Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

That governor’s meeting

President-elect Obama is meeting with the nation’s governor’s. My governor, Mike Beebe of Arkansas, stayed home. That is a concern.

This gives you jsut a little flavor of the proceedings, which were positive, from the perspective of Maine’s chief executive. it was reported in the Portland Press Herald.

“It was unique, it was unprecedented, and it was a tremendous outreach effort by the president-elect,” Baldacci said during a news conference at the Portland International Jetport. “Never before have the nation’s governors been invited this early on to meet with an incoming president and his administration.”

Baldacci flew to Philadelphia on Monday and joined governors from across the nation at a rare meeting in historic Congress Hall. Many Republican governors came, including Alaska’s Sarah Palin, who was the Republican vice presidential nominee, and California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Baldacci urged Obama to strive for energy independence, noting that Maine has great potential to develop wind energy.

“It was a real attempt to reach out beyond party lines, a way of saying that we are all in this boat together,” Baldacci said.

He said he has asked his department heads to prepare a list of projects that need to be funded. After Tuesday’s press conference, the governor released a list of “ready to go” projects that include:

* Extending Amtrak service from Portland to Brunswick, $35 million.

* Rebuilding the northbound lane of Interstate 295 between Brunswick and West Gardiner, $40 million.

* Replacing the state-owned Governor Curtis ferry based in Rockland, $12.5 million.

* Removing the superstructure of the former Waldo-Hancock Bridge, $6 million.

The Philadelphia Inquirer has an extensive editorial, which we highlight here.

Most of our peer countries have already learned this lesson and are far ahead of us, using advanced rail and transit systems. Large government investments over the course of decades have helped 15 countries build high-speed-rail systems, which have drawn passengers from cars and airplanes and greatly improved the economic efficiency of public transport.

In America, initiatives to improve mass-transit infrastructure have stagnated for decades as foreign oil suppliers manipulated prices just enough to keep us happy in our cars. Now, however, that strategy seems to be less effective.

Although gas prices have fallen since the summer, Amtrak and SEPTA regional rail continue to experience record increases in ridership. As we saw during the recent Phillies victory parade, the public’s desire for mass transit on a regional level can quickly overwhelm the existing system.

Now we have a unique opportunity to capture and encourage the public’s demand for better transit services by investing in mass transit and transforming our transportation system.

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

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