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Rail stimulus funds to bypass Northeast – The Boston Globe

WASHINGTON – The railroad tracks from Boston to Washington – the busiest rail artery in the nation, and one that also carries America’s only high-speed train, the Acela – have been virtually shut out of $8 billion worth of federal stimulus money set aside for high-speed rail projects because of a strict environmental review required by the Obama administration.

Rail stimulus funds to bypass Northeast – The Boston Globe.

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

8 Responses

  1. Allan says:

    Does this requirement not apply to CA and the Midwest HSR projects?

    While I do think that environmental reviews need to be streamlined, I have seen unworthy projects (and worthy ones) shelved not because of the results of the review but because of the time it took to get the results.

  2. john mcnary says:

    Let’s be honest. The remainder two-thirds of the country built the NE corridor system for the near-exclusive benefit of the people there. The NE corridor has had billions bestowed upon it over the past decades. Nearly HALF of the nation’s population live in the metro areas to be served by HSR in Californoa, Florida, and the midwest, where the next systems should be built. It’s time to let the rest of the nation reap the benefits that the NE corridor states have had for years. We in the rest of the nation have seen our rail infrastructure shrink while yours has been improved — dramatically — since 1972. It tales 12 hours by Amtrak to move from SF to LA … would that be acceptable to you?

  3. HockeyFan says:

    Actually, John, the NEC rails were built by private companies in the Golden Age of railroading. However, in the Amtrak era, yes, the rest of the country has helped to pay for the NEC’s upkeep and trains.
    That said, the rest of the country has not done enough to encourage their elected officials to provide even basic passenger rail service. Don’t blame train riders and commuters in the Northeast for that. Northeastern members of Congress know how valuable and popular the NEC is and they don’t dare vote against Amtrak funding.
    True HSR on a new system in California on dedicated tracks is an idea whose time has come. People on both coasts should support it.

  4. john mcnary says:

    Give me a break, my friend. Between the federally-funded straightening, roadbed repairs, signalization modernizations, new bridges, tunnel refits, computerized switching, entire new Acela fleet, etc., ad nauseum. the NE corridor is a 100 percent federal project. For 40 years the rest of the country has been subsidizing semi-high-speed rail between DC and Mass.

    Please do not patronize me with the fact that Amtrak took over the corridor three decades ago from the freight companies … at that time it was in such bad shape that the rest of the nation was convinced to buy it. And don’t even get me started on Conrail.

    As for other states supporting rail, California has dumped much more than the federal government into rail in the past decade. California has purchased the LA and SF area tracks from the commercial railroaders. Caltrain (SF), Metrolink (LA) and the Coaster (SD) have all been created by the states to take over the anemic, antiquated Amtrak or Southern Pacific service.

    And our congressmen have fought like wildcats every time the ridiculously inefficient Amtrak longhaul route subsidies are proposed to be eliminated. As for other states, Illinois is among others that have dumped hundreds of millions into its passenger rail service.

    Most importantly, my comments are addressed not to you, Hockeyfan, but to the NE politicians doing the honorable thing and realize that their turn at the national trough has ended for this round. But you are right, people on both coasts should support improving HSR on the east coast, and creating it where it makes sense (Calif, Chicago, maybe Florida or Texas).

    Texas gets back $1.94 for every $1 it sends to Washington. It got the space programs, the military posts, etc. California is a donor state – for every dollar we send to DC we get back 79 cents (about the same as the NE corridor states, by the way) (figures are from http://www.taxfoundation.org).

    It’s time to start paying back the donor states, and equalizing federal spending.

    California is home to 37 million people — 1 in 9 Americans. California already has committed $9.95 billion in local taxpayer bonds to pay for high speed rail. California is almost finished with its EIR. The blueprints are being drawn right now and are shovel ready for 2012.

    True HSR on an improved system in the NE corridor, on dedicated tracks, is also an idea whose time has come. People on both coasts should support it.

    But its not (yet) your turn back in line.

  5. Ray says:

    @ McNary – I get your passion. But please, give me a break. California has rec’d (perhaps hundreds of) BILLION$ in Federal transportation dollars for development of its FREEway system. Highways have been your states dependable locally preferred alternative for generations. The urban fabric that has been developed as a result makes certain rail investments untenable (even now).

    The southern region of CA has shown little appetite for local or regional heavy rail investment. The few projects boosters have been able to dig have not amounted to much. The anemic Metrolink and the hugely expensive single LA Metro line are contrasts that speak for themselves. And now, magically, the state is reaching for a entirely new TGV system claiming some type of entitlement? Based on what? Purely because you think its your turn? I don’t see the fit.

    Before we go to TGV, let’s lay a rail foundation. Perhaps show the taxpayers elsewhere that this time the California investment is going to pay out. It’s not just your matching funds that qualify the project. Compare: NE Corridor States: MA, CT, NY, NJ, PA, MD, VA… EACH pour billions of our OWN money into regional rail and metropolitan transit infrastructure and operations – its those complimentary services that enable the Federally funded NE Corridor partnership to work.

    The Feds should commit to assist California with development of a grade separated rail system in the two mega regions that people actually live and WORK in. Agree on a goal of 90+ mph grade separated service between San Luis Obispo and Fresno in the North and San Diego in the South (perhaps E/W corridor LAX and Long Beach to Palm Springs). Assist LA and Orange Counties with construction of real transit lines throughout (and table the 20 mph street running light rail). Make the funding assistance contingent on a change in zoning laws to encourage in-fill transit friendly development. Does the public have a stomach for that?

    The last time I checked, the LAX to SFO air corridor was not California’s number one challenge. Such a corridor can easily be expanded with greater controls on take offs and landings and larger aircraft. Done. Nor was it getting between Modesto and Sacramento.

    SoCA’s real issue remains the jammed freeway system: 101, 5, 405, 10, 210, 710, etc. (in the South)

    Despite the TGV joyride benefits, a bullet train to Fresno is not what California needs, yet. Same can be said for Texas and Florida.

  6. john mcnary says:

    No break for you – your history is inaccurate, your understanding of California’s current transportation situation wrong, and your parochial approach to the NE corridor is telling.

    California’s “billions of dollars” from the federal trust fund for freeways comes from California taxpayers, who paid the most in gas taxes. California gets back 79 cents for every dollar we send to Washington, by the way.

    The “urban fabric” of California is changing. The urbanized part of Los Angeles has a higher population density than the urbanized part of New York City. All new population growth in SF, LA and San Diego has been transit-oriented. Downtown LA, downtown San Diego, the Mission Bay area of SF, are examples of the change. Freeway-side subdivisions have not been built in the city of Los Angeles for 30 years, yet the population here as doubled with infill and higher density.

    You think PA, NY, MA and the other NE states are the only states that pour billions into their own transit systems? CA, IL and TX do that too. Check out the LA Metro map: most of that was paid with local sales tax money, my friend!

    The only difference between the NE corridor and California is that — on top of all the local investments made with a mix of local and federal moneys — the NE corridor has been the sole and exclusive beneficiary of Amtrak largesse. California gets 1 train a day between LA and SF. How many Acelas make the Boston-DC trips?

    Feel this passion: your exclusive turn at the trough is over, fini, complete. You have to share. So do we.

    The $8 billion HSR pot — Obama’s team has made clear — is for new projects. The creaky old Amtrak lines in the NE corridor are still going to have hundreds of millions of dollars in stimulus funds dumped into them, despite reluctant state government.

    “The last time you checked” is not good enough, SF to LA is a small component of the California rail plan. It includes dozens of cities and thousands of city pairs. California HSR will make an enormous change in a massive new area, not an incremental change in a region that has enjoyed federal rail pork for decades.

  7. john mcnary says:

    By the way, LA has two Metro subway lines, four Metro light rail lines, and three exclusive transitway Metro express bus lines. LA is also building more.

    San Diego has three extremely successful light rail lines.

    BART has been repeatedly extended and is about to be brought into San Jose.

    Metrolink commuter rail is hardly anemic, it is actually quite robust. Caltrain in the Bay Area, the Coaster and Sprinter in San Diego, have been added with local money. And the Amtrak California trains are funded by the state of California. So please do not give me any NE arrogance about Californians not accpeting anything other than freeways.

  8. john mcnary says:

    A myths to shatter:

    As of the 2000 census, the Los Angeles region’s urbanized area had the highest population density in the nation. Yes, that was the word “highest,” not a smudge on your monitor. At 7,068 people per square mile, Los Angeles is considerably denser than New York-Newark, which ranks fourth at 5,309 people per square mile (behind San Francisco-Oakland and San Jose as well as Los Angeles). http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/09/los-angeles-transportation-facts-and-fiction-sprawl/

    According to the Federal Highway Administration, of the 36 largest metro areas, Los Angeles ranks dead last in terms of freeway lane miles per resident. (Chicago is second to last, and New York is near the bottom as well. The most freeway-heavy big city by this measure is Kansas City.) – http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/24/los-angeles-transportation-facts-and-fiction-freeways/

    According to the Federal Highway Administration, Angelenos drive 23 miles per resident per day. This ranks the Los Angeles metro area 21st highest among the largest 37 cities. The champions (or losers) are probably Houston, followed by Jacksonville and Orlando, all of which are over 30 miles per day. New Yorkers drive the fewest miles (17 VMT per resident per day), thanks in large part to relatively high transit ridership and lots of walking trips. Angelenos don’t exhibit any particularly great predilection for freeway travel either. Los Angeles ranks 14th out of the 37 largest metro areas in terms of highway miles driven per resident per day. To be sure, this is above the median, but it hardly points to the sort of unique freeway fetish Angelenos are accused of harboring. http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/10/los-angeles-transportation-facts-and-fiction-driving-and-delay/

    My basic point here is that East Coast stereotypes an misconceptions have guided federal transit policy forever.

    Time to share, my friend. The sun doesn’t set at Interstate 95.

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