Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains

December 2006 Meeting Minutes

Date: December 9, 2006
Time: 1:00 P.M.
Site: Community Room, Durham Police Department
City: Durham, N.C.

Board Members: Martin Wheeler, Jr., Don Stewart, Dan Smith, Gene Kirkland; Bob Bischoff, Bill Cole, Ed Locklin, John Stein.
Others: Don Bell, John Bobinyec, Manisha Kapil, Ravi Kapil, Bob Lafferty, Diane Lafferty, Chris Lainis, Robert Menzies, Ernest Robl, Jim Shoemaker, Carolyn Smith.

President Wheeler called the meeting to order and asked each person to introduce themselves.

Gene Kirkland presented the Treasurer’s Report which was accepted on a voice vote as presented (copy attached). Gene announced that Operation Lifesaver would hold a regional meeting in Asheville in 2007. He made a motion that we contribute $100 to OL. Motion was seconded by Bob Bischoff and passed unanimously.

The minutes of the October 21 meeting were read by the Secretary and corrections were noted. A motion to accept the minutes as amended, offered by Bob Bischoff and seconded by Gene Kirkland, was approved.

Following discussion, a motion was made by Gene Kirkland and seconded by Dan Smith to post CAPT meeting minutes on the CAPT web site after approval by the Board. Motion passed.

Dan Smith gave an update on Durham area projects, especially in the downtown area, and remarked that the Amtrak station plans for a facility in the L&M Walker Building appeared to be dead even though the City of Durham, NC DOT and the property owners had agreed long ago on this site as the best location. He suggested a personal letter to get factual information and that CAPT might have some ideas. He agreed to gather more information and to present these findings at the next board meeting. Dan reported on current news of the Eastern North Carolina Railroad Alliance (ENCRRA) and its coordinated efforts with mayors of towns along the Norfolk Southern line between Raleigh and Wilson to encourage commuter service. He agreed to contact Sanford Korschun, ENCRRA president and invite him to present an update to the board at the February meeting. Mr. Korschun had spoken to the board previously in Wilson, NC.

Don Stewart reported on the October 21 NARP board meeting in Austin, Texas. David Laney, Amtrak Board chairman, was the luncheon speaker. Don said that Mr. Laney indicated a positive position regarding a national system. Looking ahead to a Charlotte NARP Board meeting in October, Don explained how directors could arrive at Raleigh Wednesday and travel the next morning by train 73 to High Point. Following a station tour they would then be bussed to Greensboro, have lunch following a tour of the Galyon MMTC and visit Spencer Shops and Salisbury on the way to Charlotte. He also announced that the NARP Region V meeting will be held at Union Station, Nashville, Tennessee March 31-April 1 and will be hosted by TARP. He noted that Alex Kummant, new Amtrak President, has indicated that he “wants to grow the railroad” and that Amtrak could double ridership in 10 years principally in corridors. Kummant foresees equipment pool financing, and recognizes that NC is more organized (for high speed rail) than other states.

Martin commented on the Amtrak plans to address food service losses by converting and combining current diners and/or sightseer lounges to diner-lounges on the long distance trains. One advantage of this change is to be more hours of continuous service.

Gene Kirkland reported on the status of several NCDOT Rail Division cars being renovated including both food service cars. He also noted that an additional car had been purchased and that food vending machines are to be installed in the Piedmont food cars by early spring 2007. He said the third RGH-CLT frequency would not begin until spring of 2008 to allow for completion of the double-tracking between Greensboro and High Point. That project should be completed by summer of 2007. Because of new signal installation, the Piedmont would not operate on the Sundays of January 7, 14 and 21. He said the new canopy for Salisbury has been delayed due to a George Clooney movie to be filmed; described tactile warning strips for visually impaired passengers and reported that the NC Division of Motor Vehicles would be moving its office out of the Cary station to a new location. DOT will follow through on the Asheville station design but would not begin the construction phase until definite funding for the Asheville-Salisbury service has been secured. DOT is moving ahead with plans to purchase the Goldsboro Union Station. CSX and the military are pushing DOT to put the wye in place at Pembroke. This would benefit freight shipments to and from the NC State Ports as well as future Wilmington-Raleigh passenger service via Fayetteville.

Bill Cole reported on Arrival Boards for Charlotte and Raleigh and said the DOT is waiting for an Amtrak ‘yes.” He said that the Santa trains had served 350 riders and that they would be continued into one day this coming year on December 1.

In South Carolina news, Myrtle Beach wants to implement a three mile street car service that would cover the government center, the newly renovated passenger station downtown and Broadway at the Beach. $65 to 70 million dollars would be needed for this project. The city of Charleston has acquired rights to the old Southern right of way which could lead to a west side multi-modal center tying in with the historic district.

Ed Locklin reported that On Time Performance for the Crescent had improved. Discussion disclosed that refueling coordination in the Charlotte area had been adversely affecting the OTP.

Chris Lainis reported that eight light rail cars have been received for Charlotte light rail corridor use and that two more were expected this month.

Martin Wheeler reviewed the master plan for incorporating all rail and bus corridors into the Multi-Modal Transportation Center in downtown Charlotte. He said that a scheduled decision time for selection of the SE corridor mode has been pushed back five years, but that right of way acquisition would continue during that time. He reported on a light rail symposium in Richmond hosted by Virginia Association of Rail Patrons (VARP) and others. This included remarks by Jeff Booth, FTA New Starts Program funding, and a discussion of fossil fuel use. Rick Gustafson reported on the Portland Street Car success. Since the 2001start up of the 2.4 mile system, costing $56 million, there has been an increase of 30,000 new residents living downtown. Over $2 billion of private investment has been recorded around the line. Martin noted light rail projects pending or planned for Virginia communities including 1.4 miles in Roanoke, Arlington area plans and a 7.5 mile system from the Norfolk Hampton Roads area to Virginia Beach. This would cost $231.2 million and could begin late 2009. He also included a 2003 Richmond area study and a street car system in Charlottesville between the University of Virginia and downtown.

It was agreed to plan the February meeting after Dan’s contact with Mr. Korschun.

Dan Smith