Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Transportation stimulus may pass up long-term infrastructure

Robert Cruickshank has a great piece on the CAHSR blog picking apart a recent Washington Post article on where the stimulus is going. Both are definitely worth a read, but in summation, current priorities seem to be on repairs and road projects that can be started immediately. And as the Post points out, money is being distributed through the conventional channels: state DOT’s and local transit agencies. There’s no impetus to invest in more regional solutions such as rail infrastructure (at least the way DOT’s are organized these days).

In many ways, this is understandable. The priority right now is creating jobs, which means getting shovels in the dirt. If that’s limited to roads, bridges, and a handful of narrow local transit projects right now, that’s fine. What’s not okay is if this is where it stops. If Washington and the new Obama administration will look at this after two years and say “Good, we’ve fixed our infrastructure,” then that’s a shame. And that’s why we must continue to keep the pressure on.

And well, Obama hasn’t even been inaugurated yet. I hope we’re not becoming jaded too early.


Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics

Vermont citizens not pleased with proposed Amtrak cuts

Last week we talked about a cash-strapped Vermont looking at cutting back its subsidy for its popular and growing Amtrak routes. Of course, this is exactly what we shouldn’t be doing right now, exactly what we hoped we wouldn’t have to do under a more enlightened Obama administration. Pat mentioned some unhappiness with the cuts later on in the week, but resentment seems to continue, with Burlington Free Press readers unanimously writing in support of the line (okay, so there were only a couple dozen of them, but well, it’s a small state). Carl Fowler in the Times and Argus says it best:

We “invest” in highways and “subsidize” rail, but I submit that both are really the same. When did Vermonters last get a dividend check from I-89? Cutting Amtrak now would be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Rather, we should be looking for ways to expand Amtrak. An immediate reinstatement of the St. Albans-Montreal Ambus connection will add a minimum of 30 passengers per day to the train, cover all incremental expenses, and add ridership of 15 percent to the Vermonter route, while increasing rail revenues by at least $500,000 per year, with no increase in train costs.

Let’s hope the Vermont legislature  listens to Fowler and other citizens when they’re considering these cuts. And of course, TFA will be sure to continue tracking this issue for you.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics

Extreme Trains highlights Empire Builder

Our readers are always alert.

This train running from Chicago to Seattle is the busiest passenger
train in America. The route passes through America’s longest tunnel
where Matt finds out how the railroad keeps passengers from choking to death and how to keep the tracks from flooding. In the Cascade Mountains he learns what it takes to the keep the rails clear of snow drifts over a dozen feet high! This episode covers how James J. Hill built the Great Northern Railroad; and the Wellington avalanche disaster. It features some of America’s most beautiful scenery in Montana’s Glacier National Park.

Filed under: Amtrak, Regional USA Passenger Rail

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December 2008