Trains For America

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Transportation reform must wait, Obama administration folds

This actually came up last week during the  Texas High Speed Rail Corporation board meeting and the National Intermodal Steering Committees joint meeting in Little Rock. It was the consensus opinion that waiting till after the midterm elections would be a mistake and that the Oberstar process was to be preferred.

The Washington Post has the latest developments.

After rejecting criticism that it is taking on too much, the Obama administration has identified one area where ambitious reforms will have to wait: overhauling the nation’s aging, congested and carbon-emitting transportation system.

You may wish to scroll down to the reports frm last week for for some background.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

13 Responses

  1. Spokker says:

    If I get affordable health insurance then I’ll probably overlook this.

  2. patlynch says:

    I get your point completely, Spokler. As you know, “moderate” Democrats such as Pryor and Lincoln from my own state are working hard to defeat any real health care reform with a public portion. The energy legislation passed yesterday, while necessary, was compromised to death by big business interests input and opposed by some environmentalists.

    And then there is the reform of finance and banking. I guess that doesn’t happen either.

    The transportation effort is critical, even if not as much as health care reform. States and local governments are hard pressed to plan without some legislation. At the very bottom of the federal agenda is, of course, Amtrak. While I do not agree with the tiny faction suggesting that there is some sort of conspiracy to discontinue the long distance trains, the fact is that Amtrak faces an equipment shortage so severe that the Bush plan to destroy Amtrak is well within reach.

    And if Republicans gain ground in midterm elections, the consequences for the United States are past dire. Even the short-term future, except for the very small number of wealthy elites that benefit from supposedly conservative policies, is worse than bleak.

    So many Americans live in a fantasy world and it is nearly impossible to break through. The one advantage we have enjoyed is that the financial collapse has gotten some people’s attention.

    The current political game being played in Washington, not just on transportation issues, is the most frightening thing I have ever seen. I fear for my country.

  3. Cal says:

    18 months is a let down…and Im sure its only reason is that they know they will need a gas tax increase or somthing so they are going to push it off till spring 2011.
    Looks there is good support from bolth sides, its the funding issue. For CAHSR this bill or something similar must be in place by that time as full construcion is planned to start around that time and CAHSR plans need 4billion in 2012-2013.if no bill no big work

  4. Spokker says:

    “The current political game being played in Washington, not just on transportation issues, is the most frightening thing I have ever seen. I fear for my country.”

    Is it really, though? I have to imagine that the Cold War was far more frightening based on my “book learning.”

  5. patlynch says:

    Cold war or Republican domination; the only real difference is the language of the steely eyed masters.

    In the cold war, we always knew the Russians would never drop the atomic bomb. There is pretty much nothing Republics will not stop at to favor the tiny band of super wealthy elitists that benefit most from their policies.

  6. Allan says:

    Wow, this blog just went from reasonable discussions and debates on railroad policies to the leftwing-nut politics.

    I don’t think this is the proper place to discuss the push to socialize and screw up the medical system even more than it is now.

    The “War on Drugs”, the “War on Poverty”, and the “War on Terror” have been led by both the demopublicans and the republocrats and have done far more damage to this country than any transportation policy but is this the place to discuss them.

    Obama administration – “…overhauling the nation’s aging, congested and carbon-emitting transportation system.”

    Unless they plan on building a lot of nuclear plants, even the electricity used for HSR or maglev will be provided mostly by a carbon emitting generator. Sorry guys, wind and solar just won’t be able to provide the amount needed to electrify our transportation system.

    So I agree that Obama is trying to do too much too soon … for many reasons. I would rather see the HSR plans scaled back and get more bang for the buck by upgrading the tracks to hand “fast” (90-110 mph) trains and expanding the long-distance trunk lines.

  7. Cal says:

    Outside of California ..who has set plans to run anything over 110MPH? Texas? Florida? really know one..but us out here in Cali.

  8. patlynch says:

    Two things.

    First, Cal, please scroll down to the TFA coverage of the Texas High Speed Rail Corporation quarterly board meeting in Little Rock. There are interviews with David Dean, Maureen Dickey, and Bill Jones. Texas T-Bone backers are emphatic that they are interested only in 200 mph trains.

    It is also notable that Texas is nowhere near ready for this round of federal funding, if I understand correctly. The Florida situation is so muddled I can not say exactly where they are, but I doubt it is anywhere near as close as California.

    All of this may be moot with the FRA definition at 110 mph. If I am messing up, which is always possible, I am counting on some of our bright readers to set things straight.

    Allan is right about my drift into politics, always a bad idea. I promise that I do loathe both parties, just one a little more than the other. Republican gains in the midterm elections would constitute an economic, environmental, social, international disaster.

    Obama is making plenty of mistakes, but I doubt anybody (except maybe Lincoln and FDR) ever went into office in worse circumstances. He gets advice and acts with deliberation. That good quality is very frustrating and even annoying.

    The country is in a serious condition and there is a widespread failure to recognize the depth and seriousness of the problem. I don’t think the journalistic community gets it, although they may not be allowed to report on it. I wonder if congress gets it. I am sure Obama gets it and I know it scares the living hell out of him, as it does me.

    The country will not get well with programs and writing checks. There must be some fundamental changes in how people (define that as individuals, public and private entities) do business. That’s a book and too big a thought for this comment.

    So there.
    Pat

  9. Cal says:

    I was replying to Allan’s post about scaling back to 110mph..it was not a putdown on any other project.I did read your entire article..I always do!! They only one that has plans for a target speed is CAHSR. Im glad Texas is looking at 200MPH but thats not for sure .So if thats the case scaling back is refering to CAHSR and 220mph is the only speed that will work for 2hr45min travel times.

  10. Andy Lynch says:

    I don’t mind waiting a little bit. At the very least it allows for some breathing room. In 18 months I would like to see a comprehensive plan for a national rail infrastructure that clearly sets out goals and a timeline. We need something tangible to get excited about, they have to sell it to the public.

  11. Jake says:

    18 months is bullsh*t.

    We’ve waited 8 years with a President that had no idea what a comprehensive transit system even looked like, let alone putting on the United States. Now we have to wait again?
    How about Congress stops screwing around and gets something done!! So what, there’s not enough support for it yet. IT’S CONGRESS!!! DEBATE ABOUT IT AND COMPROMISE UNTIL IT WORKS, AND IS A GOOD BILL!!! That’s what the hell Congress is supposed to do. They’re not supposed to put stuff off.
    This is absolutely ridiculous. That’s 11 more months that we’re behind. China is SURGING ahead in their transportation, and we have nothing… awesome.

  12. I agree with Jake. We have waited 8 years, we elected a Pres. that promised “change”, and the government wants to wait 18 months. This will come after the 2010 mid-term elections and the dangerous part is that if the Republican neocons, or pseudo-conservative get back in any strength, we are right back where we were with Bush.

    The truth is, and I believe Pat stated this, is that Amtrak teeters on the brink of being shutdown for sheer lack of equipment. I have been planning a SMART meeting here in Jacksonville, and talked to a number of folks in Amtrak management getting permission to use their facilities, and there is a real problem now. Lack of equipment may be far easier to handle than getting and retaining enough on board service (OBS) employees. Very few are hired, out of those interviewed, and then these are harder to retain. I ask, given the political football nature of Amtrak, would you want to be an employee of theirs. I have 44 years in the railroad industry, and I love to ride the trains, except that they no longer go where I want to go, but I would not want to work for them.

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