The National Corridors Initiative Logo

Feb. 13, 2017
Vol. 17 No. 6

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…
Opponents Of Old Lyme Amtrak Rail Proposal
   Seek State Legislative Help
Amtrak High-Speed* Train Testing Begins Feb. 7
  Political Lines…
GOP Targets California Rail Grants
  Funding Lines…
Bay Area Rapid Transit Looks At Ads, Fees To
   Cover Shortfall Before Bond Kicks In
  Service Lines…
MBTA Prepares To Ask Companies For More
   Late-Night Service Proposals
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Safety Lines…
SEPTA’s Market Frankford Line Short 110 Cars
   This Week Due To Cracks In Support Beam
  Station Lines…
Rhode Island DOT Seeks Proposals For New
   Commuter Rail Station
  To The North…
Via Rail Operations Remain Stuck
   In The Past
  Down Under…
Bids Invited For Auckland City Rail Link Contract
  Publication Notes …

AMTRAK LINES... Amtrak Lines...  

Opponents Of Old Lyme Amtrak Rail Proposal
Seek State Legislative Help

Proposed Relocation Of High-Speed Right-Of-Way
Problematic For Impacted Cities

By Don Stacom
Hartford Courant

Opponents of the federal proposal for high-speed trains through Old Lyme will call on state lawmakers Monday to join the fight.

A panel of legislators will hear public opinion about whether the General Assembly should officially oppose building a next-generation Acela tracks between Old Saybrook, CT and Kenyon, RI

The transportation committee is scheduled to begin taking testimony at 12:30 p.m. in Room 2E of the legislative office building.

Civic groups and residents from Old Lyme and nearby communities are expected to speak in favor of proposed House Joint Resolution 54. The bill, proposed by Rep. Devin Carney, R-Old Saybrook, and Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, calls on the full legislature to add its voice against the so-called inland bypass.

The Federal Railroad Administration wants to route future high-speed trains away from the 30 miles of curving, twisting track along the shoreline east of Old Saybrook.

The idea is to build an all-new bypass line that would run a mile or so inland; straight tracks without grade crossings would shave time off the schedule between Boston and New York City, the FRA says. It would also add capacity because that stretch of the Northeast Corridor has only two tracks instead of the four that carry trains on the rest of the route.

The FRA hasn’t projected how many billions of dollars would be needed to construct the inland bypass. It has said that freight trains, Shore Line East service and some Amtrak Northeast Regional trains would remain on the shoreline tracks, while high-speed trains and other Northeast Regional runs would use the bypass.

Opposition has been widespread in southeastern Connecticut. Communities along the shoreline route — especially New London — resent the prospect of losing train service that serves commuters, long-haul riders and summertime tourists. Old Lyme and other towns along the bypass route balk at the image of ground-level or overhead rail tracks carrying bullet trains through their quiet neighborhoods and historic villages.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., has been outspoken against the FRA’s idea, promising southeastern Connecticut residents that he’ll fight any bid to get federal funding for the bypass. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy joined Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney in publicly opposing it two months ago.

The FRA has said it won’t pursue Northeast Corridor improvement plans that are unwanted by the host states, so opponents of the bypass are pressing the General Assembly to go on record against it.

“This project will be a disaster for many people in southeastern Connecticut, including Mystic, which would be devastated by the rail line,” said state Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton. “This resolution is another way to voice our displeasure and seek an alternative plan.”

The transportation committee on Monday also will hear proposals to require regular safety checks of fire trucks and transit buses in Connecticut, and to give the General Assembly authority to approve or reject fare increases on public buses and trains. Another bill, S. B. 460, would tighten state rules governing child car seats.

The current law falls short of the safety standards set by the American Academy of Pediatrics, says Amy Parmenter of the state AAA office. AAA endorses requiring children to be in rear-facing child seats until age 2; that’s currently mandatory only until age 1. Also, AAA wants the law to require children be in booster seats until age 8, two years longer than the current rule mandates.

From an article at:

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Amtrak High-Speed* Train Testing
Begins Feb. 7

By City Of Lakewood
Suburban Times

[ * Editor note:  The headline is truly misleading as 79 mph is hardly high-speed, at least to those in-the-know.  Better stated, this line will start to see “higher speeds” than it has been used to.  The effort at education continues. ]

Trains traveling up to 79 miles per hour will pass through Lakewood [WA.] starting Feb. 7 between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. The Amtrak passenger trains will run as part of Sound Transit’s signal testing for the Point Defiance Bypass Project. The testing will occur along the section of track from the Tacoma Dome station to the Nisqually Junction.

The test period runs through Feb. 15. People are asked to use caution whenever near the railroad right of way. Police will be stationed at the at-grade intersections during the testing to make sure people are safe.

Testing will also occur Feb. 25 and 26.

Potential traffic delays are to be expected at the following intersections during the test period:

The $89.1 million rail project is part of a larger state Department of Transportation program to improve service across western Washington [state] along the intercity passenger rail corridor. Once complete Amtrak’s passenger trains will run along the inland rail line through DuPont, Lakewood and Tacoma. Sound Transit already uses a portion of this route for its Sounder commuter rail service between Lakewood and Tacoma.

For project information or more information about the signal testing happening this month visit Sound Transit’s Point Defiance Bypass project webpage at:

From an item at:

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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

GOP Targets California Rail Grants

By Stuart Chirls
Railway Age

California’s Congressional Republicans are calling on the Trump Administration to block $650 million in new grants for electrification on the Caltrain rail line between San Francisco and San Jose. This project, part of the Caltrain Modernization Program, is only loosely connected to the California High-Speed Rail Authority San Francisco-Los Angeles High-Speed Rail project.

The request by 14 GOP members in a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao reported by The Hill said that the money, following more than $3.5 billion in previous federal funding for construction of California HSR, would go to waste. The request did not say that Caltrain Modernization and California HSR are separate initiatives conducted by separate agencies.

In the letter, Republicans wrote, “We think providing additional funding at this time...would be an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars,” according to the report. Leading the move was Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Railroads Subcommittee.

“Denham has had it in for the California HSR project for years and now he’s probably jumping for joy that he has a better chance of realizing his dream of sending the project to the grave with the Trump Administration in power,” said one observer.

Said another, “The electrification of the commuter line from San Jose to San Francisco is a highly desirable element of Caltrain Modernization. It’s unfortunate it gets rolled into the HSR project skepticism.  Where politics is concerned, reason often loses.  Look at what happened in New Jersey in 2010. Gov. Chris Christie cancelled one of the most sensible and needed projects—two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River, which was fully funded and already under construction. Prospects do not look good. Nevertheless, I can’t see why this is such good politics for Denham; there should be juicier targets.”

An audit by Chao’s office was also requested by the Republicans.

The state’s GOP has long opposed the HSR project, championed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who also has been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump.

The California HSR project received billions in grant funding from the Obama Administration as part of the 2009 stimulus package and a 2010 omnibus appropriations measure. Almost $10 billion in bonds to fund the project was approved by voters in 2008. Since then the price tag has soared to $60 billion from $33 billion. In January a risk assessment by the Federal Railroad Administration found that for the first segment of the rail line, taxpayers could foot the bill for much more than first estimated.

In a statement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Republican opposition to the rail project was endangering more than 9,600 jobs, and holding back modernization along the congested corridor between San Francisco and Silicon Valley. “It’s unfortunate that while Congressional Republicans continue to target the progress of California High-Speed Rail with inaccuracies and innuendo, they also chose to take Caltrain electrification hostage,” said Pelosi spokesman Jorge Aguilar.

From an item at:

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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

Bay Area Rapid Transit Looks At Ads, Fees To
Cover Shortfall Before Bond Kicks In

By Michael Cabanatuan
San Francisco Chronicle

For the past couple of years, BART hammered home the message that the system was aging and overcrowded and needed to be rebuilt. Voters listened and approved a $3.5 billion bond measure last fall.

So now the transit agency, its leaders and riders can breathe easy. Not so fast.

Despite the now-funded plans to rehabilitate the train system with the money from Measure RR, delays and breakdowns will probably continue — and, as BART officials acknowledge, things could get worse before they get better.


Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle

Commuters are lined up to board a San Francisco train at the MacArthur BART station in Oakland, Calif. on Aug. 30, 2016.

It will be at least two years before riders begin seeing significant improvements from new rail cars and system fixes paid for by the bond measure money. In the meantime, declining revenue and rising costs mean BART could face a $25 million to $45 million operating deficit in the coming budget year.

The news comes in the shadow of a frustrating few months marked by increasing delays and major breakdowns, including a Jan. 6 incident in which a train stalled and locked up near the West Oakland Station and couldn’t be moved for more than an hour at the peak of the commute.

It’s too early to tell what the looming budget gap will mean for riders, but the possibilities for covering the shortfall range from service cuts and dirtier trains and stations to more advertising, allowing corporations to pay to have their names associated with stations, and making changes to fares and parking fees that could leave some riders paying more.

Grace Crunican, BART’s general manager, said the projected shortfall in the district’s approximately $800 million budget is not an emergency but needs to be dealt with.

Help is on the way, Crunican said, but BART riders will have to be patient. Much of the relief will come with the arrival of the new rail cars. BART has ordered 775 new cars, and the first 10 are being tested, running on different lines in the early morning darkness before the system opens for the day.

BART officials won’t say when, but someday soon those cars will start carrying passengers. If all goes smoothly, BART will tell manufacturer Bombardier to crank up the assembly line for the rest of the order. Once it does, BART expects 16 new cars will arrive each month.

For the full story and illustrations see:

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SERVICELINES... Service Lines...  

MBTA Prepares To Ask Companies For More
Late-Night Service Proposals

By Nicole Dungca
Boston Globe

Late-night bus service could make another comeback, as the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority MBTA) prepares to solicit proposals from outside transportation companies.

Early last year, the MBTA’s fiscal and management control board nixed late-night subway and bus rides because of concerns over its $14 million annual cost. But on Monday, after a push from transit advocates and ride-for-hire firms to bring back late-night bus service in some form, the board gave the go-ahead for MBTA staff to ask these companies for potential overnight schedules.

Companies will need to focus on getting late-night workers home, especially along busy corridors such as Back Bay to East Boston, board members said.

“For me, personally, the priority is really [travel to] employment and educational opportunities,” said board member Monica Tibbits-Nutt. “That’s my focus. As far as whether or not people can get to social events at night, that would be fantastic, but I feel like dealing with those two main populations first should be the priority.”

Late-night hours had extended service on all subway lines and some bus lines to 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturday. Transit service now runs from about 5 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.

But some have been fighting to bring late hours back for select bus routes or on-demand services and even proposing that the T offer some sort of service 24 hours a day. Transit Matters, an advocacy group, has suggested that the MBTA operate a much less expensive service that would run overnight buses every 75 minutes. Bridj, an on-demand shuttle service, and Lyft, the popular ride-for-hire firms, have also submitted proposals to provide their services to MBTA customers with subsidies.

The MBTA also collected about 7,000 responses to a survey on later buses, said Laurel Paget-Seekins, the MBTA’s director of strategic initiatives. The survey showed there is demand for late-night service, but the preferred times vary.

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said state officials hope the bid process can be expedited.

Many would welcome the return of late-night service, proponents said. Adrian C. Madaro, a state representative whose district includes East Boston, told the board that such service is a matter of fairness.

“East Boston residents who work in any other neighborhood of Boston are unable to bike or walk through the Sumner or Ted Williams Tunnels when the T is out of service,” he said. “Nor can they swim home across the harbor. When my constituents cannot get home after work via public transportation, they are forced to rely on expensive, luxury transportation methods like taxis or livery services.”

The board also approved a five-year, $49 million contract for the Tennessee-based Republic Parking System, replacing the embattled LAZ Parking.

LAZ had long contracted with the MBTA, but in May, transit officials said authorities were investigating missing parking payments.

Brian Shortsleeve, the MBTA’s acting general manager, said the agency had been considering rebidding the parking contract before concerns about the missing payments.

[ Editor note:  The effort to seek an outside company to provide late-night service, essentially a series of extended surface bus routes following, or near-following existing subway and bus routes or combinations thereof, is part of an ongoing effort by the MBTA and the Governor Charles Baker (R) administration to privatize various segments of the MBTA’s operations.  Money processing and repair parts warehouse operations are among some of the items already handed-off to the private sector.]

From an item 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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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

SEPTA’s Market Frankford Line Short 110 Cars
This Week Due To Cracks In Support Beam

Transit Agency Is Temporarily Pulling Some Of Its Rail Cars
From Service That Have Indications Of A Crack.

By David Chang And Dan Stamm
NBC Philadelphia

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) will be short 110 cars on its Market Frankford Line due to cracks in the support-beams of two rail cars meaning that commuters could face slower commutes for a period of time.

SEPTA officials said they discovered a crack in the body bolsters -- the main load carrying structural beam -- of two Market Frankford Line cars during inspections over the weekend.

As a result, SEPTA temporarily pulled some of its rail cars from service that have indications of a crack. All Market Frankford Line trains currently in service as well as those that will operate Monday were inspected, said SEPTA.

Another 58 trains have vent box cracks, which can spread to the bolster beam.

On Monday afternoon, SEPTA said that only 108 of its 218 rail cars will be running.

While Market Frankford Line service will continue between the 69th Street Transportation Center and Frankford Transportation Center, they will short of the 144 needed to run regular, weekday peak hour service.

Customers could experience delays and crowded conditions Monday along the Market-Frankford Line during peak hours, said SEPTA.

Officials said trains and platforms could be extremely crowded during the peak morning and night travel hours. As a result, they will supplement Market Frankford service with shuttle buses at select stations between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. during the week.

The Market Frankford Line operates through 28 stations and over 12.8 miles between the Frankford Transportation Center in Philadelphia and the 69th Street Transportation Center in Upper Darby. The Line ranks number one among all SEPTA routes in daily average weekday ridership with 187,449.

Cracked rail cars are nothing new for SEPTA. The agency had to take about one-third of its Regional Rail fleet out of service because of a structural defect last summer.

Read more at:

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STATION LINES... Station Lines...  

Rhode Island DOT Seeks Proposals For
New Commuter-Rail Station

From Progressive Railroading

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is accepting proposals from firms to design and build a new commuter-rail station in Pawtucket.

The proposed Pawtucket-Central Falls Station would provide direct connections via Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) trains to the Providence, T.F. Green and Wickford Junction stations in Rhode Island, as well as numerous stops along the route to South Station in Boston.

The new station would serve a “built-in ridership that lacks robust transit choices,” RIDOT officials said in a press release. Many area residents have to drive to MBTA stations in Attleboro, Mass., to connect to the MBTA system.

In addition, the new station’s location would serve as a “prime center for increased transit-oriented economic development,” RIDOT officials added.

The $40 million project will be funded, in part, by a $13.1 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. The communities of Pawtucket and Central Falls, R.I., jointly are contributing $3 million toward the station.

RIDOT expects to award a design-build contract in early summer, with groundbreaking anticipated in 2017. The station would open in late 2019.

[ Editor note:  This station would replace a long-closed station located in Pawtucket, RI. a short distance north (east) of the proposed new station’s location.  While this station would be on the NEC, no Amtrak service is expected to stop here.  Amtrak service is available a few miles south  (west) of here at Providence, RI. ]

From an item appearing at:

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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Via Rail Operations Remain
Stuck In The Past

By Deborah Yedlin
Calgary Herald

For many, the prospect of train travel conjures up a relaxed, civilized experience.

But those images are challenged when it comes to travelling aboard Canada’s national rail carrier from Toronto’s antiquated Union Station, as I recently experienced.

Long in need of an update, the station is reminiscent of a bunker, lacking natural light or modes of passage to accommodate those less nimble or able bodied; the presence of elevators to get passengers from the boarding line to the tracks not immediately obvious.

Then there is the boarding experience.

In recent times, Via Rail has decided it needs to weigh bags coming on board. Anything over 40 pounds in a single is subject to an extra charge — for safety purposes, they say. But that doesn’t make sense.

Unlike aircraft that require careful weight and balance calculations, the same logic doesn’t hold true for train travel.

Hands up if you’ve seen the mammoth pieces of luggage loaded onto trains in Europe being weighed to make sure they are safe. The only possible explanation is that there are restrictions on how much weight Via Rail employees are contractually permitted to lift.

If that’s the case, it’s about worker safety – fair – not passenger safety.

What’s to stop a passenger from figuring out how to redistribute the extra weight among a carry-on or two, and then stuff everything back into the offending bag when they board the train?


To illustrate Via’s dated approach – and how they could easily capture that extra $20 – is this example: Suppose the bag is determined to be overweight and the passenger is willing to pay an additional $20. Do Via employees handling bags have a wireless, point-of-sale terminal to process the transaction?


Passengers must go to another counter to pay, heavy bag in tow. Not exactly efficient. Airlines have point-of-sale terminals functioning at 35,000 feet, but not Via.

This approach continues on the train.

Want to buy something on board? The options are cash or credit, with a manual machine used to process the transaction. For those of a certain age, it’s reminiscent of those Chargex commercials of the early 1970s.

When it comes to cash, who needs the headache, much less the risk of the float disappearing or the administrative costs?  There’s a reason airlines have dispensed with using cash on board.

A modern exception is Via’s app, which, according to one millennial, is actually quite good. However, that same millennial wondered why he couldn’t use it to pay for something on board.

Via Rail employees are also frustrated with the outdated operating methods in place. A purser I spoke with about my recent experiences said staff are also discouraged that the company is so behind when it comes to having automated processes and procedures.

Rail is – and should be – a viable travel option for Canadians.

It is less stressful than flying and it’s a great way to get cars off congested roads and decrease the carbon footprint. VIA touts that very statistic on its website.

It’s one reasons it should be considered as one of the areas where road infrastructure dollars should be spent in Alberta – connecting Calgary and Edmonton to create an economic powerhouse, but also decrease the risks of travelling on the Queen Elizabeth II Highway.

It also has to be reliable and a pleasant experience.

Via is missing the importance of a brand and what it means to develop, market and nurture that brand. It’s not enough to be the only regularly scheduled option for rail travel in the country. The caveat here is that you can’t get on a regularly scheduled train out of Calgary – just Edmonton — but that’s a column for another day.

It also seems to have missed the memo that an automation revolution is underway. The Internet of Things is changing how business is done. It’s all about looking for efficiencies to boost bottom line profitability by using technology, either to better service customers or gather data to make them more efficient.

Hunter Harrison, the former chief executive of CP Rail, is about to apply his approach to profitability and efficiency at CSX or another railroad. He should take a whistle stop at VIA and offer some pointers on what they need to do to increase customer service, efficiency and ultimately, ridership.

VIA Rail should be part of Canada’s transportation infrastructure and network – but it’s in need of a re-boot.

Much like Air Canada and CN Rail, which were once Crown corporations and now are successful, publicly traded entities, it’s time to privatize VIA and take it out of the Dark Ages.

From an item at:

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DOWN UNDER... Down Under...  

Bids Invited For Auckland City
Rail Link Contract

By David Briginshaw
International Railway Journal

City Rail Link has issued a call for tender to pre-qualify by March 1 for the C3 stations and tunnels package of the $NZ 3bn ($US 2.18bn) project to build a cross-city line in Auckland, New Zealand.

C3 is the largest work package and will interface with many of the other work packages. It includes the design, construction and system testing and commissioning of the majority of the stations and tunnels, while working with the C7 contractor, which covers systems, integration, testing and commissioning, which is responsible for fire and life safety, tunnel ventilation and fire engineering, track, electrification, communications and signaling, systems engineering and achieving operational readiness.

C3 includes the construction of two stations. Aotea station will be built using cut and cover construction, and will be 15m deep and 300m long. Karangahape Road station will be 32m deep and will have 150m-long platforms. Twin-bored 7m- diameter tunnels will link Mount Eden station and the southern end of Aotea station. C3 also includes station maintenance and cleaning.

City Rail Link will extend Auckland’s commuter rail network beyond the existing city centre terminal at Britomart, which will become a through station, to connect with the Western Line at Mount Eden which will be redeveloped. The underground link will be 3.4km long and up to 42m below the city centre streets.

Construction of the early works package on Albert Street and at Britomart started in December 2015 and June 2016 respectively. Expressions of Interest were sought in January for the design, procurement, installation and commissioning of all tunnel track work and rail systems between Britomart and the Western Line at Mount Eden. The main works are expected to start in 2017-18, with completion in 2023-24.

From an item at:

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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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