The National Corridors Initiative Logo

July 24, 2017
Vol. 17 No. 29

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...

  Amtrak Lines…
Cost Of Amtrak To Green Airport: $90 Million
  Political Lines…
CEO Of The National Railroad Passenger Corporation
   (Amtrak): Who Is Richard H. Anderson?
House Appropriations Committee Moves
   Transportation, Amtrak Funding Bill To Full House
  Commuter Lines…
‘This Is A Bet On The Future’: Wind Developer
   Plans To Return Commuter Rail Service To VT.
  Transit Lines…
Federal Officials Fork Over Cash For Green
   Line Extension
  Restoration Lines…
Roanoke Service To Begin Oct. 31
City’s Commuter Train Plan Chugs Ahead
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Funding Lines…
End of the Empire? Amtrak’s 15 Long-Distance
   Rail Lines Face Elimination
  To The North…
Sharbot Lake Among Stops On Proposed Via Line
Progress And Setbacks In Ontario, Canada
Private Investors Plan Metro-Ottawa Passenger Rail
TAO Questions Ontario’s High-Speed Rail Proposal,
   Calls For Replacement By A High-Performance
   Rail Plan
  Off The Main Line…
Elon Musk Says He Has Approval To Build
   NYC-To-DC Hyperloop
  Publication Notes …

AMTRAK LINES... Amtrak Lines...  

Cost Of Amtrak To Green Airport: $90 Million

By Patrick Anderson
Providence Journal

Building an Amtrak stop at T. F. Green Airport [Rhode Island] could cost $90 million and attract 71,200 riders annually, according to a new study from the railroad and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.

State leaders have for years eyed expanded rail service as the next step in efforts to expand Green Airport, but funding and fitting it into the busy Northeast Corridor train schedule are major hurdles.

The study, which U.S. Sen. Jack Reed initiated with language in a federal appropriations bill, looked at four scenarios to bring more trains to the airport, including starting a new Rhode Island commuter railroad and extending Connecticut’s Shore Line East service into the Ocean State.

It concluded that getting many more trains to Green is “feasible” and that Amtrak service is the least expensive way to do it.

However, in addition to the capital costs, Amtrak trains stopping at the airport would make every non-Acela trip from New York to Boston longer.

“A Northeast Regional stop at T.F. Green Airport could generate additional annual ridership ... but create longer trip times for Amtrak passengers traveling along the Northeast Corridor, thereby more than offsetting the benefits,” the study said. “Thus, adding a T.F. Green Airport stop to all Northeast Regional trains would require a net operating subsidy for Amtrak of an estimated $3 million in the first year to be paid by” the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.

Despite a surge in new flights to and from Green this year, prospects for new airport rail service are uncertain since a plan to improve the Northeast Corridor by building new tracks through southeastern Connecticut and southwestern Rhode Island was blocked by local opposition this year.

The final version of a long-term Northeast Corridor capital plan released last week by the Federal Railroad Administration did not include a proposed bypass between Old Saybrook, Connecticut, and Charlestown that would have shortened travel times and added capacity.

The bypass was initially supported by Gov. Gina Raimondo’s administration, but she reversed course in the face of loud opposition from South County residents and elected leaders.

Without the bypass, plans to expand service to Green from 10 trains per day to 154 trains per day were removed from the final plan.

Tiffany Lindemann, spokeswoman for the Federal Railroad Administration, confirmed Wednesday that expanded Green service was contingent on “rail infrastructure improvements to address capacity and performance issues on the existing [Northeast Corridor].”

As it stands, federal and state leaders are now set to conduct further studies on how to improve Northeast Corridor rail service and whether a stop at Green Airport should be part of it.

“Bringing a permanent Amtrak stop to the airport could help the state attract investment, create jobs, and enhance transportation options for Rhode Islanders and visitors to the state,” Reed said in a statement. “But it has to be done in a smart, cost-effective manner that builds on the significant investments we have already made.”

The current Green train station was built with three tracks, including one served by Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority commuter trains, as well as space for a fourth track, which would be needed for regular Amtrak service.

Extending Shore Line East — which runs commuter trains between New Haven, Connecticut, and New London, Connecticut — into Rhode Island was estimated to cost up to $215 million in new rail infrastructure and trains, plus more for annual operating expenses.

The price tag of starting a new Rhode Island commuter rail service was pegged at between $135 million and $285 million, plus operating costs.

And creating a new intercity rail service to Boston could cost between $340 million and $470 million, plus operating costs.

Projected ridership to the airport was roughly similar in the three scenarios, with the new commuter services generating additional passenger use to other areas of the state.

[ Editor Note:  The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) currently has limited stops at T.F. Green Airport on its runs to Wickford Jct.  Amtrak riders must ride to Providence, RI and change trains there in order to get to the airport.  Unfortunately, the limited number of trains operated by the MBTA that stop at the airport do not necessarily make this transfer desirable -- at least not yet.  Passengers traveling north from NYC, CT, and Southern RI would actually pass through the station at T.F. Green and continue several miles to Providence then have to backtrack on the MBTA,  When the station was initially built Amtrak declined to schedule stops there. ]

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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

CEO Of The National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak):
Who Is Richard H. Anderson ?

From AllGov.Com

The new head of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) comes from one of train travel’s biggest competitors: the airline industry. Richard H. Anderson, who retired as CEO of Delta Airlines in May 2016, took over Amtrak on July 12, 2017, although outgoing CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman will serve as co-CEO until the end of the year. Like Moorman, Anderson has agreed to work for a “token sum.”

If he is looking for a post-retirement challenge, Anderson certainly found it: in May President Donald Trump proposed ending $630 million in subsidies for Amtrak’s long-distance train service, which comes to 45% of the $1.4 billion the government spends on Amtrak each year.

Richard H. Anderson was born May 2, 1955, in Galveston, Texas, where his father, Hale Anderson, worked for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, and his mother, Frances, worked as a medical receptionist and typist. The third of five children, Anderson moved with his family to Amarillo when he was in high school.

After both his parents died of cancer when he was a freshman at Texas Tech University, Anderson moved to Texas City, Texas, near Houston, to care for his younger sisters. After working as a plumber’s assistant and a ditch digger, Anderson landed a job as executive assistant to the Harris County (Houston) district attorney, who encouraged him toward a legal career. Anderson earned a B.S. in Political Science at the University of Houston – Clear Lake in 1977, and a J.D. at South Texas College of Law in 1982.

Anderson served as a prosecuting attorney for Harris County, Texas, from 1982 to 1987. But with a young daughter and a son on the way, as well as student loans to repay, Anderson “needed better earnings.” Fortunately, neighbor Ben Hirst worked in the legal department of Continental Airlines and helped Anderson get hired.

Anderson’s quarter-century of aviation experience began in 1987 at Continental Airlines in the legal department.

After three years, Anderson (along with Hirst) took a job at Northwest Airlines, relocating to Minneapolis. Anderson worked for Northwest for 14 years. His job titles included vice president and deputy general counsel (1990 to 1994); senior vice president of labor relations, state affairs and law (1994 to 1996); senior vice president of technical operations and airport affairs (January 1997 to April 1998); executive vice president of technical operations and airport affairs (April to December 1998); executive vice president and chief operating officer (December 1998 to April 2001); and chief executive officer (April 2001 to October 2004).

Anderson left the airline industry in October 2004, leaving Northwest to become executive vice president of United Healthcare from November 2004 to August 2007. He was also CEO of Ingenix, United HealthCare’s health data subsidiary from January 2005 to January 2007, and president of its New Commercial Services Group. From 2004 to May 17, 2006, he was a board member of Xcel Energy, the Minneapolis-based utility holding company.

Anderson joined the board of directors of Delta Airlines in April 2007 and became CEO in September 2007. Anderson engineered a merger between Delta and his former employer Northwest that proved financially successful and led to a wave of mergers and consolidation in the industry. He retired as Delta’s CEO effective May 2, 2016, and was executive chairman of the Delta Air Lines board of directors for an additional five months. In 2015, he received compensation of more than $17.5 million. Between February and July 2016, he sold $15.9 million worth of Delta stock. He and his wife also donated almost $2 million worth of Delta shares to raise money for the development of the Atlanta BeltLine’s Westside Trail, which allowed the project to secure a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

He has served as chairman of the Airlines for America board of directors, as well as the International Air Transport Association board of governors. He is a member of the board of directors of Medtronic, in which he owns about $6.4 million worth of stock. And, beginning in May 2006, he has been a board member of agribusiness giant Cargill. He has also served on the board of directors of entities as diverse as the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Business Leaders for Michigan, Greater Twin Cities United Way and Minnesota Mutual Companies Group, Minnesota Life Insurance Company, MAIR Holdings Inc., the St. Thomas College of Business and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. In November 2016, he was appointed a member of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center board of visitors.

Over the years, Anderson has contributed to the campaign funds of both Republicans and Democrats, particularly to those on Congressional committees that oversee the airline and healthcare industries.

Anderson is married to Susan Anderson, with whom he has two adult children, Katy and Rick.

From an item found at:

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House Appropriations Committee
Moves Transportation, Amtrak Funding Bill
To Full House

From The National Association Of Rail Passengers (NARP)

Under the guidance of Republican leadership, House appropriators passed an FY2018 transportation budget July 18th that would boost spending for passenger rail by $360 million over current levels, with much of the increase targeted towards the enormous state of good repair backlog on the Northeast Corridor. This bill is a huge victory for NARP and our allies, who held a series of successful rallies against a Trump Administration proposal to eliminate long distance trains.

“This win belongs to all our advocates who took part in the rallies and campaigns against the White House’s disastrous proposal for the national rail network,” said NARP President Jim Mathews. “There has been a huge shift in how conservative members of the House of Representatives views Amtrak’s National Network trains as a result of the work of our staff and our members. This is what bipartisan coalition building looks like.”

Led by Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), the bill will enable much-needed work on the Gateway Project,

“I am especially pleased that more than $900 million will be allocated to the Gateway program in the New Jersey-New York area in this legislation,” Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen said. “It is not an overstatement to say that Gateway is critical to our nation’s economy. The Northeast Corridor region, encompassing over 50 million people from Washington D.C. to Boston, produces approximately $3 trillion in economic output, equal to 20% of our national Gross Domestic Product. Safe and reliable passenger rail travel through New Jersey and New York City is essential to that economic productivity.”

The bill presents a more complicated picture for transit, cutting top-levels by $662 million while preserving a key investment program that has proved crucial for rail transit and commuter rail projects. It also cuts the TIGER program, which has been critical in funding transit and passenger rail programs, including the Southwest Chief preservation effort.

Largely because of these cuts the bill passed largely along party lines, with most Democratic members voting “no” while calling for additional boosts to infrastructure spending. Ranking Member David Price (D-NC) offered an amendment that would provide an additional $200 billion in infrastructure spending.

“We were assured by the president that infrastructure would be a priority, yet a plan for infrastructure keeps getting pushed back, back, back,” said Ranking Member David Price (D-NC). “Believe me, this country ... might even conclude we’re putting our money where our mouth is” if the panel adopted the amendment.

Republican members voted the bill down, saying additional funds would lead to the bill’s failure on the full floor.

The full House must still pass the bill, and the Senate has yet to take up its version of the transportation budget. Both bodies are working against a September 31st deadline, which is when the FY2017 budget expires.

From an item appearing at:

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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

‘This Is A Bet On The Future’:
Wind Developer Plans To Return
Commuter Rail Service To VT.

By Steve Zind

Wind developer David Blittersdorf has put millions of dollars into a plan to bring commuter train service back to Vermont, and the new service could begin as early as next year.

Vermont’s most recent experiment with commuter rail was short-lived. The Champlain Flyer, which served the busy Route 7 corridor in Chittenden County, lasted just three years. It was shut down in 2003 due to high costs and lack of ridership.

Blittersdorf says he can run a railroad much more economically and he believes a diminishing supply of fossil fuels in the not-too-distant future will necessitate commuter train service, even in rural Vermont.

“This is a bet on the future,” he says of the $5 million he’s spent on 12 refurbished railcars. “There’s people that think a hundred years from now we’ll still be doing exactly what we’re doing today. I don’t believe that.”

The cars Blittersdorf has purchased each contain a diesel engine and can move along tracks individually or hooked together. Blittersdorf says eventually the trains will be electric.

This month, his company, AllEarth Rail, hired its first employee. Veteran train man Charlie Moore came out of retirement to help make Blittersdorf’s idea a reality.


Photo: Steve Zind / VPR

Railroad veteran Charlie Moore, left, has joined David Blittersdorf, right, in Blittersdorf’s effort to establish commuter rail in Vermont. The model on the desk is a Budd Rail Diesel Car or “RDC” of the type that this company has recently purchased used.

“I’m a railroader,” Moore says. “The only job I’ve ever had is working on the railroad and I believe in it. I believe the people of Vermont are going to support this.”

Until his retirement, Moore was vice president of business development at RailComm, which produced automation systems and software for rail systems. Prior to that, he served as regional vice president for RailAmerica.   

AllEarth Rail plans to establish commuter service between St. Albans and Montpelier. It’s also looking at a route between Burlington and Middlebury.

Moore’s first job is to strike deals with the state of Vermont and New England Central Railroad, which each own portions of the track the service would use. That’s just the start of a series of partnerships necessary to get the trains running.  

Blittersdorf says fares charged to riders won’t cover the cost of operating trains; he’ll need others to help pay for the service.

“We’re going to probably be looking at all the larger employers, including state government to say, ‘We want you to help subsidize,’” he says.

Blittersdorf imagines institutions like the University of Vermont would also support the service.

He says communities also stand to benefit from having the train stops. He believes his project can stimulate economic development around train stations and draw new residents attracted to the convenience of commuting by rail.

Additionally, Blittersdorf says it will help communities reach energy efficiency goals.  

“Burlington is trying to go net-zero energy, not just electricity,” he says. “That’s a big deal. You have to do a lot to get people out of cars.”

According to a recent feasibility study by the state, it would require millions of dollars annually to operate a commuter rail line between St. Albans and Montpelier.

The study says equipment, facilities and upgrades necessary to run the line could cost more than $300 million. Blittersdorf hasn’t yet worked up a budget for his project, but he says it won’t cost nearly that much.

“That’s not the Vermont way,” Blittersdorf says of the study’s estimates. “We think we can run passenger rail on the short-haul runs that Amtrak can’t do, and we’re going to be probably one-third the price.”

The state spends $8 million annually to subsidize the two Amtrak routes in Vermont. Dan Delabruere, the rail program director at the Vermont Agency of Transportation, says it will be up to the Legislature to decide whether to subsidize Blittersdorf’s project.

“We’re interested to hear more,” Delabruere says. “But until we do hear more, I don’t know that we have any stance on what his plan is yet, because we don’t know the details.”

Federal funds could also play a role in the project.

In recent years, Blittersdorf’s wind projects have run into strong opposition from those concerned about the impact of large turbines. Regulators have cited his Georgia Mountain Community Wind project for violating its permit.

Is Blittersdorf worried that controversy over his wind developments will undermine public and government support for his rail project?  

“There’s always a worry,” he says. “I could end up broke, but I’m willing to do that for the benefit of our society.”

Blittersdorf has an ambitious timeline for getting at least some of the service going. He would like to launch a few demonstration runs this year and begin the first commuter rail service in 2018.  

Found at:

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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

Federal Officials Fork Over Cash
For Green Line Extension

By Adam Vaccaro
Boston Globe

It was a small amount for a multibillion-dollar project, but the payment from the federal government marked an important milestone for the extension of the Green Line to Somerville and Medford, Massachusetts.

The $1.7 million payment is the first federal grant money the state has received for the long- beleaguered project, according to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

“The Green Line extension has been going on for a while, but the Commonwealth has been paying all the actual dollars for it,” said John Dalton, the MBTA manager overseeing the Green Line project. The payment, he said, is “comforting and reassuring, and underscores what we’ve been saying for a long time: that the FTA wants to see the project go forward.”

There’s more to come. The $1.7 million is the first payout of a $35.4 million grant award that was formalized late last month. The T is expected to receive similarly sized grant awards each of the next four years to help fund the 4.7-mile light rail expansion into Somerville and Medford, for a total of $157 million.

The $157 million was originally planned to be used just on a later component of the project — extending the Green Line even further into Medford. But it was shifted into the budget for the main body of work after the extension ran into cost overruns. The first portion will pay for work relocating commuter rail lines to make way for the extended trolley service.

Meanwhile, the T is still awaiting access to a much larger bucket of federal money, nearly $1 billion that the FTA approved in 2014. Dalton said officials have every reason to believe they’ll soon have access to that money, having already gotten key approvals in the last several months after budget issues forced the federal agency to review the plan.

Still in planning stages, the Green Line extension has been troubled by cost overruns; the state disclosed in 2015 that the project was on pace to eclipse its original $2 billion budget by as much as $1 billion, in part because of the cost of five new stations in Somerville and one in Medford, and a rebuilt Lechmere Station in Cambridge.

The project is now expected to cost $2.3 billion, after officials revised the design of stations and cut back on other amenities. The stations are expected to open in 2021.

So far, the state has spent about $536 million on the project, which includes early infrastructure work, procurement of new Green Line cars, and payments to contractors who have since been fired due to the costs issues. The T expects to award the project’s largest contract in late fall to a firm that will lead design and construction work.

Rafael Mares, an attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation and advocate for the project, said it’s a good sign that the project remains on track.

“It’s nice to see that it’s happening,” Mares said. “At this point, the project is proceeding according to the new schedule. There’s little doubt in my mind that this will go forward.”

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RESTORATION LINES... Restoration Lines...  

Roanoke Service To Begin Oct.31

From The “Amtrak In The Heartland” Blog

Roanoke, Virginia, will rejoin the Amtrak network on Oct. 31.

Tickets are not yet being sold and the schedule has not yet been announced, but Roanoke will be served by an existing Northeast Regional train that will travel to and from Washington with continuing service to New York.

There is expected to be one roundtrip a day, leaving Roanoke at approximately 6:20 a.m. and returning before 10 p.m.

On Oct. 30, a publicity special will arrive at the Roanoke station, which is still under construction, at about noon for a ribbon cutting-type event.
Amtrak previously served Roanoke with The Hilltopper, which operated between Washington and Catlettsburg, Kentucky. That train made its last trips on Sept. 30, 1979.

Workers are constructing a boarding platform along Norfolk Avenue near the city bus station.

The finished station will feature a canopied boarding platform about 800 feet long. It will be a high-level platform.

Found at:

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City’s Commuter Train Plan Chugs Ahead

By Sandy Seoane
Valley Breeze News

Investor Vincent Bono expects to make major progress this week on his goal of transporting guests from the Woonsocket [RI] Train Depot to somewhere other than the North Pole.

Leaders from municipalities as far away as Nashua, N.H., are set to converge on the historic downtown train station, known for its holiday rides to a mythical North Pole, to discuss how they can help make Bono’s dream of additional regional commuter service a reality.

While Bono could not release all of the details of the meeting planned for Monday, July 24, he noted that the news for his fledgling company, Boston Surface Railway Company, is big, and it will help the business gain access to needed funding.

“We are putting together a public/private partnership in hopes to work out a more regional transportation solution,” Bono, a Woonsocket resident, told The Breeze.

The investor began looking at options for launching commuter train service through Woonsocket in early 2015, and signed a lease for the depot with the state Department of Transportation last year. Initial plans would have seen trains running between Worcester and Providence twice a day, with a single stop for passengers at One Depot Square beginning next year.

But in the complex business of commuter train service, it seems things don’t always go exactly according to plan.

In addition to purchasing trains to run the service, Bono must negotiate fees for use of the tracks themselves, a crucial element of his plan that hit an unexpected snag last year when Genesee & Wyoming purchased longtime track owner Providence & Worcester Railroad Co.

For years, the tracks have been used exclusively by freight trains and opened to the public for just a few months a year, when the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council operates “The Polar Express,” a fanciful ride to the North Pole as depicted in the classic book by Chris Van Allsburg.

Bono has said he’s committed to continuing the holiday tradition, and has moved forward with plans for the depot itself, a city landmark built in 1882. Recent renovations of the interior space included much attention to detail – with use of colors, copper edging and oak bar tops all in keeping with the original design.

“We went through a huge effort to make it match the historic station,” Bono said. “All of that took so much time.”

Now, a coffee shop run by local entrepreneur Anna Marie Aponte-Rivera is set to open in a month. The cafe will offer tabletop seating for commuters and will serve snacks like fruit cups and yogurt in addition to various caffeinated beverages.

Where commuters might travel to may be subject to change.

Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt is expected to join leaders from several New England communities Monday to hash out some kind of agreement, after which, Bono says, Boston Surface will launch a new website. He says the original route between Worcester and Providence is still his focus, though his vision may have expanded.

Bono said he could not discuss which communities are involved in the potential deal, but noted that Worcester is the second largest city in New England, but only serviced by one Amtrak train a day.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “As residents have been complaining about for years, the MBTA is very Boston-focused.”

Woonsocket, he said, is even more under-served.

“It’s kind of like, the left-behind cities,” said Bono. “Woonsocket has been forgotten by Smith Hill.”

The investor said changes, including new – and costly – safety requirements passed by the federal government, have set him roughly a year behind his anticipated 2018 launch date, but he’s still hopeful something could happen before the end of next year.

And Monday’s announcement is expected to gain his company more access to both local and federal funding.

“There are opportunities for both passenger and freight service,” said Bono.

The Trump administration, he said, has made it easier for smaller transportation companies to access money previously limited to state entities.

“The new administration is more aimed at encouraging smaller private entities to pick up where government either left off or didn’t start in the past,” he said.

Bono said he’s making slow but steady progress in working out a deal with Genesee & Wyoming.

“They move much slower than the Providence & Worcester,” he said, adding that Genesee is a “very professional” railroad company. “The P & W was more like a family business.”

And while many details are still in the making, his projections for the city’s new commuter service are still very good.

“If we hit our numbers, which are very conservative, we would make good money,” he said.

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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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

End of the Empire? Amtrak’s 15 Long-Distance
Rail Lines Face Elimination

By Noah Vernau
Portage Daily Register

President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget would reduce Amtrak’s funding from $1.5 billion to $760 million, part of a larger package of cuts that trims $2.4 billion from federal transportation in all. That would end all of Amtrak’s long-distance routes — 15 of them — including the Empire Builder, which stretches 2,200 miles from Chicago to Seattle with Wisconsin stops in Milwaukee, Columbus, Portage, Wisconsin Dells, Tomah and La Crosse.

As Congress decides Empire Builder’s fate, local leaders say the line’s impact in small communities isn’t told — completely — in the numbers. Empire Builder, which links Chicago and Milwaukee to St. Paul, brings people to and from vacations, families and business dealings — but the line also brings residents of big cities to the smaller places they might otherwise never find reasons to visit.

So what would it mean if Empire Builder were gone?

Where It Stands

Sen. Tammy Baldwin said in an emailed statement to the Daily Register she is a “strong supporter of reinvesting in passenger rail” and is working “across party lines” to protect routes like the Empire Builder. Baldwin supported the 2017 federal budget that increased funding for Amtrak — from $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion — she noted.

Long-distance routes like the Empire Builder achieved a “little victory” late last week when GOP appropriators in the House rejected the White House proposal, National Association of Railroad Passengers President Jim Mathews said. The lawmakers released a draft that actually would boost spending for rail by $360 million over current levels, targeting repair work along Amtrak’s northeast corridor.

Rail investments were part of the House Appropriations Committee’s $17.8 billion proposal that would be $1.5 billion more than the White House transportation plan but $646 million less than current levels, cutting federal transit dollars.

The White House proposal, which cuts $2.4 billion from federal transportation in all, still needs to be sorted out by Congress in the coming months, so long-distance routes like the Empire Builder have “many steps” yet to clear, Mathews said. His organization, NARP, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit group that fights for all forms of transportation, primarily passenger train services.

The proposed cuts from the White House wouldn’t kill Amtrak’s Hiawatha trains that link Chicago and Milwaukee, so Wisconsin is not among the 23 states that would lose Amtrak service entirely under the proposal, said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

While the budget is discussed behind closed doors, moving from committee to committee, the potential severing of the line’s westward links has been a topic largely exclusive to the small communities it serves.

History is at stake, some of these communities’ leaders say. Amtrak’s Empire Builder Line has existed for 46 years, and the link between the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest goes all the way back to Great Northern Railway’s operation of the line from 1929 to 1970.

For a full and extensive story see the full article at:

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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Expansion Lines

Sharbot Lake Among Stops
On Proposed Via Line

By Elliot Ferguson
Kingston Whig-Standard - Thewhig.Com

Sharbot Lake among stops on proposed VIA Rail line in Canada.

A proposal to build a new passenger rail line between Windsor and Quebec City could see trains stopping in Sharbot Lake.

Via Rail’s $5.25-billion proposal to build a dedicated passenger rail line through the most populated region of Canada.

On Wednesday morning, Frontenac County council endorsed a resolution from the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC) that called on the federal and Ontario governments to financially support the project.

A map of the proposed route includes stops in Tweed, Sharbot Lake and Smiths Falls.


Map Via Elliot Ferguson/The Whig-Standard

A map shows the proposed route of a new Via Rail line through eastern Ontario, with stops in Tweed, Sharbot Lake and Smiths Falls.

The EOWC resolution included a call for the rail line to included stops at smaller centers, like Sharbot Lake, in order to enable “the user to have direct and fast access to railway stations and hubs in communities across rural eastern Ontario.”

The plan is meant to allow Via to operate trains on a more frequent basis, solving what the company says is the biggest obstacle to travelers choosing the train.

Via trains currently run on tracks owned by Canadian National Rail, which limits how often the passenger trains can run.

Increasing the frequency of train trips would triple ridership by 2023, according to the Crown corporation.

It would also help the environment, the company said, estimating that an electrified route between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal would have the equivalent of taking 2.4 million cars off the road. It is also projected that the route would reduce congestion in and out of major urban centers and reduce inter-city trips by car by 11%.

The reduced car travel would translate to a reduction of the equivalent of 10.8 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Found at:

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Progress And Setbacks In Ontario, Canada

By John Thompson
Railway Age

Progress has been made on Metrolinx’s plan to electrify the GO Transit regional/commuter rail network. Meanwhile, major delays and controversy mark Bombardier’s streetcar contract with the Toronto Transit Commission.

Electrification plans for GO Transit’s Barrie Rail Corridor were discussed in July at a public meeting in Newmarket, an on-line community. GO Transit, its parent, Metrolinx, and Hydro One, the provincial electrical utility hosted the meeting.

The line extends northward approximately 50 miles from Toronto to the city of Barrie, on Lake Simcoe. It was formerly part of CN’s Newmarket Subdivision; this section was partly abandoned about 20 years ago and subsequently bought and rehabilitated by the Province of Ontario.

Patronage has been growing steadily as residential development continues, with many residents of the Corridor communities riding GO Transit trains to employment in Toronto.

The complete corridor will be electrified utilizing 24,000 volts AC. Trains will consist of the existing Bombardier bi-level coaches, powered by new electric locomotives. These coaches, incidentally, were designed with provision for possible EMU conversion. The electric service startup is projected for approximately 2025.

It is also planned to electrify the line to a point just north of the town of Aurora. A 15-minute-headway service, seven days a week, is proposed between Union Station and Aurora. Hourly service will be provided to Barrie (station designation: Allandale), also seven days per week.

An elevated grade separation of the Barrie Corridor and CP’s east-west North Toronto Subdivision, in central Toronto, will be built. The North Toronto Sub is a vital link in CP’s Toronto-Montreal route that, apart from commuter service, has been freight-only since 1971.

A Metrolinx spokesperson confirmed that electrification will be implemented only on rights-of-way owned by the agency. CN and CP have both declined to permit catenary above any of their trackage, over which GO operates a portion of its service. The spokesperson also said that dual-powered (AC catenary/diesel) locomotives, such as the Bombardier-built ALP45-DP deployed with NJ Transit and AMT (Montreal), are not under consideration at present.

GO’s original route, the Lakeshore Line, is owned by Metrolinx between its eastern terminal in Oshawa, about 35 miles east of Union Station, and Burlington, a similar distance to the west. Metrolinx owns the Kitchener line up to the city of Brampton.

Meanwhile, Bombardier Transportation has notified the Toronto Transit Commission that it might be unable to meet its target delivery of 70 Flexity Outlook low-floor LRVs by Dec. 31, 2017. Bombardier has missed several delivery deadlines for the 204-unit order, to the TTC’s increasing frustration. Delivery schedules have been revised downward several times. The TTC currently has 40 vehicles on the property, although a mutually agreed-upon 2012 schedule had promised 130 units by mid-2017.

TTC placed the order in 2009 to replace its fleet of 196 Canadian Light Rail Vehicles (CLRVs) and 52 Articulated Light Rail Vehicles (ALRVs) dating from the late 1970s and early 1980s, respectively. As a result of the late Flexity deliveries, the TTC has been compelled to give select CLRVs and ALRVs major overhauls, to protect service.

The TTC has invoked a penalty clause in its contract with Bombardier that has a limit of C$50 million to recover these overhaul costs. The delivery delay is partially attributable to Bombardier’s reliance on “just in time” delivery of LRV components from various far-flung suppliers, e.g., in Europe, rather than stockpiling them at its Thunder Bay, Ontario plant. This has resulted in shop floor delays due to parts shortages. The company has also allegedly not assigned a sufficient number of workers to the project.

To help combat these issues, Bombardier has chartered an Antonov cargo plane to fly LRV cabs over from Vienna, Austria, rather than sending them by ship, which can require a month. In addition, the LRV production line at Thunder Bay is being extended to a seven-day work week, from five. Staff are also being added at Bombardier’s European facilities that manufacture some of the components. Bombardier is responsible for these additional costs.

The TTC has stated that it will ultimately need an additional 60 LRVs to accommodate steadily growing ridership. The agency has approved a search exercise to identify and investigate other potential suppliers for this and future orders. A policy to exclude Bombardier from future LRV orders, even if the company is the lowest bidder, as it was in this case, has also been discussed.

Metrolinx is attempting to cancel its 182-car order of Flexity Freedoms, and has placed an order for 61 Citadis LRVs with Alstom to replace these cars on its Eglinton Crosstown (Toronto) LRT line, due to open in 2021, and the Finch West LRT, planned for a 2022 opening.

The 14 Flexity LTVs for the almost-completed Kitchener-Waterloo LRT are also behind schedule by almost one year.

(The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of John Freyseng.)

Found at:

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Private Investors Plan Metro-Ottawa
Passenger Rail

By Keith Barrow
Rail, Track, And Structures

Plans for privately-financed 250-mile commuter rail network centered on Ottawa and Gatineau took a step forward on July 1, when the Moose Consortium of eight local companies exchanged letters of intent with a consortium of LeMine Investment Group and Consortia N.A. (LeMine-ConsortiaNA) to assess the business and technical potential of the project.

The Moose plan is based on what the project backers describe as a “property-powered rail open market development model,” which aims to optimize the return on property investment by providing passenger rail services on a commercial open-market basis to a limited number of so-called “linked localities.” This would be achieved without any government subsidy, public debt or taxes.

Each station would be owned, developed and operated as an independent business in Moose’s linked localities consortium. To receive a train service, participating owners and investors in commercial and residential property would sign an agreement to split the increase in after-tax net income and realized asset value of real estate within an easy walk of each station.

Trains will serve each participating locality in exchange for a monthly fee based upon a simple formula that makes use of independent empirical data on the property market effects of access to the rail network.


Map Via RT&S

“All the money’s in the property,” explains Joseph Potvin, director general of Moose. “Therefore, in essence, our model is all about real property value optimization. And in this context, a safe, affordable and beautiful train service is just a method for generating that value.”

“The property investors will naturally want to maximize their retained earnings, and they can do this by ensuring that every aspect of their value-boosting train service is excellent. They’ll have profit-driven reasons to make sure the train is not underfunded.”

There will no set fares and the network will operate on a pay-what-you-want basis, with fares revenues going back into improving the service because this will further fuel demand for property around stations.

The 50-station network, which will largely use existing infrastructure, comprises six lines linking Ottawa and Gatineau with Bristol, Arnprior, Smiths Falls, Montebello, La Peche and Alexandria. Moose forecasts the project will remove 25,000 vehicles per day from the streets of the Canadian capital and operating costs are forecast to be around CA$200 million (US$ 157.97 million) per year.

During the next three months LeMine-ConsortiaNA are taking initial steps in what could eventually be a CA$5-million (US$3.95-million) feasibility study.

From an article at:

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TAO Questions Ontario’s High-Speed Rail Proposal,
Calls For Replacement By A High-Performance Rail Plan

From Transportation Access Ontario

Will the Government of Ontario’s wildly optimistic predictions about the benefits of high-speed rail (HSR) actually materialize? The odds are they will not – and here is why.

“High-speed rail’s problems stem mainly from implausibly rosy economic predictions followed by deeply disappointing financial results.”

HSR is too often a vanity project on which politicians fixate, believing their ridings must have the service to be part of the 21st century. In this, HSR has often been similar to other politically-motivated mega-projects, such as Toronto’s controversial Union Pearson Express.

According to the Economist, California’s HSR project was to:

“.cost no more than $33 billion, with the federal government stumping up $3.2 billion and private investors chipping in the balance. So far, such private investors have been conspicuous by their absence.. Meanwhile, the overall cost of the project had soared to $98 billion. And instead of going into service by the end of the decade, the high-speed railway would not be ready until 2033.”
Even in countries where HSR is applicable and has proved successful, there have been problems.

“Others estimate that Japan’s equally illustrious HSR system has added more than 10 percent to the national debt, while cost overruns in Korea have surged into the 300 percent range.”

Is this what we want to happen in Ontario in order to satisfy the cravings of politicians seeking re-election? What of the legitimate transportation needs of the voters who pay for these projects?

The major problems with Ontario’s HSR plan include:

Has the province done any real surveys and studies of the benefits and costs of the proposed system? In most other jurisdictions where HSR has been built, the costs escalated drastically, while the benefits did not meet the optimistic predictions.

The much quicker, equally effective and more affordable solution to Southwestern Ontario’s growing transportation problem is high-performance rail (HPR), which is in daily operation on comparable rail corridors around the world, including the U.S.

HPR includes major improvements to the existing infrastructure, new trains and revisions to the fare structure to provide a fast, frequent and affordable service that can be running in less than half the time of HSR and at much lower cost. It is implemented incrementally, providing improvements the public can use every step of the way before it reaches its final build-out.

HPR’s multiple benefits are outlined in Transport Action Ontario’s “This is High-Performance Rail” found at:

This is the course of urgent action Transport Action Ontario advocates. Pursuing HSR after several failed attempts stretching back nearly 40 years will only lead to further deterioration of our public transportation system, the competitiveness of our economy and our quality of life. We cannot afford to waste more time and money on another “gee-whiz” scheme that is, at best, a pre-election vote chaser.

Robert Wightman
Transport Action Ontario

Found at:

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


Elon Musk Says He Has Approval
To Build NYC-To-DC Hyperloop

He Claims It Will Get You There In 29 Minutes.

By Swapna Krishna

Elon Musk’s latest venture, The Boring Company, has certainly been a source of amusement. Now, the billionaire visionary has tweeted that he’s received verbal government approval to build an New York-Philadelphia-Baltimore-DC Hyperloop, which will get you from New York to Washington, DC, in 29 minutes. It currently takes approximately two and a half hours to travel between the two cities on Amtrak’s Acela Express.

The company is currently working on tunnels aimed at relieving congestion in LA. Musk tweeted that the New York-DC Hyperloop would be constructed in parallel (with city center to city center service, including up to a dozen entry/exit points per city), followed by a Los Angeles-San Francisco loop. He also envisions a Texas (Dallas-Houston-San Antonio-Austin) Hyperloop as a possibility. That’s some pretty far-off planning.

We’re not sure who is going to work with Musk and The Boring Company on these projects (we’ve asked, but Musk hasn’t responded). Chances are, though, that it will be Hyperloop One. The company recently completed a successful test of its mag-lev transport system, but even more importantly, it’s staffed by former SpaceX workers and Musk is friends with its co-founder. We’re skeptical that this project will ever happen, but you can’t say that Musk doesn’t have interesting ideas.

Found at:

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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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