Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Illinois dilemma

Here is one I just don’t get. Would I be correct in presuming the rail is CN? The reporter doesn’t say. Which trains will be effected? How serious will it be? Here’s the story.

CHAMPAIGN- To the train tracks a change could make your trips to the Windy city even longer. Leaders from Champaign and Mattoon learned the railroad company is planning to reroute its freight trains around Chicago. That move would take out the tracks Amtrak uses to get from here to there.
People can hop on a train and make it to Chicago in just a few hours but soon, that’ll change because Amtrak will have to take a detour to get into the city it’s a few extra hours that riders say just isn’t worth it. Train rider, Meena Rao says “It would be disastrous in the sense that I would not take the train.”
A change in tracks would mean no more trains for Meena Rao. She lives in Chicago but works in Urbana. For her the train makes life a lot easier, “You can read, you can get work done and you don’t have the stress of driving.”
The track’s owner runs freight trains it wants to save time by moving its tracks around the city. The problem, Amtrak uses its tracks. So if it moves them these trains have to find another route into Chicago’s Union Station. Tacking on time for travelers. One couple is already planning a long trip to Washington state, so a few extra hours on the way just wouldn’t be worth it. “We’d think about doing something else if it’s going to be an extra 2 or 3 hours,” says the rider.
Several riders say they’d take their money elsewhere saying they’d lose the luxury of a quick trip home.
Depending on how this project is approved the change could be a year out or three years out. Local leaders aren’t waiting for that decision they plan to start a letter writing Campaign against this move.
They want to make it clear to the railroad company this is a big hassle. At the same time, they need to get to work on finding grants. Building new tracks for Amtrak to use to get to Chicago will cost about 25-million dollars.

Filed under: Amtrak

Christian Science Monitor makes sense

It usually does make sense, but the publication is in Boston. That means that CSM folks have an opportunity to use some of America’s finest trains. Sadly, most of the country is left with daily unreliable passenger trains – or no rail passenger whatsoever.

You probably realize that I live in Arkansas, so I don’t have a personal dog in the northeast corridor fight. It is a continual source of wonderment that congress does not come across with money to fix the bridges and tunnels. It’s an essential piece of interstate transportation.

Here is part of a fine editorial.

The Senate bill’s $10 billion package over six years would amount to an almost 40 percent increase in funding. It applies to operational expenses, maintenance, and infrastructure. The bill also addresses delays on long distance routes.

An additional $1.4 billion would be available as matching grants to states seeking more passenger train service within their borders.

It must be said, however, that even the Senate bill falls short – of funds (overdue upgrades to bridges and tunnels along the Northeast corridor alone will cost $5 billion), and more important, of strategic vision. Must America really be satisfied with just one high-speed rail service? Investment in the Acela and improved on-time performance tapped latent demand that surely exists elsewhere in the country.

The vision challenge extends across transportation sectors. Amtrak is finally getting a serious cash infusion, but its needs are no different from those of America’s bridges, highways, and airports.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

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November 2007