[ Publishers Note: NCIs October 11 Conference Were All In This Together had far too many speakers, not to mention attendees fully qualified to keynote let alone attend any conference, to do justice to the issues raised. We are therefore taking the step of serializing, as they become available over the ensuing weeks and months, not only speakers presentations but attendees comments in Destination: Freedom, both to give them a thorough airing, and provide their thoughts to our readers whether or not present at the event. While the conference concentrated on New England and the Northeast and its deteriorated infrastructure, the lessons learned, and ideas put forward, have relevance to infrastructure issues across the continent. All thoughts and comments are also welcome, and will be likewise published by us. Previous comments by CT State Senate President Don Williams address calling for the creation of an interstate compact to build a true regional rail system, by Delegate du Québec France Dionne on the importance of better NE/Québec transportation infrastructure, and the comments of conference attendees Vincent Terrill and Ronald OBlemis on the subject of regional rail, have all been published and are collected in the NCI conference archives.
This week, we have the talking points used by Vermont Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, who is also a professional airline pilot, in his presentation --- Jim RePass, Publisher, Destination: Freedom and President and CEO, NCI ]
Rail Talking Points
Regional Leadership Forum on Transportation & Infrastructure
Prepared for and delivered by VT Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, October 11, 2007
First Appearing in Destination Freedom: Vol. 8 - No. 45 - November 12, 2007
- Vermont has been a leader in the preservation and improvement of Rail corridors for both Freight and Passenger service. Currently the State owns 50% (300 miles) of the 600 miles of active rail lines in Vermont. Vermont was the first State to purchase a railroad out of bankruptcy (The Rutland Railroad, 1964) in order to preserve the route for continued rail service.
- In January 1995, Amtrak made the decision to discontinue the Montrealer passenger service that operated daily between Washington, DC and Montreal, QC. This was a night train through Vermont. Vermont agreed to provide the necessary subsidy to keep the service alive. The train during its final days was changed to a daytime schedule that terminated in Vermont and the state provided throughway bus service to Montreal from St. Albans. The Ethan Allen Express service from New York City to Rutland Vermont was established approximately 18 months later.
- Vermont currently supports two Amtrak passenger routes. The State contract with Amtrak for these services was $3,975,442 for FY 2007.
- The Vermonter Daily service between St. Albans, Vermont and Washington, DC. Vermont is responsible for the direct operational costs north of Springfield, Massachusetts. Ridership for the past year is up almost 18% to 61,825.
- The Ethan Allen Express Daily service between Rutland, Vermont and Penn Station in New York City. Vermont is responsible for direct operational costs north of Albany, New York. Ridership for the last year is up 6% to 43,511.
- Freight Railroads that Amtrak operates over in Vermont realize $1 million in payments for use of the line and incentives for on time performance.
- Vermont is in the contract stage with Colorado Railcar Manufacturing Co with plans to operate as a pilot project modern, new generation railcars which are known as Diesel Multiple Units or DMU will run on the Vermonter service between New Haven, Connecticut and St. Albans. Service is anticipated to begin late spring 2009. The state, however, will not pull the trigger on this deal unless the manufacturer can supply Vermont with some kind of financial instrument that guarantees it will by the cars back at 90 percent of the sale price in three years should Vermont no longer be able to support passenger rail. Colorado Railcar agreed to this deal in principal, but thus far has not come forward with the financial guarantee Vermont needs to begin construction. The next few weeks of negotiations is viewed as critical to this projects future.
- Since 1998 Vermont spent over $31 million (Federal & State funds) on the State-owned rail infrastructure on the western side of the State between Hoosick Junction, NY and Burlington, VT for upgrades to accommodate passenger rail service and heavier freight loads. Another $40 million is expected to be spent over the next 5 years to that same purpose. Some of this money is expected to be spent to build a spur in Middlebury so that OMYA can load directly onto rail cars and eliminate the truck traffic it now runs from Middlebury to Florence.
- Vermont also invests in the private railroads when a specific public good can be identified. The just completed $2.7 million Bellows Falls Tunnel project located on the New England Central Railroad demonstrates that commitment. The improvements will allow double stack container and tri level auto rack car shipments to use that corridor. Some of these shipments will traverse the State-owned Green Mountain Railroad thus increasing annual lease payments.
Regarding Vermonts planned new DMU service:
- Builder: Colorado Railcar Manufacturing, LLC Fort Lupton, Colorado
- Two train sets consist of 1 power car and 1 trailer car with a capacity of 120 passengers for each train set. One additional power car will be purchased as a back up car and if additional seasonal capacity is needed.
- Cost for the equipment; $17,300,000
- Construction time:18 months from contract initiation to final car delivery
- Financing: Federal Railroad Administrations Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) 20 years @5.03%
- Service schedule: Two trains daily, one from St. Albans, one from White river Junction.
- Amtrak Corridor Competition Pilot Program Grant $2 million for marketing, equipment construction oversight, station improvements, development of a maintenance