American Railroads

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Location: Middleburg (Jacksonville), Florida, United States

Published in Trains magazine, Railfan & Railroad, Passenger Train Journal

Monday, August 21, 2006

Building owner threatens to evict
Amtrak, Greyhound next month

The owner of the New London building that houses the Amtrak train station and the Greyhound bus terminal is threatening to evict his tenants.

The New London Day reports that Union Station co-owner Todd O’Donnell says he’ll shut down the train and bus service operations unless something is done to address his financial problems.

O’Donnell told a group at a forum on Sunday that unless his financial picture improves, he’ll give Amtrak and Greyhound the boot after a 90-day notice on Labor Day. Both transportation tenants are operating on a month-to-month arrangement.

O’Donnell and Barbara Timken bought the station in June 2002 and made extensive renovations, hoping to fill up additional space in the station with office and retail tenants, but that has not happened.

O’Donnell says a shortage of parking at the station, plus the constant activity as buses and taxis pull up and depart, make the building unattractive to the office tenants they had hoped to attract.

The New York, New Haven & Hartford built the station in the 1890s.

Follow-up:

Amtrak vs. Union Pacific

In that letter we reported yesterday from Amtrak’s William L. Crosbie, Amtrak’s senior vice-president for operations, in Washington, D.C., to UP’s Dennis Duffy, UP’s executive vice president for operations in Omaha and UP’s headquarters, he wrote, “Clearly, we cannot continue like this.”

He stated Tom Schmidt, Amtrak’s vice-president for operations requested a meeting with Joe Santamaria, UP’s vice president for transportation.

“I trust that Mr. Santamaria will be prepared to discuss with Tom a program for immediate corrective action, to be taken while simultaneously working to correct the chronic slow order contractual violations on all Amtrak routes where they exist.”

Schmidt is retired CSX, and was hired earlier this year after Ed Walker was fired. Santamaria was promoted in June.

Jeff Koch formerly held the post, but he announced his retirement to be effective in late 2006. His former position was vice president of UP’s Southern Region.

Engines may cut Jersey commute

For riders of New Jersey Transit commuter rail lines requiring passengers to change from diesel to electric-powered trains, hope for a one-seat ride might be coming down the track in the form of a locomotive that can be powered by diesel or from overhead electric wires.

The former New York, New Haven & Hartford, which operated between New York City’s Grand Central Station and Boston’ South Station operated similarly configured engines, model FL-9s, beginning in the 1950s.

NJ Transit officials are considering using dual-mode locomotives as a way to give a one-seat ride to passengers on the proposed Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex line and the Raritan Valley Line, according to the Home News Tribune Online (http://www.thnt.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage) yesterday.

NJ Transit Executive Director George Warrington also said dual-mode locomotives could be used to extend service on the Montclair-Boonton line west to Port Morris, in Morris County and possibly for another seven to eight miles on the Lackawanna cut-off into Sussex County.

All this is predicated on building the proposed $7.2 billion Trans-Hudson (river) Express (THE) Tunnel, which is gathering support and funding, and by using dual-mode locomotives, which can run with diesel or electric power, Warrington said.

“We would be sacrificing a huge opportunity if we didn’t plan the railroad system in New Jersey to use that capacity,” Warrington said.

While not that common in the U.S., dual-mode locomotives have been used on some Metro North lines for 50 years. A new generation of dual-mode locomotives have been built for Metro North and Amtrak by General Electric.

Monmouth and Ocean county officials were asked to rethink March 2005 ridership projections for MOM based on using dual-mode locomotives running to New York through the tunnel. The line had been based on running diesel power trains to Newark and having MOM riders change trains to get to and from New York.

“We ought to think about modeling it on the ability to access Manhattan,” Warrington said.

Currently, NJ Transit officials are developing locomotive designs and a plan for how many dual-mode locomotives will be needed for the rail system, Stessel said.

Unlike other dual-mode locomotives in use by Metro North and Amtrak, NJT’s will get electric power from catenary instead of a third rail, he said.

In January, NJ Transit entered into a contract for design of the dual-mode locomotive, spokesman Dan Stessel said. Those technical specifications are almost complete, he said. Also unknown is what those locomotives will look like or if they’ll be a modification of existing diesel locomotive design, officials said.

While costs haven’t been estimated since the design phase is still under way, officials could only provide a range for a dual-mode locomotive of between $6 million and $8 million each, Stessel said.

NJT’s board included funding in the fiscal year 2007 budget for continued work on the draft environmental-impact study for MOM. Money also was allocated for the return of rail passenger service to the Lackawanna Cutoff in northwestern counties.

The Raritan Valley Rail Coalition also has been lobbying for dual-mode locomotives as a way to give riders for Somerset and Hunterdon counties a one-seat ride to New York.

Some advocates of the MOM line see the wait for THE Tunnel and dual-mode locomotives as a delay for Ocean County riders, who need transportation options.

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