Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Amtrak and KDOT Agree on Scope of Study

December 4, 2008
PR# 08-075; ATK-08-106

The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) and Amtrak have agreed on the scope of the Amtrak Expansion Feasibility Study. KDOT has budgeted $200,000 for the study. The study will identify capital requirements and operating costs needed to provide state-sponsored passenger rail service between Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Fort Worth.

The study will consider factors such as potential schedules, railcar and locomotive availability and capital needs for rail improvements to accommodate passenger service. As part of the study, BNSF Railway will analyze the capacity of the route because a passenger rail service would have to share the tracks with BNSF freight trains.

Preliminary work has already begun and Amtrak expects to complete the study sometime in 2009. The Oklahoma and Texas transportation departments are cooperating in the study. If it shows evidence that state-supported Amtrak service should be considered, the states’ legislatures must decide if their states should support an expanded service.

The purpose of new passenger rail service would be to carry travelers along a 606-mile corridor in three states that connects to the national rail system. The goals would be to:
1. Offer an attractive alternative to driving
2. Provide reliable, comfortable and convenient service
3. Improve the mobility of travelers who cannot drive, cannot afford or do not have other public transportation options
4. Encourage good potential ridership

Amtrak officials and interested stakeholders helped develop portions of the scope. State DOT officials selected the cities for the study using, in part, a screening process that included
economic, population and demographic information. Stops are important because ridership forecasts are based on communities served and when the train stops. The intermediate cities identified for the study are listed north to south:

1. Lawrence, Kan.*
2. Topeka, Kan.*
3. Emporia, Kan.
4. Strong City, Kan.
5. Newton, Kan.*
6. Wichita, Kan.
7. Winfield/Arkansas City, Kan.
8. Ponca City, Okla.
9. Perry, Okla.
10. Guthrie, Okla.
11. Edmond, Okla.
12. Oklahoma City, Okla.**
13. Norman, Okla.**
14. Purcell, Okla.**
15. Pauls Valley, Okla.**
16. Davis, Okla.
17. Ardmore, Okla.**
18. Gainesville, Texas**

* Current stops for the Southwest Chief (part of the Amtrak national network)
** Current stops for the Heartland Flyer (state-supported by Oklahoma and Texas)

Being in the study is not a commitment by the city or the states for the city to host a station. In addition to station stops, the study envisions trains made up of coach cars and a café car for food service.

More information about the study and scope is available online at



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

Boston editorial focuses on transport

There is a good reason rail improvements make sense for economic stimulus. makes the case perfectly.

Instead of new highways, which often enable unsustainable land development patterns, the policy should be “fix it first” – keeping existing roads and bridges in a state of good repair. The major infrastructure projects in any stimulus package should emphasize transit – bus systems, streetcars, light rail, and inter-city rail – and moving more freight capacity to rail as well.

Cities need help retrofitting older buildings for greater energy efficiency, replacing taxi fleets with hybrids, and updating antiquated water and wastewater systems. Former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis has noted that Amtrak is ready to go with up to $3 billion in system upgrades that would improve service, such as replacing bridges and old overhead catenary wires on the Acela line, or laying down double tracks to better coordinate passenger and freight service. Inter-city rail service around Chicago and Atlanta, and in California and Florida, could replace short-haul jet trips.

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

Philadelphia editoral gives fast trains a green light

Of course, we at TFA agree with this fine opinion from It makes reference to Senator Biden and the undue influence of highway and airlien special interests.

For decades now, the United States has been the victim of a “pro-highway” bias, and that has undermined the economic health of the nation as a whole – the small towns canonized by Biden’s opponent Sarah Palin, as well as the big, bad metropolitan areas where most Americans live.

While other developed nations invested in high-speed-rail systems, Congress seemed to be doing its best to kill the not-so-fast system we had.

When gas prices peaked at $4 a gallon and more last spring, the bill for over-reliance on private transportation seemed to be coming due. Yet the price at the pump is only a fraction of the economic toll Americans pay in time wasted sitting in traffic, and in the ripple effects of increased sprawl and environmental degradation.

Even though the price of gas is plunging, at least for the moment, those costs remain. And, as the consensus grows for the need for a new “New Deal” investment to create good-paying jobs, Biden has it exactly right. “We should fast-track funding for the thousands of ready-to-go projects across the country that can quickly put people back to work and lay the foundation for long-term growth,” he said.

The need is obvious. Ridership on SEPTA is up 14 percent over last year, and this for a system that is inadequate at best. Just think of the appeal of trains that go 220 mph, like the system planned for California, which will link all the state’s major cities. A recently released business plan found that, by eliminating the need to build about 3,000 miles of new freeway plus five airport runways and 90 departure gates over the next two decades, California’s high-speed-rail system would return three times its investment.

Last week, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, a Republican, joined with Democratic Sen. John Kerry to introduce the High Speed Rail for America Act of 2008, which would establish a central office to oversee the development of high-speed rail – that is, trains that exceed 110 mph – evaluate projects and provide funding in grants and bonds.

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

Auto bailout notes

To begin with, I am (taking a deep breath and with real hesitation) in favor of helping Detroit automakers with a federal loan. Having said that, there are a few things that just make my blood boil, and this is the kind of thing that my very well torpedo the necessary congressional action.

Let us begin in the pages of Crain’s Detroit Business.

Patterson: Feds shouldn’t micromanage auto bailout

By Chad Halcom

The federal government will be essential to helping Southeast Michigan in the automakers’ financial crisis, but should avoid micromanagement in setting bailout conditions on the Detroit 3, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said Wednesday.

“Before Congress gets too involved, remember the Congress’s two biggest business achievements are Amtrak and the Post Office. So what the hell do they know about running a business?” he said after the 2008 Oakland County Business Roundtable Breakfast at the Troy Marriott.

A few little points.

  • The general notion of Amtrak as everybody’s permanent whipping boy is of another era. It just does not fly any more, so get over it.
  • You guys in Detroit are asking for more money than has been given to Amtrak IN TOTAL since it’s inception in 1972.
  • Amtrak has posted an increase in business. How are you guys at GM looking?
  • Amtrak was created as corporate welfare to cover the operating railroads “labor protection” costs. One could mount a fairly good argument that the railroads and general public have benefited from the arrangement.

And furthermore, Mr. Motor City Blowhard

  • Amtrak has a board of directors appointed by the president and is subject to incessant congressional meddling, right down to how to operate a dining car. That is part of the deal when you take taxpayer money.

Is it just me, or does Mr. Patterson seem to not understand that things are not going well for American automakers? Does he not realize that the writing has been on the wall since the oil embargo of 1974?

There is a reason many Americans are not pleased with the idea of helping out the Big Three.

Mr. Patterson, most respectfully, seems to be part of the problem, rather than the solution.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

To the land of corn

In fact, the Illinois Central used to run a train somewhere up there called the Land O’ Corn.

Oh, well.

There are some deelopments in getting the Amtrak system into the Des Moines market. The letislatue will get an incremental proposal according to this morning’s news.

The project calls for stops between Chicago and Moline, Ill., with a direct line from Moline to Iowa City.

Eventually, service could be extended to Des Moines.

Marc Magliari, Chicago-based spokesman for Amtrak, said the state of Illinois also has to approve funding before the project can proceed.

Magliari said the rail service could be ready in 2010 or 2011 if funding is secured.

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

Amtrak drops objection to EJ&E sale

This one effects a number of Amtrak trains. Some of you locals may wish to add details in the “comments” section, but my memory is that the St. Charles Air Line was a big issue in some of CN’s plans. Here is a link and part of the report from the Post-Tribune.

December 4, 2008

The Canadian National Railway overcame a big objection Wednesday to its proposed purchase of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway.Amtrak, the national passenger train service, had opposed the sale over concerns it would increase its maintenance costs on an old rail segment in downtown Chicago.

Contact Erik Potter at 648-3120, or Comment on this story at

But not everybody is jumping up and down with excited jubilation over these developments. Read more here.

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

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December 2008