North Coast Rail Fantasy Update – Must Read from Marin County
Upfront: Train spatting
Meyers to NCRA: This is no way to run a railroad!
Please, You have to go to the Pacific Sun for the whole article and the FAQ (Q & A) its a must read!
by Peter Seidman Pacific Sun
After serving six years on the board of the North Coast Railroad Authority, Bernie Meyers has decided to end his tenure on the board.
Meyers has continually called attention to the lease, which he says is lopsided in favor of Northwestern Pacific. He also points a questioning finger at the relationship between Northwestern Pacific and NCRA Executive Director Mitch Stogner. Meyers isn’t the only one who questions the relationship between the railroad authority and NWP. To start with, John Williams, the CEO of Northwestern Pacific, is a former executive director of NCRA. Doug Bosco, former congressman representing the North Coast, joined Williams as an investor and NWP legal counsel. Stogner worked for Bosco as an aide when Bosco was in Congress. No wrongdoing has been documented. But critics of the lease between NCRA and Northwestern Pacific still question whether the deal should have merited oversight.
Then there’s the AP story: Critics cite a 2001 piece that recounts how Gray Davis was in the governor’s office when the state funneled $60 million to reopen the Northwestern Pacific line. Shortly after the state decided to pour money into the effort, shippers, who stood the most to gain, contributed more than $60,000 to Davis’ campaign fund. Perhaps not wrongdoing—but critics say it’s an example of how influence works.
Northwestern Pacific says it wants to run from Samoa, near Arcata in the north part of the state, down through Marin and Novato and on to Schellville, where the line connects with the national freight rail system. The rail line serves mostly ranchers now, but critics say the real money is at Island Mountain in Trinity County. Between 1914 and 1930 substantial amounts of copper, silver and gold were mined there, and the area still has untold tons of valuable aggregate. Trains could haul that aggregate to market. Northwestern Pacific says it has no immediate intentions of extending its tracks north to tap Island Mountain riches, but critics just don’t believe the pronouncement. The environmental groups worry because the rail agency and NWP completed an EIR that investigated only the southern section of rail line and rehabilitating track and running trains to the north, to Island Mountain, would do severe environmental damage.
The questions-and-answer statement Meyers presented to the NCRA board and to Marin supervisors includes many other issues. Needless to say, other board members and officials at the railroad authority and NPW have views divergent from those of Meyers. Here’s a sampling of Meyers’ Q&A:
How do the lease terms compare with similar leases between state railroad entities and private operators?
Not favorably. Generally, others are for terms of between five and 20 years, with possible renewals if conditions are met. For example, a 2007 Ohio lease provides for 5-year renewals if various conditions are met, including a review of shipper satisfaction, safety, car loadings, track maintenance and financials. Then there are best practice provisions, energy efficiency provisions, and conflict-of-interest provisions.
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