Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hoosier Speed Rail and more federal dollars

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review has reported that the FRA will be releasing an additional $115 million for HSR planning and design projects. FRA spokesman Rob Kulat said, "Most of it is for planning, which is what a lot of the states need — environmental planning, designs, engineering." This money will go towards developing projects that not yet "shovel ready".

The $115 million comes from:
  • $65 million left over from the FRA's 2009 budget
  • $50 million from the FRA's 2010 budget for kick starting HSR projects

Meanwhile, the Indiana HSR Association recently held a conference at Valparaiso University to examine the economic benefits that HSR could hold for Indiana:

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Perspective on CREATE

Chicago Business Today provides some perspective on the CREATE program and the funding challenges for completing each of it's 71 projects (formerly 78 projects until CN acquired the EJ&E railway). I am aware that this blog devotes quite a bit of attention to news on CREATE, but the full realization of this program will have an enormous impact on the frequency and punctuality of passenger rail travel in the Midwest and the future of American HSR.

CREATE's $3 billion grand total has thus far acquired funding from:
  • Class I railroads ($232 million collectively committed, half has been received)
  • State of Illinois ($10 million received and an additional $400 million committed from the capital construction program, which is now in doubt with the state's budget woes)
  • Federal Stimulus funds ($100 million TIGER Grant and $133 million for Englewood Flyover)
  • 2005 Congressional earmark ($100 million)

Below, Senator Durbin speaks at the site of the new Englewood flyover and the impact it will have on HSR, while CREATE project manager, Jeffrey Sriver, highlights some of the funding challenges-

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Friday, March 12, 2010

A station fit for Cincinnati

Amtrak is asking all Cincinnatians for their thoughts on the future home for passenger rail in The Queen City. Major cities with historical and grand passenger rail portals still in existence need to leverage the priceless atmosphere that only these great spaces can bring to the reinvention of American passenger rail in their city.

Fortunately it looks like decision makers are leaning towards re-establishing Cincinnati's Union Terminal as it's passenger rail station. Built in 1933, the stunning building sits 5 minutes from downtown, 8 minutes from the University of Cincinnati, 12 minutes from Xavier University and attracted 1.4 million visitors last year to the Museum Center at Union Terminal.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

HSR and Airlines co-existing

The Wall Street Journal reports that during an address earlier this week to the Federal Aviation Administration’s annual forecasting conference, Sec. Ray LaHood made the future very clear when saying,

“Let me give you a little bit of political advice: Don’t be against high-speed rail,’’ Sec. LaHood said. “It’s coming to America. This is the president’s vision, this is the vice president’s vision, this is America’s vision…. We’re going to get into the high-speed rail business.’’

In two or three decades, Mr. LaHood said, U.S. cities will be connected by high-speed rail – whether airlines like it or not.

“People want alternatives,’’ he said pointedly. “People are still going to fly, but we need alternatives. So get with the program.’’


For anyone out there on Twitter, Amtrak now has an account --

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Monday, March 08, 2010

The future of Amtrak technology

The future of Amtrak is looking bright after Amtrak released a RFQ (Request for Qualifications) for developing an onboard a wireless platform that will provide:
  • Wi-Fi for passengers on ALL trains
  • Support automated on-board signage to make announcements and provide information en route
  • A secure Wi-Fi channel for Amtrak to conduct on-board transactions (such as ticketing or on-board sales)
  • Support for content catching (data gathering) and delivery, such as audio and video entertainment

Could one of these resemble the future seatbacks of Amtrak trains??

*Left: JetBlue -- Right: Virgin America


Saturday, March 06, 2010

HSR: Chicago to New York

In a concise and fantastic Op-Ed, former NARP Director, Larry Joyce, discusses the New York, Pittsburgh & Chicago Railroad that was almost built in 1907.

"The proposed NYP & CRR would have been a truly high-speed railroad with grades of less than two-tenths of one percent and curvature of less than two degrees. The mileage of the existing route between New York and Chicago would be reduced from 924 miles to 780.

The mileage of the existing route between New York and Pittsburgh would be reduced from 444 miles to 355 miles. This reduction was achieved by eliminating direct service to Philadelphia and by straightening the railroad through central Pennsylvania.

Even with maximum speed of only 110 mph, travel time from New York to Chicago could be reduced from the existing 19 hours to less than 12 hours, and the time between New York and Pittsburgh could be reduced from 9 hours to less than 5 hours."

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Sect. LaHood supports HSR to AASHTO

This past Wednesday, March 3rd, USDOT Sect. Ray LaHood stood in front of AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) and reiterated the federal government's long term support for passenger rail. Sect LaHood went as far as saying that in 20 to 30 years America WILL BE connected by intercity high speed passenger rail.

Skip to 5:14 for his remarks on rail:

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CREATE: Englewood flyover construction

As many as 1,500 new jobs could be created from construction of the flyover at 63rd and State in the Englewood section Chicago. The flyover will separate Metra from Norfolk Southern tracks that carries southbound Amtrak train. The project is part of the CREATE program and was funded with $133 million in stimulus dollars. The completed flyover will eliminate the daily conflict between 78 Metra Rock Island trains and approximately 60 freight and Amtrak trains.

Below, the project is announced by Mayor Daley and Gov. Quinn reinforces the importance of rail infrastructure to Illinois' role as an inland port.

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Improving American tourism

I have always loved the idea of increased domestic tourism. Few countries, if any, offer the cultural and geographic diversity that the contiguous United States does. Every year, thousands of American college students travel around Europe easily and safely on passenger trains. The train allows them to catch up on sleep, meet fellow travelers from around the globe and arrive at their destination without having to worry about the language barriers or rules of the road that could make navigating European highways quite treacherous.

Attracting foreign students and all international tourists to hop from city to city on soon-to-be-improving Amtrak service will not only spur additional economic activity, but increase America's profile as a global tourist destination that is easy and affordable to navigate. Granted this also depends on making our major cities more walkable and transit friendly, but I digress. Similar to the popular Eurail Pass, Amtrak currently has USA Rail Pass which could be an attractive option for those looking to see as much of the US as possible during their time abroad.

Below is a quick video (less than 2 mins) from the Oval Office of President Obama signing the Travel Promotion Act.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Milwaukee: site of Talgo-America

Today Wisconsin Gov Jim Doyle announced that Spanish train manufacturer, Talgo, will be manufacturing trains for Wisconsin and Oregon's Amtrak Hiawatha and Cascades routes, respectively. The plant will create 125 manufacturing jobs.

The Milwaukee facility will be located in the vacant Tower Automotive plant. Talgo CEO and President Antonio Perez said, “Our analysis included the following criteria: economic conditions, technical/operational conditions, logistics, cost of living, training facilities in the vicinity and availability of a skilled workforce. We believe that the Tower site will allow us not only to deliver the train sets on time and with our high standards of quality, but it will also allow for future growth." The Tower site has a railroad spur that connects to the new Madison line.

Progressive Railroading reports that Oregon has recently purchased two train sets for a cost of $36.6 million to enhance service between Eugene, OR and Vancouver, BC.

Talgo-America already has
Wisconsin openings listed on its job site.

Here is the announcement:

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Monday, March 01, 2010

Freak accident between Amtrak and Detroit Fire Truck

In SW Detroit, Wolverine Train 353 was bound for Chicago when it collided with a fire truck. Thankfully no one was reported injured.

This incident reinforces the importance of Amtrak's latest rail safety campaign.

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Acela+Wifi and HSR in Brazil

The AP reports that Amtrak will be rolling out AmtrakConnect, it's free wireless internet service, on all 20 Acela train and in the gate areas of the following Northeast Corridor Stations:
  • Washington Union Station
  • Baltimore Penn Station
  • Philadelphia 30th Street Station
  • New York Penn Station
  • Providence Station
  • Boston - Route 128 Station
  • Wilmington Station (2011 - once station renovations are completed)

Air Rail News has word that Brazil is looking to have a High Speed Rail Corridor (Rio de Janeiro - Sao Paulo - Campinas) up and running in time for the 2016 Olympics.

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