All Aboard Florida Martin County would rearrange emergency service to mitigate All Aboard Florida dangers

The Martin County Sheriff’s Office likely would rearrange its zones of service to provide lifesaving services on both sides of the railroad tracks should All Aboard Florida begin Brightline passenger rail service through the Treasure Coast.

Sheriff William Snyder has long decried the dangers posed by increased rail traffic, and, in particular, the possibility that first responders could be delayed trying to reach scenes or hospitals.

“It’s not so much that people are afraid they’re going to get hit by trains — people know if you stop at the train bars you’ll be OK — but people want reassurance they’re not going to be cut off when seconds matter,” Snyder said. “A fire, a child being abducted from a school, a heart attack. You can just go down the list.”

All Aboard Florida officials on Tuesday said improved track infrastructure would mitigate delays caused by Brightline.

The company pointed to a rail-traffic study, commissioned last year by Indian River County, that indicates delays caused by Brightline could be shorter than they currently are with only freight-train traffic along the corridor.

For Snyder, the St. Lucie River train bridge is of particular concern.

Together, Brightline and freight trains from Florida East Coast Railway — the sister companies would share the existing tracks — could force up to 50 daily closures of the 75-year-old drawbridge. It takes about 20 minutes to open and close the bridge, and most boats cannot pass under the low-clearance bridge when it’s closed, according to Martin County.

“All of the waterways we patrol could be cut off. I have to be very cognizant of that and keep a boat west at all times,” Snyder said.

For the time being, however, the Sheriff’s Office is monitoring All Aboard Florida’s progress, not taking action.

“My sense is that the rail is not imminent right now. If it does become imminent, then we will start addressing the concerns,” Snyder said.

Last year, Snyder and sheriffs Ken Mascara, St. Lucie County, and Deryl Loar, Indian River County, released an open letter warning the public of All Aboard Florida’s potential dangers.

Construction of the $3.1 billion passenger railroad already has begun between Miami and West Palm Beach. Passenger service there is to begin in early 2017, with full service — through the Treasure Coast and on to Orlando International Airport — beginning in late 2017.


FRA gives green light for rebuild of Baltimore/Washington airport’s rail station

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today signaled its approval for a proposed new rail station at the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), after the agency issued a “finding of no significant impact” in its environmental assessment of the project.

The finding allows Maryland to secure funds for the station’s final design and construction. The project includes adding a fourth track to 9 miles of the Northeast Corridor surrounding BWI and reconfiguring platforms to allow boarding from all four tracks, according to an FRA press release.

Amtrak and Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) trains provide passenger-rail service at the station, where ridership by daily commuters and airline passengers has been increasing. Amtrak considers the station its 13th busiest in the nation.

The U.S. Department of Transportation projects a population growth of 70 million more Americans over the next 30 years. The Northeast megaregion, which includes Baltimore, is projected to add 18.4 million people over that time period.

“The current rail station and infrastructure at BWI was built more than 30 years ago and does not support today’s needs or the region’s expected growth,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The completion of the environmental review for this project brings BWI one step closer to a safer rail station, reduced rail congestion, and increased reliability.”

Currently, only three tracks exist between the Grove Interlocking to the south near Odenton, Md., and the Winans Interlocking to the north near Halethorpe, Md. Adding a fourth track would increase rail capacity and reliability, FRA officials said.

“A new BWI rail station will allow both airline and rail passengers to get to their destinations safely, reliably and efficiently,” said FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg. “Today’s announcement is a significant step toward achieving that goal.”

In fiscal-year 2010, the FRA awarded a  $9.4 million High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail grant funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to the Maryland Department of Transportation to pay for the environmental analysis and conduct preliminary engineering work.

Funding for final design and construction has not yet been identified.

Comets 2 @ Phantoms 1

Backed by goals from Alexandre Grenier and Jordan Subban, the Utica Comets defeated the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for the third time this season with a 2-1 win at the PPL Center on Saturday night.

Joe Cannata made 20 saves in the win, while Alexandre Grenier (1-0-1), and Jordan Subban (1-0-1) accounted for all the scoring.

After a scoreless first period the Comets wasted little time in the second period to get on the board. Just 2:28 into the middle frame Ronalds Kenins received a pass as he stepped out of the penalty box, which sprung the boys in blue on a three-on-one odd man rush. After gaining the zone, the former Latvian Olympian slipped a pass through the defender and over to Grenier who one-timed a shot past Stolarz for his ninth goal of the season. With the assist, Kenins now has a point in four straight games, and 10 points (1-9-10) in the team’s last eight games.

For 40 minutes and 33 seconds the Comets kept the Phantoms off the scoreboard entirely. That changed about halfway through the third period when Phil DeSimone one-timed a shot over the glove of Cannata to knot the game at 1-1.

The Comets restored the lead a little over eight minutes later when Jordan Subban came up clutch with a rocket of a slap shot from the point to beat Stolarz. The goal was his ninth of the season, and was assisted by Brandon Prust and Andrey Pedan.

The Comets improve to 27-18-5-3 on the season, and 69-0-4-0 all-time when leading after two periods.

The Comets wrap up their three-in-three weekend in Chocolatetown, USA against the Hershey Bears tomorrow evening. Puck drop is scheduled for 5pm from the GIANT Center in Hershey, PA.

Bernie Sanders and the Congress of Racial Equality, Chicago 1961-63

“We feel it is an intolerable situation, when Negro and white students of the university cannot live together in university-owned apartments. – Bernie Sanders, January 1962.”


ernie Sanders was in his first year at the University of Chicago, 20 and with a thick New York accent, when he took to the steps of the administration building to rail against a university policy of racially segregated housing.

“We feel it is an intolerable situation, when Negro and white students of the university cannot live together in university-owned apartments,” Sanders told a crowd of about 200 students that afternoon in January 1962. Then he and a few dozen students headed to the fifth floor, where they began a 15-day sit-in outside the university president’s office, passing their time reading and eating dinners of donated cheese and salami sandwiches.

As Sanders and fellow Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton jockey for support from black and Latino voters ahead of Saturday’s South Carolina primary, much of the debate has centered around which candidate has a stronger record of fighting for minorities. The issue could be especially important in South Carolina, where black voters form a majority of the Democratic electorate. In their last primary contest, in Nevada, a large majority of blacks supported Clinton amid questions about Sanders’ early commitment to civil rights.

As a U.S. senator from Vermont, which has a tiny black population, Sanders has faced skepticism from black voters about his longstanding involvement in race relations. Earlier in the primary he tangled with Black Lives Matters protesters, who complained at the time that his message of addressing economic inequality would not always serve as an antidote to systemic racism.

But it’s clear Sanders was at least a local civil rights leader, taking action on campus and in Chicago neighborhoods at a time when such activities were primarily happening in the South, according to an Associated Press review of contemporaneous news coverage and interviews with former classmates of Sanders.

They recall a student who was serious-minded about politics, if not his studies, and inclined toward long discussions of public policy. He once wrote more than 1,500 words critical of campus rules forbidding students from having sex that filled a full page of the school newspaper.

He became active in the campus chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality after arriving in Chicago in the fall of 1961 and before the academic year ended was voted the group’s chairman. In 1963, two weeks before Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on Washington, Sanders was arrested at a demonstration against segregation in Chicago schools.

A Chicago Tribune archival photo of Bernie Sanders, then a University of Chicago student, being arrested in 1963 at a South Side racial discrimination protest. (photo: Chicago Tribune)

A Chicago Tribune archival photo of Bernie Sanders, then a University of Chicago student, being arrested in
1963 at a South Side racial discrimination protest. (photo: Chicago Tribune)

“As far as whites go, he was in the top 1/1000th of 1 percent of people who acted, took it seriously and were willing to put themselves on the line,” said Mike Parker, a former classmate who was arrested with Sanders and about 150 other protesters that day. Parker was released; Sanders and three others — described by prosecutors as having “engineered” the protests — were later fined $25 each, according to a 1964 Chicago Tribune article.

“It was just the beginning of the civil rights movement, and there were very few whites willing to stand up and take a chance, not only to speak of politics but to get arrested for it,” added Parker, now 75 and an activist in California. “He was one of the few.”

This photo of Bernie Sanders under arrest was taken taken in August 1963 near South 73rd Street and Lowe Avenue, in Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. (photo: Chicago Tribune)

This photo of Bernie Sanders under arrest was taken taken in August 1963 near South 73rd Street and
Lowe Avenue, in Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. (photo: Chicago Tribune)

Clinton took the stage in Chicago earlier this month with the mother of Sandra Bland, a black woman found dead in a Texas jail cell. Erica Garner, whose father, Eric Garner, died after police put him in a chokehold, is featured in a pro-Sanders campaign ad and stumped with him in South Carolina.

Sanders’ campaign has highlighted his civil rights activism in ads in South Carolina, just as Clinton’s campaign has highlighted her own record on the issue. Through Monday, at least one in five of Sanders’ television ads there featured a direct reference to his civil rights work or his stances on racial issues, according to data from Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group.

One features Benjamin Jealous, a former NAACP president, comparing Sanders’ work with his own parents’ activism. Sanders is someone who “came up in the Congress of Racial Equality,” Jealous says. Another ad quotes Martin Luther King Jr. and says, “Bernie Sanders. He was there when Doctor King marched on Washington.”

Scrutiny of Sanders also has increased.

Civil rights icon John Lewis, backing Clinton, appeared to question Sanders’ role, saying recently, “I never saw him.” The Georgia congressman later clarified his comments, saying he didn’t intend to doubt Sanders’ participation.

Another flap involved a photograph from the University of Chicago archive used by the Sanders campaign. The photographer, Danny Lyon, said it showed a young Sanders speaking during the 1962 sit-in. But other former classmates said the lanky guy holding court in the hallway was actually another student. That prompted criticism from some who accused Sanders of exaggerating his involvement.

Photographer Danny Lyon identifies the figure standing and speaking as Bernie Sanders. Others dispute it. Everyone agrees Sanders was there and a principal organizer of civil rights demonstrations at the University of Chicago. (photo: Danny Lyon)

Photographer Danny Lyon identifies the figure standing and speaking as Bernie Sanders.
Others dispute it. Everyone agrees Sanders was there and a principal organizer of civil rights
demonstrations at the University of Chicago. (photo: Danny Lyon)

Even classmates who don’t believe Sanders was in the photo, however, said there’s no doubt he was helping lead the event and was a fixture on campus. Bruce Stark, who was treasurer of CORE and participated in the sit-in, said his most lasting impression of Sanders was how much older he seemed.

“He never smiled,” Stark said. “He was absolutely earnest and absolutely sincere — just the way he comes across on TV.”

Sara Burnett, Associated Press

MTA pushes to finish 2nd Avenue subway by year’s end

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has decided to come up with an extra $66 million in its push to get the first phase of the Second Avenue subway opened and running on schedule by the end of this year.

The extra millions will provide longer and additional work shifts for construction workers and come from a contingency fund, which will still contain around $50 million , according to an MTA paper. The MTA Transit and Bus Committee approved the money at a meeting Monday and it was scheduled to go before the agency’s board later in the week.

“With every day’s work on the Second Avenue subway the MTA gets closer to fulfilling a promise made to New Yorkers in 1929,” said MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast. “Opening the Second Avenue subway will provide new options for our customers and relieve congestion on Lexington Avenue 4, 5 and 6 trains.”

The MTA memorandum continued: “With this enormous challenge in mind and the understanding that there needs to be a massive mobilization of employee crews and equipment over a relatively short period of time, it is financially and operationally crucial that the system be ready as planned.”

The $4.4 billion project, construction on which began in 2007, will result in the Q line running to the 63rd Street station on the Lexington line and stations at 72nd Street, 86th Street and 96th Street.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), long a strong supporter of the Second Avenue subway, said the extra money was good news.

“This project is incredibly important to New Yorkers as the Lexington Avenue line is currently the most congested in the nation and is in desperate need of relief. I am very much looking forward to my first ride come December 2016.”

Maloney, who has been an advocate of the new subway for 20 years, has long warned that such projects as the Second Avenue subway become vastly more expensive as they are delayed.

The Second Avenue subway is a critical part of the East Side Access plan, which will bring Long Island Rail Road riders into Grand Central. The Second Avenue subway will eventually reach Grand Central and siphon off straphangers to make room for the LIRR commuters as they travel to destinations on the East Side and elsewhere.

For New York New Jersey Rail, new KLW power

New York New Jersey Rail, LLC (NYNJR), a rail-barge short line wholly owned by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, has taken delivery on three new ultra-low-emissions SE10B diesel-electric switcher locomotives from Knoxville Locomotive Works (KLW). The contract, valued at $5.25 million, marks the first collaboration between the Port Authority and KLW.

Design, engineering and production of these 1,050-hp, single-engine locomotives originated in KLW’s manufacturing facilities in Knoxville, Tenn. They’re equipped with drive train systems patented by KLW and MTU. KLW describes them as “designed to reduce locomotive emissions and to mitigate fuel waste. These benefits are achieved without compromising reliability performance or power degradation through the deployment of enhanced electronic control systems and improved tractive effort capabilities.”

NYNJR is operating its SE10Bs at its terminals in Jersey City, N.J. and Brooklyn, N.Y., primarily for positioning railcars for cross-harbor freight operations. KLW says the locomotives, compared to the units they are replacing, will reduce emissions levels and fuel consumption by more than 90% and 60%, respectively, and significantly reduce engine noise levels.

“For Knoxville Locomotive Works, this venture underscores our long-term commitment to deliver advanced technology locomotive power to the North American and international rail markets,” said KLW Chairman Pete Claussen. “It is gratifying we can do this with a localized Tennessee work force and with a predominance of U.S. manufactured assemblies and components.”

“Our customers have consistently told us that two of the most significant challenges they currently face are increasingly stringent emissions standards and increasing fuel costs,” said MTU America Inc. Director of Industrial Sales Scott Woodruff. “Knoxville Locomotive Works has been on the leading edge of designing the best locomotive solutions to meet those challenges, and MTU is committed to helping locomotive builders like KLW deliver the cleanest, most efficient new products to their customers.”

Here’s Why Bill Gates Used to Memorize Employee License Plates

It sounds a bit controlling, but for any entrepreneur, it makes perfect sense.

At just 23 years old in 1979, Bill Gates was in charge of one of the most well-known software companies in the world. Microsoft had revenues around $2.5M per year in 1979. They employed a small, highly motivated team.

Well, most of them were highly motivated.

As Gates explained in an interview with the BBC recently, he used to memorize the license plates of his employees to know when they were arriving and when they were leaving for the day. Let’s just say he wanted to know who was committed.

As anyone who has started a company knows, when you smell an opportunity, you get a little transfixed by it. You can barely think of anything else. Microsoft would eventually build the original version of DOS and then the first version of Windows, which sold 14 million copies in its first year, according to the BBC interview.

In 1979, the opportunities to build something amazing for the business world had never quite existed before… and would never exist again.

Apple was just getting started — they incorporated in 1976 — and IBM would introduce the first personal computer in 1981. You could argue that mobile app development had similar opportunities with the launch of the iPhone and Android, but the tech market was firmly established. In many ways, mobile devices are another offshoot from the original vision Microsoft established: operating system and apps.

“I was quite fanatical about work,” Gates said in the interview. “I worked weekends, and I didn’t really believe in vacations. I had to be a little careful not to apply my standards to how hard they worked.”

I’m pretty sure I know the reason he pushed them. Gates wanted people to be as invested as he was. I imagine he had to practically beg them to stay at work and keep cranking out the code, knowing full well that the window of opportunity (excuse the pun) would exist only for a short period of time. He knew, once the window closed, another company might sweep in and steal away first-time customers.

Gates explained that he was always aggressive but never ruthless. He might have been a bit controlling, and admitted in the interview that it was probably a bit ridiculous that he was tracking employee activities (he stopped doing it as soon as the company started getting bigger), but I understand his motivation. He was hungry. He wanted everyone else to be just as hungry.

There’s nothing quite like a first-time customer for a first-time product in a product segment that has never existed before. There have been only a few over the past 40 years. Dyson made the first bagless vacuum; now you can barely find models that use a bag. Tesla made the first high-mileage electric car (the Model S goes 300 miles); now Ford and Chevy are scrambling to make a budget car that has a similar range. Uber and Airbnb invented the sharing economy, and now boast a valuation that matches up nicely with their originals visions.

The question is: What industry is next? How do you find an opportunity that is so ripe and ready for plunder that you start memorizing employee license plates? Have you found the next Microsoft-size opportunity?

CP cites growing shipper support for NS merger deal, while UPS and TTD voice objections

Canadian Pacific has received more than 80 letters from shippers in support of its proposed takeover of Norfolk Southern Corp., CP announced yesterday.

Sixty-two of the letters have been posted on the Surface Transportation Board (STB) website. The total number of letters to shippers in support of the proposed merger is now more than three for every one shipper letter in opposition, CP officials said in a prepared statement.

CP, which has made three offers to acquire NS, argues the merger would produce options for rerouting traffic around Chicago and other areas of congestion, create new and more efficient routes for rail shipments and allow the merged company to provide end-to-end service to shippers of all sizes across North America. NS has rejected all the offers.

“Change is necessary to support continued economic growth, and continued growth in the U.S. economy is dependent on North American rail service meeting current and future demand,” said CP President and Chief Operating Officer Keith Creel in the statement. “Without the ability to add infrastructure or build more track, options to increase capacity are becoming limited.”

While many shippers have indicated support for CP’s proposal, UPS — the Class Is’ largest intermodal shipper — told the STB in a Feb. 9 letter that it does not believe a CP takeover of NS would benefit intermodal shippers.

“UPS is concerned that this combination would lead to diminished rail intermodal service levels and increased costs for all segments of rail customers,” the UPS letter states. “In addition, UPS is concerned about potential industry consolidation as a reaction to an NS-CP merger, which would only further negatively impact freight-rail shippers.”

Meanwhile, another major party recently weighed in on the merger plan: the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO. In a policy statement posted Feb. 21 on the TTD website, the labor group expressed “grave concerns” about the “final round of consolidation” the merger would have on the industry by “further reducing jobs, safety and service.”

Having lived through the “mega-mergers during the 1980s and 1990s that have left this country with only seven Class I freight railroads, transportation labor understands … the devastating impact these transactions can have on jobs, freight service and safety,” the statement reads.

TTD called on STB, regulators and legislators “to use their review and oversight authorities to carefully monitor CP’s actions and reject merger schemes that harm the economy and the public interest.”