Happening Now

Hotline #700

December 20, 1991

Amtrak train 87, the southbound Tampa section of the Silver Meteor, derailed at Palatka, Fla., the morning of December 17. The train derailed approaching the station, on a 30-mph curve, but at a speed of 72 mph. Investigators are still examining the evidence. Amtrak said that 39 of the 173 passengers on board were sent to three area hospitals, four of them having serious injuries. Five were still in the hospital today.

The locomotive derailed and tipped over; a mail car, baggage car, sleeper, lounge, and two coaches derailed, but remained upright in a jack-knife position. The rear two coaches did not derail at all. The locomotive struck and destroyed one house and two of the cars did heavy damage to a second house when they jack-knifed. CSX reopened the line the afternoon of December 18. Emergency response appeared to be quick, given that the rescue squad is located one block from the derailment site. One of the injured passengers was Kitty James, the wife of Rep. Craig T. James (R.-Fla.), of the Palatka area. Mrs. James was treated for a broken rib and released from the hospital.

President Bush signed the surface transportation act on December 18 at a ceremony at a highway construction site near Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. As expected, the President emphasized the jobs aspect of a bill his Administration once opposed.

Albany line through-ticketing to Grand Central may come with the April timetable change. A plan to provide joint ticketing between Amtrak and Metro-North has been in the works since well before Amtrak's move to Penn Station in April, but has met with very slow progress. The plan could become the model for a much larger program that could make region-wide rail trips over several railroads much easier. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which has oversight over Metro-North, was expected to approve the Albany line plan in a meeting today.

The Trump Shuttle, one of Amtrak's competitors in the Northeast, has been struggling and may soon be converted to the USAir Shuttle.

There are reports from Missouri that it is quite likely that state's 403(b) funding will not be renewed beyond June due to a budget crisis. There is no indication that Amtrak would run the Ann Rutledge or the Mule between Kansas City and St. Louis without such funding.

A regional committee charged with selecting a site for a third Chicago airport has adjourned for the year without reaching a decision, according to the Journal of Commerce. Last week, Harriet Parcells of NARP and NARP board member Ron Boardman were part of a panel on rail alternatives to the new airport at a conference in Chicago sponsored by the Center for Neighborhood Technology.

It now looks like VIA Rail will issue a new timetable on January 19. It will include an additional frequency on each side of the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal triangle.

Washington Metro's Green Line extension to Waterfront, Navy Yard, and Anacostia Stations, all in the District of Columbia, is about to open. Rides will be offered to the Anacostia community at 11:00 am tomorrow and a formal, public ceremony will be held at 11:00 am on December 28 at Anacostia. Regular service begins December 28.

The Miami Valley Regional Transit Authority in Dayton, O., has reversed a 1998 decision to eliminate its electric trolley bus system, partly because the diesel buses that would have replaced them would have made the air too dirty. Trackless trolleys still operate over 120 route-miles in Dayton.

Bombardier has been selected to purchase UTDC, an Ontario-based builder of transit equipment. UTDC is also the contractor for the Tri-Rail commuter service in Miami.

Speculation still mounts as to who will replace Sam Skinner as DOT Secretary, but it looks like Deputy Secretary James Busey will be acting secretary for awhile. Among the new names circulating this week is Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt (R.-Ark.), who is ranking member of the House Public Works Committee, part of the committee leadership that jettisoned the Amtrak language from the surface transportation bill. Also mentioned are Federal Railroad Administrator Gil Carmichael, who has wide political experience, and Philadelphia lawyer David Gerard-di Carlo, who is a member of the Amtrak board and former chairman of SEPTA.