Thursday, September 20, 2007

Amtrak CEO calls for dedicated passenger line from Chicago to Porter, Indiana with a "bold" vision

This is refreshing.

Alexander Kummant, Amtrak's CEO, wrote a letter to Amtrak employees on his one-year anniversary. It's here.

He calls for growth as a company strategy (not just surviving Bush Administration proposals for bankruptcy) and specifically mentions the bottleneck in Chicago going east as a problem to solve with bold leadership.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the future of our
business is in expanding and developing corridor service. We need to strengthen our partnerships with states and host railroads to make that happen. We can take a leadership role in advancing corridor service with bold infrastructure projects that would break apart some of the key bottlenecks across the country. By dedicating some capital and working with our state and freight partners, we could open up segments of routes that would transform rail service.

Imagine what a dedicated line from Chicago to Porter, Ind., would do for the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited services, as well as our Michigan trains. Imagine what an additional line between Richmond and Washington could do to improve and expand service there, or another route developed to link Los Angeles and the Bay area. What I’m suggesting is that we have to be bold.

That's inspiring words.

To translate, once a train pulls out of Union Station, it should be cooking at 60 miles per hour through the City and into Indiana.

Right now, because of extreme freight congestion and old tracks that are not set up properly, the trains poke around at 20 or 30 miles per hour.

That's why it's a 5 hour trip between Chicago and Indianapolis. I mean, come on. That's also why it takes 17 hours to get between Chicago and New York. Come on!

Building new track that is just for passenger trains between Chicago and northwest Indiana would solve that bottleneck and make a lot of train trips faster than driving.

It's great that the CEO has a bold vision. Now we need to make sure that all of our local, state and federal officials share that bold vision and are willing to invest in a modern passenger rail network.

The freight railroads, by the way, should help finance a dedicated passenger track, because taking Amtrak trains off of their freight rails is good for their business. There are lots of win-win scenarios. We just need all the stakeholders to urgently demand bold solutions and spend the time and energy to figure them out.

By the way, I found this great new blog out of Arkansas by Pat Lynch called Trains for America. It's going on the link list. Check it out.


Blogger plaws said...

How much of that "vision thing" would actually be part of CREATE, assuming full funding (LOL!)? Wouldn't CREATE at least get trains (at 60 per) to the Indiana line?

9:36 AM  
Blogger Dan Johnson said...

I understand about 1/3 of CREATE would directly benefit passenger trains, and that would be excellent. The other 2/3 would indirectly benefit passenger trains by unclogging freight traffic. I'm not sure if CREATE would get 60 mph to the Indiana line. Educate me, please.

8:07 AM  
Blogger mattmcc said...

The ex-NYC right-of-way affords enormous space immediately north of the ex-PRR used by NS. This could be built from Englewood to well into NW Indiana, although the bridges will have to be rebuilt or replaced entirely.

11:45 PM  

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