The National Corridors Initiative Logo

Feb 27, 2017
Vol. 17 No. 8

Copyright © 2017
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Founded 1989
Our 17th 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.
Managing Editor / Webmaster
Dennis Kirkpatrick
Foreign Editor
David Beale
Contributing Editor
Molly N. McKay
 
 

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

  Guest Commentary…
Rail Transit Funding vs. Mob Psychology
  High-Speed Lines…
Support Grows For Seattle To Vancouver Bullet Train
Texas Lawmakers Move To Stymie High-Speed
   Rail Project
  Transit Lines…
Groundbreaking Ceremony Held For Oklahoma
   City Streetcar Project
Sound Transit Starts Construction On Northgate
   Light Rail
  Ridership Lines…
By Bus And By Train Sound Transit Ridership Rises
   23 Percent In 2016
  Selected Rail Stocks…
 
  Safety Lines…
Commuter Railroads Make Progress Installing
   Life-Saving Tech
  To The North…
CN Line through N.B. In Danger If Business
   Doesn't Pick Up
  Off The Main Line…
Buffeted By Snow, MBTA Workers Found A
   New Way Forward
  We Get Letters…
  Publication Notes …


GUEST COMMENTARY... Guest Commentary...  

Rail Transit Funding vs. Mob Psychology

By William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
Railway Age

The carnage has begun. No, not the “carnage” that our malignantly narcissistic President declared in his Inauguration Day campaign bloviation (“16 minutes of hooey and horse hockey about corrupt politicians betraying the people, and American carnage, and patriotism healing our division, though the division is mainly about Himself,” as Garrison Keillor said). It’s the carnage that is beginning to affect public transportation.

Call it the “Drumpf Effect.” Basically, it’s an excuse for mass-transit-loathing politicians, most of whom are—like it or not—Republicans, to join forces and self-righteously engage in bad behavior. It’s a form of crowd psychology, also known as mob psychology.

German philosopher, sociologist and composer Theodor Adorno, writing about the rise of the Third Reich, described crowd psychology as “the bond linking the masses to the leader. When the leaders become conscious of mass psychology and take it into their own hands, it ceases to exist in a certain sense. ... Just as little as people believe in the depth of their hearts that the Jews are the devil, do they completely believe in their leader. They do not really identify themselves with him but act on this identification, perform their own enthusiasm, and thus participate in their leader’s performance. ... It is probably the suspicion of this fictitiousness of their own ‘group psychology’ that makes fascist crowds so merciless and unapproachable. If they would stop to reason for a second, the whole performance would go to pieces, and they would be left to panic.”

Now, I’m not suggesting that Republican efforts to kill transit projects should be compared to German citizens of the 1930s enabling the Gestapo to arrest Jews and send them off to mass genocide in concentration camps because Hitler and his sociopathic henchmen said it was OK. However, it’s still mob psychology.

The first sickening signs of the Drumpf Effect on rail transit surfaced in California, where high-speed-rail-loathing Republican House Rail Subcommittee Chair Jeff Denham has managed to persuade Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to defer an FTA FFGA (Full Funding Grant Agreement) for Caltrain’s unrelated-to-HSR Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project. That project is now at risk, for no good reason.

The next penny-stupid, pound-idiotic mob-psychology-induced GOP initiative to murder a mass transit project has surfaced in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., where Republican politicians are trying to kill an extension of the Metro Transit LRT. As told by CBS Minnesota:

“ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Republican lawmakers in Minnesota said Monday they would try to shift federal funding away from a planned light rail route between Minneapolis and its southwestern suburbs and spend it instead on general road and bridge repair.

“GOP legislators have long sought to block planning and funding for light rail projects, saying they put metro-area priorities above rural Minnesota. The legislation would move $900 million in federal money away from the roughly $2 billion Southwest Light Rail Transit project.

“Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s appointed Metropolitan Council received much of the blame for issues surrounding the project, and council officials pushed back against Republican lawmakers’ claims that the group ignored the Legislature and the public when seeking to move the project forward.

“‘We have an unelected body that is not accountable to any other elected official, save one,’ said Republican Rep. Linda Runbeck, of Circle Pines, calling the light rail ‘a project that has failed on so many counts to be developed in a thorough, neutral, public way.’

“Metropolitan Council chair Adam Duininck refuted those claims, pointing to about 180 meetings that have been held since 2008 to gather public feedback on the project. ‘It is unfortunate that a lot of the information used is incorrect,’ he said.

“A press release from the Metropolitan Council said the Legislature appropriated project development funds in 2009, 2011 and 2013.

“As of Monday afternoon, five Republican bills were set to be heard in committee concerning either the Metropolitan Council or transit services.

“Republicans also see the resolution as an opportunity to sock away funds for a transportation package later this session—a top priority that has eluded lawmakers for years.

“Sen. David Osmek said he hopes President Donald Trump’s administration would approve the transfer, citing the government’s desire to shift toward block grant funding.

“But Duininck said the chance of the funds being moved to grants for roads and bridges is slim because the awarded money is a part of a federal program meant to specifically fund rail projects. If the Legislature goes forward with the resolution, he said he fears the state will lose the money altogether.

“Still, Osmek, the Mound Republican, said cancellation of the funds, without reallocation to roads and bridges, would still be considered a victory.”

Like I said, mob psychology. APTA, are you paying attention to what’s going on? What transit project will be next to suffer?

I’ll leave you with two Garrison Keillor quotes from his editorials on Trump in the Washington Post:

Feb. 7: “The Constitution does not allow 13-year-olds to become President, and after last week we can see why. The Boy President proudly holding his latest executive order up for the cameras, to show that he knows right-side-up from upside-down. Bringing his Supreme Court nominee onstage. (‘So was that a surprise? Was it?’) Cutting short a call with the prime minister of Australia. His homage to Frederick Douglass (‘someone who’s done an amazing job’) for Black History Month. Twittering about the ‘so-called judge’ who stopped the Muslim travel ban. Pictured in full smirk at the National Prayer Breakfast, preening, bloviating (‘In towns all across our land, it’s plain to see what we easily forget—so easily we forget this—that the quality of our lives is not defined by our material success, but by our spiritual success’) on a scale of bloviation equal to Warren G. Harding and the great gasbags of the 19th century. You think, Let the man be president but please don’t put him in charge of the Weather Service or Amtrak or the TSA.

Feb. 1, Trump citing his version of the Bible: “The Lord is my shepherd. Okay? Totally. Big league. He is a tremendous shepherd. The best. No comparison. I know more than most people about herding sheep. And that’s why I won the election in a landslide, and it’s why my company is doing very, very well. Because He said, ‘I’m with you, Donald. You will never want. Blessed are the dealmakers, for theirs is the kingdom. Big time. Blessed are they who scorn, for they shall be comfortable. Blessed is machismo, for it wins again and again. Blessed are they who are persecuted by the dishonest press, for they shall continue down the paths of righteousness, and that’s what is going on here. We are bringing righteousness to Washington for the first time and making incredible progress. I’ve done more in the past month than most presidents do in a year. Washington was void, without form, and I issued an executive order, “Let there be light,” and did I get credit for it? No, the dishonest press said, ‘It hurts our eyes.’ So I divided the light from the darkness. Day and night. Night and day. I did all this in two nights and a day. Under deadline, under budget. Next week we’re going to do the firmament, the waters, the dry land, start naming beasts, all the rest of it. I tell you, I have been walking through the valley of the shadow of death. The shadow of death. I have to say that. Terrible. Because of the dishonest Medianites, or, as I call them, the media, including a lot of you here in this room, writing stories about chaos. Where’s the chaos? We’ve got light and darkness, day and night. There is no chaos. I know what’s true, and the level of dishonesty is unbelievable. The story about the rich man in hell and the beggar Lazarus in heaven—fake news. Totally fake. Rich man wouldn’t give him the crumbs off his table? Not true. Never happened. ‘What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?’ He never said it. Same with, ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven.’ Garbage. Total garbage.”

Many in our industry, and the people it serves, are going to suffer from the intended consequences of the Drumpf Effect—transit agencies, suppliers, contractors, engineering consultants, and the transit-riding public.

One thing to bear in mind: It really isn’t Trump who’s in charge. The Administration’s “script” is written and orchestrated by top strategy advisor Stephen K. Bannon, a morally bankrupt, sociopathic white supremacist who has made clear his desire to “blow up” the world order. The President is under the spell of an American Rasputin.

God help us. God help us all. . . .

[ Publisher’s Note:   Bill Vantuono, long-time editor of Railway Age, is one of the leading lights in American transportation. His commentary on the current status of rail in the Trump Administration is all the more impressive because of the credentials he brings to the public forum.  --- Jim RePass, Publisher, Destination: Freedom. ]

The original article appeared at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/blogs/william-vantuono/rail-transit-funding-vs-mob-psychology.html


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

Support Grows For A Seattle
To Vancouver Bullet Train

By Josh Cohen
Nextcity.Org

People have been talking about building a Pacific Northwest high-speed rail line for a long time. The George H.W. Bush’s 1991 transportation act authorized a high-speed rail corridor from Eugene, Oregon, to Vancouver, British Columbia. Paul Schell, Seattle’s mayor from 1998-2002, was a big proponent of a Portland to Vancouver line. According to transit advocate Shefali Ranganathan, Transportation Choices Coalition Choices executive director, there was a brief push to use American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to invest in real high-speed rail.

The idea is once again in the headlines. With a coalition of tech millionaires and billionaires, politicians and investment groups behind the renewed push, it seems plausible high-speed rail could finally move from fantasy to reality in the Northwest. The idea is at least real enough that Washington Governor Jay Inslee put $1 million in his proposed budget to fund a feasibility study.

“We’ve seen enough examples of high-speed rail networks around the world that this is not a pie in the sky idea,” says Ranganathan. “It is really about getting into the nitty-gritty of what it would take to bring it to the U.S. Europe has done this for decades and we’ve seen how it’s connected countries, commerce and communities.”

Connecting commerce is, of course, the driving force behind this latest push. Last September, a group of Northwest tech industry leaders, including Bill Gates and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, as well as elected officials and other business people held a conference in Vancouver to discuss how better to connect Seattle and Vancouver as their populations and economies boom. A high-speed rail corridor that would cut travel time between the cities down to just one hour was a centerpiece of the conference.

Currently there are only a few options for traveling the 140 miles between Seattle and Vancouver and none of them are ideal. Driving can take as little as two and a half hours, but it’s rare that I-5 doesn’t have traffic jams these days (and getting rarer as the regional population continues to grow). The Amtrak train takes four hours, only runs a few times a day and often gets delayed by freight train traffic. Bolt and Greyhound Buses are cheap and do more runs a day than Amtrak, but also take four hours and get stuck in that same terrible I-5 traffic.

A one hour trip on high-speed rail would be a game changer.

Engineering consultants WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff presented a high-level report on the feasibility of the rail project. Trains in Europe and Asia can travel up to 250 mph. At those speeds, a train could get between Seattle and Vancouver in an hour including interim stops in Everett and Bellingham. But getting those speeds would require building new rail infrastructure from scratch.

If successful, the report predicts the line would be extended to Portland and Eugene, Oregon, and eventually all the way to California’s high-speed rail line. A two-track rail corridor could support six to eight trains per hour, meaning someone could catch a train every 10 to 15 minutes.

“It’s being proposed as a tech industry talent draw, but I think it could be much more than that,” says Ranganathan. “If it’s an hour to Vancouver, I’ll tell you people will get out of their cars. The number one reason people make a switch to transit is convenience and reliability.”

That speed comes with a hefty price tag. Based in part on the projected costs of the Houston to Dallas and L.A. to San Francisco high speed rail projects, the WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff estimates it would cost between $125 million to $1 billion per mile to build the Seattle to Vancouver line for a project total of about $20 billion to $30 billion.

Because of that, some transit advocates remain skeptical of high-speed rail, despite their enthusiasm for the concept.

“We just went through this big fight over light rail [in the Seattle area]. It’s probably cheaper per mile than high speed rail would be and it runs more often and that was like pulling teeth [to get the votes],” said Seattle Transit Blog Editor-in-Chief Martin Duke on a recent episode of the blog’s podcast.

Beyond that, he points out that the rail line would likely need to take some of I-5’s right of way in order to get the straight track layout necessary for high speeds. “I would be thrilled to see this thing built, but I don’t see how you do it without taking freeway right of way and that would be tough.”

The WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff report says the Seattle to Vancouver line could be planned and built within 15 years. First the state legislature will need to approve the $1 million rail study in Governor Inslee’s budget.

Duke’s colleague Frank Chiachiere isn’t holding his breath. On the same episode of the podcast he said, “Given the difficulty of getting rail projects off the ground here, given the difficulty of getting high-speed rail projects off the ground anywhere in America, this seems like a pipe dream. But pipe dreams can be fun.”

From an item at:
https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/support-grows-seattle-vancouver-bullet-train-feasability-study


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Texas Lawmakers Move To Stymie
High-Speed Rail Project

By Dug Begley
Houston Chronicle

Nearly a dozen Republican state lawmakers, mostly from rural and suburban districts, filed a flurry of bills Tuesday aiming to “derail” plans for a privately-funded high-speed rail line in Texas.

The 18 bills, nine each in the Texas Senate and Texas House, aim to limit Texas Central Partners’ ability to develop a Houston-to-Dallas line supported by both metro areas, but strongly opposed by many rural landowners and elected officials.

The bills complicate the private company’s right to acquire property via eminent domain, strengthen landowner protections, compel state agencies to assess the feasibility of the planned rail line and prohibit the state from ever maintaining or operating a high-speed rail line.

“I still have doubts about whether a high-speed rail project makes sense for Texas” said Senator Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe. “Taxpayers should not be expected to pay the bill if the project fails.”

Company officials, in a statement, defended the project, noting Texas needs new mobility options.

“Contrary to the national focus on infrastructure projects that stand to create tens of thousands of jobs and benefit millions of people, it is ironic that the proposed legislation calls for more government regulation in trying to block a free market led project that will create jobs and generate economic development,” said Holly Reed, managing director of external affairs for Texas Central.
Since the legislative session began, state lawmakers have said they planned to use Austin to constrain development of the high-speed rail project, notably its rights to survey and acquire rural land. Critics of the company have said it has used heavy-handed tactics to force landowners into sales agreements.

Earlier this month, Texas Central announced about 30 percent of the parcels needed for the 240-mile project are covered under sale option agreements, meaning landowners have agreed to sell the land once the project has the necessary environmental clearances and is ready for construction.

The company, which is said its still finalizing its private funding, will use Japanese bullet train technology to travel between the two metro areas. The trip, company officials said would cost around the same as airline travel, estimated to take 90 minutes. In addition to Houston and Dallas, the company plans a stop near College Station.

Along the route, residents and elected leaders who feel the project doesn’t benefit them and ruins the rural character of their communities have banded together to oppose it. State lawmakers, among them Sens. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, and Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, and State Reps. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia and Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, have repeatedly questioned the need for the project.

“Transportation is a critical issue for our state, which requires thoughtful and pragmatic solutions for today and the future,” said State Rep. John Wray, R-Waxahachie. “Texas Central has failed to demonstrate a viable or comprehensive plan addressing the real mobility needs of our state, and the legislation filed today seeks to address the legitimate issues posed by this project.”

One of the major issues dividing Texas Central and opponents is the company’s right to acquire property via eminent domain. The company claims it has rights as a railroad to use eminent domain, though some landowners have challenged that.

Courts, thus far, have issued mixed rulings. In a handful of cases, either courts have not approved the company’s requests or Texas Central has pulled the claims. In a Harris County case last month, in which the landowner did not appear in court, Texas Central was granted a default summary judgment allowing it to survey property and declaring it a railroad.

Lawmakers, many who contend Texas Central does not have eminent domain authority, have said many of their concerns focus on landowner rights.

“Texans have always had a deep respect for the land and for the law,” Kolkhorst said. “That’s why the Legislature must tread lightly when property rights are at risk.”

From an item appearing at:
http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/texas/article/Lawmakers-rain-down-anti-rail-bills-10948520.php


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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

Groundbreaking Ceremony Held For
Oklahoma City Streetcar Project

Work Began On The MAPS3 Oklahoma City Streetcar Track Line Earlier This Week,
Starting Construction On The Area’s First Streetcar Network In Decades.

From Rail, Track, And Structures

The MAPS 3 Modern Streetcar will be called the Oklahoma City Streetcar or OKC Streetcar, and the new system will connect popular destinations in and surrounding downtown Oklahoma City, representatives say.

“The MAPS 3 OKC Streetcar is one of the most ambitious projects in Oklahoma City’s history, and it will forever transform the way we live, shop, work, play, eat and get around downtown and the surrounding districts,” said Mayor Mick Cornett. “We can expect to create memorable public spaces and increased private development like locally-owned shops, restaurants and more housing options.”

Image

Image:  MAPS3

A new stop will appear at this location in 2018

Others joined the mayor for the groundbreaking ceremony, including Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer, Ward 7 Councilman John A. Pettis, Jr., and MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board Chairman Tom McDaniel.

The groundbreaking celebrated a roughly two-year construction and testing process for the tracks in and near downtown Oklahoma City, with OKC Streetcar service set to launch next December.

The current construction phase is set to continue through May, and area residents can stay up to date on the construction process at:
https://www.okc.gov/government/maps-3/projects/modern-streetcar-transit/modern-streetcar-construction-news

From an item at:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/passenger/groundbreaking-ceremony-held-for-oklahoma-city-streetcar-project.html?channel=


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Sound Transit Starts Construction
On Northgate Light Rail

By Chris Sullivan, KIRO
Via MyNorthwest.Com

After months of low activity at Northgate, Sound Transit showed up last week with an army of workers and heavy equipment to begin work on the new light rail station near the current transit center.

Transit center and park-and-ride users, and mall-goers need to prepare for a shifting parking lot and road closures over the next few years.

“It’s a lot to juggle,” said Sound Transit’s Kimberly Reason. “We are very committed to keeping the parking there so we’re having to move the parking around and keep construction going.”

The Northgate light rail station is more than a little unique. It is going to be built on either side of NE 103rd Street — that’s the street just south of the mall parking garage. Sound Transit is doing that so vehicles can still get in and out of the transit center. The station will be elevated. Trains will come out of the Maple Leaf tunnel and then move to an elevated track before entering the station.

“We’re still on track to open in 2021,” Reason said. “Construction is going really well, and people will see that area changing rapidly as the station construction takes shape

The Northgate Light Rail Station

The Northgate light rail extension was funded under Sound Transit 2, and it will get light rail to Lynnwood by 2023. The track will head out of the Northgate station along Fifth Avenue, hugging the east side of I-5 all the way to 185th in Shoreline. The tracks will stay along I-5 until it reaches the transit center just over the King/Snohomish County line. It will then cross I-5 in Mountlake Terrace before making it to the Lynnwood Transit Center at 200th.

This line will be a mix of elevated and ground-level track. There are no tunnels on this stretch of the project.

Found at:
http://mynorthwest.com/550878/northgate-light-rail-construction/


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RIDERSHIP LINES... Ridership Lines...  

By Bus And By Train Sound Transit
Ridership Rises 23 Percent In 2016

By Craig Sailor
MassTransit Magazine Online

Nearly 43 million people rode Sound Transit trains and buses in 2016, with light rail ridership up 65.8 percent for the year, according to materials sourced via McClatchy.

These figures represent a 23.1 percent system-wide increase over 2015. Link light rail ridership surged with the opening of new stations serving Capitol Hill, the University of Washington and Angle Lake.

“It is encouraging to see such dramatic increases in ridership,” said Board Chair and Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. “Every time someone chooses Link, Sounder or ST Express, they are helping our region’s economy and the environment. As we expand the regional rail network in the years ahead, we will enable more and more people to climb aboard.”

For the original and more info see:
http://www.masstransitmag.com/news/12307238/brief-by-bus-and-by-train-sound-transit-ridership-rises-23-percent-in-2016


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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...  

Commuter Railroads Make Progress
Installing Life-Saving Tech

By Melanie Zanona
The Hill

Commuter railroads have made some progress installing a potentially life-saving train technology, though they still have a long way to go, according to new analysis from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

The improvement comes as the commuter railroad industry has lagged behind the efforts of freight railroads in implementing positive train control (PTC), which automatically slows down a train that is going over the speed limit and will eventually be required by law.

As of the end of last year, 30 percent of passenger rail locomotives and cab cars are equipped with PTC, up from 29 percent in the first half of 2016. Meanwhile, 50 percent of the necessary PTC radio towers have been erected, up from 46 percent.

Overall, 23 percent of commuter railroad route miles are either in PTC operation or in full demonstration mode, with 19 percent of commuter rail agencies fully equipped with the technology.

The APTA analysis was based on responses from the group’s members and quarterly reports from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

“The commuter rail industry continues to make significant progress in implementing positive train control,” said Richard A. White, the APTA’s acting president and CEO. “The progress on this complex safety technology demonstrates the industry’s relentless focus on safety.”

Congress had originally given commuter and freight railroads until the end of 2015 to install the technology, which can prevent derailments, collisions, crashes and improper track switching. But as railroads struggled to meet compliance deadlines, lawmakers pushed back the implementation date to at least Dec. 31, 2018.

Recent deadly train crashes — including a speeding New Jersey Transit train that slammed into Hoboken Terminal — have stepped up pressure on railroads.

The APTA data show that commuter railroads across the country still have a long way to go in adopting positive train control, in part because of the steep cost of the technology.

BNSF Railway, a top freight railroad in the U.S., has even called on Congress to help passenger railroads get into compliance.

“As a freight railroad, it may sound out of line, but I actually urge Congress to fund passenger commuter rail funding for positive train control,” Matthew Rose, executive chairman of BNSF, told a Senate panel last week.

“I can’t imagine a more difficult train wreck for us to have to go to where we have the positive train control on the freight rail, and the passenger or commuter train didn’t because of lack of funding.”

PTC implementation is projected to cost the commuter rail industry more than $3.5 billion in capital expenses and $100 million annually in additional maintenance costs, the APTA said.

Since 2008, Congress has doled out over $650 million in federal grants for installing the technology, as well as a nearly $1 billion loan to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, according to the FRA.

“The installation of PTC is challenging for a number of reasons, including from a technical perspective. PTC was not a mature technology when Congress mandated it in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008,” said White.

“Beyond the technological challenges that have to be addressed, there are significant issues in regard to the costs, scarce qualified resources, and adequate access to track and locomotives for installation and testing.”

From an article appearing at:
http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/320482-commuter-railroads-make-progress-installing-life-saving-train


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

CN Line through N.B. In Danger
If Business Doesn’t Pick Up

Under Deal, If Freight Business Keeps Dropping, CN Can
Abandon Line, Which Would Kill Passenger Service

By Bridget Yard
CBC News

Canadian National can drop freight service between Campbellton and Moncton if traffic doesn’t pick up in the next few years, according to an agreement the company signed with the former Alward government.

Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Bill Fraser says the agreement contains a “troubling” clause that could doom both freight and passenger service on the line.

“If the number of railcars decreases for two consecutive years below the levels of 2012, then [CN has] the right to get out of that agreement and discontinue the line,” Fraser said Tuesday.

The previous government worked out the agreement with CN after the company came close to abandoning the line.

The clause that could put the line in jeopardy again comes into effect in 2019, when CN starts measuring the number of freight cars against 2012 levels.

Since CN performs maintenance and upkeep on the track, Via Rail passenger service depends on CN to survive.

Fraser said the government has put together a committee to work on the issue. His department and Opportunities New Brunswick are also going to hire a full–time consultant to act as a liaison with CN.

Northern Economy Struggles

Fraser identified economic struggles in northern New Brunswick as a major reason for declining freight traffic on the line.

“We’ve had some challenging times in the past years,” he said. “Things are starting to turn around and we’re starting to make investments into infrastructure in our province.”

Fraser said he’s had conversations with the Port of Belledune, which relies on the rail line, and with CN and Via Rail.

Other politicians are trying to drum up freight business and ensure the survival of passenger service in the area.

“The Chamber of Commerce has taken a leadership on this file for some time and is working with CN,” said Miramichi Mayor Adam Lordon.

“The local peat moss industry is something that’s been flagged in the past in terms of the CN volume. We think there are options and we’re optimistic.”

Big Hopes For VIA Service

Fraser said he believes Via Rail is committed to expanding service through New Brunswick.

“The president of Via had said he’d like to bring in a daily service between Campbellton, Moncton, and eventually Halifax, as well,” he said.

But Via Rail needs to deal with CN, whose priority is freight, not passengers, Fraser said.

Via can’t increase the frequency of its service unless the rail line steps up a class or two, which would allow trains to travel at an increased speed.

The last federal government spent $10.2 million on the line between Moncton and Campbellton, but the money went to upkeep, not improvements.

From an item appearing at:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/freight-rail-project-cn-1.3992590


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

Buffeted By Snow, MBTA Workers Found
A New Way Forward

By Nicole Dungca
Boston Globe

They say necessity is the mother of invention. But Michael Haywood was driven by plain embarrassment.

The nightmarish winter of 2015 was at its worst, a barrage of powerful storms that brought the MBTA to its knees. In desperation, state officials called in prisoners and the National Guard to help the transit system dig out, one shovelful at a time.

For Haywood, an MBTA machinist who fixes snow-clearing equipment, it was a personal affront. There had to be a better way, he thought.

So he thought of one: mounting a John Deere vehicle often used to scoop dirt — it’s called a skid-steer loader — onto railcar wheels in order to clear the snow-packed tracks. It sounded farfetched, and some of his colleagues were skeptical.

Image

Photo:  Jonathan Wiggs/Boston Globe

The new machine is put to the test

But Haywood and his colleagues kept welding. Over 12 hours, they assembled a new kind of snow blowing machine, bringing Haywood’s vision to life. To the surprise of his naysayers, the contraption worked.

Two years later, the MBTA has hired a company to build eight machines based on Haywood’s prototype, a small fleet than can clear miles of track far faster — and more cheaply — than before. In just a couple of hours, the rolling snow blowers can clear areas that under one old method, a jet-fueled melting machine, would have taken nearly a day, and with far greater precision.

“It’s like using a scalpel versus a hatchet,” Haywood said.

Haywood, a 35-year-old known to his co-workers as “Haywire,” became a machinist because he “doesn’t like to not know how to do things.” He started out at the MBTA repairing buses, then joined a crew assigned to fix utility vehicles, basically anything that didn’t carry passengers.

Working alongside 25 other machinists in a Charlestown garage, the Billerica native found a like-minded boss in superintendent Bill Walsh, who grew up in Weymouth and joined the MBTA nearly 25 years ago.

Walsh knew to pack a bag of extra clothes and food when bad snowstorms approached. While his employees caught a few hours of sleep on a couch or armchair in the break room, Walsh was often wide awake, planning out the next day.

In 2015, Haywood had been living out of his luggage in the garage for three weeks, working 20-hour days and watching in dismay as the MBTA’s performance came under heavy criticism. One day, as Haywood was about to head home to pick up fresh clothes, Walsh made a personal appeal, urging the crew to “think outside of the box” to help the system recover faster.

Crews had been running trains on the tracks to clear the snow, but it wasn’t enough. On some lines, the best snow-clearing devices hadn’t been put out quickly enough, while others had fallen into disrepair. Workers were running out of places to put all the snow, and dealing with a bitter cold that kept it frozen and packed.

Image

Graphic by Tina Cowan / Boston Globe

How It works

“It kept snowing and snowing and snowing, and we had to come up with something,” Haywood recalled.

As he drove home to Billerica, he took a mental inventory of the machines he fixed every day, searching for an answer. Finally, it clicked.

The next day, he rushed to the mezzanine of the MBTA’s hulking garage on Arlington Avenue, grabbing a pair of spare rail wheels they had salvaged from a vehicle bound for the junk yard. He quickly started welding the wheels onto a skid-steer loader, which was outfitted with a snow blowing attachment. With the right adjustments, he hoped, the plow would be able to move fast enough to blow away heavy snow and ice.

Walsh thought the idea had promise. Others had doubts.

“We had people who said, ‘That’s not going to work; you’re wasting your time,’ “ Walsh said. “They just weren’t buying into this.”

The pessimism ran counter to the crew’s work ethic. Haywood likens Walsh to New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick in his high expectations and no-nonsense approach. Failure isn’t an option, he would tell his crew. There is no “can’t.”

For Haywood, who thinks of his job as “figuring out nuts and bolts,” the skepticism only deepened his resolve. On Feb. 15, 2015, a bitterly cold day that followed another major storm, he and another worker dragged their invention to the Mattapan trolley line.

The 2.5-mile Mattapan line is typically closed during big storms, since the 70-year-old vehicles can’t withstand the snow as well as newer vehicles. By the time Haywood got there, the rail was covered in about 8 inches of packed snow, flanked by 3-foot snow banks.

But on its first trip, the jury-rigged snow blower cut through the snow with ease, freeing the dark tracks that had been buried in white. Haywood and his co-worker were ecstatic, although they knew it needed adjustments.

By the following year, as Governor Charlie Baker touted an $80 million “winter resiliency plan” for the agency, MBTA officials had contacted Mitchell Rail Gear, a Michigan-based company, to customize the machine. For an agency trying to cut costs wherever it could, the $100,000 contraptions were far more attractive than traditional snow blowing machines.

Estel Lovitt, the owner of Mitchell Rail Gear, said he was immediately intrigued. His company already attached railcar wheels to MBTA vehicles such as maintenance trucks, which make their way down the tracks every night so workers can tend to problems big and small as the rest of the region sleeps.

“I think it was ingenious,” Lovitt said.

The company had to figure out how to put retractable wheels onto a track loader, and how to keep it from derailing when it hit a small bump or sharp turn. Lovitt figured out that a hydraulic suspension system would allow the wheels to raise and lower themselves so they kept in constant contact with the rail.

“You got all four wheels and they were all working independently to keep it in balance,” he said. “That was really the secret of making this thing work.”

Lovitt has added the customized machine to its website, and a company from Canada has already ordered one. He thinks more will follow.

Even with Lovitt’s interest, Haywood and Walsh still faced some doubts. At one point, the MBTA had to wait for John Deere to make sure the retrofits wouldn’t void the machines’ warranty.

When a John Deere official came to inspect the prototype, he was impressed enough to give his blessing. Haywood said he asked where he had gone to engineering school (he hadn’t) and whether he might want a job with the company.

But Haywood says he doesn’t want to leave the MBTA, with its frenetic pace and myriad challenges, anytime soon. Walsh, who each winter tells Haywood it’s his last, doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, either.

Especially with the new device making winters a little more manageable, Walsh said.

“I don’t think you’ll ever see the MBTA shutting down again,” he said.

From an article originally appearing at:
http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/02/17/buffeted-snow-mbta-workers-found-new-way-forward/DaSKxHtOnugRhfjicM6m4K/story.html


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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

Dear Editor:

Actions speak louder than words (in this instance, President Trump’s promise of expanded federal investment in infrastructure), revealing a powerful opposition to rail spending in any form.  The delaying of funds to electrify Caltrain’s San Jose - San Francisco commuter rail happened, in fact, because there is deep-seated political opposition to California’s High Speed Rail project; Caltrain’s electrified tracks are essential to allow the high speed trains to reach San Francisco.  Transportation Secretary Cho’s delay is nothing more or less than an ill-disguised attempt to sabotage California Governor Jerry Brown’s key project.

This is only the latest example of what has long been operative in these United States, to wit:

It is as plain as day that there are powerful anti-rail forces ready to bare their venomous fangs whenever anyone anywhere seriously proposes to build high speed rail, whether it be in Florida, Texas, California - or anywhere else, for that matter.

Let’s face it: the USA is, uniquely, a “drive-and-fly” nation, where high-speed rail in any form whatever is looked down on as an ugly alien intruder which must be stamped out like a destructive weed which threatens to invade and destroy the status-quo before it gets the slightest chance to take root. Our economy is based on and centered around our drive-and-fly transportation system, and we cannot and must not allow anyone or anything to sabotage or undermine its supremacy.

I am convinced more than ever that passenger rail is UNWANTED - despised, even - by a large percentage of the moneyed and influential population of our country - to the extent where advocating rail is tantamount to political suicide and therefore won’t gain a foothold anywhere.

All the delaying tactics, lawsuits and other measures (such as the ones mounted just today, Tuesday, February 17, 2017 by Texas legislators to put a stop to THEIR high speed rail between Houston and Dallas) clearly show how the United States, Mexico and Canada are the three major exceptions to the rule that fast trains are desirable and can gain converts once they’re in place and running.

NOT HERE.

High speed rail will most likely continue to expand elsewhere in the world, but is highly unlikely ever to gain acceptance in our three North American countries.

I am not quite sure exactly why this is so – perhaps because a powerful anti-rail sentiment long ago deeply embedded itself in the North American consciousness and psyche. There is an indisputably powerful insistence that we in the United States, Canada and Mexico shall ever be the ones who prove the exception, not the rule, regarding high speed rail.

Where can we rail advocates do about this sorry state of affairs? I truly do not know the answer. We’ve been fighting this battle for years.  James RePass’s convincing President Bush to agree to fund the electrification of the Northeast Corridor from New Haven to Boston is our cause’s outstanding achievement to date, and stands as no little accomplishment considering the force of this opposition.

Respectfully (and regretfully) submitted.

Eric Talbot
Chicago, Illinois

Editor Replies: The timing of Eric’s letter was interesting, given the content of this week’s edition. And this is only the tip of this iceberg, it seems.Work Began On The MAPS 3


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