The fact a broken rail became the most immediate suspect speaks to years of deferred maintenance that have left trouble spots throughout a Washington-Boston network that carries more than 700,000 people a day and dates to the 1800s.
"We are eating our assets alive," Joseph Boardman, CEO of Amtrak, said in an interview May 21 after testifying at a congressional hearing.
Tracks maintained by the intercity passenger railroad and states along the most densely populated part of the U.S. carry half of U.S. rail traffic. Amtrak now accounts for 76 percent of the air and rail trips between New York and Washington, up from 37 percent in 2000, according to the Northeast Corridor Commission, a body Congress created in 2008 to assess the system's most critical infrastructure needs.
Between New York and Boston, the share has increased from 20 percent to 54 percent.
"One cracked rail is making it extremely inconvenient for thousands and thousands of commuters," said Robert Puentes, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program in Washington. "That has a drag on the overall metropolitan region. This is an infrastructure that needs to be brought up to a state of good repair."
Unlike with highways, which count almost all Americans as a constituency, and aviation, which is backed by the airline industry and a powerful trade group, Amtrak - the biggest player along the 457-mile Northeast Corridor - has stood almost alone as it asks Congress for money to cover operating shortfalls and maintain its tracks.
Formed by Congress in the early 1970s to take over unprofitable passenger operations from freight railroads, Amtrak owns the track between Washington and New Rochelle, New York, and from New Haven, Connecticut, to the Massachusetts border. Metro North Railroad and the state of Massachusetts own the other sections.
The corridor hosts commuter lines in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts as well as slower freight trains that add to the wear and tear on rails.
Hundreds of bridges and tunnels are more than 100 years old, according to the corridor commission. Five bridges in Connecticut built between 1889 and 1907 need to be replaced, with costs exceeding $1.6 billion, the commission said.
Portions of the electrical system date to the 1930s, including Connecticut substations that rely on oil-filled circuit breakers.
As service demands in and around New York increase, Amtrak has less opportunity to spend time doing maintenance in the area, Boardman said. The railroad can only take the six tunnels under New York out of service for a total of 55 hours each week to maintain them, he said.
Because Amtrak and commuter rail lines share tracks, delays on one can cascade through the system, Connecticut state transportation commissioner James Redeker testified at an April Senate hearing. All major segments of the system are at or close to capacity, making service increasingly susceptible to disruptions, he said.
In last week's wreck, a section of the eastbound track "fractured at a rail joint" and is "of interest" to NTSB investigators, the board said in Twitter postings May 18.
"The NTSB routinely looks at what, if any impact infrastructure may have had in the accident," Kelly Nantel, a board spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. "This is something we are looking at in this case as well."
The accident occurred in an area where a set of double tracks had been taken out of service for upgrades, Boardman said in the interview.
"What that collision or accident shows is our rail lines are deteriorated or decrepit or outdated," Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said yesterday at a confirmation hearing for Anthony Foxx, Obama's nominee to become secretary of transportation.
The national railroad lost $5 million in revenue from the time of the Connecticut crash during the evening rush hour May 17 through the morning of May 21, Boardman said.
"Amtrak in the Northeast can't afford for this to occur," Boardman said about the bottleneck that resulted from the crash. "It would be the same in the tunnels, it would be the same in Penn Station, because we haven't made the investments over the years."
Amtrak, according to a company fact sheet, spent almost nothing on capital improvements in the 1990s, a period in which it battled Congress over aid for a number of years. Starting in 2003, the railroad shifted from doing emergency repairs into an organized plan to replace ties, rail, track beds, signal cables and overhead wires.
An average of 43 miles of rail a year must be replaced to keep the corridor in good repair, Amtrak estimates. For seven years before 2003, it replaced 6 miles a year. It made up for the deferrals by rebuilding 240 miles in 2004, then addressed an average of 34 miles in the five years ending in 2010.
Amtrak, which is supposed to be self-sufficient while never being so, asked for $2.1 billion in U.S. funds for its capital budget next year and $212 million for debt service, up from $905 million combined in fiscal 2013, according to a March 27 letter to Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner.
Boardman has described it as a down payment on a $151 billion, three-decade effort that would lead to 220-miles-per- hour trains between Washington and Boston and create enough additional passenger demand to make the Northeast operations self-supporting.
Before that plan was unveiled, Amtrak wrote a $52 billion Northeast Corridor master plan geared toward upgrading tracks and infrastructure.
Congress over the years has focused on the causes of Amtrak's operating losses, whether to continue using taxpayer money to offset them and whether to jettison Amtrak's money- losing cross-country routes. A May 20 House hearing called "Understanding the Cost Drivers of Passenger Rail" focused on widening losses on long-distance trains since 2008.
Amtrak said today it was extended Boardman's contract for another two years, citing his good performance. Boardman, 65, has headed the railroad since 2008 after serving as head of the Federal Railroad Administration.
Lawmakers may be operating under a mistaken impression that dropping long-distance trains would enable a Northeast-centered Amtrak to pay for itself, said Ross Capon of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, an advocacy group.
"The NEC requires considerable investments just to stay in place," Capon said at the May 21 House hearing. "Without federal capital support, the NEC's downward drift would accelerate into a death spiral."
Representative Corrine Brown, a Florida Democrat, told the House Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee that airlines wouldn't make money if they had to build their own infrastructure the way Amtrak does.
Congressional underfunding has made a once-vibrant system a liability, she said.
"We used to be the leaders in rail," Brown said. "Now we are the caboose, and we don't use cabooses anymore."]]>
The annual report is authored by economist Arthur B. Laffer, Wall Street Journal Senior Economics Writer Stephen Moore and Jonathan Williams, director of ALEC's Center for State Fiscal Reform.
This sixth edition of the report ranks the 2013 economic outlook of states using 15 equally-weighted policy variables, including: tax rates, regulatory burdens and labor policies.
Among the rated variables, Rhode Island earned relatively high rankings in public employees per 10,000 of population (No. 7), sales tax burden (No. 14), number of tax expenditure limits (No. 15) and remaining tax burden (No. 23).
The Ocean State fared poorly as a right-to-work state, which gives an option as to whether to join or support a union, and whether estate/inheritance tax was levied, ranking No. 50 in both of those categories.
Rhode Island also scored poorly in the recently legislated tax changes category (No. 47), property tax burden (No. 46), debt service as a share of tax revenue (No. 42) and top marginal corporate income tax rate (No. 40).
"Nationally, states with low tax rates, limited government regulations and right-to-work laws were most likely to have a better economic outlook than states with high income taxes and burdensome regulations," said the report. Adding that over a ten-year period, the nine states without personal income taxes have outperformed the nine states with the highest income tax rates in population, job and revenue growth.
Utah ranked No. 1, with North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Virginia rounding out the top five. Vermont was listed as the state with the worst economic outlook in 2013, with New York, Illinois, California and Minnesota ranked No. 49 to No. 46, respectively.
Neighboring Massachusetts earned the No. 29 economic outlook rank in the ALEC-Laffer report, ranking in the top 10 for variable industries remaining tax burden (No. 2); average workers' compensation costs (No. 7); public employees per 10,000 of population (No. 8); and sales tax burden, (No. 9).
The report also listed the states' economic performance rank, a "backward-looking measure" based on the state's performance in three important variables: state gross domestic product, absolute domestic migration and non-farm payroll employment.
With its high unemployment rate, Rhode Island ranked No. 47 in the non-farm payroll employment variable, No. 38 in absolute domestic migration and No. 37 in state gross domestic product.
Regardless of its much highest ranking on the economic outlook list, Massachusetts ranked behind Rhode Island on the economic performance ranking at No. 45. The Bay State ranked No. 43 in absolute domestic migration, No. 42 in non-farm payroll employment and No. 40 in state gross domestic product.
To view the full report, visit: alec.org.]]>
Accreditation status is reportedly considered the highest professional achievement in the museum industry and demonstrates a museum has "a commitment to excellence in all that it does," including: governance, collections stewardship, public programs, financial stability and institutional improvements.
Of the roughly 17,500 museums in the United States, just more than 1,000 are accredited by the American Alliance of Museum.
According to a release, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum is the first hall of fame and second sports museum - after the American Museum of Fly Fishing - to receive the honor.
To celebrate its achievement, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum is hosting an Open House Day on Saturday, May 25, for all Rhode Island residents. The event offers free admissions so that the local community can "explore this unique cultural attraction in their own back yards." Proof of residency is required for the free admission.
"Accreditation is a significant achievement," Ford W. Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums, said in prepared remarks. "The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum and the communities it serves, that being the local community and the worldwide tennis industry, should be extremely proud."
To earn accreditation, a museum must conduct a year of self-study, then undergo a site visit by a team of peer reviewers. AAM's Accreditation Commission, an "independent and autonomous" group of museum professionals, review and evaluate the self-study and visiting committee report to determine if a museum should receive accreditation.
"The museum is the heart and soul of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. It is the one and only tennis hall of fame in the world, and in the museum we work diligently to preserve the history of the sport and inspire its future," International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum Chairman Christopher E. Clouser said in a statement, adding that he and his staff were "grateful and humbled" by the distinction.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum was founded in 1954 with a focus on American tennis history and players. It expanded to have an international focus in 1975]]>
PROVIDENCE - Lifespan, Rhode Island's largest hospital network, is undertaking what it called an "Operational Restructuring Initiative" to trim between $100 and $150 million from $1.7 billion in annual expenses over the next 30 months, hospital officials announced on Wednesday.
The newest phase in efforts to reduce its operational budget, which Lifespan spokeswoman Gail Carvelli said actually began in October of 2012, did involve layoffs, according to Carvelli. More layoffs may occur in the future, depending on the participation in a voluntary retirement plan.
To date, Lifespan said it has eliminated 107 positions, 69 of which were already vacant, from its workforce of more than 11,500. Of those jobs eliminated, Lifespan said that 28 were management level and 10 were staff level.
Lifespan also said that 500 open positions across the system have been frozen and will only be filled if it is determined that they are essential.
In addition, a voluntary early retirement program will be offered to eligible employees in the coming weeks, according to Lifespan officials.
Lifespan said that significant financial challenges brought on by the current health care environment - including "decreased Medicare and Medicaid funding," changes as a result of health care reform, and increasing charity care - were responsible for the need to restructure its workforce.
"Lifespan's leadership team recognizes that these are difficult times and regrets having to eliminate any positions," the hospital network said in a statement. "The actions we are taking with the Operational Restructuring Initiative are necessary to position our system to be price competitive in the open, transparent marketplace fostered by the creation of the health insurance exchange, as well as to uphold our promise to the community to provide the most comprehensive and cutting-edge medicine available anywhere in the country."]]>
The California-based real estate data firm reported a foreclosure rate of 2.88 percent for the metro area in March, down from a 2.99 percent rate in March 2012.
The mortgage delinquency rate also decreased for March compared to last year. The amount of mortgage loans that were 90 days or more delinquent was 7.06 percent for March, compared with 7.43 percent in March 2012.
Excluding Bristol County, Mass., Rhode Island's foreclosure rate fell 0.03 percentage points from last year, coming in at 3.15 percent in March compared with 3.18 percent in March 2012.
The Rhode Island 90-day delinquency rate also fell, by 0.30 percentage points, from 7.6 percent in February 2012 to 7.3 percent in February 2013.
The metro area foreclosure rate was higher than the national rate, which was 2.84 percent for March.
The national 90-day delinquency rate fell 0.99 percentage points, from 7 percent in March 2012 to 6.01 percent in March 2013.]]>
Overseas shipments from Rhode Island manufacturers, which accounted for 62 percent of the month's exports, decreased 9.4 percent from February to March to $114.2 million, seasonally adjusted.
Exports of non-manufactured goods totaled $68.9 million in March, a 3 percent increase from the $66.9 million shipped in February. Non-manufactured goods include agricultural goods, mining products and re-exports, which are foreign goods that entered the state as imports and are exported in the same condition.
Year over year in March, total exports from Rhode Island fell 10.3 percent, or $21 million, from March 2012. For the state's manufactures, exports dropped 16.7 percent, or $22.9 million, from March last year.
Nationally, exports rose fell by 1.4 percent to $130.3 billion from March 2012 to March 2013.
Year over year, for the first three months of 2013, Rhode Island's exporters sold 6.4 percent less than they did during the first three months of 2012, as overall exports from the U.S. increased 1.4 percent year over year, according to the report.
Nationally, Rhode Island ranked No. 35 in export growth among the 50 states for the first three months of the year. The drop in merchandise exports was attributed to declines in food, feeds and beverages; automotive vehicles, parts and engines; industrial supplies and materials; capital goods; and consumer goods.
The state's outlook for the rest of the year and into 2014 depends "mainly on foreign buyers' finances, which are affected by economic growth in their countries," e-forecasting.com Chief Economist Evangelos Otto Simos said in a report analyzing the export statistics. "The faster the buyers' countries grow, the higher their demand for goods made in Rhode Island."
Ottos Simos mentioned a report from the International Monetary Fund that said Rhode Island companies doing business abroad are expected to witness "anemic levels of export orders" from their major foreign markets next year, especially from clients in European countries.]]>
Jobless claims decreased by 23,000 to 340,000 in the week ended May 18, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 50 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a drop to 345,000. No states were estimated and there was nothing unusual in the data, a Labor Department spokesman said.
Falling dismissals could lay the groundwork for a hiring pickup should the economy be able to overcome the federal budget cuts that are projected to curb the expansion. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke yesterday said the job market is still weak, one reason why policy makers will continue buying bonds in a bid to keep interest rates low and spur growth.
"We're definitely moving in the right direction," said Carl Riccadonna, a senior U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York, who correctly predicted the drop in applications. "If we can get back to 330,000 or lower, that's going to be an early sign that the economy is accelerating into the second half of the year."
Stock-index futures held earlier losses after the report as data showed Chinese manufacturing unexpectedly shrank and equity markets from Europe to Japan tumbled. The contract on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index maturing in June fell 1 percent to 1,638.5 at 8:44 a.m. in New York.
Economists' estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 338,000 to 360,000. The Labor Department revised the previous week's figure to 363,000 from an initially reported 360,000.
The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure than the weekly figures, dropped to 339,500 last week from 340,000.
Today's report corresponds to the week the Labor Department surveys businesses to calculate the May payroll data. The four- week average for this month's survey period was down from 362,000 in the comparable week in April, when the data turned volatile because of the Easter holiday.
Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and tend to fall as job growth, which is measured by the monthly non-farm payrolls report, accelerates.
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits decreased by 112,000 to 2.91 million in the week ended May 11, the fewest since March 2008, according to today's the report. The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.
Those who've used up their traditional benefits and are now collecting emergency and extended payments dropped by about 15,500 to 1.78 million in the week ended May 4.
The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 2.3 percent in the week ended May 11, today's report showed.
Thirty-one states and territories reported a decrease in claims, while 22 reported an increase. These data are reported with a one-week lag.
A two percentage-point rise in the payroll tax at the start of 2013 and $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that began on March 1 are threatening growth. The economy may cool to a 1.6 percent pace this quarter, after growing at a 2.5 percent rate in the first three months of 2013, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg economist survey from May 3 to May 8.
Caterpillar Inc., the world's largest maker of construction and mining equipment, has made job cuts. The company saw global total machine retail sales fall 9 percent in the three months through April from a year ago, smaller than the 11 percent drop in the quarter through March, the Peoria, Illinois- based company said May 20 in a filing.
"Mining is still very bad," Stuart L. Levenick, president of the company's customer and dealer support group, has previously said during a May 8 presentation. "I think we announced another layoff in Decatur, Illinois, just in light of the fact that there aren't orders yet to fill up production slots going forward."
Bernanke yesterday said the economy remains hampered by high unemployment and government spending cuts, and raising interest rates or reducing asset purchases too soon would endanger the recovery.
"A premature tightening of monetary policy could lead interest rates to rise temporarily but would also carry a substantial risk of slowing or ending the economic recovery and causing inflation to fall further," Bernanke said in testimony to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. Monetary policy is providing "significant benefits," he said.
He pointed to the historically high levels of unemployment and long-term joblessness, and to the shrinking of the workforce as signs the job market remains "weak."
For now, consumers are holding up. Sales at retailers unexpectedly advanced in April, rising 0.1 percent after a decrease of 0.5 percent in March, a May 13 report showed.
Buyers may be helped by low inflation. Cost of living in the U.S. fell in April for a second month, the first back-to- back decline in inflation since late 2008, as fuel costs retreated, a Labor Department report showed last week. The consumer-price index dropped 0.4 percent after declining 0.2 percent in March.
The job market must add 200,000 or more jobs per month for at least six months before Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans would judge it substantially improved, Evans said in a speech in Chicago.
Employers added 165,000 to payrolls in April after a gain of 138,000 the prior month, according to Labor Department figures issued earlier this month. The jobless rate dropped to a four-year low of 7.5 percent.]]>
Purchases of existing houses increased 0.6 percent to an annual rate of 4.97 million, the most since November 2009, the National Association of Realtors reported today in Washington. The median price rose 11 percent compared with April 2012, the fifth consecutive month that property values advanced more than 10 percent year over year.
The fewest number of homes for sale in more than a decade, lingering lender aversion to housing debt and conservative appraisals are probably preventing the market from making bigger strides. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke today said policy makers are aware that a jump in interest rates may derail the expansion, a signal central bankers will continue to hold borrowing costs down.
"Housing can still be improved," said Brian Jones, senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, who correctly forecast the gain in sales. "There are some problems with people closing," Jones said. "There are more sales in the pipeline."
Bernanke said in testimony before Congress that the economy remains hampered by high unemployment and government spending cuts, and tightening policy too soon would endanger the recovery.
"A premature tightening of monetary policy could lead interest rates to rise temporarily but would also carry a substantial risk of slowing or ending the economic recovery and causing inflation to fall further," Bernanke said. Monetary policy is providing "significant benefits," he said.
Stocks climbed on the chairman's remarks. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index increased 0.5 percent to 1,677.21 at 12:40 p.m. in New York. The S&P Supercomposite Homebuilding Index jumped 2.4 percent.
Central bankers around the world are pushing for additional stimulus to spur their economies. A report today showed U.K. retail sales unexpectedly fell in April, indicating continued weakness in consumer spending. Bank of England Governor Mervyn King and two other Monetary Policy Committee members said slack in the labor market supports the case to increase bond purchases, according to the minutes of their May meeting published today.
Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda today pledged to adjust the central bank's unprecedented stimulus program as needed after bond yields jumped.
The median forecast of 79 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for U.S. sales of existing homes to pick up to a 4.99 million pace. Estimates ranged from 4.85 million to 5.1 million. The prior month's pace was revised to 4.94 million from a previously reported 4.92 million.
At Ryland Group Inc., the builder based in West Lake Village, California, sales are up in all markets and the company reported a first-quarter profit for the first time in six years, President and Chief Executive Officer Larry Nicholson said.
"It's tough to find any negatives really," Nicholson said at a May 21 conference. "The industry is obviously in recovery mode. Everything is moving in a positive direction."
The median price of an existing home climbed to $192,800 last month, the highest since August 2008, from $173,700 a year earlier, today's report showed.
"The price increase at double digits is not healthy because incomes are rising at less than 2 percent," NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said at a news conference as the figures were released. "We do need to moderate the price growth. The only way for that to occur is for more supply to come on to the market."
Sales of newly built houses picked up to a 425,000 annualized rate, a three-month high, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists ahead of a Commerce Department report tomorrow.
The number of properties on the market climbed to 2.16 million in April, up 11.9 percent from the prior month. Nonetheless, is it was the smallest inventory for any April -- a month when housing stock typically jumps as families prepare to move before the next school year -- since 2001.
The lack of supply is overshadowing other developments that point to a pickup in demand. The median number of days a house was on the before it sold dropped to 46 in April from 62 the prior month, Yun said. That is the least since the agents' group began tracking the data in May 2011, and compares to an average of about 90 days, he said.
Foreclosures and other distressed sales accounted for 18 percent of the total, the lowest share in data going back to October 2008. First-time buyers accounted for 29 percent of purchases last month, the lowest share in more than two years.
Purchases advanced in three of four regions, led by a 2 percent gain in the South. Demand decreased 3.4 percent in the Midwest.
Existing-home sales are recovering after reaching a 13-year low of 4.11 million in 2008. The market peaked at a record 7.08 million in 2005. The effects are rippling through the economy to give a boost to retailers including Home Depot Inc., builders, real estate brokers, mortgage lenders and household finances.
Atlanta-based Home Depot, the largest home-improvement retailer in the U.S., yesterday posted first-quarter profit that topped analyst estimates. The retailer had about 337.1 million transactions in the quarter, up 2.5 percent from a year earlier.
The average fixed rate on a 30-year loan was 3.51 percent in the week ended May 16, down from 3.79 percent a year ago, according to McLean, Virginia-based Freddie Mac. It reached a record low of 3.31 percent in November.
"Increased housing activity is fostering job creation in construction and related industries, such as real estate brokerage and home furnishings, while higher home prices are bolstering household finances, which helps support the growth of private consumption," Bernanke said in testimony to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress.]]>
Seven of the state's 13 employment sectors experienced growth, including the struggling manufacturing sector, which added 400 new jobs.
Overall, the NEEP report said that the Rhode Island economy is "slowly regaining momentum," something that's indicated by the significant drop in unemployment from 10.6 percent in March 2012 to 9.1 percent in March 2013, a "robust increase" in taxes revenue and employment gains in what the report called "key industries."
The report estimated that Rhode Island's real gross state product, which measures the total economic output of the state, increased 1.8 percent in 2012. The state's current economic indicator for the first quarter increased at an annual rate of 1.6 percent.
Comparing spring 2013 forecast with the fall 2012 forecast showed that the long-term forecast for both the unemployed rate and nonfarm employment improved, causing the unemployment rate to decrease much faster than expected in the fall of 2012. "The long-term outlook has, thus, improved," said the report.
The state's real gross state product is forecast to reach $44.9 billion in 2013, a 1.1 percent increase compared to the 2012 real GSP of $44.5 billion.
The report indicated that, by 2017, Rhode Island's real GSP should be $49.7 billion, an annual growth rate of 2.2 percent between 2012 and 2017, compared with 0 percent growth between 2007 and 2012.
"This growth rate is, however, slower than the 3.2 percent growth rate for the New England area and the 3.3 percent for the United States," said the report.
The NEEP report also touched on job creation in the Ocean State, stating that between 2013 and 2016, most new jobs created in Rhode Island will be in construction, financial activities, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, education and health services and high-tech.
The report indicated that there would be little growth in Rhode Island's manufacturing, trade, transportation and utilities, information services and government employment.
Although the report projected that the Ocean State would grow jobs, it is not expected to recover the jobs lost during the recession by 2016. Rhode Island is the only New England state not expected to recover jobs lost during the forecasted period.
Median home prices are expected to increase to $243,300 by 2017, a forecasted growth rate of 3 percent between 2012 and 2017. Comparatively, the median price of a Rhode Island home from 2002 to 2007 grew 7.3 percent to $277,100 in 2007, but fell 5.4 percent between 2007 and 2012.
The population of the Ocean State is expected to increase slightly between 2012 and 2017 at 0.2 percent. This is compared with a 0.1 percent population decrease from 2007 to 2012.
Across New England as a whole, NEEP's spring report Massachusetts and Vermont are experiencing the strongest recoveries from the so-called "Great Recession," while Rhode Island and Maine continue to lag.
"Overall, the New England economy continues to be negatively affected by conditions outside the region's borders," said the report. "This includes weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the European economy and the fiscal drag from sequestration of federal funding.
NEEP's spring 2013 forecast is based on the Moody's Analytics United States March baseline forecast. According to the report, Moody's baseline is "reflective of the prospects for the national economy."
The forecast for the New England region is that the economy will continue to grow slowly, with employment growth averaging 1.4 percent annually and overall regional gross product averaging 3.3 percent growth through 2015.
"With the expected slow growth, the region is not expected to return to its pre-recession employment level until 2015 and the unemployment rate in the regional, while remaining less than the U.S. average, is not expected to be below 6 percent until 2015," said the report.
Although the housing markets in both New England and across the nation "continue to emerge as a positive driver in the economy," projected gains in housing prices in the region are expected to be "relatively modest."
According to the report, among the New England states, only Vermont is expected to have housing prices return to pre-recession levels within NEEP's forecasted period.
New England's overall economic growth is expected to remain low, "especially for a recovery from a recession," said the report. The gross regional product annualized growth is expected to remain below 3 percent until the end of 2013. After peaking at 4.5 percent at the end of 2014, overall New England gross is expected to decline.
The NEEP report also contained a special section based on the conference theme "Manufacturing is Changing - Is New England Ready?"
According to the report, for three decades, manufacturing employment has been in decline both nationwide and regionally, though New England's decline has been 50 percent more pronounced than the nation's.
The report said if the manufacturing industry in the region were to "turn around," it could have a "significant positive influence" on New England's economic outlook.
Within the New England region, Rhode Island has experienced the most pronounced manufacturing employment decline, said the NEEP report. The Ocean State has lost roughly 7 out of every 10 manufacturing jobs in the last 30 years.
NEEP's economic forecasters estimated that New England's manufacturing employment will rise 1.3 percent between 2012 and 2016. This would add roughly 7,000 manufacturing jobs in the region in the projected period.
While the report called the gain "very modest," it said it represents a turnaround from the previous six years, when New England loss 115,000 manufacturing jobs.
"To grow manufacturing ... will require linking manufacturing more strongly to research and development strengths in the region, and ensuring an appropriately skilled workforce for advanced manufacturing across the region," said the report.
To view the full NEEP reports, visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.]]>
Superfund is a federal program that investigates and cleans up the most "complex, uncontrolled of abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country to protect people's health and the environment," according to the EPA.
Another Massachusetts site - the former Creese & Cook Tannery in Danvers, Mass. - has also been added to the list and the former Collins & Aikman Plant in Farmington, N.H. has been proposed for list consideration.
"Adding these two sites to the national Superfund list allows EPA to begin addressing contamination issues on these parcels. Superfund has been very effective cleaning contaminated lands across the country, ensuring cleaner and healthier communities," Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA's New England office, said in prepared remarks.
"These heavily contaminated sites in Attleboro and Danvers will one day be clean enough to be redeveloped and help boost the Massachusetts economy," Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan said in a statement. "We thank our partners at the EPA for listing these sites as priorities, helping us to protect our residents and the environment."
From 1940 to 2007, the former Walton & Lonsbury site was used to chrome plate oversized objects such as pistons for large hydraulic equipment or rollers for paper mills.
According to the EPA, a number of chemicals and chemical compounds were used and left as waste in the operations process. Contaminants include total chromium, hexavalent chromium, lead and volatile organic compounds.
Since 1983, the EPA has listed 1,685 sites on the National Properties List. Presently, 68 percent of the sites have cleanup remedies in place. Thirty-six percent of sites have all necessary long-term protections in place, meaning the EPA considers the sites protective to redevelopment or reuse.]]>