Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains

October 2006 Meeting Minutes

Date: October 21, 2006
Time: 12:30 P.M.
Site: Page-Walker Hotel Arts and History Center
City: Cary, N.C.

Board Members: Martin Wheeler, Jr., Gene Kirkland, Dan Smith, Bob Bischoff, Ed Locklin, John Stein, Ralph Ward.
Others: Charles Fishburne, Ernest Robl, Jim Shoemaker, Carolyn Smith, Chris Young, Marietta Young.

President Wheeler called the Annual Membership Meeting to order and asked each person to introduce themselves.

Gene Kirkland presented the Treasurer’s Report which was reviewed and accepted. (Copy attached.)

The Secretary read the minutes of the August meeting. A motion by Bob Bischoff to accept the minutes, properly seconded, passed.

President Wheeler reviewed the minutes of the 2005 Annual Meeting and read pertinent portions of the CAPT By-Laws concerning officers, directors and quorums. He presented the Nominating Committee report that Don Stewart, Bob Bischoff and Ed Locklin be reelected to two year terms as Directors. He reviewed the make up of the board based on membership in the two states and explained that we need to recruit more Directors from South Carolina. A motion by Gene Kirkland and seconded by Jack Stein to elect the three nominees passed unanimously. A motion by Ernest Robl, seconded by Ed Locklin, to reelect Martin Wheeler, Jr. President, Don Stewart N. C. Vice President, Dale Reynolds S.C. vice President, Gene Kirkland Treasurer and Dan Smith Secretary for one year terms was approved unanimously.

Dan Smith reported on a Durham-Raleigh trip by rail and return by TTA Express Bus service. He described the combined mode trip as convenient and timely considering the lateness of the southbound Carolinian that day. He introduced Carolyn Smith as the newest CAPT member in attendance.

Ralph Ward raised questions regarding the western North Carolina service. Martin said he would offer some information in his remarks later in the meeting.

Bob Bischoff reported that the Charlotte Trolley service would probably not resume until Light Rail service begins in November of next year. The gift shop at the trolley barn has been closed until then. He stated that possible uses for the current barn might include retail shops etc. and he discussed the status of the catenary between Tremont and the barn.

Ernest Robl reported that Passenger Train Journal is renewing publication under new ownership after a long period of inactivity. He noted that the editor, Mike Schafer, was also a former editor of the original magazine. He said that Operation Lifesaver would have a Regional Conference at the Grove Park Inn next year in Asheville.

Bob Bischoff presented a Resolution (copy attached) by which “CAPT authorizes Bob Bischoff and/or Martin Wheeler to negotiate with UNCC Chancellor Philip Dubois to study the possibility of establishing a satellite passenger train station on the N. C. Railroad in the vicinity of its crossing with I-485, and near the campus of UNCC.” Bob’s motion was seconded by Dan Smith and approved unanimously.

Jim Shoemaker, a former CSX engineer now with Amtrak, commented on freight congestion as it affects Amtrak service and noted the problems along the segment of the Crescent route between Atlanta and Charlottesville.

Gene Kirkland reported that the newly refurbished DOT combine rail car would be named the Yadkin River. Three coaches should be delivered within five to six weeks, and the first would be named the Cardinal. He commented on the problems still present north of the High Point station and anticipated that the current double track project would be a big help. He reported there has been significant improvement with CSX handling of Amtrak trains. He said that the new track through the East Durham yard should be in operation within two or three months and noted the possibility of a new yard at Selma. He told us that Norfolk Southern had rebuilt the crossing at Wilson and that there has been an increase of college students riding both the Piedmont and Carolinian trains.

Ed Locklin noted the Crescent delays and questioned the continued lack of Sunset Limited service between New Orleans and Florida.

Jack Stein reported that 56 riders had boarded the Piedmont for the Lexington BBQ Festival. He noted some November 13 CAT (Capital Area Transit) changes and said that CAT arrivals at the Raleigh Amtrak station are on the website.

President Wheeler introduced Brad Schulz Communications Officer with the Triangle Transit Authority. Brad gave a power point presentation and discussed the background, status and future options for a Regional Rail system in the triangle area.

Brad reviewed the progress and growth of TTA transit programs including regional bus and vanpool services. He then covered the history of the proposed regional rail system and related the challenges and obstacles faced while attempting to obtain federal funding under the New Starts program. Although the project design has been completed, $148 million expended (and an additional $15 to $20 million obligated) and most land acquisitions made, he explained that rising costs due to inflation and changes in FTA’s cost effectiveness formula made it necessary to withdraw from pursuing funding under New Starts.

On the positive side, Brad described the many factors leading to an optimistic outlook. These include David King, former Deputy Secretary of the NCDOT as Interim General Manager, partnerships with private companies such as Cherokee Investment Partners and the decision to hold all property for future transit use. In addition to ongoing discussions with private partners, options for future rail include discussions with FTA on an innovative pilot project for transit development not associated with New Starts and regional discussions to draw more input from leaders and groups outside of TTA. He described TOD (Transit Oriented Development) policies which lead to increased density and economic growth in station areas. He summarized the challenges and successes in helping elected officials to understand that transit is an engine of economic growth.

Martin Wheeler remarked on the lateness of his train travel to Raleigh for a Legislative hearing and back to Charlotte. He said the question of a grade separation of the NS and CSX lines near the new Charlotte multi-modal station is still unanswered. He reported that DOT wants the $200 million project to happen, but that CSX is dragging on its support of the grade separation. The Seaboard Street and 9th Street crossings would be closed. He reported that the South Corridor is 60-65% complete. Four cars are on site and one is being tested extensively. Start up date is planned for November 26, 2007. Other proposed corridors are still on the table. He said the Rock Hill, SC-Charlotte study is on track and noted NARP is considering plans for station and route programs in the Carolinas, and nationwide. Martin said that NS has determined that $137.5 million of capital improvements would be needed for the Western NC service. He said there is a push to bring NS to the table in the discussions. He stated that the Legislative Rail Committee would continue and that it will report to the Legislature in January or February next year.

Durham was selected as the site for the next CAPT meeting, December 9.

Dan Smith