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Location: Middleburg (Jacksonville), Florida, United States

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sandburg will be new Illinois Amtrak train

Beginning October 30, Illinois’ partnership with Amtrak will include an additional train on the Quincy-St. Louis corridor. The expanded service comes after news that all state-sponsored Amtrak routes posted record ridership levels for Illinois’ fiscal year 2006; the expansion also includes additional round-trips on the Chicago-Carbondale line.

The train will be named the Carl Sandburg, named after the 20th Century Illinois poet who celebrated Chicago and railroads in many of his poems.

Sandburg (1878-1967) won two Pulitzer prizes, but graduated only from the eighth grade. He attended college classes for four years, but never received a degree.

Sandburg was born in a three-room cottage in Galesburg on January 6, 1878, the son of Swedish immigrants. The elder Sandburg was a blacksmith’s helper for the nearby Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad.

Illinois’ expansion is part of a plan to more than double state-sponsored passenger rail service. Round-trips between Chicago and downstate will increase from three daily to seven daily by the end of October.

Starting October 30, daily state-sponsored train service between Chicago and Quincy is being doubled to two round-trips.

Under this schedule, there will be new morning and evening departures from Chicago and Quincy. Combined with the other trains on the Quincy route that are part of the national Amtrak network, there will be four daily round-trips on the Chicago-Galesburg segment, two of them state-supported.

Last spring, the Illinois General Assembly increased state funding for passenger rail service by Amtrak to $24 million from $12.1 million.

The Carl Sandburg and the Illinois Zephyr will carry new train numbers.

Survey shows Texas voters

are okay with rail tax

North Texas voters overwhelmingly support an additional half-percent sales tax to fund an expanded commuter rail network, according to a recent survey.

In the survey of 4,077 registered voters in eight counties, 63 percent, when first asked, said they would support a sales tax increase to build multiple rail lines, The Dallas Morning News reported today. Support grew to 75 percent when respondents were asked an almost identical question at the end of the survey.

The numbers impressed most state lawmakers from North Texas, and supporters of an expanded rail network say it helps their cause. However, it remains uncertain how much influence the survey will have in getting the Legislature to pass a bill next year allowing a mass transit election.

“A phone poll and a tax are miles apart in the process,” said state Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano.

The survey was taken between mid-August and mid-September in Collin, Dallas, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Rockwall, Parker and Tarrant counties. Portions of any county already served by Dallas Area Rapid Transit were not included. Denton County, which held its own election several years ago, also was not included.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority and the Denton County Transportation Authority covered the survey’s $92,000 cost. The Survey Research Center at the University of North Texas conducted the interviews, and Dr. Charles Leonard of the University of Texas at Dallas managed the project.

The survey has a margin of error of 1.5 percentage points.

It found large majority support in all eight counties and in each of the area’s nine state Senate districts.

“The results are so robust, it’s hard to argue with them,” Dr. Leonard said.

Eighty-five percent of the respondents are white, and 60 percent are women, suggesting that those demographic groups were over-sampled.

Dr. Leonard said the ethnic breakdown of the survey is not a concern.

That’s because the cities that already belong to DART were not included in the survey. Those cities have a higher concentration of minorities than do outlying cities and counties.

Dr. Leonard acknowledged that too many women were included but said he would have corrected for the over-sampling if it had been a statistical problem.

Lawmakers initially embraced the survey results. They had sought a survey to measure public attitudes before the next legislative session begins in January.

Now, with public support as reflected in the survey, lawmakers can more comfortably back legislation that would allow local-option sales tax elections for mass transit.

Laney to co-chair investment meet

David Laney, a Dallas lawyer and current Amtrak board chairman, will co-chair the upcoming U.S. Infrastructure Investing Summit to be hosted by the International Quality and Productivity Center on October 18-19 in New York City.

His expertise includes transportation planning, construction and finance, and he is actively involved in the representation clients in connection with State legislative matters. Laney is past chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission and a past member of the Texas Turnpike Authority.

Taking place at the Digital Sandbox in New York, this conference will feature investor and government-led discussions and bring together other top institutions such as La Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, Goldman Sachs, the City of Chicago, both Virginia and Texas DOTs, Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP. Laney will co-chair the conference with Richard Ornitz, Chairman of the Americas Infrastructure group at DLA Piper.

Discussions will include various infrastructure assets opening up to private investors -- railroads, toll roads, ports, energy and lotteries.

Amtrak, CSX trains detour around fire

CSX and Amtrak trains detoured off the former Seaboard Air Line main line (“S Line”) southwest of Raleigh, N.C. on October 6 to avoid a large chemical waste plant fire that erupted in Apex, N.C. early in the morning.

Amtrak’s Silver Star, Nos. 91 and 92, between New York City and Florida, detoured on the “A Line” (ex-Atlantic Coast Line) between Rocky Mount, N.C., and Pembroke, N.C., before heading west to Hamlet, N.C., where the Silver Meteor runs.

They took this routing to avoid the blaze, which was only 1,600 feet away from CSX tracks and caused evacuations for six square miles. CSX also diverted freights on this same detour.

CSX spokesman Gary Sease said the railroad halted operations at 3:25 a.m. on both the main line between Hamlet and Raleigh and the Apex-Durham branch, which is the former Durham & Southern. Both routes were expected to be closed at least until mid-day Saturday as area fire crews worked Friday afternoon to put out the blaze.

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