Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Kill Amtrak fever

This came in from NARP.

Things continue to move fast for passenger trains on the Senate Floor

Senator John Ensign (R-NV) continues to push a hostile amendment that  would eliminate unspent Amtrak funds from the current (FY 2009)  appropriations law and the Recovery Act. This would threaten millions of dollars used  to provide train service throughout the country.

It’s not too late to take action. Call your Senator and let them know  your strong support for passenger trains, and ask them to vote against the  Ensign amendment and any others hostile to American trains.

The Senate also approved an amendment (by a 68 to 30 vote) offered by  Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), which gives Amtrak until March 31, 2010 to begin  checking guns as checked baggage, or see their funding eliminated. Amtrak  Chairman Thomas Carper has written a letter to the Senate Appropriations  Subcommittee on Transportation warning that Amtrak does not have the  infrastructure, nor the systems in place, to meet this request in such a short  time frame across its entire network.

Sean Jeans-Gail
Communications Director

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics

Oklahoma and true HSR

You need to visit YouTube and search “high speed rail” and restrict the search to “this week.” There is a group of lengthy videos bursting with important information on the Heartland Flyer route and regional HSR.

Most important, Oklahoma is not looking at bringing the state owned railroad between OKC and Tulsa to “high performance” standards. Instead, the route would be the Turner Turnpike. Obviously the state also owns this corridor and it is straight. Oklahoma is talking about true European-style HSR, which seems like corporate welfare for consultants. In other words, I am skeptical.

It may be that constructing a double track high performance line on the turnpike right-of-way is the best most feasible alternative. I don’t see Oklahoma spending $2 billion for high speed rail when the cities seem to have little commitment to transit. Just an opinion.

The good news here is the idea to double track the BNSF from OKC to Fort Worth. This is another excellent corridor and the light rail lines on the south end will nicely support the improved service.

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

UPDATED: A mirror into the soul

TFA does not normally cover local transit issues. Plenty of other great blogs do that well, and you can probably tell that we have our hands full on inter-city rail. Nonetheless, there is an item in today’s Dallas Morning News about getting to the new sports palace constructed at a cost of over $1 Billion to house Jerry Jones’ Cowboys. The focus is on Arlington’s complete failure on public transportation.

The lack of transit options in Arlington, population 365,000, is deliberate – and comes despite the best efforts of city leaders and regional planners.

Voters in the past three decades have rejected three initiatives that would have dedicated sales taxes to transit, including twice since 2002.

“They don’t want it,” said former Arlington Mayor Elzie Odom, who retired as mayor in 2003. “It doesn’t do any good to argue. We have done that three times. The residents who bother to go to the polls just won’t have it.”

Voters did approve the new stadium, which cost $1.1 billion and was paid for in part by a half-cent sales tax increase. Even the new stadium, and the traffic troubles that come with it, haven’t persuaded voters to think again about transit, he said.

“In the last two elections, I have heard over and over, “We don’t want those kinds of people.’ People say they just want to be let alone.”

Cluck said he has often heard residents opposed to transit cite worries about race or class as their reasons for voting no. But more often, he said, the complaints center on residents’ predictions that a transit system Arlington could afford would involve buses – and big empty ones at that.

UPDATE: I promise to get off this topic AND regular readers are due an explanation for why Mr. Nash and myself have been so absent. I promise to get around to some excuse making soon BUT this story in the Wall Street Journal is just too damn rich. Again, we don’t normally do transit here and would not cover this item except it is just too damn rich.

Brody Mullins reports on money and politics.

Protesters who attended Saturday’s Tea Party rally in Washington found a new reason to be upset: Apparently they are unhappy with the level of service provided by the subway system.

Rep. Kevin Brady called for a government investigation into whether the government-run subway system adequately prepared for this weekend’s rally to protest government spending and government services.


The Texas Republican on Wednesday released a letter he sent to Washington’s Metro system complaining that the taxpayer-funded subway system was unable to properly transport protesters to the rally to protest government spending and expansion.

So let me see if I got this straight. These people do everything they can to destroy transportation policy and funding on the national level. They consistently oppose any expansion of transit systems, even in the poorest areas. They vehemently oppose buses and light rail calling it a plot to take away people’s cars, BUT when they come to the nation’s capitol these tea-baggers expect the full scope of city services they otherwise detest.

Rich. Just lovely.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

Pennsylvania Maglev gets a study too

Thanks to the worldwide network of busy-bodies for this update on Pittsburg.

Pittsburgh also got a grant awarded this past week, along with Atlanta-Chattanooga.

At this link you’ll see a Post-Gazette article:  “Pittsburgh region gets $28 million to plan maglev project”

The Federal Railroad Administration has awarded a $28 million grant for preliminary work on the long-planned Pennsylvania High-Speed Maglev project.

The grant was announced this afternoon by Sens. Arlen Specer and Bob Casey, along with Rep. Mike Doyle. The project, billed as the first phase of a cross-state high speed network, would start at the Pittsburgh International Airport and travel to Downtown Pittsburgh, then to Monroeville and on to Greensburg. The grant is the largest federal commitment to the project so far, but construction would still be well into the future. The funds to be released by the FRA are for planning and other preliminary work.

“This $28 million award is the most significant development in the 29 years we’ve been working on Maglev,” Mr. Specter said in the release announcing the project.

“The vision is to have a 250 mile-an-hour train traveling from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia with intermediate stops. Such a train would be a tremendous economic boon with thousands of new jobs in the steel and construction industry and would meet our increasing demand for transportation, reduce highway congestion, improve air quality and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

“This project has the chance to help establish a world-class transportation system in Pennsylvania,” Mr Casey said. “This initiative has the potential to spur job creation while helping to improve our environment and bolster the Commonwealth’s long-term economic competitiveness.”

“I’ve been working to build a mag-lev system in Pennsylvania throughout my service in Congress,” said Congressman Mike Doyle. “I believe it could be a major new engine for job creation and economic growth in our region. It’s great to see all our hard work paying off.”

Maglev Inc. of McKeesport, the developer, has spent more than $27 million in federal and state funds since the mid-1990s. The group is close to finishing an environmental impact study on the project.

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

Tennessee to get funding for Maglev study

This showed up in my mail.

Congressman Zach Wamp announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will award $14.2 million to accelerate an environmental impact statement for a high-speed magnetic levitation, or maglev, train between Atlanta, Chattanooga and Nashville. The majority of the grant will be used for the studies required in the National Environmental Policy Act identifying the corridor routes and the station locations for this proposed project.

“This funding is a game changer for the prospect of high-speed rail in the southeast and dramatically increases our chances of success in the years ahead. A high-speed rail connection between Atlanta, Chattanooga and Nashville would build the infrastructure to increase economic development and bring more people to the growing Chattanooga airport,” said Congressman Wamp. “Maglev high-speed rail could change the way Americans travel, reducing congestion on crowded roads and at busy airports. These are the types of investments that will help create quality jobs, grow the U.S. economy and help our nation be more competitive.”

“These funds are a great investment as they will accelerate the project and help take us to the next level in developing alternative forms of transportation for this country. Atlanta and Chattanooga are two great cities with a bright future ahead of us, and it is exciting to see our region remain on the cutting edge of technology-based economic development,” said Jim Hall, chairman of the board of The Enterprise Center.

A joint application for the funding was filed by the Georgia Department of Transportation with support from the Tennessee Departments of Transportation. Congressman Wamp and The Enterprise Center have worked with Georgia State Senator Jeff Mullis, chairman of the Georgia Senate Transportation Committee, and others in north Georgia on regional support for the project.

A maglev train would relieve tremendous congestion in the Atlanta metro area and serve as part of a long needed intermodal mass transit system for the United States. Maglev trains can travel at more than 300 miles per hour, which would mean true high-speed ground transportation in the 116-mile corridor from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport generally along the Interstate 75 corridor to Lovell Field and Chattanooga. A recent feasibility study determined that the Atlanta-Chattanooga corridor could also extend northwest to Nashville along the Interstate 24 alignment.

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

An application from Washington State

This came in from an alert reader.

Washington state has submitted its Track 1 application for stimulus funds.  A synopsis can be seen at:

this link.

The bulk of the $152 million is for corridor hardening of the rail line.  The rest is for projects that are either underway or about to get underway, and include projects at the US/Canadian border, Everett Washington, and Vancouver Washington.  The projects will improve service and on-time performance.

The Track 2 application will is due in October can be seen at:

this link

Washington state is asking for about $1.8 billion, with which the state and Amtrak could improve the existing level of service between Seattle, Portland OR, and Vancouver Canada.

This brings to mind an important point.  Who gets the money?  A state like Washington, that has invested $350 million over the last 10 years?  Or maybe a state like Oregon, that has spent very little.  Oregon is asking for about $2.1 billion.  The stimulus money would really make a difference, even more so for places like Idaho or Montana, places that have even less to spend.  How does the ARRA intend to divide up the money?

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

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September 2009