Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Missouri matters

TFA commented on regional transportation last week and highlighted Springfield-Branson and northwest Arkansas. Today, there is some commentary in the Kansas City Star from a well-named columnist, Bill Graham.

Now, Missouri is seeking some of the $13 billion for high-speed passenger rail service that the Obama administration is planning to dole out over the next five years. That cross-state line is likely the only place that money would be spent, and experts say high-speed rail service is many years and billions of dollars in additional spending away from becoming a reality, if it ever does.

I’m always torn between the romance of trains and the reality that where the tracks go is limited, and those tracks require costly maintenance.

The atmosphere that airplanes, helicopters and hoverships travel in requires some protections from pollution, but no costly maintenance. Surely these will continue to dominate long-range travel.

I am feeling very charitable today, so let me throw Bill a bone. Kansas City rail transport is deplorable, although there is more service than most American cities in the middle of the country. The link to St. Louis is a horrific bottleneck with a sorry history of severe lateness. The Southwest Chief,  operated by BNSF, is a bright spot.

The Union Station is enormous and I do not know how the restoration has worked out. Looking at photos of the Amtrak facility, I wonder if they can handle even two trains at once. It surely does not inspire confidence in Amtrak’s ability to handle a serious transportation load.

Bill has perceptively observed that airports and highways do not require maintenence like those rusting old rail lines. And we all know that highways do not cost anything to build.

All I want to way is, quit playing the nostalgia card. Trains operate at over 200 mph in most of the first world and America, of which Kansas City happens to be a part, is way behind. It matters because airlines add to pollution as do highways. Yes, trains pollute too, but they have the possibility of carryingng enough people to cause a net reduction. That is the European experience, anyway.

Kansas City needs a decent connection to Lincoln and Omaha, service to Memphsi through Springfield, and an improved corridor to St. Louis. All of this is attainable by non-bdget busting conventional trains operating at over 100 mph. on existing right-of-way. That’s easily doable.

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

One Response

  1. W. Walther says:

    It’s hard to believe that there is no rail service between Kansas City and Omaha/Lincoln as well as service to Memphis, via Springfield/Branson. You are correct about the US being so far behind when it comes to rail.

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