Trains For America

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Are state DOT’s staffed for handling rail transit?

Most of us associate our respective state Departments of Transportation (with their oh-so-cute DOT acronyms) with one thing and one thing only: highways. They’re the ones responsible for maintaining the interstates that grow ever wider in and around our cities.

So it should come as no surprise then when Albert Song points out in the Hartford Courant that his state’s DOT, at least, is ill-equiped for managing the passenger rail systems that serve the Northeastern state.

My understanding of the DOT’s function, which has not changed much since I went to work there in 1986, is to construct, service and maintain highways and bridges. The department is well qualified and equipped to build highways in a professional and efficient manner, and is unquestionably good at it.

However, in my view, the DOT is not organized and staffed to direct rail car design, rail car manufacturing nor construction of mass transit system. As far as I knew, no interest or effort was ever expended to develop a transit capability.

Considering that Connecticut lies in one of the more active rail regions in the country, one wonders how capable the DOT of other states, such as those in the West and the South, are in terms of passenger rail. It’s not a happy thought.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail, Travel Woes

One Response

  1. Matt' says:

    As a Georgia native, I can certainly agree with that statement. I often joked that the GDOT intermodal office was the one guy who worked on everything besides highways.

    The DOT is has been dragging its feet on commuter rail in the Atlanta region for several years now, and it’s gotten to the point that I will be surprised if they ever make a serious move toward rail.

    Maryland, where I now live, however has a much better outlook. MDOT is very intermodal in nature, with the Maryland Mass Transit Administration (MTA-MD) operating MARC commuter rail services in 9 Maryland counties and 2 in West Virginia and light rail and metro services in Baltimore.

    As a matter of fact, transit plays a strong role in Maryland’s plans for smart growth. Late last year, Governor O’Malley announced plans to triple MARC services over the next several decades, naming it as one of his administration’s top priorities.

    More information:

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April 2008


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