Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

France knows how to build a great railroad – California HSR

As I always say, American transport policy is held hostage. Although no additional evidence is needed, I direct your attention to the latest news concerning development of HSR lines to serve California’s major population centers. 

France will be taking a lead role in this because… well, you can figure that out for yourselves. I appreciate the cordial, and I hope mutually beneficial, cooperation on this developing project. 

France 24 reports:

California is on track to build a high-speed rail network using French technology and know-how.

The project will cost California 95 billion dollars, in a country that is still largely dependent on road and air travel.

State Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said: “America’s railroad system is no faster than it was 100 years ago and still runs on that old system.

“We need to do what other countries are doing. All over the world there are trains that go at 400 km/h.

“We need to do the same in this country, and especially in California.”

Filed under: International High Speed Rail, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

Trains versus planes in Italy

Everybody knows Europe is way ahead, but I like to post an occasional item to demonstrate the stark difference. This is easily understood evidence that American transportation policy is conducted more for the benefit of well funded special interests than the traveling public.

Here is a small part of what The Economist has to say.

On November 3rd easyJet, one of Europe’s leading low-cost operators, began operating four flights a day from Fiumicino, Rome’s main airport, to Malpensa, Milan’s second airport. But an even greater danger to a reborn Alitalia may be that posed by trains. Allowing for journeys to and from the airports and the time needed for check-in, security and boarding, a trip from central Rome to central Milan by plane takes well over three hours. The quickest train takes just over four hours. But on December 15th a 182km (114 mile) section of new track will open between Bologna and Milan, cutting the journey time by about half an hour. And at the end of next year 79km of high-speed track between Florence and Bologna should enter service, reducing the one-hour travel time between the two cities by almost half.

Moreover the threat does not just come from Trenitalia, the state-owned rail operator. Last month Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori (NTV), a private-sector operator headed by Luca di Montezemolo, Ferrari’s boss, revealed plans to operate high-speed trains between cities including Rome, Milan, Turin and Venice, starting in 2011, with 13 trains a day between Rome and Milan.

Mr di Montezemolo is sure he and his fellow investors are on to a winner. “Italy is a country made for high-speed trains. There is nothing to be gained from investing in airlines,” he says. Intesa Sanpaolo, Italy’s biggest bank, which owns 20% of NTV, agrees with him—up to a point. It is hedging its bet with a large stake in the firm resurrecting Alitalia.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

Colorado timeline

You think it takes a long time to get big projects moving. You;’re right. Here is a somewhat detailed and lengthy essay from Frisco, Co. city manager Michael Penny. He is is also chairman of the I-70 Coalition and serves on Gov. Ritter’s Transportation Finance and Implementation Panel and the Colorado Department of Transportation Federal Reauthorization Committee. 

The bullet points:

• The description of the I-70 improvements will be legally completed in 2010.

• Smaller highway improvement projects may start as soon as 2011.

• Major highway improvements may begin in 2017.

• If determined to be feasible, rail design could begin for our segment of I-70 as soon as 2010 and, if financing is secured, construction could begin between 2015-2020.

There are no silver bullets or easy answers to this corridor. This corridor serves as an Interstate highway, a tourist avenue and as our local road. The users are many. The government entities and geographic regions involved are numerous. The Interstate also runs through some of the most pristine and rugged scenery in the country. The solutions are complex and costly. This all adds up to taking the time to make the right decisions, following the correct legal procedures, finding the right funding mechanisms, and designing and constructing the solution in a way which minimizes the social, economic, historic and environmental impacts.

If you are interested in learning more, check these three,

I hope this has helped provide some light towards seeing the end of the tunnel … from your seat on that high speed rail system.

One wonders if a Midwest High Speed Rail Association type solution might be in order. That would use existing rail lines at 115+ mph. There are plenty of locations where that might work, maybe Colorado is one of them, but there geography there is tricky. Very rugged. 

One must also anticipate opposition from NIMBY’s, environmentalists, or other pain-in-the-rear-end local activists. 

Based on my scant recollection of the area, it seems as if expanding i-70 would be the worst possible solution. That puppy was busting at the seems in the 70’s and it must be worse now.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

Investors eye infrastructure improvements voted in Tuesday’s election

Barron’s “Investor Soapbox” feature has an item from D. A. Davidson observing some specifics on transportation projects.

Poll Results Spur Infrastructure

Voters approved billions in state capital projects, which could boost engineering and construction companies.

D.A. Davidson

VOTERS APPROVED BILLIONS of dollars in state bond issues backing major proposed infrastructure projects and programs across the U.S. as well as other initiatives, which we expect will have positive long-term implications for select companies in our coverage universe.

Although the timing of construction on these projects is not likely to begin for several months or years, and is also contingent on demand for new issues in the municipal bond markets, we believe several companies within our coverage universe could ultimately benefit. We highlight some of the major approved propositions and potential beneficiaries within the Engineering & Construction and Construction Products groups below.

California voters approved the issuance of $9.95 billion in bonds related to construction of the first phase of a high-speed passenger rail system between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Construction is not expected to begin until at least 2011. We believe potential beneficiaries could includeGranite Construction (ticker: GVA), URS (URS), Perini (PCR) and others. Additionally, Powell Industries (POWL) is a leading supplier of traction substations and switchgear for transit applications.

California voters approved Proposition 3, authorizing the state to sell $980 million in bonds for capital improvement projects at various California children’s hospitals. We believe potential beneficiaries could include Perini and Jacobs Engineering Group (JEC).

Voters approved a plan for the state of Hawaii to move forward with a mass transit system on Oahu, the largest planned public works project in the state’s history. Recent estimates put the cost of the 20-mile system in excess of $4.3 billion, exclusive of proposed extensions. We expectAmeron International (AMN) will benefit as construction of the rail line as well as ancillary structures such as garages, stations and parking lots is anticipated to consume significant aggregates, concrete and other heavy building materials on the islands. Construction is not anticipated until at least late 2009.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

Transit tax passes in 7 New Mexico counties

Here is another one of the big stories from Tuesday’s elections. TFA does not specialize in “transit” but New Mexico’s Rail Runner is bigger than that and we are pleased to give you this important update on a measure that will bring better transportation to a wide area. The Associated Press has a comprehensive story.

Voters in Bernalillo, Sandoval and Valencia counties approved the Rio Metro Regional Transit District’s proposed tax levy, which will raise an estimated $26 million a year for the transit district.

The counties of Santa Fe, Rio Arriba, Taos and Los Alamos passed the North Central Regional Transit District transit tax, which will raise $8 million a year.

The initiatives will increase local gross receipts taxes by one-eighth of 1 percent — the equivalent of 12.5 cents per $100 — to pay for expanded transportation services.

Half the estimated revenue in the Rio Metro District will be dedicated to operating and maintaining the Rail Runner, which is to begin running to Santa Fe by the end of the year, said Lawrence Rael, executive director of the Mid-Region Council of Governments, which oversees rail service operations for the state.

The other half will go toward expanded bus and transit connections for rural areas in Sandoval and Valencia counties, he said.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

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November 2008