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Badger Rails

Wisconsin Association of Railroad Passengers (WisARP)

May-June, 2012

Volume 30, Issue 3

Legislature Halts Funding for Talgo Maintenance Site

State Republican legislators threw a roadblock into plans to build a permanent maintenance facility for the new Talgo equipment March 14 as the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) voted 12-4 along party lines to kill the Wisconsin DOT's request for $2.5 million for final site design engineering work. The vote put the contract with Talgo into question as the State had agreed to provide the maintenance facility. The Talgo pricing agreement for the equipment was contingent on the company providing maintenance service on the trains for 20 years. With funding for a maintenance site denied, Talgo is within its rights to sue the State. The request for the money had the approval of Gov. Scott Walker's administration, but that wasn't enough to counter the anti-rail rhetoric on the Committee, led by co-chairs Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Robin Vos. The day after the vote, the four Democratic JFC members sent a letter to Gov. Scott Walker asking him to veto the actions. They noted that it is odd that a State reportedly "open for business" would go about breaking contracts with its vendors. "The actions of the Republican majority on the Joint Committee on Finance yesterday makes a mockery of your pledge to be 'open for business' and dramatically minimizes Wisconsin's credibility with other businesses," the letter stated. "In addition, the majority's rejection of your Administration's recommendation threatens to kill Wisconsin jobs, throw a $71 million investment down the drain, and

subject the state to yet more lawsuits - all of which hurt Wisconsin taxpayers." Walker refused to veto the JFC decision, stating that he did not have the votes in the JFC to support a veto.

Talgo cab car at the Milwaukee plant, May 5, 2012

A key problem with the JFC's deliberations was accuracy of information provided by the State DOT. Both Talgo, and the JFC Democrats in their letter, took issue with the "facts" presented to the committee. "As the Finance Committee met it became readily clear that the assertions and rhetoric behind the killing of the Talgo train sets and bonding did not meet with fact," the JFC letter stated. "Just as one Continued on Page 2

TALGO from page 1 example, financial estimates were not expanded to include a true accounting of the to not move forward with the Talgo train Overall, the actions yesterday were not justified with facts about this matter."

fully costs sets. fully

waukee Intermodal Station to keep the one-way travel time below thirty minutes. The City of Milwaukee estimates that the trackwork can be done for $10 million. Meanwhile, Ron Adams, Rails and Harbors Section Chief for WisDOT, told WisARP members at the March 31 Spring Meeting that the DOT is proceeding with equipment testing. He added they were having trouble finding a locomotive that could be rented at a reasonable cost for train set testing. At this point it is not known when the new equipment will be ready for service, but Wisconsin rail passengers are eagerly awaiting that day. The new equipment offers amenities not currently available in the decades-old Horizon Fleet cars currently on the corridor. One such amenity is Wi-Fi service. In an April 13 letter to Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Amtrak Vice President Joe McHugh said that when Wi-Fi service has been introduced elsewhere, Amtrak has documented a 3 to 5 percent ridership increase from that feature alone. McHugh also said that introduction of new equipment such as the Talgo sets can create a buzz among travelers. Amtrak saw this with the introduction of Acela in the Northeast as well as the success of Talgo equipment in Washington State. The Cascades service likewise has greatly benefited from the introduction of new (Talgo) equipment and the improvements that equipment made possible, including greater frequencies and shorter trips (tilting Talgo equipment can go faster on curves, allowing Amtrak to cut trip times by 25 minutes), he said. Between 1993 and 2011, Cascades ridership has increased more than 800 percent to 852,269 passengers today, much of it attributable to the attractive effect of new equipment and improved service, McHugh said.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a candidate for Governor through the process to recall Gov. Walker (election slated for June 5), said March 15, "These are trains assembled in Milwaukee. They create jobs for Milwaukee in a part of this community that desperately needs jobs. This action calls into question the whole issue of whether the whole legislature is ready to create jobs in Milwaukee." On April 4, Talgo announced they would be laying off up to 35 workers who were employed in assembling the train sets at Milwaukee. Additional train sets were included in the $810 million federal grant that Walker refused, and as such will not be built. The jobs of an additional 30 employees who would be involved in train maintenance are also in jeopardy given the JFC action. The JFC vote put a halt to the site selection process. The permanent facility, which was originally to be built in Madison, is an important component of the contract between Talgo and the State. State Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb said in March his department is pondering options but cannot put the trains into service on Amtrak's Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line without plans for a permanent maintenance base. There is, however, nothing stopping the State from designating the 27th Street assembly plant as the permanent maintenance facility. Talgo had planned on using that site well into 2014 during which time the "permanent" facility would be built. The plant is equipped with inspection pits and basic maintenance equipment. However, additional shop equipment and a car washer will also be needed. In addition, track work would be needed on the Canadian Pacific line linking the site and the Mil-

Some Facts on the Talgo Equipment

reliable one for shuttling equipment for nightly maintenance. To accommodate ongoing heavy maintenance, additional equipment would need to be added to the Talgo site. In total, the 27th Street site could be a fully functional maintenance facility for much less than the DOT's estimate of $55-63 million for a new site. Maintenance Contract: The purchase price of the Talgo cars was determined in conjunction with a 20 year maintenance contract that is standard with Talgo equipment operating around the world. Without Talgo maintenance, the warranty on the equipment is void. Fuel Savings: Talgo trains are much lighter than Amtrak's current Horizon Fleet sets. This will positively impact the amount of fuel used, as well as the ability to accelerate and brake more quickly. Talgo estimates annual fuel savings of $350,000. Unique Equipment: A recent RFP by the Federal Railroad Administration and several Midwest states will result in the purchase of 88 bi-level passenger cars for use in the Midwest. Talgo trains are single-level and not of the same design. This is not a deficiency, rather different trains types are used for different purposes. Talgo equipment will be better suited to higher speed operation than bi-level cars due to their lower center of gravity, lighter weight and passive tilting system. As for maintenance needs, the bi-level cars will be maintained by Amtrak, while the Talgos will be maintained on site by the manufacturer. There is no need for Amtrak technicians to learn to maintain Talgos, and no chance that Talgo cars will be mixed in with any Amtrak equipment. The Talgo equipment will be maintained at a higher standard than Amtrak will be able to provide for the bi-levels. In Washington State as well as many European cities, trains by Talgo and other manufacturers share common terminals with no operational difficulties.

Capacity: Talgo's 14 car train sets seat 397 passengers. The current Amtrak Horizon Fleet trains seat 419 each. Talgo therefore seats 22 fewer people per train set. However, Hiawatha Corridor trains only average about 165 passengers per train. The only departures that consistently reach or exceed capacity are the 5:08 p.m. out of Chicago on Fridays, and the 8:05 a.m. out of Milwaukee. That's one to two percent of all Hiawatha trains. Even in a wildly successful corridor such as Hiawatha (Amtrak's busiest Midwest route and sixth busiest national corridor), which saw a four percent ridership increase last year, it would take an instant 71 percent increase in ridership to reach capacity on Talgo on every run. When ridership eventually does climb to that level, the State will have years of additional passenger revenue in the meantime to put aside to buy additional cars to add capacity, or additional train sets for added frequencies. Bistro Car: Related to capacity, the 14 car Talgo train sets each have a Bistro car to provide food service to passengers. The State specifically ordered the Bistro in place of another coach on the original assumption that the equipment would be making a Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison run, with many passengers riding the entire distance. However, while the Bistro only contains standing room, the revenue from food services are expected to have a positive effect on train finances and ridership. Maintenance Base: The Talgo Assembly Plant on N. 27th Street in Milwaukee (Century City) can be converted to the maintenance site. Talgo had planned on using it as such up to 2014 when a new site was supposed to be developed by the State. However, the City estimates that basic improvements can be made to the CP Rail tracks between the Amtrak station and 27th Street for about $10 million. These improvements would make that route a timely and

Milwaukee Platform Project On Hold

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) last September amended its Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations to require intercity, commuter and high-speed passenger railroads to ensure, at new and significantly renovated station platforms, that passengers with disabilities can get on and off any accessible car of the train. The new regulations will affect the plans to renovate the platforms at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station. Plans to begin construction were pulled in January as WisDOT awaited additional guidance from the DOT, particularly on platform heights on tracks that are also used by freight trains (two of the tracks through the Milwaukee depot are used by CP Rail freights). Another challenge is the tunnel under the tracks. There is limited space to rebuild the ramp in compliance with ADA ramp slope requirements. For now the project is on hold while WisDOT considers its options.
Badger Rails is published 6 times per year by the Wisconsin Association of Railroad Passengers, a notfor-profit Wisconsin membership association. WisARP President is John Parkyn, Stoddard, WI, (608)788-7004, email: Badger Rails Editor is Jim Sponholz. Please send comments or news items to: Please send membership questions and address changes to: Mark Weitenbeck, 3385 S. 119th Street, West Allis, WI 53227 email: Important Links: WisARP on the Web: National Association of Railroad Passengers: Midwest High Speed Rail Association:

Eau Claire Commuter Rail Out of Study

A commission tasked with studying alternatives to reducing traffic congestion along the busy Interstate 94 corridor has eliminated a proposed commuter rail line from the Twin Cities to Eau Claire, WI. The Gateway Corridor Commission eliminated the option, which was one of its plans to relieve traffic on Interstate 94 in the Twin Cities area. The commission voted Thursday, March 15, to strike the plan due to a number of factors, including estimated ridership, economic development and cost, said commission chair Lisa Weik. Though the commission will not be moving forward with the plan, it is recommending the Minnesota and Wisconsin transportation departments continue to study commuter rail between the cities. We are saying it could be an option, but its not our charter, said Weik, who also serves as a Washington County (MN) commissioner. At an estimated $1.23 billion, the commuter-rail plan was relatively expensive. Weik said the commissions preferred plan, which involves bus rapid transit between Hudson, WI, and Minneapolis, comes in at an estimated $420 million. The agency is studying seven plans, two of which include light rail. The Gateway commission anticipates that the federal government will pay for half of the plan ultimately selected, with five metro-area counties and the state of Minnesota paying the other half, Weik said. Next steps in the process include the development of an environmental-impact statement and open houses where the public can get information and provide feedback about the plans. Weik said 90,000 vehicles cross the St. Croix River on I-94 daily, and the corridor is one of the most congested in the Twin Cities.
Source: Twin Cities Pioneer Press

More on the Talgo Equipment

Above: Talgo Cab Car and coaches are out of the shop and undergoing static testing at the Milwaukee Talgo assembly plant on May 5, 2012. The cab car contains a Caterpillar diesel generator that can be used to provide power to heat and light the train in emergencies, as power normally will be provided by the Amtrak locomotive. Photo by Jim Sponholz Below: Diagram of the Bistro Car.

Talgo cars showing the staggered window line of the Bistro car

May 5, 2012, Photo by Jim Sponholz

Center seats in each car feature meeting space for four

May 5, 2012, Photo by Jim Sponholz

Accessible restroom on one of the cars equipped with a wheelchair lift May 5, 2012, Photo by Jim Sponholz

Interior of a coach, showing informational screen and tempered glass overhead luggage racks. Talgo Shop Manager Gary Young (left) answers questions from members of the WisARP Board. May 5, 2012, Photo by Jim Sponholz

May-June, 2012

Wisconsin Association of Railroad Passengers (WisARP)



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