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February 2011 Board Meeting Minutes

Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
Board Meeting
R.E.A. Building at the Galyon Depot, Greensboro, NC
February 12, 2011 Open - 9:55 A.M.
Present: Martin Wheeler, Gene Kirkland, John Bobinyec, Bob Bischoff, Art Peterson, Bill Cole, Ernest Robl, Ralph Messera, Leon DeBaer, George Weber, Henry Clapp, John Stein, Jim Stevenson, and Phil Astwood. Sara Nuckles (SCDOT Commissioner) and Jim Frierson attended the lunch after the meeting.

Action Items:
  • Gene will have a final copy of the new brochure by the next meeting
  • Phil will contact Gene about stationery and brochures when needed
  • All officers should send contact information to John Bobinyec for website
  • All officers should send contact information to Gene Kirkland
  • Martin will send out NC transit update to members of the Board
1. Secretary's Report - Phil Astwood distributed the minutes of the December 11 meeting via e-mail to Board members and as hardcopy at the meeting. The minutes were accepted with corrections that were suggested at the meeting and submitted earlier by e-mail.

2. Treasurer's Report - Gene Kirkland reported that the only significant expenditure has been $1,549.42 for work on the new brochure. This is more than offset by a recent contribution of $5,000. These transactions leave a balance of $4,985.58 in the CAPT Challenge account and $13,009.36 in the operating account for a total of $17,994.94. These funds are earning very little interest and Gene asked the Board to approve moving some of the money to CD’s. After some discussion it was decided that he would move $10,000 to be divided in half and deposited so that the CD’s matured on a staggered schedule. It was decided that $7,000 should be held in the account for use on upcoming projects. Gene reported that the Association currently has 194 members.

3. Update on Resolution Drive in South Carolina - Phil reviewed the actions to date including the current project to send brochures and copies of the completed resolutions to members of the SC legislature. Jim Frierson has offered to update the list of appropriate recipients to reflect changes resulting from the recent elections. Bob Bischoff and Martin Wheeler passed around copies of the tentative SC service brochure that will be included with the brochure. Bob is working with the firm that will produce it. Together Martin and Bob have selected possible stops and proposed running times to make up several potential schedules. Two or three schedules will be devised for each route so as to make a variety of existing Amtrak connections at major cities. The schedules are based on 60-79 mph speeds and 3-minute station stops. Several people pointed out that 2-3 minutes is Amtrak’s target time at most stations. One of the proposed schedules runs from Charlotte to Charleston through Columbia with 10 stops. The other route is from Greenville to Myrtle Beach via Columbia and Florence with 11 stops. Suggestions for routes and stops are welcome. Station selection was based on two criteria; the population of the area served and the even spacing of stations along the route. A problem in the Myrtle Beach area is that no rail right-of- way exists in a 22 mile segment near Aynor so the map will show a “possible” area where track might be laid. It was suggested that they print the maps and schedules using both sides of an 11”x17” sheet. The maps need some editing for color and text, and the schedules need to be finished. Bob and Martin expect the project to be complete by the next meeting. They pointed out that the rail equipment could be used outside of the regular schedule to provide commuter service running from Rock Hill to Charlotte on the north end, and Summerville to Charleston in the south.

4. Status of Efforts to Produce New CAPT Brochure - Gene distributed proof copies of the new brochure. He had asked several people to suggest changes and got 8 pages of comments from Malcolm Kenton at NARP, most of which involved “wordsmithing”. Gene plans to set up a meeting with the printers in a couple weeks to go over these and other details. For example; symbols need to be tied to text, there is no “Silver Palmetto”, and commuter routes in the Raleigh and Charlotte areas need editing. The printer estimates it will cost $2,469 to print 10,000 copies and not a great deal more for 20,000. It was decided that we should print 20,000. The price will include delivery to a storage area. Gene expects to have a final draft by the next meeting. Gene suggested it was time for new stationery since there have been several changes in the list of officers. If anyone needs stationery, please contact him.

5. Update on CAPT Newsletter and Website - Website John Bobinyec pointed out that he needs to get meeting notices a reasonable time before each meeting. He also asked that all officers send him contact information so that the website can be updated. Please send this information to Gene as well. Newsletter - Gene reports he has been working on it. The Board agreed with Martin that to facilitate the publishing of a newsletter we need help collecting news not help with production. He pointed out that an outside person must understand our mission and the topics that are important to us. Teaching this to someone would probably be more trouble than it’s worth. Ernest Robl offered pictures from his website.

6. Amtrak Update - Martin pointed out that the proposed budget cuts will include reductions in funding for Amtrak as well as for high-speed rail. Amtrak announced plans for a new Hudson tunnel which is bigger, better, and more expensive than the one recently canceled by the governor of New Jersey. Amtrak will be the lead agency. Currently the tunnel tubes are busier than they have ever been carrying 40% more traffic than when they were built in the early 1900’s. Stimulated by the success of the Lynchburg service, Virginia plans to spend $87 million to restore Petersburg - Norfolk passenger service in the next year or two. Gene reported that the Cary station is progressing well. It is supposed to have a canopy for each track.

7. Funding for Rail - Gene said that there is a strong belief that the new Republican legislature in NC could cut funding for the rail division. This could eliminate all except run-through rail service in NC. He asked that we please contact moderate Republican legislators about the value of train service. Even though the demand for passenger rail service is increasing, a tight budget could lead to drastic cuts. Light rail could be cut as well. Everything that is not highway could be cut. Art Peterson – We need to stress that the public values cooperation on valuable assets. It is only a minority supporting “slash and burn”. If you are in NC, call your representative and senator. Contact the Governor who supports rail. Is it worth abandoning all that has been done before?

8 NC Transit Update - CATS - December ridership was down 22.5% on buses, but only 1.4% on light rail. Year to year light rail ridership is up 1% and buses are up 10%. Scope of the Blue Line extension has been reduced by cutting out 2 stations. It is planned to end at UNCC. Most other light rail work is on a very back burner. NS is working on the intermodal yard at the airport. It is expected to be in use by 2014. Martin will send out additional transit information to the Board.

9. Planning for Future Meetings – At Phil’s request, Gene moved and the Board agreed to switch the Charlotte and Columbia meetings. Ralph Messera proposed holding the Charlotte meeting in Matthews. The Board agreed that when possible, future meetings should be planned to take advantage of the new train schedule. Future Meetings: April 9 – Charlotte (Matthews) (Ralph will help to set this up), June 11 - Columbia (Jim will set this up), August 13 - Greenville (Phil & David will set this up), October 8 – Asheville (Art will set this up), December 10 - Charleston. (Jim?)

Adjourn - 11:30 A.M.

Due to a misunderstanding about the meeting time, SCDOT Commissioner Sara Nuckles was unable to present the following report at the Board meeting.

Division of Intermodal and Freight Programs
February 8, 2011

Act 206 of 2010 established the Division of Intermodal and Freight Programs comprised of the Office of Public Transit and the Office of Railroads. This important legislation passed by the General Assembly more clearly defines the role of rail planning functions in the State, thereby opening multiple opportunities for SCDOT to be eligible for federal rail planning funds. The creation of this new Division also firmly establishes the importance of intermodal connectivity in the State. This is a brand new component of SCDOT and we are in the process of determining funding opportunities in order to carry out our responsibilities. One important component of Act 206 provides for a special advisory committee to assist SCDOT on freight transportation and rail issues. The committee members are:
Fred C. Craft, Jr. Cheraw, South Carolina
James Edward Alexander Bluffton, South Carolina
Robert W. Parham, Jr. Summerville, South Carolina
Tora Miller Columbia, South Carolina
Deborah B. Harwell Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Phil Byrd North Charleston, South Carolina
Butch Reeves Greenville, South Carolina
This Committee had their first meeting on December 10, 2010. They elected Ms. Deborah Harwell as Chairman and Phil Byrd as Vice-chairman. South Carolina Department of Transportation looks forward to this relationship as we develop rail initiatives in South Carolina.

High Speed Rail
There are two federally designated high speed rail corridors through our state. An evaluation of high speed options for the upstate corridor was completed in 2008 with monies from an earmark Georgia had received. The study concludes that high speed rail passenger service in this corridor is feasible. This analysis as well as the one planned below helps to better position ourselves for high speed rail should sufficient funding be appropriated. Shown below is the status of efforts as well as other rail activities that are ongoing.

FY 2010 High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program – Planning
Grant Amount: $ 4,100,000.00
Description: This grant award is multi-state funding for Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina with Georgia as the lead state for the Charlotte-Atlanta Corridor Plan.
Match Requirements: This grant award requires a $1.025 million match.
Current Actions: The original Planning study request was for $5.6 million with a match requirement of $1.4 million. This would provide funding for a service development plan as well as a TIER I environmental document. The states are in the process of determining how to advance with the grant awarded.

Other Rail Activities:
Florence, Myrtle Beach, and Charleston Feasibility Study
  The efforts of this study would identify and determine the feasibility of using existing railroad corridors that could accommodate rail service lines linking Florence, Myrtle Beach and Charleston with the federally designated high-speed rail corridor from Raleigh to Columbia to Jacksonville. Myrtle Beach and Charleston are two of the foremost tourism destinations on the east coast. Relieving the increased traffic congestion in these areas coupled with the need for visitors to access the Southeastern High-Speed Rail Corridor are both necessary and essential to the economy of South Carolina and the safety and convenience of tourists to the state. Anticipated completion of this study is the fall of 2011.
Eastern Connector
  The City of Charleston is interested in conducting a High level feasibility study to develop a federally designated rail corridor for intercity passenger rail service for Eastern South Carolina. Funding for this study has not been identified.
Columbia to Charlotte Inter-City Passenger Rail
  The Central Midlands COG and the City of Columbia is interested in conducting a study to determine the feasibility of providing a rail connection between Columbia and Charlotte. They plan to visit North Carolina Department of Transportation and AMTRAK next month to discuss this service. Additional information will be forthcoming after the meeting.