Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Is Minnesota falling behind in Midwest HSR planning?

A section of rail close to my own heart, high-speed upgrades to the Amtrak line from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Chicago is a key part of the larger Midwest High-Speed Rail plan. But the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that the state, under the leadership of Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty, doesn’t quite have its acts together to the extent that neighboring Wisconsin does. Most of the corridor from Chicago would be in that state, whose governor recently toured Spain’s AVE high-speed system.

Twice, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has vetoed funds for an environmental impact statement and preliminary engineering. And the state has not completed its comprehensive rail plan, which would set priorities and put in context freight lines and the multiple passenger rail lines being considered.

Yet now that the federal government might be footing much of the bill through the stimulus plan, Pawlenty seems to have changed his tune. And, as is often the case in Minnesota, the governor is working against a large Democratic legislative majority that is generally in favor of a stronger transportation policy. Minnesota Public Radio has an interview with State Senator Katie Sieben, who, unusually for a politician, seems to have a strong grasp of what needs to be done to get trains rolling.

[Pawlenty’s] spokesman, Brian McClung, has indicated the governor “intends to aggressively position Minnesota to compete for stimulus funds for one or more rail lines, possibly including high-speed rail to Chicago.” He’s already begun work with Doyle in identifying areas where Wisconsin and Minnesota can cooperate. High-speed rail would fit that mission perfectly.

Most important, Pawlenty’s appointment of Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel brings both administrative and engineering experience and expertise that will be crucial in competing for and taking full advantage of the high-speed rail opportunity. His steady hand will be especially welcome on a project like this one, where the lack of hard information — for example, about the size of Minnesota’s financial commitment — has yet to be determined.

This is Minnesota’s game to lose. Stronger rail links to Chicago would be a boon for Minneapolis-St. Paul, especially if plans to move service from the dingy and inconvenient Midway Station to St. Paul’s grand and soon-to-be-light-rail-connected Union Depot go ahead. But if plans fall through, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time a hostile and obstructionist governor has prevented the state from moving towards the future along with its neighbors.


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

Acela fare cut 25%

A note from the New York Times.

All Aboard! Riding on Amtrak‘s Acela Express trains just got cheaper. The railroad is offering 25% off prices for tickets purchased 14 days in advance, meaning a one-way ticket between Washington, D.C., and New York City can cost as little as $99, and between New York and Boston, just $79. The sale lasts through June 26, with limited availability.

Filed under: Amtrak

Seattle happenings

A second daily Cascades service train between Seattle and Vancouver, B. C. could be in the offing and as early as summer. The Seattle Times has the story.

“It’s the first real step forward in getting the second train situation ironed out,” Vickie Sheehan, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Transportation (DOT), said of the meeting that will be held in the next few weeks.

A second train would be popular among business and leisure travelers, particularly with the Winter Olympics coming up in February 2010 in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.

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

UPDATED: N. Y. Gov. Patterson to make rail announcement this morning

Should come at 9  A. M. Central Time. We will update.

UPDATE: Gov Patterson Calls it Third Rail Initiative.

Trains up to 110 mph. (wow, that’s ambitious!)

Cites 4% increase in routism next year.

Sen. Schumer is speaking. Summary follows.

Unclog traffic bottleneck. Cites high air fares in upstate NY.

NY is uniquely ready. Dense population and moderate distances between cities. Too close for economic air travel. Higher speed rail connects high tech centers in NY.

Don’t have to purchase new right-of-way. Will use existing track. Will save billions and speed ability to build. (where have we heard this before?)

Add fourth track in Albany. Second track between Albany-Schenectady. More parking in Rochester. Upgrade parking in Buffalo. Rock Wall at George Washington bridge. (sorry about spelling.)

State DOT

first state rail program in 22 years.

Take one hour off Ny- to Buffalo.

increase freight volume by 25%

Rep. Slaughter

cites transportation difficulties into Albany.

(I took these notes listening “live” to the streaming feed. I trust the facts are straight and spelling passable. Pat Lynch)

UPDATE 2: here is the link to the lates AP coverage

RENSSELAER, N.Y. (AP) – New York officials have announced a 20-year, $10.7 billion plan to improve the state’s freight and passenger rail service.

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

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March 2009