Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Lott to leave Senate

Very bad news for Amtrak. Mississippi is one state that can probably be counted on to provide worse congressional representation than Arkansas. Trent Lott has been a friend of passenger rail service in a difficult time. Especially bad in light ot Texas Senator Hutchison’s announced departure. Here is the link


Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics

North Carolina clearning the way.

This is a strange and ongoing story. Bottom line, the railroad was there first. Of course, in the real world one can not be so insensitive. The railroad is a public asset and needs to be preserved.
The News-Observer reports.

Using flyover photography, the N.C. Railroad has identified about 1,500 businesses and institutions encroaching on its 317-mile, 200-foot-wide corridor from Morehead City to Charlotte. Despite the sometimes bone-rattling noise, numerous businesses — from lumberyards to auto-repair shops — have crept over the years toward the iron pathway.

Some have gotten too close. Sparks from tracks set cars on fire in a Durham used-car lot last year, and a freight train crashed into a building near the State Fairgrounds 2 1/2 years ago.

The N.C. Railroad has become more active about policing its right of way, citing safety and the need to preserve the corridor for future uses such as a commuter rail. Since 2004, the line has secured about 127 license agreements governing how encroaching property owners can use the buffer zone. That is more agreements than the railroad has from negotiations the previous 150 years.

Some property owners have been eager to comply with agreements, but others are balking. In many cases, the property owners have been mowing the grass and paying taxes on land that they thought was theirs.

Filed under: Regional USA Passenger Rail

Those wacky Saudis

The royal family over there is such good friends with our first family, I am always delighted to see that things are working out for the House of Saud.

A French rail company has revealed plans to establish a high-speed rail network in Saudi Arabia, linking Jeddah and Madina with a journey time of just 90 minutes.

Alstom Transport, which recently tested the world’s fastest train, says its proposed network will be capable of transporting millions of Haj and Umrah pilgrims at speeds of up to 400km per hour, according to a report by the Saudi Gazette.

Alstom SVP Francois Lacote revealed plans for the 500 seat double-decker trains at the French Technology Exhibition in Riyadh on Saturday. The project, connecting Madina, Makkah and Jeddah is to be presented ‘soon’ to the Saudi Ministry of Transport, Lacote said. “We will build it as soon as it is approved by the Saudi Ministry of Transport” he said.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail

Duluth flip-flop

It’s a hundred and fifty mile corridor between Minneapolis and Duluth. It just amkes sense to provide sensible transportation service between one substantial town and a major transportation hub. Folks in Minnesota are just too darned smart for this kind of stuff. I know they will pull it out.

The Star- Tribune has a comprehensive report.

But if the 150-mile line has lost steam in Duluth, it’s come to a stop in Carlton County.

Officials there say they want no part in funding a line that runs through, but doesn’t stop, in their county.

And then there’s the case of Sandstone, which has been told cities aren’t invited to rail corridor planning sessions. But Sandstone officials not only continue to show up at meetings, asking for a stop, they have come up with a blueprint for an $8 million station, Ongaro said.

“We’re thrilled by Sandstone’s persistence,” he said. “We just wish that everyone along the corridor would have half the amount of enthusiasm Sandstone has.”

Ongaro is based in Duluth, long thought to be the engine driving this line. That left a few officials “in total shock” when Duluth’s City Council recently voted, 4-3, against paying the city’s share of $40,000 toward a $300,000 feasibility study that was begun almost a year ago and is near completion, Ongaro said. The study is expected to be presented to the Federal Rail Authority in December — a crucial meeting for a line that expects 80 percent of its costs to be covered by federal funding.

Yet, with that deadline looming, two key City Council members were missing for the Duluth vote. A second vote has been scheduled for Monday.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Regional USA Passenger Rail

Lynchburg lynching

I just hate that this editorial comes form a town bearing my namesake. It looks like bit of turf war going on here, and we can all be grateful the opinion piece was not completely nasty. The transportation study referenced here will probably go a long ways toward settling things.

Here is a taste of what the News-Advance ran.

People who want to affect a total cultural change in this country, transportation-wise, are just whistling “Dixie.” They’re just not on the same planet as you or me.

Buses, passenger and commuter rail and other fringe modes of public transportation are important to the overall transportation scheme, but highways are – and will continue to be – the main arteries for the U.S. economy.

Here’s wishing our neighbors up the road in Charlottesville well in their quest for more rail options, but here’s also hoping they realize two very important things.

One, any passenger rail plans must be undertaken on a statewide approach in order to have even a remote chance of being successful.

Two, U.S. 29 is, and will remain, the main north-south artery in Central Virginia, and it needs continuous upgrading. Translation for our Charlottesville friends? The Charlottesville Bypass needs to be built, sooner rather than later.

Filed under: Regional USA Passenger Rail

Georgia needs leadership for brain train

Great news report in the Atlanta Journal Constitution about a pair of forums on transportation policy. One of the major projects is rail service between Atlanta, Athens and Macon. The missing ingredient?

The elephant in the room at lunch (actually he wasn’t there) was Gov. Sonny Perdue. Not one person called on Perdue to take the leadership reins on transportation, although it was on the minds of many.

Will the governor come out with a transportation agenda that actually will address the issues facing metro Atlanta and the rest of the state? Will he show leadership and finally support funding mechanisms that would help pay for alternative modes of transportation, including rail?

If Perdue fails to lead, who will step in to move this state forward?

At both forums, there was consensus. Georgia needs to come up with new ways to pay for transportation projects that would fund all modes of travel. The state motor fuel tax is limited to roads and bridges, and those funds already have been spent in the Fast Forward plan and on maintenance of our existing system.

Shackelford reminded that the last time we raised our gas tax was in 1971 when it went from 6.5 cents a gallon to 7.5 cents a gallon.

“We haven’t had a dedicated source of revenue for rail,” Shackelford said, explaining why there’s been no progress in implementing the commuter rail study of 1991. “The lack of a source of operating revenues was the biggest obstacle we faced then, and it’s the greatest obstacle we face now.”

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

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November 2007