak” he told this writer.  For $6.00, an Amtrak customer can park an automobile in Fulton Transit’s lot and get a ride to the station.  Fares to other places in Western Kentucky and northwestern Tennessee are higher.  The fare to Paducah, Kentucky is $25.00.  The fare within Fulton County and the other three Kentucky counties within the primary service area is $15.00.  Daytime rates for standard demand-response transportation are lower, but the train stops at Fulton only in the middle of the night.

Paducah is a historic town on the Ohio River, founded by William Clark, of Lewis & Clark fame.  It still contains many Victorian-era buildings and stories to go with them.  Much of the historic downtown, or “Lowertown” is preserved intact.  There is a series of murals (the “Wall to Wall Murals”) on a flood wall along the river.  They relate the history of the town.  The River Discovery Center, located in an 1840s-vintage bank building on Water Street, tells the story of the river and the boats that operated on it.  Second Street, two blocks away from the river, is the heart of downtown.  The old Market House, built in 1905, now holds the William Clark Market House Museum, an arts center and a theater.  The museum contains exhibits about the history of the town, including spectacular woodwork from a former drugstore in town, and an exhibit at the areas local celebrities: writer Irwin C. Cobb and Alben W. Barcley, who was Vice-President when Harry S. Truman was President (1949-53).  Museum Director Renney Fields said that the woodwork from the drug store came to the museum in pieces, and she and museum volunteers put it back together for display.  Kirchoff’s Bakery, which was founded in 1873, is across the street from the museum.  Its founder used to take bread and pastries directly to the riverboats and sell them to the crews.  His descendents reopened the business after it had been closed for many years.

There are other museums in town, including a Civil War museum, an art museum and an unusual museum dedicated to the art of quilting. There is also a railroad museum, which features a simulator that replicates the experience of operating a freight locomotive; an attraction popular with both kids and dads.  There are many Victorian homes still standing in Lowertown, a historic neighborhood that has not changed over the years.   

Historically, Lowertown was the white community in Paducah.  Uppertown, Paducah’s historic black community, is located slightly upriver.  The former shopping district in Uppertown is gone; ironically a victim of desegregation.  The community is still active, with a unique museum: the Metropolitan Hotel, built in 1908.  Entertainers, athletes, and other black visitors who came to Paducah stayed there, and today the rooms are displayed as they were when famous people visited.  Betty Dodson, who supervises the museum, portrays Maggie Snead, the former owner.  She can prepare and serve an authentic Southern dinner for a modest fee, and tells stories about the hotel and about Paducah’s past, while guests enjoy it.  

Non-automobile transportation in Paducah is spotty, at best.  Greyhound buses no longer stop at the old bus station downtown; it is now a brew pub (one of the few that this writer would not recommend), and the bus now stops about three miles outside of town.  Paducah Transit runs local bus service, but it is limited and connections with Greyhound are questionable, at best.  Fulton Transit is more reliable.  This writer visited Paducah for the first time last year.  The driver did not know a good drop-off spot in Paducah that would be open in the middle of the night, so this writer asked if there was a local hospital.  Western Baptist Hospital served the purpose, and the security guard in the waiting room told this writer that people often wait there for the van ride to Fulton to catch the train, or to wait for Paducah to wake up, after arriving from the train.

There is a lot to see in Paducah.  This writer spent two days there, and still did not have time to see everything the town has to offer.  Unfortunately, one thing it does not offer is good public transportation.  Fulton Transit provides a link between Paducah and other towns in the region, and the Amtrak station in Fulton.  

Recently, Etherton told this writer that there is an improvement coming to Fulton: a new train station.  Local TV station WPSD reported that local resident Jeff Campbell is leading the push to get it built.  The report quoted Campbell as saying: “I think the changes would be phenomenal for the community in terms of pride, in terms of welcoming people in a good way.”  The proposed station will not be as grand as the Victorian edifice that was torn down in the 1979, but it will be a permanent structure, which will provide a significant upgrade from the trailer that now greets Fulton’s visitors.  Campbell told the Paducah Sun that much of the cost of the proposed station has been donated by local residents, and added:  “It’s still amazing to me how much our little town loves its railroad heritage.”  

Maybe one of the reasons why a new station will soon be built in Fulton is that the town’s transit stays up all night to take people to and from the train.

 


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