Railroad Newsline for Monday, January 15, 2007
Compiled by Larry W. Grant
In Memory of Rob Carlson, 1952 – 2006
194 PASSENGERS EXPERIENCED HARROWING 1952 TRAIN RIDE
RENO, NV --
On Sunday, Jan. 13, 1952, 194 passengers departed Sparks' railroad station on the City of San Francisco, Southern Pacific's pride and joy passenger liner. On the following Thursday, most of them would arrive in Oakland, California, following one of most harrowing train rides in American history. (The number of passengers varies, swelling to 224 in one authoritative account.)
Reno and the Sierra had had rotten weather for a couple of weeks -- school closures, shortages of basic groceries, power outages, and many streets closed, notably Ralston Street at Whitaker Park, where every kid in town brought his Flexy sled. Singer Joe Battaglia's performance at Mary S. Doten School had been postponed (Joe passed away this week and I was planning to work a tribute to him into the column -- how is that coincidence?) The Presto-Log factory, also on Ralston, had burned a week before. In short, the whole West Coast was in a weather paralysis.
Even the Bing Crosby golf tournament was postponed in Pebble Beach, California.
Into the massive snowstorm the train inexorably rolled, on tracks cleared only with great difficulty (the westbound train the day before had to be pushed through by steam-powered cab-forward locomotives, whose massive weight offered traction in the snow). The train slowed on the grade west of Truckee near the snowsheds.
High on the pass across from old Highway 40 west of Norden the diesels ground to a halt, and the unrelenting snow sealed the tracks from both directions. By nightfall, the train was dark, barely heated and equipped with limited food or water. A cab-forward locomotive pushing a rotary plow got near enough to the back of the train to provide supplemental steam for heat after the diesels' generators went dry. A Southern Pacific physician made it to the train by dogsled in daylight that day with minimal medical supplies.
A violent windstorm frustrated rescue efforts on Jan. 14, and efforts to clear the tracks from Truckee failed. By then, the eyes of the world were on Donner Pass.
On Jan. 15, a Nordic skier, actually an Italian skier, brought some medical prescriptions known to be needed by a few passengers. Later in the day, a Coast Guard helicopter brought food and another doctor, but could get no one out.
According to Phillip Earl's account, by then there had been six cardiac cases at the high altitude, numerous cases of frostbite and three drug addicts gone berserk by their forced withdrawals. On Jan. 15, a PG&E Tucker Sno-Cat brought needed coal and food. A mountain team from the 6th Army brought in three Weasels, cargo carriers built for snow, but they couldn't get them to the train.
By Wednesday, Jan. 16, the blizzard still raging, California highway crews were able to partially open Highway 40, for little reason other than to effect a rescue effort. A short trail was marked with twine from the roadway to the stalled train, and the passengers, by now joined in the train by a large contingent of railroad, Army, and medical personnel who had made the one-way trip to the train, trekked the short distance to the highway in blizzard conditions.
A convoy of waiting cars took the passengers to Nyack Lodge, where rooms and showers were waiting, then they feasted like kings. Five were reportedly airlifted by Coast Guard helicopter to a hospital in Sacramento, the rest taken to a waiting train a few miles down the canyon. The rescue train departed at 20:00 and arrived to a national media blitz in Oakland at 15:30. It would be 10 days later that bulldozers would pull the City of San Francisco free from the snow drift.
I've put a bit more on the 1952 storm and the rescue at [www.karlbreckenridge.com
]. Have a good week, and God bless America. - Karl Breckenridge, The Reno Gazette-Journal
RAILROADS HAUL OUT RECORD COAL PRODUCTION
Caption reads: A line of coal cars reflect the early morning sun north of Gillette near the Dry Fork Mine. News-Record photo by Paul Ruhter.
GILLETTE, WY --
Had someone asked Steve Rennell about the railroads a year ago, he would not have been as positive as he was earlier this month.
But ask Rennell and other coal officials today about the railroads and they will not avoid the question like they might have when coal mines were still feeling the reverberations of two major train derailments that took place in 2005.
“There's been a lot of negative comments, not only in local literature but in national literature about how the railroads are performing. But we've seen the railroads, particularly toward the end of the year, performing at an exceptional level,” said Rennell, mine president of Foundation Coal's two area mine, Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr. “In the last two months here at Belle Ayr, we've shipped at an annualized rate of nearly 30 million tons a year.”
It's the same story at coal mines up and down the southern Powder River Basin, where the record 390 million tons shipped in 2005 was smashed in 2006 as mines took advantage of increased track capacity for coal coming out of Campbell County.
The area's 14 mines shipped almost 430 million tons last year, according figures reported at 12 mines plus News-Record estimates from federal filings at two others. The 10 percent increase -- a figure that far outpaces the 2 percent uptick in 2005 -- represents not just aggressive production at the mines but more trains available to ship coal.
“Certainly they've done a better job,” Marion Loomis said of Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF Railway Company -- the two pledged to spend $100 million earlier this year to improve coal capacity along the joint line, a stretch of rail serving mines in the Powder River Basin. “(Utility) inventories are way back up where, in some cases last year, they were under 30 days (worth of coal).”
Loomis, director of the Wyoming Mining Association, was surprised by the preliminary numbers but was quick to add that the increase, while large, might not have been so large had the railroads been able to meet demand the year before.
“If we could have shipped in 2005 what was mined and what we sold and what the utilities wanted, we wouldn't have seen this type of increase in 2006.”
90 MILLION TONS
The staggering upturn includes what appears to be the first mine to surpass the 90 million tons in annual production. Black Thunder mine produced 91.5 million tons, according to estimates from federal filings from the first three quarters.
Company spokesman Greg Schaefer would not confirm the figures, citing concerns about insider information, but the mine's president, Ken Cochran, told The News-Record in November he expected the mine to surpass 90 million tons by the end of the year. Not far behind Black Thunder was Peabody Energy's North Antelope-Rochelle mine, which reported producing 88.5 million tons, according to documents from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Mines in other parts of the state combined to produce an estimated 14.3 tons, bringing Wyoming's estimated total to just over 444 million tons. That is equivalent to almost one-and-a-half tons for every person living in the United States. Mike Karbs, who heads the coal office at the Bureau of Land Management in Casper, said shared Loomis' surprise at the overall production .
“I know a lot of operators saw demand for coal and tried to meet it -- but I know that all year they fought the availability of trains to meet that,” he said.
Both railroads coming into the Powder River Basin were coming under increasing scrutiny from mines wanting to ship their coal and utilities wanting to increase their stockpiles. In response, railroads have gone on a building spree, a phenomenon felt in Gillette, where there are so many workers that a visitor might mistake BNSF Railway Company garb as a popular fashion statement.
In 2006 alone, BNSF:
- Added six-spur staging yard near Rozet
- Expanded 32 miles of single track into double track east of Gillette
- Turned 19 miles of double track into triple track from the Donkey Creek substation to Shawnee Junction.
That is in addition to building 14 miles of third main track in 2005 and major expansion plans for about 60 miles of new track in and around Campbell County. Another three siding tracks will be built at the staging yard near Rozet, as well.
The work, coupled with coal capacity expansion in other parts of the railroad's network, will cost $200 million, according to Fort Worth, Texas-based spokesman Patrick Hiatte.
“During 2006, we handled over 10 percent more tons of coal than we did in 2005,” said Steve Bobb, a BNSF vice president responsible for the sale and marketing of coal transportation. “So we handled a tremendous amount of growth while adding a lot of capacity.”
The building has helped mines both south and north of Gillette.
Brady West, mine manager at Buckskin mine, one of the northernmost mines, said there have been more trains. It helped the mine produce a record 22.8 million tons, and increase over 2005 when the mine produced a little more than 19 million tons.
Calling the railroad “a partner,” he said no matter how much track is built, railroads will struggle to keep up with demand. “That will never go away because there is so much coal to be sold that the railroad is going to have a hard time keeping up,” he said.
“The problem the railroads will always face and have -- and this is cyclical -- is the customer demand and the mine's ability to ramp up is much quicker than the railroad's ability to ramp up.
“We can buy new equipment and have it producing coal in six months,” he said. “It takes a year to build enough trackage. And if 16 mines are doing that, the railroads are overwhelmed. But they are spending a lot of money, they're spending a lot of time, they are doing a lot of work on planning for the future ... they are proactive in meeting the demand.”
He believes the staging yard that has benefited northern mines will extend its impact further south in the future.
“That's far more sidings than four mines need so they're going to start impacting the north end of the joint line. They're trying to meet demands.”
SATISFYING THE GROWTH
Bobb called 2006 an “amazing” year. But based on indications from coal producers, he suggested that without giving a definite projection on tonnage, that the coming year will see even heavier coal traffic.
“When I look at what the producers have told us about their plans for 2007 ... we believe we are able to ship what they've predicated for 2007.”
Coal companies seem inclined to agree. While a mild winter and less-than-expected demand led Peabody Energy to reduce growth predictions for its Powder River Basin mines in 2007, a third quarter earnings report. However, the same report still anticipated an overall increase of production heading into the new year.
“Overall, the U.S. coal supply-demand balance is expected to tighten,” Peabody said of the coal market.
“Continued economic growth, constrained nuclear generation and normal weather patterns are expected to lead to higher coal-based generation, even as a number of high-cost Eastern U.S. mines have curtailed production.”
The company expects 30,000 megawatts of new coal-fired power generation to be operating in the U.S. by 2010, equivalent to 120 million tons of annual coal use. And there was good news for Wyoming and Campbell County in the report:
“Powder River Basin coal is expected to satisfy the majority of the growth in U.S. coal demand.” - Peter Gartrell, The Gillette News-Record
LIVESTOCK AREN'T THE ONLY LOSSES TO RECENT BLIZZARD
WALSENBURG, CO --
The recent blizzards in southeastern Colorado have claimed the lives of many elk and antelope as well as cattle.
Trains alone have killed 41 animals who came down to lower elevations to escape the snow and look for food, said Al Trujillo, Walsenburg area Division of Wildlife manager. In most years the toll is only one or two animals.
"We've spoken to the BNSF Railway Company and asked them to slow trains down in that area," he said.
Lena Kent, director of public affairs for the BNSF Railway, said no trains have been damaged.
"We've instructed crews to whistle freely if they see elk on the tracks," she said. "Unfortunately, the trains can't stop in time to avoid the animals because of the (weight) that they carry," said Kent. She said the trains are going about 35 mph through the area.
Trujillo said his department is placing bait stations west of the tracks to divert the animals.
Although winds and warmer temperatures uncovered grasses in some areas, antelope have had an especially tough time, said Trujillo. He said elk tend to be more adaptable.
Thousands of cattle have died with some putting the number at 15,000. - KDVR-Fox31TV, Denver, CO
AMTRAK'S YOSEMITE SERVICE MAKES SENSE DURING SNOW SEASON
Caption reads: Park-bound passengers exit the train in Merced. Chronicle photo by John Flinn.
Caption reads: Winter thins out the crowds near Yosemite's Half Dome. Chronicle photo by John Flinn
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK --
Yosemite Valley in a clearing winter storm is an Ansel Adams photo come to life, a granite wonderland rendered in blacks, whites and a thousand gradations of gray.
It's also an awful place to drive.
Having once spun my car off an icy road into a tree here, and having no interest in a rematch, I was happy to leave the job of transporting me to someone else. I decided to take the train.
Amtrak lists Yosemite as a destination on its schedule, and a private rail company puts out a brochure with nicely doctored picture of a train rolling past El Capitan, but the truth is that there has been no rail service to the Yosemite area since 1945, when the Yosemite Valley Railroad ended service between Merced and El Portal. Taking the train to Yosemite means taking the train to Merced and a bus the rest of the way.
The first leg is on Amtrak's San Joaquin route, which runs half a dozen times a day from Oakland to Bakersfield. Unlike Amtrak's long-haul routes, which are notorious for epic delays, these short-haul lines have frequent and punctual service, new and comfortable cars, and reasonable fares.
At Oakland's modern Jack London Square station I got a good tip, which I'll pass on: The train has only a snack bar with microwaved burgers and such, and there's no food to be had in Merced or on the bus, so I was directed across Oakland's Embarcadero to the Yia-Yia Cafe to buy sandwiches for lunch.
The 07:30 train left precisely on time. As we rolled past the morning commuters creeping along Interstate 80, my wife, Jeri, and I settled into seats on the lower floor of the double-decker car. There was room to spread out, and lots of outlets for laptops.
I've driven to Yosemite more times than I can count, and at least two-thirds of it is tedious. But on the train I could relax, sit back and see this section of California with new eyes. We passed snowy egrets perched atop rotting piers, shotgun shacks straight out of the Mississippi Delta, grain silos, stockyards, pickup trucks and farmers waving from their tractors. It was like watching a John Cougar Mellencamp video.
Three hours out of Oakland we rolled into Merced, right on schedule. I was expecting to find a large, Greyhound-style bus waiting for us, but instead we were ushered onto a small Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System shuttle, one of those jitney-style buses that take you to offsite airport parking. It was not a comfortable ride. The seats were cramped, especially with 11 passengers and their luggage, and the heater seemed to be set for Bikram yoga.
Past Mariposa, in the Merced River canyon, the reason for the small bus became clear: Last summer's gargantuan landslide obliterated a section of Highway 140, necessitating a detour involving a temporary bridge across the river and a half-mile stretch on the old railroad bed. The new single-lane roadway was too narrow for a full-sized bus.
We arrived in Yosemite Valley on time, but the driver insisted on stopping at the Ahwahnee Hotel and Curry Village before doubling back and letting us off at the Yosemite Lodge, which added another 30 minutes to the journey. Total transportation time from my home on the Peninsula was a little more than seven hours -- about 2-1/2 hours longer than I can drive it in optimal conditions.
But these were hardly optimal conditions. The whirring sound of tire chains on the iced-over road -- chains that someone other than me had to monkey with -- made up for the discomfort of the jitney.
The clearing storm had dropped a foot of snow, and the following cold front plunged temperatures into the mid-20s. Frost feathers lined the sides of Yosemite Falls, icicles dangled from eaves and Half Dome sported a jaunty cap of white.
You don't need a car in Yosemite Valley. Free hybrid diesel-electric shuttle buses run frequently, even in the dead of winter, and take you everywhere you need to go.
Jeri and I crunched up the frozen trail to Mirror Lake, directly beneath the imposing face of Half Dome, and hardly saw anybody -- quite a change from the jostling, camcorder-toting hordes of summer. What few visitors there are this time of year are mostly from foreign countries.
The next morning, we treated ourselves to brunch at the Ahwahnee, and it was a disappointment.
The Craftsman-style dining room is as grand a place as you'll find in California, with its soaring granite pillars, Indian blankets and three-story-high ceiling trestled with sugar-pine logs. But the food was OK at best, and the servers were simply overwhelmed. No one came by to offer coffee, no one cleared off our plates between courses, and it took a half-hour to get the check. It's been this way on my last couple of visits, and at these prices, in a setting this magnificent, it really ought to be better.
Dinner at the Mountain Room restaurant at the lodge was an improvement -- superior food, attentive service, lower prices -- but my favorite dining moment came afterward. We walked across the way to the bar, where a warm and cheery fire was roaring in a big pit in the center.
The bartender sold me a "S'mores kit" for $2.75 -- two long skewers and enough marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate to make four of the irresistibly gooey campfire treats.
They tasted all the better for the knowledge that someone was going to have to deal with the slippery, iced-over roads the next day, and it wouldn't be me. - John Flinn, The San Francisco Chronicle
HOPING TO PRESERVE HISTORIC RELIC: BENTON COUNTY, OREGON SEEKS TO PRESERVE OLD TRAIN DEPOT
Caption reads: Scobel Wiggins/Gazette-Times. Monroe’s old train depot, which operated from 1915 to 1960, is in the way of Wilbur-Ellis’ plans to create a new warehouse. The farm company currently is using the depot to store chemicals.
MONROE, OR --
Benton County is scrambling to come up with an extra $20,000 to move and save a 1912 train depot, and the structure could become part of a new library for south Benton County.
“The building is within weeks of possible demolition,” said Roger Irvin, Benton County public works director.
The county doesn’t want to get stuck with the bill for the move, but is looking for grants or donations, said Chris Bentley, Benton County associate planner.
Farm supplier Wilbur-Ellis, operating across Highway 99W from Monroe High School, is storing chemicals in the old train depot, and wants to replace that with a modern warehouse.
The company would like to start construction “ASAP,” said Monroe warehouse manager Bill Wolf.
The train depot could be moved about 100 yards north, to where the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library wants to build a new library for Monroe. Union Pacific owns that property, and the county is negotiating for that, Irvin said.
“It would be a great way to preserve some of Monroe’s history. It’s a great looking building,” said Carolyn Rawles-Heiser, library director.
The depot could be incorporated into the design of a new library, or serve as a meeting room attached to the building, said Teresa Landers, library deputy director.
“It’s square footage we wouldn’t have to build,” Landers added. “The structural integrity of the depot is good. It doesn’t need a lot of work to make it a viable building.”
Wilbur-Ellis also would need to tear down a nearby 1940s or 1950s warehouse. Wolf said that’s so dilapidated the company hasn’t stored anything there for five years.
“If we don’t tear it down, it will come down in the next five to 10 years,” he said.
On Thursday, Wolf gave a tour of the train depot and pointed out 1930s-era cartoon graffiti. “It’s an old historical building. I’d like to see it go to something to benefit the community,” he said.
The depot operated from 1915 to 1960, and is the only surviving railroad station outside Corvallis in Benton County, according to a historical assessment prepared for the county in May 2006. - Kyle Odegard, The Albany Democrat-Herald
WATCH OUT FOR DESIGN-DOOMING DETAILS
In the early 1930s, the Pennsylvania Railroad hired famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy to restyle its exceedingly ugly electric locomotives.
True to form, the Paris-born Loewy came up with the GG-1, a stunningly fluid design sheathed in streamlined steel. The railroad gamely built a prototype, stitching it together with thousands of rivets in the usual manner of the time.
When Loewy was first presented this real-life embodiment of his concept, he demanded in his strong French accent: "What are all those buttons?"
There's a lesson here for people designing buildings as well: Even a great design can be done in by the sort of unavoidable, nuts-and-bolts infrastructure items every building requires -- visible pipes, wires, vents, flues and meters. As unsexy as they are, don't fail to think through these kinds of details, don't put them off until the last minute and never leave them up to installers to figure out as they go along.
Here are some notorious examples: Gas meters, electric meters and electrical entrance panels, none of which are very lovely to look at, should be assigned to a spot that absolutely cannot be seen from the street, ideally in a recessed or screened area. Never place these items on the front of the building.
Because meters are increasingly read remotely, access is less of an issue than it used to be, but you should still check with your local utility for any restrictions on placement.
Figure out where each and every downspout will go. Unless you're using them as outright ornaments -- a rare strategy -- the less visible they are, the better.
Never put downspouts on the front of the house if the sides will serve just as well. Don't snake them all over the walls to avoid obstructions. Figure out the most direct and least conspicuous route ahead of time.
Finally, don't use more downspouts than you need. Contrary to usual practice, it's seldom necessary to have more than one downspout for every 40 feet of gutter.
Don't let plumbing vents sprout like acne on an otherwise pristine roof. First, have your plumber combine nearby vents together at attic level, leaving the fewest pipes possible penetrating the roof. If necessary, run the remaining vents laterally so that they exit the roof in a reasonably inconspicuous place. This extra effort will be doubly worthwhile because, in addition to looking bad, plumbing vents are among the most likely spots for leaks to develop.
Water heater and furnace flues should also be barred from conspicuous roof surfaces whenever possible. In modernist designs, flues can sometimes be used as a design feature, but that trick won't wash with traditional styles. Instead, you can usually run multiple flues into a single false chimney, which both reduces the rooftop clutter and offers potential for an interesting design feature.
Oh, and about that streamlined locomotive: At Loewy's insistence, all the subsequent examples of the GG-1 were built with smooth, welded skins instead of being "buttoned" together with rivets. Today, it's considered among the great industrial designs of all time. - Arrol Gellner, The San Francisco Chronicle
HIGH'S TUPELO RAILROAD PLAN WILL BE STUDIED
TUPELO, MS --
Engineers of Tupelo, Mississippi's $2 million railroad track relocation study will consider a suggestion by resident Jim High to move the tracks from downtown to alongside the paths of highways 78 and 45.
James Lee, senior vice president of the study's head engineering firm, HDR, in a letter thanked High for his proposal and said it will face the same screening process of all candidate alternatives.
"This screening process will involve looking at a specific set of criteria that will test whether an alternative is feasible," Lee wrote.
But High sees this response as a thinly veiled rejection of his proposed route, which he claims is the only one that's economically doable and which has already earned support from U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker, R-Tupelo.
"They'll screen it just long enough to reject it," predicted High, assistant director of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association and longtime advocate of solving the train problem.
High, who is not an engineer, proposes moving the BNSF Railway Company tracks, which currently slice through town, to the north so they follow U.S. 78 from the city limits at Belden to North Gloster Street. Then he suggests taking them south so they follow U.S. 45 into southeast Tupelo's limits to rejoin the existing route.
Wayne Parrish, the study's planning manager at the Mississippi Department of Transportation, said that while High's plan appears logical on the surface, several engineering issues need to be addressed.
Parrish plans to meet soon with High to tour the suggested route and discuss its merits. - Emily Le Coz, The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
VALLEYWIDE TRAIL READY FOR NEXT LINK
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, CO --
The quest to complete a valleywide trail by 2010 is running ahead of schedule, according to the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.
RFTA plans to build 5.1 miles of trail from Glenwood Springs, Colorado, upvalley to the Colorado Mountain College turnoff at Spring Valley Road this year. After that project, only a seven-mile stretch between Highway 133 in Carbondale and the CMC turnoff will remain to be paved.
"Things are looking really good to finish up in 2009," said Mike Hermes, RFTA's director of property and trails.
The stretch slated for paving this year is important because it will eliminate the need to use Highway 82 to travel between Carbondale and Glenwood, Hermes said. Once the Glenwood-to-CMC trail is built, County Road 109 provides a way for cyclists to stay off Highway 82 to Carbondale. That paved road parallels Highway 82 on the south side of Aspen Glen and the adjacent golf communities.
Last year was a milestone in the trail's development because the last link was completed between Aspen and Carbondale. The nearly 30-mile trail between the two towns is on the old Rio Grande Railroad right of way.
Hermes said RFTA always intended to shift gears at this stage and work from Glenwood Springs to Carbondale because of safety concerns in the lower valley.
A "rough estimate" on the cost of the trail project this year is $1,755,000, according to a memo from Hermes and RFTA chief executive officer Dan Blankenship to the agency's board of directors.
RFTA has budgeted up to $800,000 for the project and it received a federal grant for $870,000, according to the memo. Garfield County contributed $40,000, and the Colorado Department of Transportation gave a $122,000 grant. RFTA is still waiting to see if it receives a Colorado State Trails grant.
The RFTA board of directors gave the staff permission Thursday to tear up and salvage the old train track from 23rd Street to Glenwood Spring's southern boundary. RFTA planned to leave the railroad tracks in place out to Rosebud Cemetery in Glenwood Springs for use by a Heritage Train. Rail proponents want to run a train periodically between downtown Glenwood and the cemetery to celebrate the history of rail in the valley and promote its future use.
"Recently, the financial backers of the Heritage Train project have withdrawn their support and it appears that the project is dead," Hermes and Blankenship wrote in their memo. "Salvaging the tracks and ties from this section of the corridor would significantly reduce the complexity of constructing the trail in Glenwood Springs and reduce construction and planning costs."
RFTA already decided to salvage the train track elsewhere in the valley and allow use of the bed for a trail. - Scott Condon, The Aspen Times
CANADA TO TIGHTEN ITS BORDER SECURITY
WINDSOR, ON --
Canada plans to spend more than $368 million over the next five years to protect its border from terrorist, economic and environmental threats.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day announced the initiative Friday at the border crossing between Windsor and Detroit, the conduit for one-third of the $1.6 billion in daily trade that passes between Canada and the United States.
"I even sometimes surprise my American friends when I remind them that the trade that comes across the Ambassador Bridge in total is greater than all of the trade that exists between the United States and Japan," Day told a news conference.
Experts have long said Canada should tighten security along its side of the 4,000-mile border, especially since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
When he was elected nearly a year ago, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged to strengthen the frontier between the world's largest trading partners, including these new security measures and eventually arming Canada's border guards.
The bulk of the money, $337 million, is for the electronic-Manifest program, which allows for computer-automated risk assessments of cargo shipments before they reach Canada.
The 18,000 trucks that cross the U.S.-Canada border each day, as well as all railroad, air and marine cargo carriers, will eventually be required to file electronic manifests before their shipments arrive. This will allow border service agents to determine in advance whether the cargo, or those who deliver it, should be further screened.
The eManifest program will ensure that background checks on crew and risk assessments of cargo are in the hands of the Canada Border Services Agency 24 hours in advance of the arrival of shipments by sea; and several hours ahead of railroad, highway and air cargo.
The program was developed in cooperation with U.S. Department of Homeland Security and is part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, launched in 2005 by then-Prime Minister Paul Martin, President Bush and then-Mexican President Vicente Fox.
Day would not give a precise date of when the electronic manifests would become mandatory at the 119 border crossings.
"There's still going to be that human element at the border, to look at material and talk to the driver, but the amount of time that's going to be saved is going to be significant," he said of the requirement to file electronic manifests in advance of cargo shipments.
Another $20 million has been earmarked for business leaders and emergency responders to plan for the immediate resumption of trade across the border in the event of a terrorist attack, medical pandemic or natural disaster. - Beth Duff-Brown, The Associated Press, The Albuquerque Tribune
REI SIGNS LONG-TERM LEASE FOR RAILYARD STORE
SANTA FE, NM --
REI, which claims more than 7,000 Santa Feans as regular customers, announced Friday that it has signed a lease for its planned Santa Fe Railyard store and plans to open by fall.
The outdoors-gear company -- whose only other New Mexico store is in Albuquerque -- has a long-term agreement with developers of Market Station.
The retail, movie-theater and restaurant complex, planned next to a park and plaza, is one of dozens of projects under way as a nonprofit group oversees revitalization of about 50 acres of city-owned property near the railroad tracks south of downtown.
Maya Cinemas, a Los Angeles-based theater operation owned by Milagro Bean Field War producer Moctezuma Esparza, earlier signed a lease to occupy a 12-screen multiplex with stadium seating.
REI spokesman Mike Foley said the Seattle-based cooperative, which also has catalog and Internet sales operations, is excited about establishing its Santa Fe store in a key Railyard spot.
"We think that part of that excitement comes from the Railyard being a community project with a lot of community involvement," he said, "and that's a value that we share at REI."
Despite complaints from some local businesses and others about competition from the big retailer, Foley said REI members who pay a $15 one-time membership fee get a "patronage refund" on their purchases each year. However, you do not have to be a member to shop at the store.
In addition to providing about 55 jobs, Foley said, Santa Fe can count on REI contributing to community projects. Last year, the company distributed about $4 million in grants around the country.
"We make donations in all of the communities where we have stores, and so we would be entering a process of trying to determine ... the most appropriate use of the grant dollars (in Santa Fe)," he said.
Market Station will sit atop a city-maintained underground parking garage, now under construction, that will provide much of the parking for the Railyard redevelopment.
Spaces in the building are still up for grabs, said Allen Branch, principal member of Railyard LLC, which is developing Market Station. Several spaces intended for small businesses are about
800 square feet, while larger restaurant and office spaces also are planned.
According to the project's Web site, an 800-square-foot space costs about $3,000 a month.
Branch and his partners plan to open a sports-themed restaurant and bowling alley in the building, and Coldstone Creamery has signed a letter of intent to open its third Santa Fe franchise in the Railyard, he said in an interview last month.
While Market Station is shaping up to be occupied mostly by out-of-town tenants, about 87 percent of the Railyard's commercial space will house locally owned businesses and local nonprofits, according to Richard Czoski, director of the Santa Fe Railyard Community Corp., the city's property managers. - Julie Ann Grimm, The Santa Fe New Mexican
MAN IN TRAIN CRASH CRITICAL
Caption reads: A Texas Department of Public Safety trooper investigates the scene of a GMC pickup hit by a train Thursday night south of the South Georgia Street/Beacon Road intersection. Michael Lemmons/Amarillo Globe-News.
AMARILLO, TX --
Texas leads the nation every year in railroad-crossing fatalities, and the crash Thursday could add another number.
A man, whose identity has not been released, was transported in critical condition to Northwest Texas Hospital on Thursday night after his vehicle was hit by a train on the tracks at the South Georgia Street crossing.
The crash is the second in two weeks in that area.
In late December, Patrick Suhl was killed trying to rescue his niece, Kandace Jimenez, 23 months, and his nephew, Richard Jimenez, 4 months, from the car that had slid onto the tracks.
Kandace and Richard were killed as well.
The man transported Thursday was stopped on the tracks between the down gates and made no attempt to move, said Joe Faust, director of public affairs for the BNSF Railway Comapny.
Department of Public Safety Trooper Wayne Beighle said eight train fatalities have taken place in the Texas Panhandle since 2001.
In 2001, 33 people in Texas died at railroad crossings, Beighle said.
At the South Georgia Street intersection, there was one accident in 2003, which did not result in injuries, and five incidents in 2002 that resulted in minor injuries.
Beighle said drivers should always expect a train at every intersection. "Never drive around the gates. It's illegal and very dangerous," he said.
"Never race a train. Even if you tie, you lose." - Sean Thomas, The Amarillo Globe-News
2006 CHAMBER EFFORTS SIGNAL GOOD THINGS TO COME IN MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE REGION
Caption reads: RIDE THAT TRAIN: Canadian National Railway's plans in Memphis this year will be part of several marketing-related efforts of the Memphis Regional Chamber. -- Photo courtesy of Canadian National Railway.
Memo to the City of Memphis from the Memphis Regional Chamber: 2006 was a very good year.
Since this past summer, when the Memphis City Council approved a $175,000 one-year contract with chamber officials -- part of a package that included other funding sources -- the chamber parlayed its first government aid in two years into some impressive economic development victories.
Since July 1, roughly 20 business expansions or relocations to Memphis coincided with 1,887 new jobs and almost $830 million in new capital investment. In that time, companies and consultants scouting for business opportunities in the area have made more than 60 site visits to Memphis, according to a quarterly report from the chamber.
To shift that momentum into overdrive, chamber officials now are set to kick off something they haven't been able to pursue in the recent past because of scant resources: a new national marketing campaign.
Laser focus, big thaw
The memo to city officials about 2006 being a banner year came in the form of a presentation earlier this month made by a trio of chamber executives to the city council's economic development committee. The message they delivered was that the group tasked with "selling" Memphis is like the latest version of the iPod -- a streamlined, faster, more up-to-date model.
"This past year was a year of focus for the chamber," said the chamber's president and CEO, John Moore. "It's been about retrenching and making sure that we work on only the things we're responsible for handling.
"The future looks bright, and I think 2007 is going to be the year we put muscle on this very efficient and lean organization so that it can carry forward an economic development initiative like we've never had."
A bold statement, coming from a civic group whose relationship with city leaders only a few years ago was frosty at best. Here are a few examples of how the group that's at the forefront of promoting Memphis to the rest of the world lately has been turning a corner.
Take the national marketing campaign, for starters.
"We'll be using print, the Web and direct mail, and we have a targeted list of consultants in various sectors," said Mark Herbison, senior vice president of economic development for the chamber. "And one of the things we've been working on for the last six months in collaboration with the Port of Memphis is to do a really nice, aggressive new marketing campaign for Pidgeon Industrial Park.
"This campaign is going to center around a new Web portal that we're building that has all kinds of information on Pidgeon and the port facilities in Memphis."
Port of call
A promotional video on that Web portal, [www.gatewaymemphis.com
], features a splashy, hi-tech presentation on Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park, the 3,000-acre industrial park in Southwest Memphis. That's where Canadian National Railroad is preparing to bulk up its intermodal yard later this year. Nucor Corp. also will open a $225 million steel mill and begin manufacturing auto industry parts this year.
The marketing campaign touting Pidgeon's strengths was created in tandem with the Port of Memphis. More than 1,500 folders packed with information have been prepared on those strengths and will be sent out to a list including 1,000 site consultants and corporate executives.
"I think this is going to be the year for Pidgeon Industrial Park," Herbison said. "With the announcement of Nucor Steel down there, there's just a lot of possibilities there, and it's really one of the finest industrial parks in the United States in an urban area."
The centerpiece of the Pidgeon marketing campaign is the plans CN has for the area.
CN's North American operation looks like a massive Y - the base of which stretches down through Memphis. The primary tenant of Pidgeon is CN, which shares a major terminal with CSX railroad.
Last train to Prince Rupert
And CN's intermodal yard at Pidgeon soon will get a boost from the $140.4 million in port facilities CN is pumping into Prince Rupert, a city in the western part of Canada.
"That new port will open in '08, and it will tie the whole northern end of Canada with the Canadian National Railway," Herbison said. "That comes directly down into Memphis, and there are big plans with the railroad in Memphis."
Chamber officials also are ramping up their efforts in targeted neighborhood improvements and workforce development. Dexter Muller, the chamber's senior vice president for community development, outlined several projects in which the chamber is involved, including a retail strategy for Whitehaven and improvements along the Brooks Road Corridor.
On Jan. 24, chamber officials are gathering a group of civic and business leaders at Medtronic, including officials from Smith & Nephew, Medtronic, FedEx and others.
"The purpose of that is for us to start rethinking what we need to do in that area," Muller said. "We've got a huge amount of investment there, a lot of jobs, and some of the circumstances there are just not good."
Meanwhile, chamber officials also will continue to make the rounds at trade shows and economic development events promoting the city and county, such as at the 15th World Congress on Information Technology held in Texas last May. Events on tap this year include BIO 2007, the world's largest biotechnology conference, which will be held this spring in Boston. - Andy Meek, The Memphis Daily News
METROLINK RIDERS MAY EXPERIENCE DELAYS DUE TO IMPROVEMENTS
LOS ANGELES, CA --
Commuters may experience some delays on Metrolink trains and surface streets as the Union Pacific Railroad completes a $38 million project to improve two rail lines in the Los Angeles area, rail officials said Thursday. Crews will resurface crossings on Union Pacific lines between Mira Loma, Pedley, Hobart, Diamond Bar, El Monte and Marne, an area near Hacienda Heights, east of La Puente.
Work is scheduled to be completed by the end of March.
"We apologize in advance for traffic and Metrolink delays that may occur while these necessary track maintenance projects are under way," said Lupe Valdez, director of public policy for Union Pacific. "This maintenance work ensures our track structure is sound and the long-term benefits outweigh any short-term delays."
Part of that maintenance will also include replacing wooden ties with 93,800 concrete ties, which are stronger and more durable.
Last year, Union Pacific spent $21.3 million to replace 43 miles of rail between East Los Angeles and Riverside. - KABC-TV7, Los Angeles, CA, courtesy Coleman Randall, Jr
MAUI COULD BE THE FIRST
The City and County of Honolulu is just now beginning a long road toward an efficient people mover as an antidote to Oahu’s jammed traffic – a dedicated elevated roadway for either a rubber-tired train or a light-rail train system.
Once the type and route is decided, it’s expected to take 15 to 20 years to build a rapid transit system serving Honolulu’s leeward corridor. Much of that time will be taken up by acquiring property – nearly all of it developed. Acquiring the property will also eat up billions of the expected $48 billion cost.
Maui could plan, develop and construct an operational light-rail system before the city could board its first passenger.
The No. 1 requirement for such a feat is far-sighted political will. It’s hard to imagine Maui County officials not taking note of what has and is happening on Oahu, namely the need to destroy what has been built. It wouldn’t be the first time. The construction of H-1 required demolishing whole neighborhoods.
Each day, hundreds of tourists pile into rental cars at the Kahului Airport and drive to West Maui and to Kihei-Wailea. In the beginning, a light-rail system could run from the airport to those destinations, which, not so incidentally, are major employers of people who live in Kahului and Upcountry.
Efficient, attractive trains could carry the tourists and their baggage to a resort. If they wished to rent a car, they could – at the resort. Those same trains could also carry workers, getting them off the road and out from under the high-cost of operating and maintaining private vehicles. The Maui Bus could fill the gaps between the two major routes.
There’s no need to get every last detail in place before beginning. Right now most of the routes involved would run over undeveloped land with a relatively few owners. Between the time the rails could be laid, traffic corridors could be used recreationally, a use that could be continued if the tracks are elevated.
In many areas, going all the way back to pre-contact times, Maui has been a leader. It could lead again as the no ka oi people mover. - Editorial Opinion, The Maui News
MUNI'S THIRD STREET LIGHT-RAIL LINE FINALLY ROLLING
SAN FRANCISCO, CA --
Muni's newest Metro line -- the long-awaited T-Third -- rolls into operation this (Saturday) morning, finally bringing sleek, modern light-rail service to some of San Francisco's most isolated, neglected and impoverished neighborhoods.
Whether the line will also bring some of the economic vitality that has eluded neighborhoods like the Bayview and Visitacion Valley, or end up driving up rents and housing prices and driving African Americans out of some of the city's last black neighborhoods, is a matter of disagreement.
But nearly everyone expects the silver-and-red trains to deliver more than passengers.
"A lot of people thought we were just trading the bus for the train,'' said Al Norman, president of the Bayview Merchants Association, "but it could be a lot larger than that.''
Politicians and transportation officials will dedicate the T-Third today with a special train departing the Castro Station at 08:30 and arriving at the new Kirkwood Station in the heart of the Bayview commercial district at 09:00. They'll be greeted there by Mayor Gavin Newsom and Supervisor Sophie Maxwell.
For everyone else, service begins at 10:00 and continues until 19:00. For the first three months, the T-Third will operate only on weekends between 10:00 and 19:00. Anyone who boards a train south of Fourth and King streets can ride the line for free until April 7, when full service is scheduled to start.
The T-Third will operate on the same schedule Monday -- Martin Luther King Jr. Day -- when Muni will run a special Freedom Train, departing Bayshore Boulevard and Sunnydale Avenue at 11:15. Passengers may board between 11:00 and 11:15 and will receive a commemorative ticket that can be used for a return trip on any Muni line.
Muni spokeswoman Maggie Lynch said the three months of limited service are intended to get Muni riders and people living, working, shopping and driving along the line used to having trains running down the middle of Third Street.
The Third Street line, discussed for more than two decades, has been under construction since May 2002. The $667 million project was supposed to begin service in winter 2005, but construction delays pushed the beginning of full service back to this spring and the cost soared to $120 million over budget.
Trains will run on a dedicated lane that doesn't compete with cars and trucks -- except for a half-mile stretch through the Bayview business district -- and will stop at 18 new stations along Third Street. The trip from Visitacion Valley to China Basin is anticipated to take 31 minutes, about 10 minutes faster than bus service.
In cities around the nation, new light-rail lines are increasingly being used to boost the fortunes of stagnant neighborhoods, drawing new housing, shops and restaurants. San Francisco officials and residents of the Bayview and Visitacion Valley hope the T-Third will deliver some of the economic growth that other neighborhoods have enjoyed.
"This is good for the people who live around here,'' said Tomas Macario, 24, a Bayview resident and porter at the Olympic Club. "It's going to be easier to get around, but it's also going to help the businesses.''
Some Bayview merchants are planning to improve the facades of the business district in hopes of luring new customers from the trains. Construction of the light-rail line scared away customers who couldn't find parking, had a tough time getting to stores or figured they were closed, Norman said, and several closed. Many in the community also feel that neighborhood residents and businesses weren't significantly employed in the construction of the rail line, he said.
Others fear it will drive up not only property values but rents and, along with redevelopment, eventually drive out African American residents and businesses.
"Good transportation is good for any community,'' said Willie Ratcliff, publisher of the San Francisco Bay View national black newspaper and a supporter of light-rail. "But one of the main reasons they put it out here is for the gentrification of the community. People can buy here, hop on light-rail and get downtown in 20 minutes.''
That's OK, he said, if longtime residents aren't pressured to move out. Angelo King, president of the BayView neighborhood advisory committee working with the city on the redevelopment effort, welcomes the T-Third but wonders why redevelopment didn't come first.
"It's ass-backward,'' he said. "It's better that we have it, but I wish we were further along with new development."
Bayview and Visitacion Valley residents, many of whom ride the busy 15-Third buses regularly, were mostly enthusiastic about the arrival of light-rail. Some complained that it will serve fewer destinations than the bus -- such as City College of San Francisco and Fisherman's Wharf -- and require transfers.
"It don't make no sense,'' said Melvin Henderson, 42, an amputee who relies on transit. "Instead of making it easier, it's going to make it harder for us. What they're trying to do is make it look pretty, but it's creating problems. All they needed was an upgraded bus.''
But most bus riders were eager to try out the T-Third.
"It should be nice -- faster, cleaner,'' said Jamila Hollins, 25, who plans to take a ride today. - Michael Cabanatuan, The San Francisco Chronicle