Century-old rail tunnels beneath the Hudson River have at most two decades of service remaining and Amtrak lacks funding to replace them


The end may be near for the New York region’s cross-harbor rail tunnels, with no good alternative in sight.

“I’m being told we got something less than 20 years before we have to shut one or two down,” said Amtrak C.E.O. Joseph Boardman at the Regional Plan Association’s conference last week at the Waldorf Astoria. “Something less than 20. I don’t know if that something less than 20 is seven, or some other number. But to build two new ones, you’re talking seven to nine years to deliver, if we all decided today that we could do it.”

Tom Wright, the Regional Plan Association’s executive director, described Boardman’s remarks as “a big shock.”

“I’ve been hearing abstractly people at Amtrak and other people at New Jersey Transit say for years the tunnels are over 100 years old and we have to be worried about them,” he said. “To actually have Joe put something concrete on the table, less than 20 years … Within my office, there was a level of, ‘Wow, this is really serious.’”

Our “Good Ol’ Buddie” Governor Christie, surfaces again
Construction is under way on a concrete tube beneath a massive West Side development, which could someday serve as a vital link to badly-needed rail tunnels in the Hudson River.


S&P: New York transportation infrastructure did well in Sandy storm credit test


The credit quality of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) did not suffer as a result of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy despite significant service disruptions, according to a Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services report

Most MTA services resumed “relatively quickly” following the October 2012 storm. Similarly, PANYNJ-operated facilities returned to full operation in less than a week in most cases, S&P officials said in a press release.

“We believe these operators’ strong contingency plans, along with their good liquidity positions, ability to obtain additional interim borrowing capacity, and actions to reinforce steady financial performance, and our expectation of insurance proceeds and federal aid demonstrated effective management and mitigated our concerns about the storm’s financial fallout,” said S&P’s credit analyst Joseph Pezzimenti.

The report is titled, “New York-Area Transportation Infrastructure Providers Passed The Superstorm Sandy Credit Test.”

Union Pacific to Upgrade Missouri Line


Union Pacific Railroad plans to spend $9 million to improve the  line between Sedalia and Pleasant Hill, Mo.

The project, which began May 15 and is scheduled to be completed by June’s end, includes replacing 60,500 ties and installing 22,300 tons of rock ballast. Crews also will renew the surfaces at 80 road crossings and install more than one mile of rail in various curves.

The project is one of about 1,500 the Class I will complete across its network this year to improve train operating efficiency, reduce motorist wait times at crossings and boost safety.

UP’s 2014 engineering plan includes a $1.7 billion budget for infrastructure replacement and $680 million spending plan for capacity work and commercial facilities. To learn more about UP’s planned maintenance-of-way work this year — as well as work planned by other Class Is, regionals, short lines and passenger railroads — follow this link to access the 2014 MOW Spending Report in Progressive Railroading’s April issue.

Mexico Says “No Mas” To Printed Invoices


It was not an April Fool’s joke when printed invoices became outlawed in Mexico as of April 1. The move was designed to force the nation’s businesses, both large and small, to adopt electronic invoicing techniques. 

The brazen move has already led to some drastic changes in how people do business in that nation. First, it practically destroyed the once-popular criminal act of people creating fake invoices. Tax dodgers were especially enamored with that type of nefarious behavior. In a recent article in The Economist, a person who ran a printing press for that illegal purpose expressed frustration that the Mexican government has robbed him of his livelihood.

By requiring electronic invoicing for all business and personal transactions within Mexico, that nation’s government stands to gain millions in what had been lost tax revenue. Now, buyers and sellers are being forced to electronically register invoices with tax authorities, ensuring the government will get a cut of the sale.

While Chile was the first Latin American nation to introduce e-invoicing to its business communities ten years ago, Mexico is the first country requiring e-invoicing for all transactions, both business and personal.

Read more

A Final Toast For Metro North’s Bar Cars


New York Times sort of summed it up on May 10, 2014: Since before World War II, when rail was king and Prohibition was dead, the rolling saloon has been a national staple — its contents relied upon to make the strangers less strange, the commutes less interminable. But over the years, the bar cars began to disappear: Chicago, one of the last holdouts, abandoned its bar service in 2008.

We wrote about bar cars before then even more about bar cars

Connecticut can and cannot afford, it’s well known that this is a service that more than pays for itself. In the 1960s, the bankrupt New Haven had exactly one line of black ink on its ledgers:  commuter bar cars!  I can’t think of any reason why the economics of this are any different today.

The commuter bar cars were a post-war phenomenon. The New Haven began operating them in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Supposedly Wilfred Duprey, the NH’s dining car department superintendent, got the idea after observing the crowds of drinkers in grill cars employed on special excursion trains. However, in the early 1930s the New Haven operated what was known as a “breakfast bar car” for commuters. This car operated on morning trains running between Stamford and GCT. It may have actually served as the inspiration for the evening commuter bar cars. Regardless, it was the alcoholic beverages served in the commuter bar cars that kept the NH’s dining car service marginally profitable through the end, which is something that no other “modern” railroad was able to do.

Quote from Marc J. Frattasio Feb 18

The Cloud IS the Way… Really?


We’ve been tracking and writing about cloud based systems since the first issue of ec-bp.com. Of course back then in 2003 we referred to is as SaaS or even just ‘online applications.’ Since that time the world has mostly overcome its apprehensions about putting corporate data and processes outside the firewall. Even so, Cloud speculation and operations continue to be big news. To this I say – Whoop-de-doo!


Four Private Companies Are Bidding On Operating AMTRAK Routes


The Indiana Department of Transportation has received four proposals to provide services for the Hoosier State Amtrak route between Chicago and Indianapolis.

Bidders include:

Iowa Pacific Holdings Inc., which operates specialty passenger railroads including the Pullman Rail Journeys between Chicago and New Orleans. It also operates the Saratoga & North Creek Railroad in New York’s Adirondack Region.

Corridor Capital LLC of Los Angeles;

Railmark Holdings Inc. of Wixom, Michigan; and

a partnership between Herzog Transit Services Inc. of Irving, Texas, and Passenger Transportation Specialists Inc. of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Amtrak previously submitted its own proposal for 2014-2015, INDOT said.

INDOT hopes to select a finalist by this summer and begin negotiations that could lead to a public-private partnership, agency spokesman Will Wingfield said. The state transportation department asked last month for proposals for services including operating the train route in its entirety or providing services such as Wi-Fi or food and beverage. The agency did not divulge the contents of the proposals.

The Hoosier State operates four days each week. Another Amtrak train operates on the same route three days per week and proceeds on from Indianapolis.

INDOT and seven local governments are paying a $2.7 million subsidy to Amtrak to keep the Hoosier State running through this fall. That subsidy came about after federal support of certain Amtrak routes of less than 750 miles ended.