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Old June 9th, 2005, 06:25 AM   #1
hkskyline
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California Rail Crash Caused by Broken Rail

Broken Rail Joint Blamed for Calif. Crash
8 June 2005

PICO RIVERA, Calif. (AP) - A broken joint connecting two rails caused a 2004 freight train derailment that forced the evacuation of about 100 people and caused $2.7 million in damage, federal regulators concluded.

The National Transportation Safety Board said in a report adopted May 31 that several track inspections before the derailment hadn't found problems.

"In some instances, the inspections were done more frequently than required," the report found. "Nevertheless, the inspections failed to detect the developing problems and prevent the ultimate failure."

The report said evidence indicated "slowly growing fatigue cracks in both joint bars and that at least part of each fatigue crack had been visible on the lower outer portion of the bar for some time before failure."

No serious injuries were reported after about a dozen locomotives and cars traveling about 57 mph slammed into and damaged at least four homes Oct. 16 -- with one boxcar going through a roof -- and scattered debris in suburban back yards. An estimated 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel also spilled, the agency said.

John Bromley, a spokesman for Omaha-based Union Pacific, said the company re-inspected all joint bars afterward and found a few defective ones, but nothing "systemic."

"We certainly focused on bars and because of that, it'll make a safer railroad," Bromley said.

He said the railroad had also talked to suppliers about providing stronger joints, instructed track inspectors on how to spot tiny cracks that could indicate problems, and increased ultrasound inspections of the joints to every 90 days instead of about three times a year.

In 2003, 13 people were injured and several homes were damaged when a Union Pacific train jumped the track in Commerce, Calif., about 10 miles from Pico Rivera.
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Old June 9th, 2005, 06:55 AM   #2
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The standards for Rail in the States are so pathetic and low grade, how they are a superpower with only an airline and highway industry for moving people is beyond me.
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Old June 13th, 2005, 05:53 AM   #3
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UNITED STATES | Railway

What are your opinions on passenger rail in America? Should something be done about it? Should it be left to commuter services, or what SHOULD be it's role?
How should it work?

I think passenger rail in America is in dire need of help. There needs to be an alternative to air travel, both for redundancy, for instance a series of bad storms that tie up air traffic, as well as to provide an alternative for people who don't like to fly. I also think it might prove beneifciall to the airlines if done right.

Amtrak is backward - they own the trains but not the track. That is like having the government own the airplanes and do all the flying, while letting provate companies own teh airspace and airports. Then expect them to coordinate the air traffic control themselves. What it SHOULD be is that Amtrak owns the rail infrastructure. They can designated certian routes for frieght only, passengers only, or combination. They should do all the traffic control, too. Let the private companies run the train service itself. Even let the airlines run train service. They can provide flights to key cities, and provide connecting service to smaller ones. This lets some of the smaller cities that can't support regular flights get service.

I also think they need to seriously upgrade the equipment. Acela is quite a popular service. Ironically, it does not run on a different route or anything - it is just a modern train versus teh ancient metroliner service. It shows that simply upgrading the service will bring in new passengers

Lastly, I think they need to refocus. Instead of long distance cross country routes, they should be thinking city to city. They need to tie in with existing road and airports - lines should service airports directly and then llink out to nearby communities and cities. I would love to see auto ferrys - utilizing a much quicker way of loading cars than the current autotrain, and use them to service routes of about 6- 12 hours driving time. Have a terminal outside the city itself but in the metropolitan region where traffic originates, and then connect to nearby regions. And market not just for end to end users but as a way to cut down on driving time mid journey - you would maybe drive an hour to the station, take teh aurto ferry for the bulk of the 8 hour trip, and then drive the last hour to your destination. This means putting stations not off the highways but near them.
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Old June 13th, 2005, 09:59 AM   #4
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I agree that passenger rail needs help. I also agree with the point of needing city to city transport. The train takes too long for long distance travel, but if shorter trips (< 500 miles) were easier and public transportation within the cities was better then rail could be very successful. The massive amounts of money being spent on highways needs to be redirected into mass transit, both inter-city and intra-city. Good luck with the presidency and much of congress owned by the oil companies, though.
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Old June 14th, 2005, 03:26 AM   #5
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If you had proper HSR like in Japan, France and Germany, or maglev like the UK will hopefully have soon you'd see coast-to-coast journey times shorter than those by plane once everything is factored in!
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Old June 14th, 2005, 09:48 AM   #6
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I think passenger rail in the U.S. is best served for short distances in high density areas. Otherwise light rail connections throughout a city and high speed rail links to the airports are best for our country. I think air travel serves it's purpose much better than what a cross country high speed rail system could do.
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Old June 15th, 2005, 12:13 AM   #7
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I agree that coast to coast high speed rail is not only unrealistic due to the extreem length, but also lacks the need. Coast to Coast travel is not particularly large except between NYC and LA, and some of the east coast cities and San Fran. Even if you did have flat out high speed rail it would be too slow compared to air travel to draw enough customers. Even if you had a good maglev service that operate at jet speeds, you are still talking terrain and route deviation enough to make it take longer, and there simply isn't enought traffic there to suppor the costs of it.

The real intercity markets are mostly the East Cost cties - not just the Bos-Wash corridor, but also reaching aAtlants, some of the mid-sized cities in the south, and the cities in Ohio and Indiana. Other markets include Florida, The west coast, and Texas/Southern Rockies. That was what I was refering to as a global perspective - Ait travel works best for really long distances, especially thin toutes, time critical isssues, and larger city pairs. Rail would provide better service to medium sized cities on a more regional basis, where air travel doesn't perform that well.
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Old June 15th, 2005, 12:18 AM   #8
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Since America covers everyone from Alaska to Argentina....I will throw my two cents in.

Mexico and not the US or Canada will be the next market. Mexico is due for a high speed train between Guadalajara and Mexico City by I believe 2006 or so.

Chile also has a very healthy passenger train system.
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Old June 15th, 2005, 12:45 AM   #9
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Quote:
If you had proper HSR like in Japan, France and Germany, or maglev like the UK will hopefully have soon you'd see coast-to-coast journey times shorter than those by plane once everything is factored in!
Coast to coast is not a realistic option for HSR or maglev... it's still too slow to be competative with air travel.

HSR could be succesfull though in a couple of densely populated corridors though... most importantly of course Boston - NYC - WashDC, but also around Chicago or in California. Hopefully that will happen one day...
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Old June 15th, 2005, 08:01 AM   #10
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rail transit in america should be expanded and funding as well as benefits should go towards those who develop rail. Regional clusters are best, air is more efficient for anything over 500 miles or so.

The problem is America(n)s lack of interest/identification with rail. We have such a car-bubble mentality that its hard to get it going in a lot of cities. Florida voted down a HSR from Tampa-Orlando-Miami (almost 10 million in that triangle) and then Miami and Miami Beach voted for localized lightrail but have already voted to delay critical portions of it by several years.

If Americans could ever love light rail or streetcars (again) it would be so much more efficient economically and environmentally.
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Old December 25th, 2005, 02:38 AM   #11
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I think we should focus in the near term on expanding capacity and capability of the existing network and implement true high speed rail when we build up passenger volume. Along the lines of what John Barriger proposed 50 years ago in his book "Super Railroads for a Dynamic American Economy." More recently Gil Carmichael has proposed "Interstate II."

The money squandered in Iraq would have done wonders if it had been invested on our own infrastructure instead. I would suggest the creation of infrastucture bonds that would be similar to tax free municipal bonds. The loss of tax revenue should be made up for by a tariff on oil imports of around $10 bbl to encourage energy independence, at our present level of oil imports that would raise about 40 billion dollars per year. Congress had proposed the issuance of 71 billion dollars of such bonds, the revenues lost would only amount to a few billion dollars per year but figure there are more than just railways to invest in to make the US energy independent.

I would shoot for about half of the 40 billion dollars being used to make up for the infrastructure bonds, leaving about 20 billion dollars to spend directly. That could be spent on new lines such as the "Loree Line" across northern Pennsylvannia. It could also build some tunnels that would eliminate bottlenecks, Amtrak could own these and would play the tenant to the railroads, reversing the existing role.

An 8 mile tunnel could be built in the Blue Mountains of Oregon that would replace 26 miles of climbing and twisting track with 8 miles of level straight track. Some of the worst stretches of line could become the best. A tunnel of similar length could make the old Milwaukee Line across the Bitteroot Mountains of Idaho/Montana a shortcut between Spokane and the east. Altamont Pass, Siskiyou Pass, Stampede Pass are just a few areas where tunnels no longer than the existing Stevens Pass tunnel could vastly inprove America's railway network. A tunnel matching the one being built in Switzerland could transform the I-5 corridor between Los Angeles and the Central Valley.

Investing in our railways could obviate the need to spend greater sums on our highway system, such as the proposal to add 4 truck lanes to I-81 in western Virginia. Removing the trucks to the rails would also save a lot of wear and tear on the highways, each truck causes damage equal to that caused by several thousand cars.
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Old December 25th, 2005, 02:40 AM   #12
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FAQ: The Rail Solution vs. the STAR Solution

What are the problems with I-81?
· Quite simply, there are many more trucks than the highway was designed for. Truck traffic has increased up to 200% on some sections of I-81 in the past four years alone. The number of trucks is almost three times what I-81 was designed to carry.
Drivers are fearful and accidents are frequent.
Instead of being modernized, the rail system in the I-81 corridor has been downgraded so that it can no longer handle its share of the traffic.

What solution does VDOT’s proposed contractor, STAR Solutions, offer?
· VDOT is negotiating with Halliburton Corporation-led STAR Solutions based on their proposal to enlarge I-81 to 8-12 lanes. Four lanes would be exclusively for truck use, separated from other lanes by a “rumble strip.” “Jersey barriers” would separate the on-coming truck lanes from each other.
· Cars would be restricted to the outer two “mixed lanes; trucks would also use these lanes.
· Tolls of up to $128 for entire 325-mile route were originally proposed just for trucks, but Virginia’s Sec. of Transportation Whitt Clement stated that 60% of the toll revenue stream must come from cars.

What’s wrong with STAR Solution’s proposed solution?
· Air pollution and noise due to the projected doubling and tripling of truck traffic would jump dramatically. Diesel emissions ironically would be trapped by our beautiful ridge and valley topography.
· Public health would deteriorate as childhood asthma and adult respiratory disease increase in proportion to increased ozone, particulate, and nitrous oxide emissions.
· The chance for catastrophic accidents would be great, especially if larger trucks with triple trailers are allowed.
· The beautiful Valley of Virginia and Mountain Empire of Southwest Virginia would forever be marred with soundwalls and a gigantic industrialized highway replete with truck service strip development.
· Historic sites would be lost or encroached upon.
· Agriculture and forestry would suffer from loss of land and ozone pollution.
· Wildlife would be increasingly stressed, it’s populations fragmented, resulting in increased danger from vehicle-animal collisions.
How would the Halliburton-STAR Solution proposal affect the regional economy?
· Tolls collected from trucks are projected at $4-6 billion through 2020, an expense that will encourage shippers to find alternate routes, reducing projected revenue and clogging other roads such as Routes 11, 29, I-79, and I-95/85.
· Local shippers and commuting residents, who have no alternative route, will be forced to pay the tolls.
· Manufacturers and other large shippers will find it more costly to do business in our region and may move to other locations to do business.
· Tourism and other leisure traffic will diminish as travelers will avoid I-81 during the 15- year construction period and because of it’s industrialized character.
· In short, businesses that depend on truck traffic and tourism will find it harder to survive.
· Financing this project will put Virginia at risk. If truck tolls do not meet optimistic projections the project will go into default, and Virginia’s credit will suffer. VDOT’s own spokesperson said “if there is a hiccup in the traffic, or if there is a hiccup in toll revenue, that would cause very grave concern among bond rating agencies.”
· Other projects in the state will find it difficult or impossible to get funding as this project hogs capital and highway funds. In fact, the STAR proposal would forbid VDOT to make any other highway or rail improvements that might compete for I-81 traffic.

So, is there a better solution? Yes, definitely!
· Improve I-81 in the few places where it really needs improvement and accident rates are high.
· Upgrade rail lines paralleling I-81 from Harrisburg, PA to Knoxville, TN to dual track, high-speed “steel interstate” for both freight and passenger service. The freight service would be schedule and truck-time competitive to offer “just-in-time” deliveries, using truck service on either end of the rail route.
· Operate a variety of high speed intermodal shipping options- similar to those in other countries we compete with economically - which allow trucks or just their trailers to use the new high-speed rail lines, reducing truck costs and diverting thru-truck traffic from I-81 altogether.
· Demonstrating real vision and a remarkable consensus of local officials, 40 counties, cities, towns, and planning commissions in the Virginia I-81 corridor voted resolutions opposing the STAR-Halliburton proposal outright, opposing any proposal that relies on tolls, or supporting a major role for rail.

What are the advantages of this alternative solution?
· Traffic safety and congestion on I-81 would be drastically improved.
· Cost of the improvements to the rail system and necessary highway improvements are estimated at about one half of the STAR proposal and no or much reduced highway tolls would be required. Construction time would also be halved.
· The additional cost to trucks for using the rail system would be offset by reduced operating costs. Drivers would also have more options: either riding on the train with a more productive rest break (the load is still moving); or driving more short trips to a rail terminal with the opportunity for regular time at home.
· The convenience of “dock to dock” deliveries now provided by trucks would continue.
· The western and Southwest Virginia would become more attractive to potential industries, supportive of existing businesses and the travel industry.
· There would be far less impact on I-81 traffic and businesses using that asset during the construction period. Exporting the construction to the rail line would be safer and less frustrating for all drivers.
· Virginia would experience a savings (net of truck license and use taxes) of $.05 in interstate maintenance costs for every truck mile diverted to rail.
· Other transportation improvement projects in Virginia would be neither prohibited nor impacted negatively. Specter of a super-sized I-81 “white elephant” would be avoided.
· Pollution, noise, agricultural and business land loss, and dependence on foreign oil would be reduced, not increased.
· A balanced system of highway and modern rail would provide travelers the option of taking the train instead of driving, and greater transportation flexibility during emergencies.
· The valleys and mountains of Virginia would continue to be one of the most attractive and historic places in the nation.
· The railroad would have six times the capacity of its anticipated initial load, compared to the STAR plan, which will be saturated when completed.

Why doesn’t VDOT just build a railroad then?
· Alaska’s Congressman Don Young, powerful Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, wants to build his pet project: an experimental highway for trucks only right here along I-81 in Virginia to showcase to Congress.
· STAR Solutions, the Halliburton Corporation-led construction consortium, proposed just such a truck-lane “solution” to VDOT under the Virginia’s new public/private transportation act.
· In return, Young has inserted into the House omnibus transportation bill $900 million in federal tax funds as the first of two installments to subsidize this I-81 truckway.
· According to the Washington Post, ethically-blind Halliburton and other partners in STAR Solutions contributed to Don Young’s campaign fund.
· Further, the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s I-81 Advisory Panel, stacked with VDOT loyalists, chose the STAR proposal for further study, with the qualification that the federal government subsidize the $13 billion cost of the STAR proposal. Converting a free public interstate highway, built by taxpayers, into a toll road from which private companies would speculatively profit, would be a first in U.S. history.
· VDOT has entered into contract negotiations with STAR, despite the fact that the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) has not been conducted and what project is to be built, if any, is yet to be decided.
· This proposal second only in scope to Boston’s disastrous Big Dig has some of the same cast of characters-STAR Solutions member Parsons-Brinckerhoff was sued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts this March for allegedly hiding the knowledge in the early 1990s that costs and completion timelines on the Big Dig would double.
· VDOT hired a former STAR Solutions partner, Vanasse, Hangen, Brustlin, Inc., to conduct portions of the Environmental Impact Study for the project.
· At the I-81 Advisory Panel hearing when the panel recommended STAR Solutions, only the competing plans were discussed. Contractors were not parsed on whether they are financially stable enough to undertake such a project, have a reliable history of ethical behavior, consistently bring contracts to completion on time and within budget constraints, or have the flexibility to build whatever comes out of the EIS as the final “build” scenario.
· Halliburton’s financial stability-it’s KBR subsidiary filed for bankruptcy in December, not Halliburton or the other contractors ethical behavior-Halliburton was fined by the Securities and Exchange Commission in August for accounting for project cost overruns as profits without requesting acceptance from its customers; KBR is being investigated by the U.S. Government for its accounting of its Iraq operations and several whistle blowers are accusing the company of fraud.
· If you think Halliburton can’t get sufficient access on Capitol Hill, consider that U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s brother, Randolph DeLay, sole proprietor of Public/Private Strategies Inc., is also a principal in the STAR consortium.
· As STAR partner law firm, McGuire Woods’ own advertising slogan puts it “Relationships that drive results.” Relationships on this project appear far too cozy. Does this sound like a contractor you would hire to build the largest public construction project in Virginia’s history? Do they appear to have the interest of Virginians at heart?
· Now Congressman Young’s truckway earmark is before a House-Senate conference committee. Virginia’s Senator Warner is a committee conferee. Virginia’s congressional delegation is sorely tempted by the thought of “free” federal pork behind this project, even though no local constituencies support the proposal.
· Virginia House members are afraid to oppose Chairman Young for fear of being punished by having future transportation projects excluded from the federal budget.
· How can half a billion dollars start a $13 billion project? It can’t. The other $12 billion will be paid for by tolls on those of us who drive I-81 or pay Virginia taxes. Once started, there will be no stopping this gargantuan project, even if it costs twice as much and takes twice as long as planned, as the planners of the “Big Dig” experienced.
· Now Congressman Young’s truckway earmark is before a House-Senate conference committee. Virginia’s Senator Warner is a committee conferee; the “free” federal pork behind this project sorely tempts him and other members of Virginia’s congressional delegation, even though no local constituencies support the proposal. Virginia House members are afraid to oppose Chairman Young for fear of being punished by having future transportation projects excluded from the federal budget.
· Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation Whitt Clement says that auto drivers would have to pay 60% of the $13 billion in tolls needed to pay off this scheme, even though all agree that it is truck congestion driving this expansion proposal. Is that fair?
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Old December 25th, 2005, 02:41 AM   #13
Frank J. Sprague
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MAXIMIZE RAIL, MINIMIZE ROAD EXPANSION

August 11, 2004

As the Commonwealth of Virginia considers how to cope with ever-increasing traffic on I-81, it is important to make the wisest choice, which will best serve Virginia and the Nation for the long-term.

VDOT has chosen to evaluate the STAR plan, to expand I-81 by adding four new “trucks only” lanes, for an estimated total cost of $13 billion. We submit that this plan is shortsighted and will have many adverse consequences. It makes only minimal use of rail to deal with increasing truck traffic.

We propose that an alternative plan, which makes much greater use of rail and reduces dependence on highway expansion, can be accomplished at less cost, faster, and with far greater benefit to the public.

It is important to start with some current facts related to I-81:
· Current truck traffic on I-81 is roughly 40% of total traffic. 1
· Current average daily truck traffic on I-81 is 14,000 trucks/day 2, or 5.1 million trucks/year.
· 70% of all the trucks on I-81 are on trips of over 500 miles, called “long-haul” trips. 3
· Total long-haul truck traffic on I-81 is thus approximately 9,800 vehicles/day.
· Trucking companies find that on trips over 500 miles, it is attractive for them to use intermodal rail if the service meets three criteria: a.) Equal door-to-door transit time, b.) Convenience and c.) Reliability. 4
· The predominant long-haul truck traffic in the I-81 corridor flows through Harrisburg, PA, following I-81 and I-40 to Memphis, TN, or I-81, I-75 and I-59 to New Orleans. 5
· If intermodal service meeting the three criteria listed in (5) were available to the corridor described in (6), a large share of the long-haul truck traffic would voluntarily divert to the intermodal rail service. How much is uncertain. The SJR-55 Report6 suggests that, “total divertible traffic was over 2 million trucks annually”(based on 1996 data). Reebie7 suggests a diversion potential of 28.2 to 30.3% of average daily truck traffic, or 1.4 million trucks annually. Averaging these two estimates, we get a potential diversion of 1.7 million trucks/year, or 4,550 trucks/day, or 46% of all long-haul trucks.
· Diverting 46% of all long-haul trucks from I-81 would certainly be beneficial, but we submit that this estimate is too conservative. The rail investments proposed in Reebie are modest (around $7 billion for the entire NS corridor and just $2.6-2.8 billion in Virginia.8) Intermodal service in the 2,000 mile Chicago/Los Angeles corridor currently captures “as much as 80% of all truck traffic.”9 We submit that an even more modern railroad could capture at least 65% of all long-haul truck traffic in the 1100-mile Harrisburg/New Orleans corridor or the 900-mile Harrisburg/Memphis corridor.
· If this could be accomplished, it would represent a 46% decrease in truck traffic on I-81.
· On the hilly terrain, which is characteristic of I-81 in VA, a tractor-trailer in effect displaces 3-6 passenger cars10. Together with such a significant reduction in truck traffic a corridor rail enhancement reduces the need for additional lanes of pavement. Instead of adding four or more lanes over the entire 325-mile length of I-81, it should be possible to add lanes only where congestion concentrates and where trucks can’t maintain speed while climbing hills.

The modest “Virginia-only” rail improvements in the STAR plan, and also discussed in Reebie 9, project a diversion of trucks to intermodal rail of 500,000 per year, or 1,369/day, or just 15% of current long-haul trucks.

It is doubtful that much diversion will be achieved by the proposed improvements, which are limited to adding passing sidings and signaling to the line from Front Royal to Manassas, and a few other upgrades. By using the Roanoke-Lynchburg-Manassas “Piedmont” line, the rail route is 65 miles longer in VA than I-81. Further, with only 1,369 trucks/day, and a train carrying 50 trucks, that yields just 27 train departures each day, or roughly one every two hours in each direction. These trains will occasion additional delay of up to two hours and further erode rail’s ability to compete with highway trucks for speed of service.

It is clear that to make a significant contribution in reducing truck traffic in the I-81 corridor, intermodal rail needs to be very successful. Modest measures to improve rail, although better than no rail improvements, will not have impact sufficient to mitigate highway congestion.

What rail enhancements will be required to make intermodal rail very successful in attracting trucks from I-81?

· A modern, dual-track, high speed rail line, grade separated from all road crossings, capable of carrying intermodal and passenger trains at average speeds of 60-80 mph along Norfolk Southern’s line between Harrisburg and Knoxville TN, and possibly beyond to Memphis and New Orleans. RAIL Solution calls this high-performance railroad the Steel Interstate.

· The Steel Interstate needs to closely parallel the highway corridor, avoiding unnecessary mileage. The Valley Route is much preferable to the Piedmont Route in this regard.

· Strategically located transfer facilities along this rail line, probably near the I-64 and I-77 interchanges and Roanoke, as well as in other states.

· Railroad equipment that offers an “open intermodal technology,” capable of handling all highway trailers, complete trucks or containers, and facilities capable of loading and unloading them quickly. The intermodal trains would be expected to carry 50 equivalent truckloads each.


TABLE 1
COMPARISON OF STAR AND RAIL SOLUTION PLANS

STAR RAIL SOLUTION
Cost: (Virginia only) Investment in highway Investment in rail (VA) Trucks/year diverted to rail, based on current traffic % Of trucks diverted to rail Trucks/year capacity of rail improvement Total trucks/year on I-81 currently Trucks/year on I-81 in 2020 * Trucks/year on rail in 2020 * Total fuel usage for trucks and rail, for I-81 traffic in Virginia, in 2020, gallons Est. year of completion, Highway improvements Rail improvements $13 billion $0.5 billion 0.5 million 10% 0.5 million 5.1 million 9.7 million 0.5 million 534 million 2019 2008 $1.8 - 7.0 billion $3.6 billion 2.35 million 46% 10.5 million 5.1 million 5.5 million 4.7 million 376 million 2014 2010
* Assumes total truck volume doubles from 2004 to 2020

Financing the improved infrastructure of the Steel Interstate:

The capital investment necessary to upgrade the railroad infrastructure, estimated to cost $3.6 Billion in Virginia alone, is beyond the capability of NS to leverage. Investment must come from the public, from state or federal government or a combination of the two, which could further leverage private monies. All investments would be repaid over time by a rail car user fee.

For the RAIL Solution proposal to be successful it must be profitable for the long-haul truckers to use it; it must be profitable for the railroad operator generating the revenue to pay back the public and private investment over a reasonable length of time.

A rough analysis by RAIL Solution shows that with the diversions we predict, current truck operating costs, and current rates that railroads charge for intermodal service, truckers and railroad operators can make a profit and still pay a user fee for the new infrastructure that will reimburse the capital investment over thirty years.

What advantages will accrue from the proposed Maximized Rail/Minimized
Road Plan?

· Less expansion of I-81: Since the Steel Interstate will handle a large portion of long-haul truck traffic, the need to expand I-81 will greatly diminish. Detailed traffic analysis is needed to determine necessary upgrades to the highway, but it is believed that adding a lane in congested areas, adding a climbing lane where necessary for trucks on hills, adding safety and enforcement measures already planned by VDOT may suffice for the long term. It appears certain that the necessary upgrades to I-81 will not exceed the addition of a single lane in each direction for the full 325 miles in VA.

· Lower cost: The cost of rail improvements proposed here, as estimated by RAIL Solution experts, is $3.6 billion. Without knowing what I-81 improvements will be necessary, it is hard to estimate their cost. But if the full addition of a 3rd lane is taken as a high limit, then Fluor’s estimates of $1.8 billion, later revised to $7 billion, may be used as an upper cost limit. Thus the total cost for rail and highway improvements in VA could be expected to fall between $5.4 and $10.6 billion.
Obviously, both rail and highway investment will be needed in other states in the corridor, but their results should be similar to what we’ve shown for Virginia: Lower cost by maximizing rail and minimizing highway expansion.

· Reduced land use: If the land use of the STAR 8-lane plan is reduced to 6 lanes or less, it will require far less land acquisition. For the addition of two lanes, much of the addition can be done in the existing median, owned by the state. But with the STAR plan, additional lanes and truck lane separation areas require adding land outside the existing right-of-way. Additional land condemnation under this plan nearly doubles the original Interstate footprint.
The railroad will use NS right of way where practical. Elsewhere, it will require only a 40 ft. ROW.

· Improved fuel economy: An intermodal train uses roughly 1/3 as much fuel as a highway tractor-trailer per ton-mile transported.10 The potential savings is 158 million gallons/yr. of fuel in Virginia alone.

· Reduced air pollution, resulting from reduced fuel consumption. Air pollution in the I-81 corridor is already a concern, with several cities, including Winchester and Roanoke, designated as borderline non-attainment areas. Reduced air pollution has both significant and measurable public health and economic benefits. Enhanced rail capacity reduces Virginia’s exposure to the introduction of Mexican trucks with inferior regulation and maintenance.

· RAIL Solution’s proposed dual-track Steel Interstate railway will have the capability of handling trains with 5-minute headways, or 288 trains/day in each direction. That is six times the 45 trains/day in each direction needed to carry the projected 4,550 diversions/day. So the railroad will have six times the capacity of its expected initial load. Compare this with the STAR plan, which will be saturated when completed.

· Removing trucks from the highway will result in fewer accidents and toxic release incidents because railroads have a superior safety record. Rail freight traffic separation is true freight separation, not mere “rumble strip” separation. Fewer accidents will occur on the Interstate because of fewer trucks. Not to be discounted, fewer accidents will occur on the Interstate because of reduced construction time.

· Removing trucks from the highway reduces highway maintenance cost. The net cost of maintenance less user fees is $.05/truck mile11. Thus, diversion of 1.7 million trucks/yr will save the State $27.6 million annually. Also the State may be eligible for federal interstate maintenance monies if it is able to avoid highway tolling or reduce the amount of time that a toll is imposed.

· Attractive intermodal service in the I-81 corridor will reduce long-haul
shipping costs, improving the economy and industrial recruitment prospects of the region it serves.

· The improved rail line offers the potential of high-speed passenger rail
service in the I-81 corridor. This could improve tourist business in the region.

· Redundancy: Statistics prove the growing dependence of the economy of eastern United States on I-81 trucking. This makes I-81 an inviting target for terrorist attack. President Eisenhower initiated the Interstate System to meet
a national security need. The addition of the Steel Interstate, parallel to the
I-81 corridor and its extensions into the Mid-South, will provide a second
artery, enhancing our national security.


What the NEPA review should be sure to include:

· That public investment /financing could produce a sufficiently upgraded and improved rail line paralleling I-81 to permit rail intermodal operations to handle a meaningful volume of the trucking now on I-81, such that a lesser investment in highway infrastructure would be needed or justified.

· That a useful analysis of rail vs. highway investments cannot be meaningfully undertaken based on the 325 miles within Virginia alone and with no consideration of the impacts on adjacent states. Such convergent analysis shortchanges the rail option and is not in keeping with VDOT’s more activist approach (requesting a waiver from the Federal Highway Administration regulations in order to impose tolls) for the STAR Solutions plan. Since the transportation congestion problem is a multi-state problem, a multi-state approach is required. VDOT should work in collaboration with other state transportation departments to determine the least costly and most effective transportation improvement concept for the corridor.

· That financing availability aside, the desirability of a truly improved rail line in the I-81 corridor meeting the standards of a 21st Century Steel Interstate, be analyzed for its effectiveness and competitiveness in moving much of the freight traffic now and in the future along the I-81 corridor.

· That the financial and environmental costs and benefits be evaluated between providing future truck carrying capacity with truck-only highway lanes and providing that same capacity with a super railroad instead, thus requiring limited highway improvements.

· That in addition to modal analysis traditionally performed to see which shipments logically move by truck and which by rail, the NEPA analysis needs to include non-traditional forms of intermodal service, using concepts such as the “E<x>pressway” service in use on the Canadian Pacific RR or the truck ferry (Rolling Highway) as used in Europe.

· That no environmental assessment can be complete without acknowledgment that petroleum prices (fuel costs) may be much higher in 2035 and disproportionately impact over-the-road trucking. World petroleum demand is currently equal to production capacity and will inevitably outstrip supply.

· That the potentially adverse effects of tolling be fully evaluated regarding the impact on other roads and highways exposed to increased traffic avoiding tolls on I-81, and with regard to the potentially severe adverse impact on business, commerce, and tourism in western and Southwest Virginia (including economically distressed jurisdictions) compared to other areas served by non-tolled highways. Additional analysis should address the probable diversion to rail due to tolls and the capacity of rail to handle this diversion.
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Old December 27th, 2005, 05:30 AM   #14
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The whole rail infrastructure in this country is archaic at best, and I would even venture to say not worth much rehabilitation. Heavy freight and pasenger rail/light freight don't mix, and shouldn't have to mix. The first thing to do is to build a true nation-wide rail infrastructure, not privately owned but run like the airways and airports, with traffic control and private operators. A simple twin-track layout is not going to cut it - 4 lines in the major locations. There should be a separate network that handles passenger, car and truck rail-ferries, and light freight, with heavy freight getting it's own lines.

The problem is that road construction projects involve many companies, with many people getting their hands in on it. Rail projects really are quite limited in scope, and not that many companies are ready to take advantage of it. Which means that the companies and politicians aren't particularly motivated to do it.
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Old December 27th, 2005, 10:19 PM   #15
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The program John Barriger outlined in "Super-Railroads; Fora Dynamic American Economy" back in 1955 would have provided for 40,000 miles of Super-Railroads. Most of it would have been upgrades of the existing lines, but 4000 miles would have required entirely new alignments. Total program cost in 1955 was 20 billion dollars. With the exception of mountains and terminal areas he called a ruling grade of 0.5% and curves of 1 degree minimum radius (and ideally 0 degrees 30 minutes to reduce the need for super elevation of the tracks to no more than 3 inches).

I think that with electrification we could allow for greater greater ruling grades since the energy lost in braking can be fed back into the system rather than being disippated as heat. If you can find this book you will find it very informative, my copy was found via the internet. Some of the results that would allowed for a 20 car passenger train to travel between New York and Boston or Washington DC in 2.5 hours, New York and Chicago in 12 hours, and Chicago and the Pacific Coast in 30 hours. Freight up to 500 miles away would have been delivered on a next morning basis.

Passenger trains would have traveled at up to 100 mph, and averaged 70 mph between terminals (which beats the Acela between Boston and New York) using F unit locomotives and streamliner cars of the era. He demonstrated how much more important it was to raise the average speed than the maximum, the Acela today illustrates his point, between Boston and NYC it averages 65 mph, and only runs at it top speed of 150 mph for a few miles along the border of Rhode Island and Connecticut. Freights would have been limited to 70 mph and averaged 50 mph terminal to terminal. These would have been merchandise freights like the old Pacemakers and Eagle Merchandise. At that time the average boxcar limited the maximum speed to 50 mph while the locomotives could easily handle 70 mph, so most freight cars were obsolete.

Most freight ton-miles today are in slow moving bulk good unit trains (coal/ore/grain) which would travel at 15 to 30 mph, this would be the traffic that is hard to mix with fast freight, intermodal, overland RO/RO ferry and passenger trains.

He also mentioned that 2 tracks could handle 4 times the traffic of a single track, 3 tracks 9 times as much and 4 tracks would handle 16 times the traffic of the single line. You would also need to incorporate cab signaling on these lines to maximize capacity.

I think his program would be valid today, we need to move freight using less energy, electification would allow the bulk of it to move totally independent of oil imports. The higher speed of intermodal and overland RO/RO ferry trains would strip freight from the highways to the rails. And for now we could concentrate on using passenger trains to compete with the auto rather than the airliner.

Far more passenger miles go by the highway than the airway anyway, in particular for shorter distance travel. 70 mph end to end speed would beat the speed of a car, in greater comfort and with better amenities. Overland RO/RO ferry trains could travel 700 to 800 miles overnight. A lot of package freight could travel at the speed of passenger trains, allowing priority goods to travel coast to coast in under 2 days time.
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Old December 27th, 2005, 11:29 PM   #16
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Quote:
I think his program would be valid today, we need to move freight using less energy, electification would allow the bulk of it to move totally independent of oil imports. The higher speed of intermodal and overland RO/RO ferry trains would strip freight from the highways to the rails. And for now we could concentrate on using passenger trains to compete with the auto rather than the airliner.
And there you go - compete with the oil industry (which gets its supply from overseas but the corporations are based right here), and the auto industry, which is the culmination of pawning off...er, private investment in transportation.
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Old December 28th, 2005, 12:34 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cloudship
And there you go - compete with the oil industry (which gets its supply from overseas but the corporations are based right here), and the auto industry, which is the culmination of pawning off...er, private investment in transportation.
And the supply of oil is subsidized by tax dollars spent to defend the oil supply, about 60 billion dollars while we import 4 billion barrels per year, works out to a subsidy of $15 per bbl. Socialize the cost, privatize the benefit.

When we built the interstates we spent far more on public infrastructure as a percent of national wealth than we do today. The original financing model of a gasoline tax was good but it failed to address the burden that was imposed after 1971 when the US began to assume responsibily for defense "East of Suez." Imposition of a tariff on oil imports would correct this and would encourage new domestic sources, substitutes and more efficient utilization of petroleum.

Funding for Super-Railroads should be financed this way. If the roadbeds were owned by the federal government they would pay no property tax, this siphons off several hundred million dollars a year that could be invested in the railways. Property taxes on rail rights of way offer a perverse incentive to minimize fixed plant and were a contributing factor in shedding capacity. New Jersey actually taxed a railroad into bankruptcy back in seventies!

Improvement to fixed plant from electrification would result in higher property taxes, this works against achieving energy independence.
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Old December 28th, 2005, 09:36 PM   #18
mopc
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Which long distance passenger trains are electric in the USA?
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Old December 28th, 2005, 10:15 PM   #19
shayan
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is there a map of the network??
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Old December 28th, 2005, 11:11 PM   #20
Frank J. Sprague
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Originally Posted by mopc
Which long distance passenger trains are electric in the USA?
The only ones are in the northeast corridor between Washington DC, Philedelphia, New York and Boston. It used to only extend as far as New Haven, Connecticut but it was extended all the way to Boston for the Acela. There are also a few electrified suburban railways, around New York, Philedelphia and Chicago.

Formerly we did have a few other electrifications, the best examples being the Milwaukee Road from Harlowtown, Montana to Avery, Idaho, and Othell to Tacoma in Washington. That was a 3000 VDC electrification which came down in 1974, now the route itself does not exist, taken up after 1980. The Great Northern, Virginian and Norfolk and Western had stretches of electrified mainline that were removed in the two decades following WW2.

The Milwaukee Road used some locomotives that were originally built for the USSR, they were nicknamed "Little Joes" in reference to Josef Stalin. The was a railway in you area which also purchased a few of them, I think known as the "Paulista?"
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