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August 2009 Meeting Minutes

Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
Board Meeting
Walker House, Cary, NC
August 8, 2009 Open - 12:30 PM
Present: Martin Wheeler, Gene Kirkland, John Bobinyec, Bill Cole, Ken Davis, Ralph Ward, Bob Bischoff, Ernest Robl, Leon DeBaer, Ton Ed White, Ed Locklin, Joseph Roof, Thomas Wa(?), Harry Clapp, Steve Zorn, Ralph Massera, Don Smith, Carolyn Smith, Emy Louie & Phil Astwood.

Action Items:
  • Jim will complete list of contacts to receive the Resolution
  • Martin will work with Jim on a cover letter
  • Phil will compile an electronic mailing list of addresses for contact
  • Phil will merge cover letter with mailing list & print address labels
  • Gene will combine cover letter, resolution and brochure and mail to contacts
  • Martin will work on a “starter” brochure for a Charlotte/Columbia/Charleston line
  • Don will complete work on new CAPT brochure
  • Gene will mail renewal notices
  • John will put the brochure on a disc and send copies to several officers
1. Pat Simmons (Director NCDOT Rail Division) Mr. Simmons reported that the February 17, 2009 Recovery and Reinvestment Act contained $1.3 billion for Amtrak and $8 billion for high speed rail development. So far, NC has received $300,000 from Amtrak and will use this to renovate the platforms in the Charlotte station. Since the President is responsible for adding the $8 billion, Mr. Simmons felt we could depend on receiving the money and this will allow Amtrak to act less conservatively begin to add trains. This will create land use and environmental impact issues, but this is an opportunity not to be missed. Highway and transits funds will come first because a framework for these requests already existed. Money was available to the FRA, but there was no guidance and it is taking time to work this out. Four tracks (or project levels) were selected: 1 - Shovel Ready Projects. The nearest is the enlargement of the Cary station which is ready to go. 2 - Corridor Development Projects such as like SEHSR (Southeast High Speed Rail). - CLT to DC. Much has been done to prepare for this in NC. 3 - Planning Projects, and 4 - Projects for which matching funds exist. The applications and pre-applications for these and other projects are available at Overall, $4 billion is being requested as part of discretionary competitive grants programs. NC has a strong nationally recognized team to lead this effort. The team’s goal is to have applications for Track1 projects ready to go to the Governor’s office by August 14. These are due in Washington August 24. The next deadline is October 2 for a corridor development application in concert with Virginia for over 500 miles. Mid September should be earliest notification for Track 1 applications. Projects should cost between $150 and $400 million and be complete in two years from date of approval. High Speed Rail development will involve a great deal of highway work. There are many grade separations to create which will require over 130 new bridges. The NC House and Senate endorse these efforts and efforts by the Secretary of Transportation. The largest challenge will be to manage growth. In 1986 G.B Arrington, a planner for Portland, Oregon said the essentials for success in a transportation project were to: “Have a Plan, Have People in the Right Places, (We have this in all areas of government) and to Have a Crisis (such as highway problems in Portland)”. Our crisis is the need to invest in infrastructure.

In response to several questions, Mr. Simmons said: a - Planning funds have been requested for service to Asheville & Wilmington. b - Double-tracking north of Charlotte was not ready to go and would be a Track 2 project. c - State funding for the NC rail division is level with last year. He does not see funding, but staffing as the problem. d - The SEHSR project divides into 3 sections Charlotte/Raleigh, Raleigh/Richmond & Richmond/Washington. Refurbishing of equipment will continue. Design of and requests for new equipment will go forward. A dependable demand for equipment needs to be established so industry can prepare to meet it. e - We own the property for the Charlotte Multi-Modal Station and the opportunity exists for public-private partnerships in the areas surrounding it. Regulations need to be established for this. We are working on designs for buildings and track work. f - The price of high speed service Raleigh/Richmond will be $4 billion ($12 million/mile). Top speeds will range from 79 mph to 110 mph. g - The third frequency Charlotte/Raleigh is all set except for power. Two units have been bought from GO Transit in Toronto to replace existing ones while they receive a rebuild and environmental update. The new power should arrive near the end of the year. Rolling stock is OK and almost all stations are ready. Food service cars will have vending, but otherwise more of the same. Existing equipment will go into east/west service when new equipment is available for Charlotte/Washington. h - The SEHSR has received very little help from South Carolina and Georgia because neither state has staff for this. Any help from either state would be welcome and important.

2. Update on Resolution in Support of Transportation Options for the State of South Carolina - Copies of the new brochure have been sent to all members. Jim Frierson has requested 400-500 brochures and has sent a list to Bob Bischoff of city and county representatives who should receive a copy. A list of Chambers of Commerce to come later. This list will be sent to all Board members. John Bonbinyec will work to condense the Resolution to one page. (Note: John Wagner has already done this). Martin Wheeler will work with Jim to complete a cover letter. Phil Astwood will create an electronic mailing list of addresses and print a personalized letter and mailing label for each contact. These will be sent to Gene Kirkland for mailing with a copy of the brochure and the resolution. Completed resolutions will be returned to Phil. We will compile these and send the collection to the legislature. Martin and others suggested a sort of “starter” brochure to show a possible Charlotte/Columbia/Charleston line indicating possible station locations and running times.

3. Status of Efforts to Produce new CAPT Brochure - Don Stewart is working on this. Martin Wheeler will contact him about progress. Will it be ready for the NC State Fair?

4. Secretary's Report - Phil Astwood distributed the minutes to Board members via e-mail and in printed form at the meeting. One correction was noted and the minutes were accepted as corrected.

5. Treasurer's Report - Gene Kirkland mailed copies of the treasurer’s report to Board members in advance of the meeting. The Association has $6,493.72 in its operating account and $6,535.00 in the CAPT Challenge account for a total of $13,028.72. Funds were recently moved from Wachovia to BB&T. Interest is significantly higher at the new bank. Gene said he will send renewal notices. The association currently has 192 members. The report was accepted as submitted.

6. Update on CAPT Newsletter and Website -
Newsletter - Malcolm Kenton has accepted a new job at NARP and will not be able to continue with the newsletter. Several ideas were mentioned such as newsletter services, but the problem is that we still need to compile the information. We still have the framework of the last newsletter prepared by Malcolm if anyone would like to step in.
Website - John Bobinyec needs a PDF file of the brochure to put on the website. He will make copies of the disc with the brochure to send out to several officers for safe keeping.

7. Update on Rail Developments across the Carolinas including Start of 3rd Charlotte/Raleigh Frequency - Two F59 locomotives were purchased from GO Transit. The dedication of the new station at Durham drew 300 people. The station is a former tobacco warehouse. It looks great, has a tremendous seating capacity, and adequate parking. It is in a great location and has a fence to keep people from crossing tracks to get to the bus station. There is no solution to the parking problem at the Raleigh station. Perhaps space can be rented off site.

8. Amtrak Update - The current budget has been approved. There are new Lynchburg and Richmond trains and Beach Grove is turning out repaired cars. The NARP website has information on changes in Florida and New Orleans service. Current plans are to invest in upgrading station platforms to meet ADA requirements. Money will also go to the Northeast corridor. Amtrak has not dropped the idea of using the old post office to replace Penn Station in NYC.

9. Officers & Directors Reports

Gene Kirkland – The station platform in Salisbury is finished and almost all NC stations have canopies. The first combined food service-baggage car is back on the Piedmont and the first engine is getting its midlife rebuild. The last 8 rebuilt coaches are complete. Cary is hoping “stimulus” money will be available to remodel the station.

Bob Bischoff – The Charlotte Trolley Museum is spending money on a display planned for the late fall. Several other phases of the display will open later.

Ed Locklin – Reporting on a recent trip to NYC on the Crescent Ed said the food was not bad, but the condition of the viewliners is deteriorating. The viewliners were run on the rear of the train as they have been on the Star. This is probably to limit engine noise in the sleepers. Train was early at almost every stop.

Harry Clapp – Pointed out that the claim of 200’ of right of way is interfering with some structures. Asked if this was a problem elsewhere.

Bill Cole – Raleigh and Charlotte stations look worse and worse in comparison to the new stations. A new station for Charlotte is a long time away so something should be done now. Parking is a problem for example, and other things like A/C, water fountains, and signage need attention. The staff works very hard and needs financial support from Amtrak.

Martin Wheeler – There will be a public meeting on extension of the Charlotte Blue Line next month. The design is 90% complete. The extension will be built for 3 car trains and existing stations will need to be rebuilt. Ridership is holding well this year, 14,000 riders per day although it is down from 18,000 last year. 99% on time. The North Corridor is 90% designed and is waiting for stimulus money. A maintenance yard along the Blue Line extension is being considered. UNCC and CATS have agreed on alignment through campus. A study of the use of modern street cars is underway. No further action now on other corridors. The West corridor will get “sprinter” bus service with better times and nicer shelters.

Gene Kirkland - Train-off information on Carolinian, Palmetto, and Silver Star due to track work is available on the Amtrak website.

10. Future Meetings - Jim will set up an October 10 meeting in Charleston, and the December 12 meeting will be in Durham to see the new station. Gene and others will look for a room.
Adjourn - 3:45