Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
Board Meeting
Sheraton Hotel, Raleigh, NC
March 19, 2016Open: 12:40 PM

Present: Martin Wheeler, Ed Locklin, Jim Frierson, Bob Bischoff, Gene Kirkland, John Stein, John Bobinyec, Bill Cole, Ralph Messera, Bill Muller, Gene Smallwood, John Fulk, Fletcher Dickerson, Jack Robbins, Dan Smith, Leon DeBaer, David Robinson.

Martin Wheeler welcomed everyone and suggested that members around the table introduce themselves and all did so. He informed the membership that Art Peterson is doing better healthwise and wishes to remain on the CAPT Board.

Secretary's Report: Martin said that our secretary, Phil Astwood, was unable to attend today’s meeting. Therefore, his report was deferred. Martin read the minutes from the January 16, 2016 meeting and there was one minor correction concerning mention of a ‘dome car’. Motion was made, seconded and passed approving the minutes with this correction.

Treasurer’s Report: Gene handed out copies of the Financial Report for January 16 thru March 18, 2016. The starting balance was $3,054.76. Expenses for this period were $393.78 and income was $20.00 leaving a closing balance of $2,680.98.

Guest Speaker: Leon DeBaer told the members that he had spoken with Roger Smock of the NCDOT ‘Be RailSafe Program’ by telephone and via e-mails. He did not know what had happened with regard to the miscommunication resulting in Roger’s being unable to attend as our guest speaker today.

Update on resolution drive in South Carolina in support of expanded rail passenger service: Martin noted that Phil has the cover letter ready to go and is waiting on Jim Frierson to have the updated names and addresses of mayors and SC legislators who serve on the SC House and Senate transportation committees. Jim noted that he is currently working on this. Jim also talked briefly about the SC Passenger Rail Consortium and mentioned that they are still awaiting word from the FRA about their proposal for a passenger rail initiative in SC.

Update on CAPT fostering creation of an association similar to Virginians for High Speed Rail: This item was postponed until later in the meeting in order to receive David Robinson’s input upon his arrival. When he arrived, he talked about the ‘BeRailSafe’ Program. David mentioned that there were a lot of issues with regard to safety; collisions are on the decline but trespassing incidents are up. He noted that law enforcement officers are required to receive about 40 hours of training or re-training on safety issues. In particular, officers will receive training on the “blue signs” affixed to crossing gates as to what they should do with regard to rail/vehicular traffic incidents.

David and Roger Smock, as safety outreach consultants in the NCDOT Rail Division, will be preparing the materials (videos, etc.) to be used with the CLE (continuing law enforcement) training. David observed that there will be an emphasis on clearing up incidents as quickly as possible. He emphasized the seriousness of persons “playing chicken” on rail lines in the state. In response to this, he said there will be a research project that will utilize an outside camera mounted on the front and rear of the Piedmont trains set up to get footage of the trespassers.

David also noted that the “blue signs” are now a requirement by the FRA on all rail lines. The small sign gives phone numbers to call in the event of emergencies or malfunctions of warning signals, etc. on rail lines. He further observed that the signs were perhaps too small and harder to read than the older black and white signs they replaced.

Finally, David briefed the members present about Art Peterson’s health condition by noting that Art had a portion of his leg removed due to diabetes but is learning to get around. David urged the membership to give Art a call at home to lift his spirits. Art’s telephone number is (252) 756-7380.

Update on news in North Carolina and South Carolina affecting transit and passenger rail: Gene said that there will be a symposium in Raleigh on April 18th and19th entitled ‘Progress in Motion 2016 – North Carolina’s Rail Forum’ and sponsored by the North Carolina Railroad Company. Its purpose will be to discuss future passenger rail service.

Gene then spoke about all the new improvements for the Raleigh Station. He said the work will be similar to work done at the station in Greensboro, NC. Gene noted that 38 rail crossings between Greensboro and Charlotte will be closed and the line between those cities will be double-tracked. In addition, he mentioned that NC trains will start using a push-pull set-up with two locomotives between Greensboro and Charlotte.

Martin informed members that the Lynx Blue Line extension is “well along” and that bridges are nearly finished, crossing gates are in and construction of the new yard is underway. He noted that work is continuing at the new Blue Line station area at UNCC as well.

Charlotte’s streetcar line is carrying about 1,000 riders a day now, Martin said, and he stated that $75M is needed from the “Feds” to make this line a permanent service with 4 or 5 cars.

Martin said that new cars (18 from Siemens) for CATS’ Blue Line are still being phased in and there are issues with automatic doors being too sensitive during opening and closing. He also noted that all yard tracks are now filled to capacity with cars.

Update on CAPT newsletter and website issues: Martin showed everyone the attachment that was sent out with the meeting notice and said that we hope to send out such items in the future with meeting notices. John observed that our newsletter could be a real benefit of CAPT membership.

John also stated that he is making progress with PayPal but it is an “uphill battle”.

Amtrak Update: Martin read a statement about a proposal from the STB (Surface Transportation Board) containing a statement that preference be given to passenger trains on tracks that are shared with freight trains.

Martin noted that there is talk about the restoration of the Sunset Limited (aka Gulfcoast Limited) service over one of two possible southern routes.

Reports by Officers and Directors: It was mentioned that the Spencer Excursion trips are completely sold out this Spring.

Martin informed members that a David Powe of ‘WakeUP Wake County’ wants to speak with CAPT in the future about passenger rail and mass transit issues. He also mentioned that there will be a Charlotte Transportation Planning Public Workshop at a date/time TBA.

Jim asked if any CAPT members had attended the recent Southeast Rail Forum 2016 held in Charlotte. No members from CAPT had attended.

Planning for future meetings: Martin discussed upcoming CAPT meetings and their locations and who would be willing to take charge of setting them up. Jim said that he would set up the meeting in Spartanburg or he would check with Phil Astwood to see if he is willing to do so.

Adjourn: 3:30 PM