Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Colorado breakup

Here’s one I found on the daily research trek through the cyber-wilderness. It’s about the efforts to bring high speed rail to Colorado. A similar effort was soundly defeated some years ago, but circumstances have substantially changed. High speed train technology is booming worldwide.

As often is the case, this seems to be an issue of personalities. The long-time most visible proponent of improved transportation seems to have gotten himself some scrutiny because of wearing two hats.

Bob Briggs, the man whose spent the past few years raising support and money for a statewide, high-speed, passenger rail system along the I-25 and I-70 corridors, was fired earlier this month from the group he started.

In 2005, the nonprofit Briggs created to promote rail, now called the Colorado Rail Association, secured $1.25 million from Referendum C funds to conduct a feasibility study for rail in the mountain corridors. In order to receive the money, CDOT required that an intergovernmental agreement be created, and so the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority – a government entity with a membership of about twenty counties and municipalities – was founded to receive the funds and lead the study. Briggs acted as the group’s director from its inception, and in June was formally made executive director by the board. But then on July 6, the board voted to terminate his contract.

If it is to be credible, the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority will have to produce a professional feasibility report. Otherwise, the project is dead and the public is stuck in an eternal gridlock.

I don’t know Bob Biggs, so this is s sheer total guess, but I would imagine that he knows a lot about trains and has a lot of sound opinions. He is probably better suited to lobbying and public education. He coulc become a tremendous asset or a vocal antagonist.

The rest of us out in congested America are hoping for an amicable divorce.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics

Showdown in Stuttgart

EUX TV, the Europe channel, brings the story about a local dispute over some serious urban renewal. At issue is a decision to rebuild the local train station to accomadate even faster times for the French LGV. There is an interesting logictical situation in colorful old Stuttgart, which is somewhat more typical in the United States.

Stuttgart, one of Germany’s most prosperous cities and a main stop on the rail line between Paris and Vienna, has always been an oddity because it has a dead-end station.

The locomotives enter the station, stop at the buffers and are uncoupled. Another engine must be hitched at the other end to haul a passenger train on the next leg of the journey, or special two-headed trains must be used.

Unkink this line, planners say, and it will be possible to cross Germany east-west, from Munich to the French city of Strasbourg, in 2 hours and 53 minutes, a reduction by 54 minutes compared to present- day express trains.

France’s high-speed TGV train, which began services to Stuttgart in May, will be able to sweep through and keep going as far as Hungary.

Another interesting aspect of the Stuttgart situation is that the old rail right of way was laid out in 1850 and at some point, trains reportedly come to a near crawl at around 5 mph.This will require boring through mountains and building new bridges. It’s expensive and the question is whether it siphons off funding for other high speed rail projects. It looks like, even in Europe, there are fiscal limitations.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail

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July 2007