Friday, December 18, 2009

Charlie Crist wishes a Merry Christmas with HSR


U.S. Rep (Florida) John Mica has stated that the finalists for the HSR stimulus funding has been narrowed down to Chicago, Texas, California and Florida. The announcement is expected to be made in late January or early February of 2010.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ray LaHood on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart talking high speed rail!

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood -- perhaps the nation's biggest cheerleader for high speed rail (besides Vice-President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama) wetn on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart this week and talked up our favorite topic: high speed rail.

The pithiest quote came early, and while you should watch it, it went something like this:

Stewart: Let me ask you a question as the Secretary of Transportation. I'm a CEO of a billion dollar corporation. I need to go meet the President of the United States in the morning. But it's foggy. Can I really not get there?

LaHood: Amtrak. Amtrak runs in the fog.


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Friday, December 11, 2009

Gov. Rendell on a Nat'l Infrastructure Bank for HSR

I: What’s your view on long-term funding for high speed rail? Would a NIB (National Infrastructure Bank) ensure that HSR projects are not just begun, but also completed?

R: The Obama administration deserves credit for designating funds in the stimulus bill for high speed rail. But none of these projects really deserve the title “high-speed rail” — rather, they are all mid-speed, or up to 120 miles an hour. But high speed in the modern world is more like 225 miles per hour. High speed rail is a good example of why we need a NIB. Right now TIGER grants can accept HSR applications, but once the stimulus goes away, there’s no vehicle for many states to apply for funding that’s wide in scope. If you’re building HSR in Ohio, you might do conventional track with high speed trains and electrification — but then you couldn’t run a high speed train through Pennsylvania out of Ohio, since PA isn’t using the same track. So there has to be some place for national management and funding of these projects.

Overall, HSR is a 10-year investment of somewhere between $700 billion and $1.3 trillion. States should share in some of that cost, but its a significant investment, there’s no ifs ands or buts about that. But other countries have done it. Pennsylvanians who go to Europe come back amazed at how advanced their rail system is, while we have nothing like it.

I: How should the $8 billion in stimulus money designated for high speed rail be used?

R: That $8 billion in funds is being used to increase speed on regional rail lines that have multi-state capacity. Take Pennsylvania. Amrak collaborated to put $74 million up and used $150 million to do work on our tracks to increase the speed of Harrisburg line. We cut the travel time down and increased ridership from 898,ooo people to around 1.2 million, just by lowering the speed 30 minutes. But you still couldn’t call what we have “high speed rail.”

I: Is it a better idea to adapt our current rail system to high speeds? Or do we need to start from scratch with HSR?

R: Adapting what we have is very very hard. The Acela is the closest thing we have right now to a high speed train in this country. It can reach speeds of up to 150 an hour, but only on a stretch of about 20 miles between New York and Washington are the tracks straight enough to reach this speed. If we built new straight tracks, we could do New York to D.C. in 1 hour and 35 minutes. Philadelphia to New York would be a 36-minute trip if we had straight tracks. This would let us end the Delta and U.S. Air shuttle. And if you could get rid of the shuttle, that would get rid of the cause of so many air traffic delays. Just imagine it!

*Thank you to the Infrastructurist for the interview

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Bring Lawyers, Guns and Money

I am sure lawyers were involved when last night Congress approved guns to be carried on Amtrak along with a spending bill that includes $2.5 billion for HSR (a compromise between the Senate's $1.2 and House's $4 billion. You might ask what can $2.5 billion get you when it comes to HSR. Well it will get you more than $1.2 and less than $4. Other than that, we will have to wait until early next year, just 22 days away, to find out which corridors the federal government has faith in.

Good News for HSR out Springfield from -- Illinois Department of Transportation agreed Wednesday to finance a study on behalf of the city of Springfield that could help determine which route through the Capital City is best suited for faster Amtrak trains. Illinois wants to install a second set of tracks along the Union Pacific Railroad line running between Chicago and St. Louis in order to boost train speeds to 110 mph, up from the current high speed of 79 mph.

*Cooperation on potential HSR corridors between state and local lawmakers will likely improve the odds of landing a some of the $8 billion.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Fresh Squeezed Rail in 2012

Big news out of Florida late Tuesday (12/8/09) is the State Legislature's final approval to the SunRail train that will serve Central Florida passengers beginning in 2012.

Thanks to the
Tribune for the news.

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

HSR & Job Creation from Sect. LaHood

The Tribune reported, "Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said at a rail manufacturing conference that more than 30 foreign and domestic companies have promised to establish or expand operations in the United States if they are chosen to build high-speed lines. The commitments will ensure the rail program will create jobs in the U.S. and boost domestic manufacturing."

LaHood said he hopes rail-related manufacturing is located in states including Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, which leads the nation with 15.1% unemployment.

Keep in mind the FRA has received 45 requests totaling about $50 billion from 24 states. The Transportation Department’s Federal Railroad Administration will award the rail money to states “early next year,” LaHood said. Each State will decide how to spend their share.

In a great article from The Tribune, the superb quality of meals on the Baltimore & Ohio is remembered. One hopes of the day when passenger rail in this country will be not only fast, frequent and dependable, but healthy and delicious... just the way 007 would have it.

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