Thursday, September 23, 1999

WASHINGTON: Commuters may never recoup lost time

WASHINGTON -- Construction aimed at easing traffic congestion can create such delays that it takes years afterward -- if at all for commuters to recoup the time they lost, according to a study by an environmental group.

For instance, Virginia is spending $350 million over eight years to rebuild the interchange of Interstate 95, I-495 and I-395, southwest of Washington. During that time, commuters are expected to spend at least an extra 30 minutes each way heading through the work zone. When the work is finished, those same commuters will save 30 seconds going through the interchange.

The Surface Transportation Policy Project, which favors less road construction and increased use of alternatives such as flexible work schedules, calculated that a commuter who endures the delays never will recover the lost time through faster drives afterward.

The group also said commuters enduring work on I-15 in Salt Lake City, Route 29 in Trenton, N.J., and Interstate 24 in Nashville, Tenn., will take from nearly three years to 10 years to recoup the time spent traveling through the construction zones.

"Our transportation officials should first try fighting congestion in ways that are less expensive, just as effective and help drivers right now," said Roy Kienitz, executive director of the transportation project.

Officials involved in the projects and roadbuilders said the analysis was faulty and shortsighted.

It does not take into account, among other things, safety improvements, reduced air pollution and better mobility from road construction, said Matthew Jeanneret, spokesman for the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, a trade group representing builders.

Robert Fox, spokesman for the I-15 project in Utah, said: "If the construction had not been done at all, by 2010 can you imagine the delays there would be? It could be two hours delay at the time because it's so totally congested because the whole system is broken down."

The Surface Transportation Policy Project based its analysis on public documents and information from the Transportation Department and state transportation authorities.

The interchange project outside Washington is in Springfield, Va., at a site called the "mixing bowl" because of its tangle of on- and off-ramps.

The work on Route 29 in Trenton covers 1.7 miles and entails replacing a two-lane road with a four-lane highway. The group said commuters will endure 10-minute delays for three years to save three minutes afterward, a disparity that won't be offset for eight years.

The I-24 project in Nashville involves widening a section south of downtown from four to eight lanes. Commutes are expected to take an extra 15 minutes for 14 months to save seven minutes afterward, an amount that will not be offset for nearly three years.

The I-15 project, meanwhile, costs $1.6 billion and entails widening the interstate from six to 10 lanes for 16.5 miles. Traffic is expected to be delayed 15 minutes for four years to achieve a savings of seven minutes. The extra time will not be recovered until 2010, eight years after the projected is completed.

The group concluded that transportation officials should do a better job of explaining how delays will affect commuters and find ways to reduce congestion without highway construction, such as through mass transit.


Trimac Transportation Signs 10 Year Transport Contract with the BNSF,
Opens Expanded Trail, BC Trans-Load Facility

CALGARY, Sept. 21 -- Trimac Transportation Services Inc. announced today that it has entered into a ten year transportation contract with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF). Under the terms of this
contract, Trimac will provide highway transportation and trans-load services to the BNSF for the movement of ore concentrates for Cominco Ltd's Trail, BC smelter. The value of this contract over the duration of the ten year period is estimated at $36 million. 

In conjunction with this contract, Trimac has announced the expansion of its Waneta (Trail), BC bulk commodity trans-load facility. This facility, expanded by Trimac, includes an additional 40,000 tons of storage capacity (31,000 square feet) to a total of 60,000 tonnes of capacity (60,000 square feet) as well as improvements to rail unloading facilities. This will allow for an increase in the annual throughput design capacity of ore concentrates to 600,000 tonnes. The facility, which includes a high capacity rail car unloading system and is served by the BNSF, also handles lead, zinc and slag products, and was completed under the direction of Trimac's Project Management Group. 

Trimac Transportation is North America's premier provider of bulk materials highway transportation and logistical services, and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Trimac Corporation (TSE/ME - "TMA"') which has core businesses in bulk highway transportation and truck fleet management services. 


FLORIDA: Rail project between Orlando-Port Canaveral in trouble

ORLANDO -- An ambitious high-speed rail project planned between Orlando's tourist corridor and Port Canaveral is off track even before it pulls out of the station.

Bee Line Monorail System Inc., the Pompano Beach company planning the 54-mile passenger and freight link, last week missed a financing-plan deadline that was considered key to negotiating a lease for the right-of-way with the state of Florida. Meanwhile, it is fighting off an uprising by some of its investors and by vendors who haven't been paid in months.

Under terms of an agreement signed in January with the Florida Department of Transportation, Bee Line was to have presented to state officials a financing plan and ridership study by Sept. 13. DOT officials gave the company a 30-day extension after it said it couldn't meet the deadline.

Gene Garfield, chairman and chief executive of Bee Line Monorail, says the company plans to have the financing plan ready by next month. He partly blames the delay on late engineering changes, which he says will actually increase the number of passengers and improve revenues. He also says delays in getting an agreement with the DOT have slowed his efforts to get financing secured.

"It's not an easy deal to put together," Mr. Garfield says. "We're talking in excess of $1.5 billion. I don't know of anybody who can put together a financing package like that" in so short a time.

In the meantime, Mr. Garfield is busy putting down insurrections by some of the companies hired to work on the project, and by some of the early investors. Several companies that were doing preliminary right-of-way and planning work have suspended their efforts until they are paid.

Mr. Garfield says cash has been short, but he says the companies that are doing major work are cooperating and are still on the job. Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., for example, a Watertown, Mass., land-planning consulting firm, says it is continuing to plan station locations for the line and is still getting paid.

Mr. Garfield declines to say how much money is owed to vendors. "We haven't paid some of them; we expect to," he says. "There's only a certain amount of cash. Who do you pay first?"

Meanwhile, 14 investors sued Mr. Garfield and Bee Line in federal district court in Miami this month, alleging they were defrauded. The investors, who claim in the suit to have committed nearly $2 million in start-up money, are seeking their money back plus interest, attorneys' fees and punitive damages. The 14 investors hold about 3% of the shares in Bee Line, says Mr. Garfield, who owns a 1.6% stake and won't disclose the other investors.

Bruce Fischman, a Miami lawyer representing the investors, says, "It's our position that {the investors} were hoodwinked." He says investors were falsely told the project would cost about $800 million when $1.5 billion is more accurate. The suit says that investors were told construction costs would run about $12.5 million per mile, but that current estimates put the cost at nearly $35 million per mile.

Mr. Garfield disputes that estimate and puts the cost per mile now at $28 million.

The law suit says that investors were told Bee Line had partnerships with major companies such as Lockheed Martin Corp., of Bethesda, Md., Enron Corp. of Houston and Transrapid International, a Duesseldorf-based joint venture that includes German industrial giants Siemens AG, Thyssen Krupp AG and the rail subsidiary of Daimler Chrysler AG. According to Mr. Fischman, the extent of those companies' involvement in the project was overstated.

Mr. Fischman also says investors weren't told about Mr. Garfield's previous involvement with the failed Florida Fun Train, a venture that ferried tourists between South Florida and Central Florida for less than a year before going out of business.

Mr. Garfield denies there was any fraud. "I believe this entire lawsuit is without merit," he says. "There was absolutely more than full disclosure here . . . {Investment documents} clearly warned that this was a risky venture."

He says investors knew many of the cost estimates given in the private-placement documents were just estimates. He says he never claimed Enron, Lockheed Martin or the members of the German joint venture were investors in the project. He says he told investors he was in negotiations to acquire technology from and tap into the expertise of those companies.

A spokesman for Lockheed Martin confirms the company is doing engineering work for Bee Line. "It'll be a great project for Central Florida," says Harold Cates, vice president of technical operations for Lockheed Martin in Orlando. Officials from Enron and the German joint venture couldn't be reached immediately.

Mr. Garfield dismisses the claim that investors should have been told about his involvement with the Fun Train. He says he was a minor shareholder and his work was chiefly to raise funds. Besides, he says, some of the investors now suing Bee Line were investors in the Fun Train.

Public-transportation analysts haven't been encouraging about the Bee Line's chances of success. Several proposals for similar projects have died over the years. This one is considered especially difficult because no public money is being used.

Mr. Garfield has promised a rail line with magnetic levitation, technology that's in use in Germany but still relatively new to this country. These types of trains are moved by magnets and don't come in contact with the rails, thus allowing for greater speeds and less noise. The trains will travel alongside State Road 528, known as the Bee Line expressway.

In original plans filed with the Florida DOT, Bee Line had said its trains would run about 120 mph, because the state at the time had granted a franchise on high-speed trains to a partly taxpayer-funded high-speed rail project from Miami to Orlando and Tampa. After that project was canceled earlier this year, however, lawmakers agreed to let the Bee Line train go faster.

Mr. Garfield now says the trains will run up to 300 mph, making the Orlando to Port Canaveral run in about 20 minutes. He says that the company has been making engineering changes that would allow that, and that the company will probably miss its 2003 targeted date to begin operation.

Florida transportation officials say they will be patient with Bee Line because they realize the project is an ambitious one. State officials still have to negotiate a lease for use of the right of way.

"I think we need to wait to see what happens in the next 30 days," says Cheryl Harrison Lee, Orlando-based public transportation manager for the DOT's District 5. "It's kind of early to draw conclusions."

Says Mr. Garfield: "We're doing something that nobody else is doing. We're financing a major infrastructure project for Central Florida.


NORTH CAROLINA: Some passenger trains resume normal service

RALEIGH -- After a week of canceled service due to flooding and washouts caused by Hurricane Floyd, state transportation officials today announced some regular passenger train services will resume Thursday.

The Silver Star (trains 91 & 92) will resume its normal operation between New York and Florida, including stops in Rocky Mount, Raleigh, Southern Pines and Hamlet. Since Sunday, the train has operated with detours through Washington, DC and Columbia, SC. The Silver Meteor (trains 97, 98) and Silver Palm (trains 89, 90) also will resume regular schedules tomorrow. Both services operate between New York and Florida, including stops in Rocky Mount, Wilson and Fayetteville.

The state-sponsored Piedmont resumed regular daily service between Raleigh and Charlotte last Friday. The Crescent (trains 19 &, 20), which operates between New York and New Orleans making stops in Greensboro, High Point, Salisbury, Charlotte and Gastonia, also is operating on its normal schedule.

The state-sponsored Carolinian (trains 79 & 80), which operates between Charlotte and New York City, is expected to resume normal scheduled service Friday or Saturday. Limited Carolinian service between Richmond and New York resumed last Sunday.

Customers with questions regarding train schedules and tickets should call Amtrak at 1-800 USA RAIL (872-7245).


INDIA: buses plunge into rivers, 14 dead

NEW DELHI -- At least 14 people were feared killed and 35 others injured when two buses plunged into rivers in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Press Trust of India said on Wednesday.

A bus fell into the river Alakananda in Chamoli district killing at least 13 people and injuring 20 others, the news agency said. Three bodies had been pulled out of the river.

In another accident, a man died and 15 other passengers were hurt when their bus went down a gorge near Chatwa Peepal, also in Uttar Pradesh.

No other details were available, the report said.


FRANCE: Car-less day makes Paris quieter, cleaner

PARIS -- Paris was quieter and the air at least seemed cleaner Wednesday as tens of thousands of drivers there and in other European cities heeded an appeal to keep their cars in the garage to reduce air pollution.

European Commission officials rode bicycles to work in Brussels, Belgium. Rome and several other cities offered free bus rides to commuters who abandoned their cars.

All too often these days, the Eiffel Tower is shrouded in smog, emergency rooms are crowded with people suffering from bronchial distress and visitors to Paris go away with memories of clogged streets and hazy skies.

Though it is unclear whether the one-day effort -- first held last year -- will cut smog significantly, environmentalists hope the "Day Without Cars" in Paris and other European cities will force drivers to think about pollution and their role in creating it.

The effort to keep cars at home was voluntary and motorists were not fined for ignoring the appeal, though police-guarded blockades were set up at some points to discourage traffic.

Only buses, taxis, emergency vehicles and motorcycles were supposed to circulate in several central Paris neighborhoods.

About 90 cities in Italy embraced the no-car effort. Commuters who left their cars at home were enticed with claims that traffic would be speedy, but the wait for many routes in Rome was the same as on any other day. Rome is practicing for a permanent traffic block. Every Wednesday starting Oct. 6, cars and bikes will not be permitted in the center of the city.

In Brussels, European Commission President Romano Prodi and Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom encouraged others to make more use of their bicycles by leading a group on a bike ride around town. Prodi also rode his bicycle to a Commission meeting. But outside a park where they were riding, cars still raced by.

In Paris, about 3 million cars enter the capital daily, and the resulting smog that engulfs the city causes health problems like asthma and chronic coughing, particularly among children and the elderly.

The mayor's office estimated that the traffic in car-free zones on Wednesday afternoon was 59 percent less than on regular days. In all of Paris, traffic was reduced by 31 percent, the mayor's office said.

The Place de la Concorde, usually a whirlwind of cars and tour buses, was strangely calm, with police directing only buses and pedestrians.

"Traffic never moves this quickly," said Patrick Khimonier, 43, a taxi driver observing the transformation in the famous square. "Never."

But in neighborhoods not blocked off, some streets were as congested as usual.

"Look at that, just look," said bus driver Patrick Mottaes, 44, pointing to a row of vehicles at a standstill on a bridge in western Paris. "The French are just too attached to their cars."

Suburban commuters make up a large part of Paris' car traffic. The city has an extensive commuter train network, but it's not always easy to use it to get from the suburbs to the capital, said suburban mother Anne Lucas, 33, riding the Metro with her preschool-age daughter.

"It's not safe at night, and if you have heavy packages, or if you have your kids with you, it's just not worth it," Mrs. Lucas said.

French Environment Minister Dominique Voynet said the car-free day was not designed to punish drivers, but rather to force them to think.

"The idea is to create a dynamic, to force people to think about their transportation habits," Voynet said in an interview published Wednesday in the Le Parisien newspaper.

Voynet and other government ministers rode bikes, tandems and electric scooters to a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, despite light showers.


NEW YORK: Canada, Mexico, U.S. Agree to more cooperation

New York -- The United States, Canada and Mexico agreed to strengthen cooperation in areas such as culture, the environment, and the promotion of transportation corridors in North America.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy and Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Rosario Green met Tuesday in New York to promote cooperation and analyze matters of importance to the three countries, which signed the North American Foreign Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

At the end of the meeting, the U.S. State Department issued a statement in which the three nations promised to "support and promote new and existing cooperative efforts."

"We are committed to working together to address trilateral, regional and global issues where we share goals, interests and agendas," the statement added.

The ministers announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding in which they pledged to cooperate on development assistance projects and identify areas for coordination of activities. The document was also signed by Canadian Minister of International Cooperation Maria Minna.

Albright, Axworthy and Green reviewed the progress made by experts from the United States, Canada and Mexico in addressing Y2K issues. They also highlighted the need to reinforce environmental cooperation and to create transportation corridors in North America.


PENNSYLVANIA: Transportation Commission begins hearings on 2001 transportation program

HARRISBURG -- The State Transportation Commission will hold seven regional public hearings to gather input for the next update of the Twelve-year Transportation Program.

The first hearing takes place at 9 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 23, in Franklin, Venango County, at The Inn at Franklin Hotel and Conference Center, 1411 Liberty St.

Other hearings are planned for Friday, Sept. 24, in Altoona, Blair County; Thursday, Sept. 30, in Williamsport, Lycoming County; Thursday, Oct. 14, in Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County; Friday, Oct. 15, in Fort Washington, Montgomery County; Thursday, Oct. 21, in Harrisburg; and Thursday, Oct. 28, and Friday, Oct. 29, in Pittsburgh.

Previously, these hearings took place in the winter and spring of the year in which the Commission adopted the updated Twelve-Year Plan. This year, the Commission decided to move the hearings to the fall to ensure earlier input and better coordination with deliberations by the various urban and rural area planning partners. The commission is scheduled to adopt the 2001 Program next August.

"The information offered at these hearings will be a crucial part of the consensus-building necessary for the next transportation program update," said Transportation Secretary Bradley L. Mallory, who also chairs the commission. "Moving the hearings to the fall will ensure adequate time for the testimony to be incorporated into the decision making."

The hearings offer an opportunity for representatives of metropolitan and rural areas, elected officials, business interests and other interested citizens to make known their transportation priorities. With such wide- ranging input, the commission can make better decisions about spending available dollars on rail, highway, bridge, transit, aviation, bicycle, pedestrian and intermodal projects.

People interested in offering testimony to the commission are encouraged to submit it in writing. The address:

Anita Everhard, Executive Secretary
Pennsylvania State Transportation Commission
555 Walnut St. - Ninth Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17101-1900

Testimony also may be sent via e-mail to: everhaj@dot.state.pa.us.

People interested in offering oral testimony at the hearings must submit their name, organization, address, telephone number, e-mail address, project or issue priorities, planning organization region, hearing location and audio/visual needs to the commission. Presentations are limited to five minutes. A one-page abstract for each project that will be part of the testimony must be submitted to the commission two weeks before the hearing. Oral presenters also should contact their regional planning organization to check on its priorities.

The commission will accept requests to be placed on the agenda for oral testimony up to one week before the hearing. A request to be placed on the agenda can be mailed to the commission or submitted over the telephone at 717-787-2913, by fax at 717-772-8443 or by e-mail to everhaj@dot.state.pa.us.

Here is the hearing schedule:

  • Sept. 23 -- Franklin, 9 a.m., The Inn at Franklin Hotel and Conference Center, 1411 Liberty St. (Route 8)
  • Sept. 24 -- Altoona, 9 a.m., The Casino at Lakemont Park, 300 Lakemont Park Blvd.
  • Sept. 30 -- Williamsport, 9 a.m., Sheraton Inn -- Williamsport, 100 Pine St.
  • Oct. 14 -- Wilkes-Barre, 9 a.m., The Woodlands Inn and Resort, 1073 Highway 315
  • Oct. 15 -- Fort Washington, 9 a.m., Holiday Inn-Fort Washington, 432 Pennsylvania Ave.
  • Oct. 21 -- Harrisburg, 9 a.m., Harrisburg Hilton and Towers, 1 North Second St.
  • Oct. 28 -- 1 p.m., Oct. 29, 9 a.m. -- Regional Enterprise Tower, 425 Sixth Ave., 31st Floor, Pittsburgh.

Back