In Kansas, Conservatives Vilify Fellow Republicans - 8/5/2012
Marysville designated a Train Town - 7/3/2012
Class-Action Status Granted in Fuel-Surcharge Case against Railroads - 6/21/2012
Senate GOP map negotiations implode - 5/15/2012
Amtrak says it needs more funding to avoid re-routing Southwest Chief - 4/11/2012
Union Pacific Railroad Invests $14.4 Million for Kansas Infrastructure Improvements - 4/11/2012
Kansas City Southern initiates quarterly dividend - 4/2/2012
Train Derails on a Spur of the Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad in McPherson, KS - 2/24/2012
Democrats: Focus on jobs - 12/20/2011
Massive Union Pacific Train Derailment in Topeka, KS - 11/17/2011
Wisconsin recall expected to start - 11/13/2011
Ohio Repeals Union Law in Vote That Sets Stage for 2012 Election - 11/8/2011
BNSF UTU member killed in yard accident - 8/16/2011
FRA’s final HOS rules for passenger, commuter service - 8/15/2011
Futhey re-elected; vote a SMWIA ‘repudiation’ - 8/8/2011
UTU to congressional audience: ‘HSR is jobs machine’ - 8/4/2011
House T&I chair continues to twist labor’s tail - 7/20/2011
NTSB: Latest safety recommendations - 6/28/2011
Freight Railroads Reach Five-Year Deal With Largest Union - 5/2/2011

The seven largest U.S. freight railroads and the United Transportation Union, the largest railroad workers union, said they reached a tentative five-year agreement covering wages, benefits and working conditions.

The terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed because it has yet to be ratified by the union’s 38,000 members, according to a statement today on the UTU Web site.

The National Carriers Conference Committee acted as the railroads’ bargaining agent. It represented Warren Buffett’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe, based in Fort Worth, Texas; Norfolk Southern Corp. (NSC), based in Norfolk, Virginia; CSX Corp. (CSX), based in Jacksonville, Florida; and Union Pacific Corp. (UNP), based in Omaha, Nebraska.

The union is expected to present the agreement to its leadership later this month, Frank Wilner, a spokesman for the group, said in an e-mail. Union leaders will then have 15 days to submit questions, and the questions and answers will be provided to all members prior to a ratification vote, according to the statement.

Other rail labor organizations, bargaining as part of two other coalitions, are in their second year of negotiations with the railroads. They include the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, according to a statement on the latter group’s Web site.

House seeks to limit union PACs - 2/23/2011

The House moved Wednesday to make it illegal for Kansas union organizations to accept voluntary deductions from employee paychecks to finance political activities.  FILE PHOTO/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL

The House moved Wednesday to make it illegal for Kansas union organizations to accept voluntary deductions from employee paychecks to finance political activities.

The House moved Wednesday to make it illegal for Kansas union organizations to accept voluntary deductions from employee paychecks to finance political activities.

Republicans argued it should be unlawful for any political action committee tied to labor organizations, professional employee groups or public employee organizations to accept direct deposits because some members might not fully appreciate work of the affiliated PACs.

"They can't do it automatically, but they could still do it," said Rep. Rick Billinger, R-Goodland.

The measure doesn't inhibit automatic withdrawal of union dues.

However, Democrats denounced the House bill as an overt attack on people harboring political beliefs not cherished by the conservative majority in the House.

Rep. Mike Slattery, D-Mission, said the bill belied the GOP's refrain about limiting government intrusion into private affairs of Kansans.

"What this bill does is eliminate individual freedom," Slattery said. "This is a nice attempt to try to stick it to unions. It is bad public policy."

Rep. Stan Frownfelter, D-Kansas City, echoed that thought: "Let's be consistent when we walk to the floor."

Lisa Ochs, president of the American Federation of Teachers-Kansas, said the House bill was "nothing short of an attempt to silence working people in Kansas."

However, Billinger and several House Republicans insisted the bill would help union members break free from pressure to make contributions to labor PACs.

"They should have a choice," Billinger said.

The House rejected 33-82 a motion to refer the bill to a House committee, a move that might have ended consideration of the policy shift during the 2011 legislative session.

House members followed by voting 80-36 to set House Bill 2130 for final action, which could happen Wednesday or Thursday. If approved, the bill would go to the Senate.

Lisa Ochs, president of the American Federation of Teachers-Kansas, said the House bill was "nothing short of an attempt to silence working people in Kansas."

Ochs, of the AFT-Kansas affiliated with the AFL-CIO, said Kansas employers were prohibited from forcing a worker to join a union or contribute to a union's political activities.

"Current law requires that monies raised for political activity must be voluntary and at no time can union dues be used in political activities," she said. "The minority of workers who disagree with union political activities can choose not to belong to the union."

However, she said, Kansas corporations don’t give shareholders, employees or customers any say in political activities.

"This legislation is inherently unfair," Ochs said. "If unions must refrain from engaging in political activity, corporations and other membership groups should also be prohibited from engaging in political activity."

Obama to call for $53B for high-speed rail - 2/8/2011
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is calling for a six-year, $53 billion spending plan for high-speed rail, as he seeks to use infrastructure spending to jumpstart job creation.

An initial $8 billion in spending will be part of the budget plan Obama is set to release Monday. If Congress approves the plan, the money would go toward developing or improving trains that travel up to 250 miles per hour, and connecting existing rail lines to new projects. The White House wouldn't say where the money for the rest of the program would come from, though it's likely Obama would seek funding in future budgets or transportation bills.

Obama's push for high-speed rail spending is part of his broad goal of creating jobs in the short-term and increasing American competitiveness for the future through new spending on infrastructure, education and innovation. During last month's State of the Union address, Obama said he wanted to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years.

At the same time he's calling for new spending on sectors like high-speed rail in the upcoming budget, Obama also has pledged to cut overall spending as he seeks to bring down the nation's mounting deficit. The White House has said environmental programs for the Great Lakes, and block grants for community service and community development are among the programs that will face cuts.

But it's unlikely the cuts Obama proposes in the budget will be enough to appease the GOP. Republicans now controlling the House have promised to slash domestic agencies' budgets by nearly 20 percent for the coming year.

The White House has said cuts must be cautious, arguing that drastic reductions in spending could cause the still-fragile economic recovery to stall. Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday the administration wouldn't compromise when it comes to spending on the infrastructure, education and innovation programs Obama is touting.

"We cannot compromise. The rest of the world is not compromising," Biden said in Philadelphia at an event announcing the high-speed rail initiative.

Obama's call for increased spending on high-speed rail projects is nothing new. He's long seen the sector as an area of opportunity for creating jobs and improving the nation's transportation system. His administration awarded $10 billion in federal grants for high-speed rail projects last year, including $2.3 billion for California to begin work on an 800-mile-long, high-speed rail line tying Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area to Los Angeles and San Diego; and $1.25 billion to Florida to build a rail line connecting Tampa on the West Coast with Orlando in the middle of the state, eventually going south to Miami.

Some Republicans have been critical of Obama's plans to expand high-speed rail across the country. House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., has urged the administration to focus its spending on the crowded Northeast rail corridor.

"Rather than focusing on the Northeast corridor, the most congested corridor in the nation and the only corridor owned by the federal government, the administration continues to squander limited taxpayer dollars on marginal projects," Mica said Tuesday in a statement.

Amtrak already operates Acela service between Boston and Washington that briefly reaches speeds over 110 mph — generally considered the threshold for high speed — but the trains are forced to travel slower most of the time because they make frequent stops and because they share tracks with slower freight trains.

Last summer, Obama laid out a plan to invest $50 billion in highways, bridges, transit, high-speed rail and airports, adding it to the first year of a six-year transportation bill. Congress didn't act on the proposal before adjourning last year, but LaHood has said he hopes to have a bill on Obama's desk by August.


Associated Press Writer Joan Lowy contributed to this report.


Rail advocates reaching out to legislators - 2/7/2011

The Northern Flyer Alliance and United Transportation Union on Monday will host the first meeting of the Kansas Passenger Rail Caucus.

The meeting starts at 5 p.m. in Topeka.

The purpose of the meeting, according to a news release from NFA, is to keep legislators and the public updated on the groups’ efforts to connect passenger rail travel between Kansas City and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Expanding Amtrak’s existing Southwest Chief and Heartland Flyer routes would bring a passenger rail line to Wichita and, advocates say, connect and important Midwest corridor.

It’s a plan that’s gained some momentum in the past year as study from Amtrak showed Midwest ridership was on the rise. Another study about the Heartland Flyer from Texas A&M University showed a 4.5 to 1 return on investment.

Passenger rail service in Kansas already has been on legislators’ radar screens.

Former Gov. Mark Parkinson signed bills this past year designed to help promote passenger rail service in Kansas and aid in the expansion.

Gov. Sam Brownback, however, has not shown as much support for passenger rail travel, as outlined in this letter to the NFA in which he emphasized that Kansans typically rely on the state highway system for their transportation needs.

For its part, the NFA is continuing to promote project and its economic benefits to a variety of groups.

Upcoming presentations include stops at the Sierra Club in Wichita on Feb. 11; American Association of University Women in Wichita on Feb. 12; and Project Beauty in Wichita on Feb. 17.

Wichita Business Journal - by Daniel McCoy

Read more: Rail advocates reaching out to legislators | Wichita Business Journal
Group Supports Expanded Rail Service - 2/7/2011

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - On Monday, Northern Flyer Alliance (NFA) and United Transportation Union hosted the first meeting of the Kansas Passenger Rail Caucus at the Topeka Amtrak Station, 500 SE Holliday in Topeka.

This initial meeting was the latest step in expanding passenger rail along the Northern Flyer Route from Fort Worth to Kansas City through Oklahoma City and Wichita.

The creation of a Passenger Rail Caucus gives legislators who are interested in reinstating service from Kansas City to Dallas as well as those interested in maintaining and supporting improved tracks for the Southwest Chief through western Kansas an opportunity to stay informed about the issue and participate in developing an action plan. Organizers and supporters say plans for expansion make good economic sense, and interest continues to grow among lawmakers, municipalities, individuals and businesses.

"There are many reasons why passenger rail makes sense, not the least of which is a 4.5 to 1 return on investment (ROI) in terms of economic impact,” says Deborah Fischer-Stout, president of Northern Flyer Alliance. “According to Texas A&M University’s Heartland Flyer Study, this occurs through job creation and the economic multiplier effect that occurs in the communities that benefit from having a stop.”

In the past month, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer reaffirmed that city's support for passenger rail, and several legislators have already committed to join the Rail Caucus.

Fischer-Stout and NFA Vice President Mark Corriston have been traveling through areas affected by the expansion, giving presentations about why it makes sense to support passenger rail. Upcoming presentations include the following:
February 11 - Sierra Club, Wichita, Kan.
February 12 - American Association of University Women, Wichita, Kan.
February 17 - Project Beauty, Wichita, Kan.
February 28 - Ponca City Rotary, Ponca City, Okla.
March 8 - Sherman Rotary, Sherman, Tex.

For a presentation, contact Deborah Fischer-Stout at (316) 734-8301 or Mark Corriston at (913) 406-0827

For more information, visit or go to Facebook and look for “northern flyer alliance.”

The Northern Flyer Alliance is a group of 49 cities, six counties and 19 chambers of commerce along the I-35 corridor stretching from Kansas City to Fort Worth that have joined together to promote the reintroduction of passenger rail in their communities and the tri-state region that includes Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Including civic organizations, a total of 88 resolutions in favor of this initiative have been collected and most are available to view at the NFA Web site.

An Amtrak study presented in spring 2010 outlined four options for expanded service: Nighttime service between Fort Worth and Newton; Nighttime service between Fort Worth and Kansas; Daytime service between Fort Worth and Kansas City; and Daytime service between Oklahoma City and Kansas City. The study said infrastructure costs to make the routes possible would range from $154 million to $476 million. Each also would require the state of Kansas to kick in up to $8 million a year in operating costs.


News regarding passenger rail expansion in the tri-state area continues to flood our offices. While the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) continues studying passenger rail service along the 606 mile Kansas City – Oklahoma City – Fort Worth corridor, federal funding is rapidly evaporating. Congress is considering even the elimination of the High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program due to budget tightening. In contrast ODOT is working fast/simultaneously to produce a NEPA and SDP for a 150 mph High Speed Rail route connecting Tulsa - Oklahoma City. ODOT received a HSIPR grant in October 2010 to begin these studies.

Meanwhile, an Oklahoma State Representative is proposing an innovative funding plan for a conventional OKC - Tulsa route through HB1686. This route would be a complementary 'local' addition to ODOT's 'express' High Speed Rail proposal between OKC - Tulsa. State Representative Richard Morrissette has introduced the Eastern Flyer Passenger Rail Development Task Force Act (HB1686). This innovative bill would create a task force, seeking funding sources outside of simple federal funding through a Public Private Partnership.

Back in Kansas, KDOT continues refusing to begin a required HSIPR environmental (NEPA) impact study, claiming that the results of an ongoing Service Development Plan (SDP), due this fall, must be complete and considered before proceeding. Representatives from the three state region (KS, OK, TX) will be asked to consider all options and approve the NEPA study process before KDOT will take further action.

KDOT officials claim, because they are studying two possible alternatives (1 and 3 as shown below), it would be premature and costly to begin any NEPA study work. This is despite the fact that the infrastructure between Newton, KS and Fort Worth would be used for both alternatives under study. considers this a delay tactic and recommends implementation of a two phase NEPA study process for the Kansas City - Oklahoma City - Fort Worth corridor. KDOT should begin immediately producing a Phase I, Fort Worth - Newton NEPA followed by a Phase II Newton - Kansas City NEPA if the three states decide a full Kansas City - Fort Worth route should be implemented.

Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas stand to lose nearly a half-billion dollars in federal grants if KDOT does not expedite SDP and NEPA study activity. Kansas citizens are urgently encouraged to express their concerns to Governor Brownback, state legislators, and Deb Miller, Kansas Secretary of Transportation. Contact information follows:

Governor Brownback

Deb Miller

Kansas Legislative Hotline/ House and Senate

Kansas Rail Caucus Meeting Hosted by UTU KSLB - 1/27/2011

January 19, 2011

Monday January 31, 2011

Program to be held at:

Topeka Amtrak Station

500 SE Holliday Place



RSVP Please

Contact Matt Zimmerman,



Heartland Flyer


Hosted by the Northern Flyer Alliance , Inc.

And the United Transportation Union


Northern Flyer Alliance


UTU logo

Why You Should Attend

The creation of a Passenger Rail Caucus will give

Legislators who are interested in reinstating service from Kansas City to Dallas as well as those interested in maintaining and supporting improved tracks for the Southwest Chief through western Kansas an opportunity to stay informed about the issue and participate in developing an action plan. 


Please join us January 31st at the

Topeka Amtrak Station

500 SE Holliday Place

Topeka, KS



Benefits of Passenger Rail

  • Job Creation
  • Business & Agri-Business Productivity Gains
  • Highway Maintenance Savings
  • Life & Limb Savings
  • Economic Development: 3.2 to 1 ROI


KU ROI Study


Issue: 1

Rail Caucus Announcement

NFA Route MAp
In This Issue
Rail Caucus Sponsors
Why You Should Attend
OK may be expanding passenger rail service!






By D. Ray Tuttle

The Journal Record

Posted: 08:13 PM Friday, January 14, 2011


TULSA - There will be a push in the state Legislature this session to create passenger train service between Tulsa and Oklahoma City.


State Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, said Friday he will file a bill in the state House of Representatives on Thursday, creating a task force to study the issue and draw up a plan to create a public-private partnership that would operate the rail line.


"We all know as we enter the 21st century, connecting Tulsa to Oklahoma City via a passenger rail line is a no-brainer," Morrissette said.


Morrissette spoke Friday during a meeting at the Tulsa City Hall between city and legislative leaders, led by Evan Stair, executive director of Passenger Rail Oklahoma.


The line would be an economic development tool for the state's two largest cities and all the communities between them that would be able to take advantage of passenger rail service, Stair said.


It is estimated it would cost $26 million to upgrade the rail line for passenger service, Stair said. Once running, it is estimated the upkeep would be between $1 million to $2 million annually. The Heartland Flyer, which runs 200 miles from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, costs $2 million annually to operate.


The line between Oklahoma City and Tulsa would be half that distance - about 100 miles.


"Whatever the cost, it is not that great," said District 2 Tulsa City Councilor Rick Westcott. "Expanding I-44 through Tulsa costs $150 million per mile. What if we could put that kind of money into a passenger rail line?

Join Our Mailing List

Northern Flyer Alliance, Inc. Board Members

Deborah Fischer Stout, President

Mark Corriston, VP Kansas

Gary Lanman, VP Oklahoma

Charles Allen, Community Action Director, Texas


Spring 2011 NFA Presentation Schedule:

January 13 - lmagine Chase County Steering Committee, Cottonwood Falls, KS

January 28 - Chase County Chamber, Camp Wood, KS

February 8 - University Women, Wichita, KS

February 17 - Project Beauty, Wichita, KS

February 11 - Sierra Club, Wichita, KS

February 12 - American Association of University Women, Wichita, KS

February 28 - Ponca City Rotary, Ponca City, OK

March 8 - Sherman Rotary, Sherman, TX



For a presentation, contact Deborah Fischer Stout, 316-734-8301 OR Mark Corriston 913-406-0827

Ford Motor Co. to invest $400 million in Kansas City - 1/17/2011

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Ford Motor Co. announced Tuesday that it plans to invest $400 million over the next two years in its auto manufacturing plant in Kansas City, Mo. as it prepares to build a new vehicle there.

Ford did not say what the new vehicle would be. That announcement will be made later this year. The automaker is revamping its model line-up to focus more on fuel-efficient cars and crossover SUVs.

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The Kansas City plant has been producing Ford F-150 trucks and Ford Escape crossover SUVs. Ford announced late last year that Escape production would move to the automaker's Louisville, Ky. plant beginning with the 2012 model. The F-150 will continue being built in Kansas City, Ford said, alongside the new vehicle.

Staffing levels at the Kansas City plant will remain the same, Ford said. The plant opened in 1951 and currently employs 3,750 full-time workers.

Ford's sales were up almost 20% last year, surpassing Toyota as the second-best selling automaker in the U.S.

In December Ford announced it was investing $600 million in a Louisville, Ky. plant to build the next-generation Escape there, adding 1,800 jobs.

At the Detroit Auto Show earlier this month,Ford announced plans to add 7,000 jobs by the end of 2012, including, in addition to factory workers, 750 engineers who will work on new vehicle technologies.

U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces Next Step in Development of National Rail Plan - 9/30/2010

A long-term commitment is needed to help freight and passenger rail accommodate future U.S. economic and population growth. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced these findings of a new report, Moving Forward: A Progress Report, that updates the U.S. Department of Transportation’s efforts to develop a first-ever comprehensive National Rail Plan (NRP).

“America’s economic vitality has been driven by investments in transportation,” said Secretary LaHood. “Giving rail a greater role in our national transportation system will help us meet the 21st century challenges of population growth, increasing energy costs, reducing carbon emissions, and ensuring the nation remains competitive in the global economy.”

“Ensuring higher-performing freight and passenger rail systems is the key to integrating surface, air and waterway transport,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo, adding that “a balanced and fully interconnected transportation network allows for the safe, efficient and seamless movement of people and goods.”

The progress report released today builds upon the Preliminary National Rail Plan mandated by the Passenger Rail Improvement and Investment Act of 2008 (PRIIA) and submitted to Congress in October 2009. It outlines the numerous factors, past, present and future that make a compelling case for improving rail infrastructure.

Its findings reveal that current demographic analyses and forecasts anticipate continued population growth, especially in urban areas. Coupled with corresponding increases in freight shipments, such growth will place additional burdens on transportation systems that are already working at or beyond capacity. The resulting traffic congestion translates into lost productivity, not only harming commerce, but degrading quality of life for citizens. Since rail is one of the safest and most fuel-efficient modes of transportation, it is well positioned to make a significant contribution to accommodating this forecasted growth. Click here to view the Progress Report.

Drivers cross about railroad work - 9/22/2010
Railroad efficiency touted - 8/30/2010
Union Pacific Railroad is spending more than $11.5 million improving its track between Topeka and Herington, part of $2.6 billion it will spend systemwide this year on improvements and maintenance.

Investments like that are part of the reason the railroad can move more railroad cars where they are needed, two railroad officials said Monday in Topeka.

Robert W. Turner, the railroad's senior vice president-corporate relations, was in Topeka with Benjamin W. Jones, director of public affairs for Kansas and Missouri.

After they met with representatives of the Kansas Grain and Feed Association, they participated in the presentation of a "Union Pacific Safety Spike" award to the Kansas Highway Patrol, then they made a visit to The Topeka Capital-Journal newsroom.

"This could really be the start of a new golden age of rail," Turner said.

Steve Forsburg, spokesman for BNSF Railway Co., when contacted in his Fort Worth office, said his company agrees things are looking up for the railroad industry.

"American freight railroads are the most efficient in the world," he said. "U.S. railroads carry 43 percent of the freight tonnage in the nation."

Forsburg noted the other 57 percent of freight is shared by the trucking, pipeline, air freight and inland waterway industries.

He credited a number of factors for that success, including federal deregulation in 1980 and the development of the intermodal (shipping container) method of transporting relatively small loads of consumer products quickly.

Turner pointed to a number of railroad developments:

— The money spent on repairing and replacing track assures train speeds can be maintained to get goods to their destinations in time to meet customers' needs.

— For most of this year, the averaged freight car was "turned" four times a month, meaning it carried a load to one destination and was off-loaded to free it up for another load in about a week's time.

"If you can cycle a car four times a month instead of three times a month, that's a 33 percent increase in capacity," Turner said.

— The new technology that allows an engineer in the leading locomotive to remotely control one or more pusher locomotives in the middle or rear of a train allows for more cars per train. That increases the fuel efficiency of the train by 4 to 6 percent, and trains already had been shown to be at least four times as fuel efficient as trucks.

— Customer satisfaction has increased significantly through the years.

— The increasing use of "shuttle trains" also is improving efficiency. A shuttle train differs from a "unit train" in that the locomotives remain with the unitized string of cars as the cars are unloaded at the destination. Those locomotives then are available to depart for the return trip as soon as the cars are unloaded.

— Carrying freight by train takes trucks and cars off the tax-supported highways and puts the freight on the railroad-funded rails.

Mike Hall can be reached at (785) 295-1209 or

More than roads needed - 8/30/2010

WICHITA — Supporting all modes of transportation is important in getting Kansas farm products to national and foreign markets and getting Kansas-based military personnel and equipment where they are needed.

That was the message of Kansas Transportation Secretary Deb Miller and Kansas Agriculture Secretary Josh Svaty on Monday as they spoke in response to a national report, "Connecting Rural and Urban America," by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

"Solving our rural capacity challenges must also include non-highway modes, including aviation, public transit and rail," Miller said. "When you consider that each (railroad) carload can haul an amount equal to three or four truckloads, you understand that railroads also save our highways a tremendous amount of wear and tear, and that alone is worth hundreds of millions of dollars."

The demand can't be met simply by building more roads, she said.

AASHTO represents state transportation departments in all 50 states. Growth in agriculture and energy, as well as increases in trade between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico, will require the nation to expand its highways and transportation options, according to the report.

The report also cited rising congestion in the nation's popular tourist destinations and emerging cities that aren't connected to the interstate system as issues often overlooked in national transportation policy discussions.

To view the entire report, visit the AASHTO web site at

2nd Quarter Newsletter released - 7/29/2010

Go to Download page to view newsletter.

Buckled Kansas rail bridge passed inspection - 6/21/2010

WICHITA, Kan. - A south-central Kansas railroad bridge that buckled this week while two locomotives and two rail cars were on it, passed an inspection last month, the Associated Press reports.

The Wichita Eagle reports that the inspection May 4 showed no defect was found on the century-old bridge over the Chikaskia River near Wellington.

The bridge sagged Tuesday with train cars on it, but there were no injuries reported.

Union Pacific owns the bridge and is responsible for conducting safety inspections of all of its bridges.

The company says erosion from recent rain caused the bridge to fail. But the recent inspection showed no issues with the bridge. The river was five feet above flood stage and was flowing at 32 times its normal rate at noon Monday.

(This item was distributed June 21, 2010, by the Associated Press.)

DOT delivers funds for Midwest high speed rail - 5/28/2010

The check was in the mail and now it’s in the bank. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Thursday afternoon that nearly $80 million have been delivered to states working on President Obama's high-speed and intercity passenger rail program, according to the Kansas City Tribune.

"The President's vision for high-speed rail will forever change the way Americans travel by offering new transportation options," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a written statement. "The grants released today are merely the very beginning of many more to follow."

The investment in high-speed passenger rail will rail transform America's transportation system and improve the environment, while spurring economic activity and creating jobs, said Vice President Joe Biden. "Our unprecedented investment in high-speed and intercity passenger rail is not only going to provide real environmental benefits and greater convenience for travelers, but also long-term economic development for communities across the country."

The money delivered Thursday includes $66 million for program management and preliminary engineering on a 168-mile-an-hour train racing between Tampa and Orlando, Fla.

Last year, the administration said it would make a first payment of $8 billion for high-speed rail. However, transportation experts say what is even more important is the administration‘s promise to kick in at least $1 billion a year for five years into high-speed rail.

The state of Missouri also has been a beneficiary of the high-speed plan. The Obama high-speed rail proposal outlines a corridor connection Chicago with St. Louis and Kansas City and has promised around $1.13 billion for the corridor.

The administration said it wants to upgrade the service between Chicago and St. Louis from the present five round trips per day to eight and to increase speeds between Chicago and Kansas City to 110 miles an hour.

In cooperation with Union Pacific and Amtrak, the Missouri Department of Transportation is making improvements to the track and removing bottlenecks between Kansas City and St. Louis to bring train speeds up to 90 miles an hour and increase on-time performance and more reliable passenger service.

Kansas is behind Missouri in passenger service but is using a small federal grant for the preliminary work to connect Kansas City’s Unions Station with Fort Worth, Texas.

The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) has scheduled a series of public meetings on four options for Kansas City-Fort Worth service or for service between Kansas City and Oklahoma City, the northernmost terminus of the Heartland Flyer that goes to Fort Worth.

One of those meetings was Thursday night in Emporia, which is on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe mainline, which makes up much of the Southwest Chief’s route.

The Southwest Chief is now the passenger train that runs through Kansas. That route connects Chicago, goes through Kansas City and onto Los Angeles.

Once KDOT has completed the series of public open house meetings with communities, state officials will meet with transportation officials from Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri, as well as legislators, public officials from the four states and railroad advocates to use their input in selecting a preferred alternative. KDOT will then hire a consultant to prepare a Service Development Plan (SDP). The SDP is a detailed business and operations plan for the route, and is required before passenger rail service can start.

(This item appeared May 28, 2010, in the Kansas City Tribune.)

BNSF rail hub gets $35M from Kansas - 5/17/2010

Veiled by the Kansas debate over cutting state services or raising taxes was a $35 million gem that lawmakers left for BNSF Railway, according to the Kansas City Star.

As the legislature passed a sales tax increase to avoid deep spending cuts, it also cut a deal that will allow BNSF to start work this year on a controversial Johnson County freight hub that has been delayed by the recession.

The project is “a critical part of Kansas’ new transportation plan, which will invest billions of dollars in the Kansas economy over the next 10 years while putting tens of thousands of our fellow Kansans back to work,” Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, said in a statement.

The railroad gets the money in exchange for agreeing to start the project this year, officials said.

BNSF officials could not be reached for comment, but state officials said the company had signaled that the project will move ahead.

The incentive will come from state sales taxes paid on utilities serving the entire 1,000-acre project, which includes the nearly 500-acre freight yard plus a warehousing complex being developed separately.

State officials note that the freight yard and warehouses will pay taxes that they could have potentially avoided in the long run.

“The reality is we’re getting them to agree to pay those (taxes) when they probably would have been granted an exemption,” said Joe Erskine, a deputy state transportation secretary.

State and local officials had hoped to secure $50 million in stimulus money for BNSF but lost out in February, when the federal government doled out $1.5 billion.

The state incentive was in the tax plan and the transportation bill that the Legislature approved as its session ended.

The project has been in the works since at least 2005, when the idea first surfaced of building the rail hub in the Gardner area. The property, about 30 miles southwest of Kansas City, is now part of Edgerton.

At one point, BNSF had considered starting construction in 2007, but getting a required federal environmental permit took much longer than expected.

The company announced last year that it was indefinitely delaying the project because of the recession and shrinking freight volumes.

One local economic development expert was optimistic about the project’s future.

“My hope is with this incentive that was created by the Kansas Legislature, we may see this project move ahead sooner than it otherwise would have,” said Bob Marcusse, the president of the Kansas City Area Development Council.

The proposed rail hub would be one of the area’s biggest development projects, with the potential of pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy and creating thousands of jobs.

BNSF said it needs a new freight center because of increasing demand and space limitations at its yard in the Argentine district of Kansas City, Kan.

Some people who live near the site of the proposed hub have argued vehemently against the project, saying it poses environmental risks for their community and the entire Kansas City area. A national environmental group has gone to court, trying to force BNSF to conduct a more extensive review of the project’s potential effect on the environment.

Eric Kirkendall, who once lived near Gardner, has fought the project for several years. Now a Lawrence resident, Kirkendall blasted the plan Monday.

“This was stealth legislation to help the richest man in America, Warren Buffett, his BNSF railroad company, and their developers,” he said.

“The warehousing and trucking this mega-facility generates will impose traffic congestion, diesel exhaust pollution and illnesses on the citizens of Johnson County. This is a lose-lose proposition for all Kansans.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council and several residents have asked a judge to block the permit issued for the rail yard by the Army Corps of Engineers, which concluded that the project would not significantly affect the environment.

The plaintiffs claim that the Corps of Engineers failed to adequately evaluate the environmental effects. Their lawsuit contends that the hub, along with a warehouse complex next door, would generate substantial air pollution.

Kansas Sen. Karin Brownlee, an Olathe Republican, did not support the tax bill that contained the incentive, but the money “does jump-start a very important project that’s going to be a true economic boost in the region,” she said.

Kansas Rep. Mike Kiegerl, also an Olathe Republican, voted against the tax bill. While Kiegerl said he thought the rail project would be positive for the community, he opposed giving any financial incentive to a wealthy company like BNSF.

“I do not believe in corporate welfare,” Kiegerl said, adding: “This is a very profitable corporation. Thirty-five million is a drop in the bucket for them. I know they would like to have it. I would like to have more money. Everybody would.”

(This item appeared May 18, 2010, in the Kansas City Star.)

NMB eases organizing hurdle - 5/10/2010
Random, anonymous survey to poll members - 5/6/2010

The UTU will be will be contacting active members, at random, by e-mail, later this week to participate in an anonymous survey conducted by a UTU-chosen public opinion polling firm on a variety of current issues, including health care and rail safety. 


The survey should take no longer than five minutes to complete. “All that is asked is your honest opinion, whether positive, neutral or negative,” said UTU National Legislative Director James Stem.


Members selected at random will receive an e-mail with a link to the survey.


The link will take those members directly to the survey platform, which is Survey Monkey, an industry leader in internet surveys. “Rest assured that during the course of the survey, no member will be asked for any personal information,” Stem said.


The online survey will be conducted by Dean Mitchell of DFM Research in Saint Paul, Minn., who has worked on a variety of projects for the UTU since 1997.


Results of the survey will be used by the National Legislative Office and state legislative directors to set priorities for congressional and state legislative lobbying efforts.

Thank You - 5/2/2010

THANK YOU!!! Rail Advocates in Kansas would like to thank the United Transportation Union, Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club, and the Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired for their invaluable voice as provided in the Kansas legislature this session.

We also appreciate the strong vote of support shown in the Kansas legislature; for its collective leadership; and unwavering support of SB409 and HB2552. On to Oklahoma and Texas where we hope to duplicate the success we have had in Kansas.

Thank you!
Evan Stair

1st Quarter Newsletter released - 4/23/2010

Go to Download page to view newsletter.

Governor Parkinson encourages passenger rail planning with signatures - 3/24/2010

To plan and prepare for future passenger rail service in Kansas, Governor Mark Parkinson has signed legislation enacting the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact and establishing the passenger rail service program in Kansas.

“Passenger rail service in Kansas would create economic opportunities for the future, but the planning must begin now,” said Parkinson. “A strong public infrastructure system helps attract businesses and jobs to our state, and a high speed rail service is another piece in furthering our economic recovery. I am pleased to sign these two bills that will set the gears in motion for increased avenues of transportation in Kansas and the entire Midwest.”

HB 2552 enacts the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact to promote improvements to passenger rail service and the development of plans for long-range high speed rail service in the Midwest. The legislation also coordinates interaction between Midwestern state elected officials and their designees on rail issues as well as the interests of public and private sector partners. This bill goes into effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.

In conjunction, SB 409 authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to establish and implement a passenger rail service program.  The Secretary would be authorized to enter into agreements with Amtrak, other rail operators, local jurisdictions, and other states. She would also be allowed to provide local jurisdictions assistance and encourage economic development as well as loans or grants to passenger rail service providers from a Passenger Rail Service Revolving Fund established by the bill. SB 409 is also aimed at helping Kansas attract further funding for passenger rail from the federal government. The bill does not propose a revenue mechanism for funding the activities and leaves the initiation of the activities outlined in the bill to the Secretary. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Register.




The Kansas House and Senate passed two key pieces of legislation March 11.

The magins of victory were well over that required for a Super Majority, once considered a stumbling block for Kansas passenger rail development. is now in clear sight of becoming law.

Rep. Pauls is Ally of Year - 3/3/2010


State Rep. Jan Pauls, D-Hutchinson, has been recognized by a statewide advocacy organization for being an ally for victims and survivors of sexual and domestic violence.  

Pauls received the State Elected Official Ally of the Year award from the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence (KCSDV) during its 7th annual Safe Homes, Safe Streets reception in Topeka. 

SB 409 moves to the House - 3/3/2010
Kansas Senate Bill SB-409 is moved out of the Senate to the House (37 yeas and 3 nays)
Our work is just half complete. 
SB-409 is now in the House Transportation Committee. Our passenger rail bills are moving like lightning through the Kansas Legislature. Action is expected this week.  
We have a new website - 1/1/2010

As of 01/01/2010, KANSAS - LO 019 has a new website!

Moran-authored bill extends tax credit for rural railroads - 11/29/2008

Congressman says short lines are vital for Kansas, rural America


Michael Hooper


Published Saturday, November 29, 2008


Congress recently extended a tax credit to entice rural railroads to re-invest in track improvements.

Rep. Jerry Moran, author of the tax credit bill, said the measure was important because short lines are a vital form of transportation in Kansas and rural America.

"Short lines matter to us greatly," Moran said. "We are in the middle of the country, we've got to be able to get commodities and goods moved in a cost-effective and efficient way."

Kansas has 10 short-line railroads that employ 224 people, according to the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

Kansas has about 4,900 miles of railroad track. Of that, 2,000 miles belong to short-line railroads. Nationally, short-line railroads employ nearly 20,000 people, serve 13,000 facilities and haul more than 14 million carloads annually.

The larger railroads, Burlington Northern and Santa Fe and the Union Pacific, serve most of eastern Kansas, while the short-line railroads cover the rest of the state. Some of the biggest customers for BNSF and UP are short-line railroads.

Moran, R-Kan., said farmers and grain elevators in small towns depend on short lines to move their grain to larger markets.

About three years ago, he said, he pushed for the tax credit because short-line railroads were falling behind in investing in their infrastructure. He recalled derailments were common on routes west of Hutchinson, but improvements in the rail lines have reduced the number of accidents. He said the tax credit extension was approved during a recent session in Congress and will expire Dec. 31, 2009.

Dave Arganbright, AVP/Government Affairs, with RailAmerica, said the tax credit has helped.

"It's allowed us to do some improvements," Arganbright said. "For every dollar we spend, 50 cents comes from the tax credit."

In other words, the tax credit reduces the company's tax burden.

He said RailAmerica, of Jacksonville, Fla., owns Kyle Railroad, Phillipsburg, which has about 500 miles, mostly in Kansas. RailAmerica has 60 employees working on the Kyle plus another 20 in its logistics center in Phillipsburg.

"We routinely put about $2 million in improvements in the Kyle every year," Arganbright said.

Ed McKechnie, executive vice president and chief commercial officer of Watco Cos., said the company's western Kansas lines do well if agriculture prospers. Grain elevators are big customers.

"If it rains, they clean out the elevators," McKechnie said. "Short lines are a reflection of the economy."

Moran, who spoke by telephone from Hays, said a drought in western Kansas hurt for about five years, but the past two years, rains have come and crops were bountiful. He said wheat in Kansas near the Colorado border did well this year. So far, he said, the new winter wheat crop looks good.

Watco Cos., of Pittsburg, has 2,000 employees and 3,500 miles of track in 23 states. About 1,200 miles are in Kansas.

McKechnie said the movement of forest products has slowed on Watco's Mission Mountain Railroad in northwest Montana, reflecting declining demand for building products. But business at the Yellowstone Valley Railroad in northeast Montana remains steady because of movement of energy products, fertilizer and wheat.

Southeast Kansas produces quite a bit of cement that moves on a Watco line, but that has slowed, although it isn't as bad as it was in December 2001.

"This is different," McKechnie said. "We're simply in a crisis of confidence. Consumers have to want to invest."

McKechnie said the stimulus package issued this past spring, when taxpayers received a check in the mail from the U.S. Treasury, wasn't a lasting stimulus. He said the country would create real growth if it had invested the money in infrastructure — such as bridges, ports, rail lines and runways — to create safer, more efficient transportation that would benefit the economy over the long term.

He said Watco must have the infrastructure in place regardless of the ebbs and flows of the business cycle. The company expects to invest $25 million in capital improvements in 2009, about the same as this year.

Michael Hooper can be reached at (785) 295-1293 or