The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Destination:Freedom

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists,
and elected or appointed officials at all levels of government

Publisher: James P. RePass      E-Zine Editor: Molly McKay
Foreign Editor: David Beale      Webmaster: Dennis Kirkpatrick

Contribute To NCI

February 8, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 7

Copyright © 2010
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 11th Newsletter Year

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IN THIS EDITION...   In This Edition...

  News Items…
White House Announces FY 2011 Budget: Transit,
   Infrastructure Fund, High-Speed Rail
Obama Seeks $527 Million For Innovative Silo-Busting
   “Livability” Program
  Environmental / Business Lines…
European EV Builder Ranks ‘Readiness’ Of American City
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Freight Lines…
Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Seeks Line Abandonment
  Investment Lines…
Berkshire Plans $8-Billion Bond Issue For BNSF Takeover
 
  Revival Lines…
Rail Lobby Presents Case To Kansas Senators
  News From Amtrak…
Amtrak Plans Recapitalization Of Aging Fleet
  Events……
Urban Pathways To Liveable Communities
  Commentary…
FRA “High-Speed Rail” Grants Are A Political Balancing Act,
   But They Should Improve Our Rail Service
  Publication Notes …


NEWS OF THE WEEK... News Items...

White House Announces FY 2011 Budget:
Transit, Infrastructure Fund, High-Speed Rail

By DF Staff And From Wire Sources

Peter ROGOFF

Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff
WASHINGTON --- The President has announced a proposed fiscal year 2011 budget (Oct 1 -2010-September 30, 2011), which includes $10.8 billion for public transportation programs, $4 billion for a National Infrastructure Investment Fund, and $1 billion for additional high-speed rail projects.

The proposed public transit investment--$69 million above the FY 2010 enacted level--contains a new $307 million request for a new Livable Communities program (which would include the Job Access and Reverse Commutes [JARC] Program) and $53 million requested for the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) program.

Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff in a February 2 media conference call announced the new public transportation projects that FTA will recommend for funding in FY 2011.

The list includes six new projects eligible for New Starts funding, in Denver; Honolulu; Minneapolis-St. Paul; San Francisco; and New Britain-Hartford, CT. It also adds four new projects eligible for Small Starts funding: bus rapid transit (BRT) in Oakland, CA and along Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco; BRT for Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn, NY; and BRT for West Seattle.

Rogoff also urged Congress to pass a jobs bill. “This is a very difficult time for transit agencies,” Rogoff said. “That’s why the administration supports the passage of an additional jobs bill.” He cited the thousands of jobs supported and created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and noted that in addition to creating new jobs, a second jobs bill will ensure that the Americans who hold jobs made possible by ARRA remain employed.

DHS Transit Security Funding Remains Steady for FY 2011

The president’s proposed budget for FY 2011 also maintains funding for transit security at approximately the same levels as in FY 2010.

The proposed outlays for the Department of Homeland Security would devote $300 million to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Public Transportation Security Grant Program. This funding would support security projects at bus, rail, and ferry transit systems in high-risk urban areas.

The budget would also devote $138 million to the Transportation Security Agency’s Surface Transportation Security program, for personnel and other resources to assess and address the risk of terrorist attacks on surface transportation.

PLEASE NOTE: There is still time to sign up for the 2010 APTA Legislative Conference, March 14-16, featuring a breakfast with members of Congress; the latest news from Washington and a look ahead at the midterm Congressional elections from analyst and publisher Stuart Rothenberg; and entertainment by The Capitol Steps.

See: http://www.apta.com/mc/conferences/90days/2010legconf/Pages/default.aspx


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Obama Seeks $527 Million For Innovative
Silo-Busting “Livability” Program

From An EPA Press Release
Sent To DF Editor Molly Mckay From The Sierra Club

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan

Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Secretary Shaun Donovan
WASHINGTON - U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood this past Thursday addressed the 9th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, joined by Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus.

Speaking before an audience of more than 1,500 key planners, public health professionals, developers, government staff and elected officials Secretaries Donovan and LaHood and Assistant Administrator Stanislaus discussed the ways their agencies are working together through the Obama Administration’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities to improve access to affordable housing, provide better transportation options, and protect public health and the environment. 

“EPA, HUD and DOT are working together to rebuild our foundations for prosperity, a process that starts with rethinking the ways our communities grow,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.  “The interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities is working to give our communities what they need to grow and thrive with economic resilience and environmental sustainability.” 

“I am proud to announce HUD’s brand new Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities today,” said Donovan. “Working with our partners at DOT and EPA, this new office will help us streamline our efforts to create stronger, more sustainable communities by connecting housing to jobs, fostering local innovation and building a clean energy economy.” 

“Our Partnership really is a new way of doing business in Washington, to help our nation meet 21st century challenges,” said LaHood. “Working together, we’re creating jobs to revitalize our economy, while helping state and local transportation agencies to build the capacity they need to promote livable, walkable, sustainable communities.” 

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

Transportation Secretary
Ray LaHood

Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus

Environmental Protection Agency
Assistant Administrator
Mathy Stanislaus
The President proposed $527 million in his budget for an ambitious new livability initiative at the U.S. Department of Transportation.  Its Office of Livable Communities will be a focal point for initiatives such as expanding transit in low-income neighborhoods.  It will fund a grant program to help state and local transportation agencies provide more transportation choices that spur economic development. 

The New Partners for Smart Growth Conference is the premier national smart growth conference, bringing together experts from a wide range of disciplines to discuss transportation, housing and urban development, public health, equitable development, environmental protection, and other topics. The partnership agencies are working together more closely than ever before to meet the president’s challenge to coordinate federal policies, programs, and resources to help urban, suburban, and rural areas build more sustainable communities. 

The New Partners for Smart Growth Conference is managed by the Local Government Commission, in partnership with EPA, DOT, and other public and private sponsors.

More about the Partnership for Sustainable Communities can be found at:
http:/www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/partnership


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ENVIRONMENTAL-BUSINESS LINES... Environmental / Business Lines...  

European EV Builder Ranks
‘Readiness’ Of American City

Think Releases U.S. EV-ready Cities Index

WASHINGTON – European Electric Vehicle Pioneer THINK, based in the country of Norway, has released a list ranking American cities in terms of their readiness to accept electrically propelled motor vehicles.

THINK is one of the growing numbers of companies in the world actively building and selling Electric Vehicles.

The top four cities, according to the THINK report, “… included first-ranked Los Angeles and second-ranked San Francisco with Chicago and New York tied for third.”

The THINK EV-Ready Cities Index was presented by THINK CEO Richard Canny at the Electric Drive Transportation Association Annual Conference and Meeting at the Washington Auto Show. 

The company recently announced plans to manufacture the THINK City electric car in Elkhart, Ind. with U.S. production slated to begin early next year.

San Diego, Portland and Sacramento were rated fifth, sixth and seventh putting four cities in California in the top-15 index.  Rounding out the top ten were Newark, Seattle and Atlanta.  The remaining cities included Denver, Boston, Washington, DC, Philadelphia and Phoenix.

THINK developed the EV-Ready Cities Index to measure which markets are most likely to begin and benefit from the transition to electric vehicles, providing an objective comparison of the EV purchase and usage incentives as well as the market fit for EVs.

“We expect that the roll-out of EV’s to the U.S. market will be quite focused in the early stages.  Some cities are more likely to be early adopters of EV technology, and the EV-Ready Cities Index will be a helpful tool to guide and prioritize the development of those markets.  It reflects the available government support, consumer acceptance, and the opportunity for EVs to provide the maximum benefits possible from electric drive,” Canny said.  “Since EVs are a unique solution for congested urban environments, we are taking a city-by-city approach rather than a national or state-by-state approach.”

The THINK EV-Ready Cities Index takes into account purchase and usage incentives – such as HOV lane access and infrastructure support – for electric vehicles as well as market fit, which includes factors such as hybrid sales, traffic congestion, EPA non-attainment zone status (air quality), and potential lower-carbon energy sources for vehicle recharging.  The index was compiled for THINK by ASG Renaissance, a market research and business services firm located in Dearborn, MI.

The U.S. EV-ready index mirrors one THINK developed for targeting markets in Europe, which recognized Oslo, Copenhagen and Amsterdam as the top-three markets.  The company plans to continue to monitor EV-ready factors and periodically update and release its index.

“Ideally, we would like the THINK City to be available throughout the U.S. next year, but in our early commercialization phase, it is important that we first establish a strong concentration of sales in key, highly attractive markets, which support early adoption of sustainable, zero emissions transport solutions,” Canny said.

THINK plans to begin selling the THINK City, which will have a top speed of more than 70 miles per hour and a range of more than 100 miles per full charge, in target U.S. cities beginning this year.

THINK EV-Ready Cities Index scorecard

City
 
Purchase/Usage    
Incentives
Market    
Fit
Overall
Score
Los Angeles5.753.759.50
San Francisco5.753.259.00
Chicago (tie)5.752.157.90
New York (tie)5.752.157.90
San Diego5.752.007.75
Portland5.551.957.50
Sacramento5.751.507.25
Newark4.852.157.00
Seattle3.303.256.55
Atlanta4.851.206.05
Denver4.650.805.45
Boston2.401.904.30
Washington DC    0.803.053.85
Philadelphia2.401.704.10
Phoenix1.701.903.60
About THINK:

In its news release, THINK stated, “THINK is a pioneer in electric vehicles and a leader in electric vehicle technology, developed and proven over 19 years.  It is one of the few companies that are currently producing highway-ready, fully electric vehicles for sale – the THINK City.  THINK is also a leader in electric drive-system technology, and was the first to offer a modular and flexible EV drive-train solution in the business-to-business sector.  With its Scandinavian origins and sustainability mindset, THINK is one of the most carbon efficient car companies in the world.”

“THINK has established a U.S. subsidiary – THINK North America, a stand-alone business that will include manufacturing, product development, sales and distribution.  More information about THINK is available at www.thinkev.com,” the company said.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week (*)
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)99.7299.73
Canadian National (CNI)49.9849.93
Canadian Pacific (CP)46.9247.00
CSX (CSX)42.9242.86
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)29.3229.47
Kansas City Southern (KSU)30.2729.70
Norfolk Southern (NSC)47.1047.06
Providence & Worcester (PWX)12.0511.51
Union Pacific (UNP)62.1060.50


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FREIGHT LINES... Freight Lines...  

Montreal, Maine & Atlantic
Seeks Line Abandonment

From Progressive Railroading

The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Inc. (MMA) recently filed a “notice of intent” with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to abandon 233 miles of track in Maine’s Aroostook and Penobscot counties.

The 754-mile regional — which operates lines in Maine, Vermont and New Brunswick, Quebec — previously announced plans to abandon the lines in August 2009. MMA plans to file an abandonment application with the STB in late February; board proceedings will take about three months to complete, the railroad said.

The regional has “suffered substantial operating losses on these lines in the last three years due to low shipping volume and high operating costs,” MMA officials said in a prepared statement. Railroad officials continue to meet with state representatives to find ways to preserve rail service in the area and consider abandonment a “last resort,” said MMA President Robert Grindrod.

“We will continue to seek solutions, but we must stop the cash drain that has already and continues to undermine the financial health of the entire company,” he said.


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INVESTMENTLINES... Investment Lines...  

Berkshire Plans $8-Billion Bond Issue
For BNSF Takeover

Source: Press Trust Of India / New York

FEBRUARY 5 -- Billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s investment holding firm, Berkshire Hathaway, plans to raise $8 billion through issue of bonds to part fund its takeover of railroad operator Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp (BNSF).

Berkshire would issue senior debt securities of varying maturities to raise the funds, according to a prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

“We intend to use all of the net proceeds that we receive from the sale of notes as part of the cash considerate to be paid to the stockholders of BNSF in connection with our acquisition through merger of BNSF,” the company stated in the filing.

Under the agreement, about 60 per cent of the total consideration payable by Berkshire to BNSF stockholders would be in the form of cash and 40 per cent in the form of common stock.

In November last year, Berkshire had said it will acquire the remaining 77.4 per cent of Burlington Northern in a cash and stock deal worth $44 billion.

The transaction is understood to be the largest buyout in the history of Berkshire Hathaway.


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REVIVAL LINES... Revival Lines...  

Rail Lobby Presents Case To Kansas Senators

From the Arkansas City Traveler
Staff Writer Foss Farrar

TOPEKA, FEBRUARY 3 — Proponents for passenger rail in Kansas want Amtrak to come back. Freight rail on Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) runs through their state, but passenger rail was discontinued in 1979.

A recent hearing on Bill 409 would establish a passenger rail program and authorize the state to enter into agreements with Amtrak. At that hearing members of the Northern Flyer Alliance, the visually impaired community, and a group from Lawrence that is renovating that city's train station, presented their case. The bill would also establish a revolving fund for the program. “We heard from all proponents. We heard good things,” said Sen. Mike Petersen, R-Wichita.

An Amtrak study on the feasibility of re-establishing north-south passenger rail service in Kansas is due to be completed in March, according to a press release from the Northern Flyer Alliance.

The study is being funded by the Kansas Department of Transportation.

The plan calls for the extending the existing Heartland Flyer route north from Oklahoma City, through Wichita and Kansas City. Cowley County would have a stop on the proposed route also.

Petersen, who grew up south of Wichita, said he could see the BNSF tracks from his front window. He understands that re-establishing Amtrak service to Kansas would have economic benefits.

“If this bill passes, we’ll do a complete study,” he said.


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EVENTS... Events...

 

Urban Pathways To
Liveable Communities

Building Partnerships For
Healthy Neighborhoods

Feb. 25 & 26, 2010
New Orleans, LA

 

Click Here For
More Information

 

Day #1 attendees are invitation-only and must request an invitation from Rails-to-Trails on their website. See link immediately above.

Day #2 attendees should register with NCI
(name, title, affiliation, address, phone, email)
and mail a check for $90.00 to:

NCI Connecticut Office
c/o M. McKay
8 Riverbend Drive, Mystic, CT. 06355

Sorry... we no longer accept credit cards
because of high fees.

PayPal Services Pending


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NEWS FROM AMTRAK... News From Amtrak...  

Amtrak Plans Recapitalization Of Aging Fleet

An Overview Of Amtrak’s Lengthy Executive Summary Is Provided Here:

On Thursday, February 4, the National Passenger Railroad Corporation (Amtrak) released a detailed report of their planned purchases of equipment over the next 14 years. This marks an era where Amtrak can now do multi-year planning, which hasn’t been possible while their funding was only being doled out in annual appropriations. For more than 30 years, while the lion’s share of transportation funding went to highways in America, Amtrak survived on a starvation level of funding, causing the railroad to build up billions of dollars in deferred maintenance while providing intercity rail service to millions of riders during the four decades since its creation in 1971.

“The heart of Amtrak’s ability to deliver competitive intercity rail transportation service is the fleet that we operate,” the report starts. “The fleet impacts on all aspects of Amtrak’s services including the customer’s perception of and willingness to use the product, the operating reliability of that product and the cost of maintaining and delivering the service.”

“Amtrak has suffered over many years from insufficient Federal capital investment. This lack of funding that constrained Amtrak’s ability to deliver the modern and reliable service that its customers deserve has resulted in a fleet where the average age of the equipment is approaching 25 years. Some equipment is not well suited to delivering reliable service on a year round basis in certain markets. In addition, when customers perceive an aged and tired fleet, this has negative consequences for ridership and revenue that are clearly counteracted when new equipment is introduced.

While Amtrak covers a substantial portion of its annual operating costs (over 80%) from revenues, sustained capital support from the Federal government, and states in certain instances, is essential to the continuation and betterment of the national intercity network.

The need to commence recapitalization of the fleet is an urgent one. Aging equipment, worn-out components sometimes difficult to replace when parts suppliers exited the supply chain have placed a tremendous burden on Amtrak in trying to provide expanded service to meet the growing demands.

“This report lays out the basis for recapitalizing the entire fleet over a period of time in a manner that will not only provide new and modern equipment for our customers but will also develop and sustain the domestic production capacity needed for the long term viability of intercity passenger rail in the United States.”

A strategic approach to the acquisition of new equipment and the funding requirements that are necessary to deliver that approach make up the core of the report. The modeling for this plan is based on anticipated growth in all major lines of Amtrak business.

This approach is consistent with the goals that have been set within the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA), which reauthorizes Amtrak and establishes new programs for the development of the intercity passenger railroad system within the United States, and the experience of recent years with the increase in demand for the current services.

“It cannot be emphasized enough that new equipment is a vital pre-requisite to the process of delivering enhanced passenger rail as envisioned by PRIIA. Moreover, a sustainable passenger service requires regular investment in equipment. Rebuilding existing equipment is always a temporary solution and does not save money in the long term. If passenger rail service is to be sustained and grown, equipment investment has to be accepted as part of the process.”

In the current report, the capabilities that Amtrak needs to develop and enhance to allow it to plan for and deliver equipment now and into the future are assessed and reviewed.

A cornerstone of all future planning is the maintenance of this report as a living document that will be updated regularly.

Based upon analysis of future demand, types of equipment needed, and financial factors, Amtrak needs to buy the following equipment over the next 14 years:

Such a program will require approximately $11 billion of investment in 2009 dollars. This is just the start of the process. Further acquisition programs will run indefinitely. Years 15 through 30 will have similar levels of acquisitions and investment, at which point the replacement process for the initial equipment will commence. This steady state of acquisition will ultimately provide a fleet that remains commercially viable.

The initial priority purchases for the fleet are as follows:

The report continues:

“Based on the current growth assumptions, it will take until 2028 to fully retire the existing single level fleet and until 2033 to retire the last of the current bi-level fleet. Cars will be progressively withdrawn during that time as new equipment is delivered. Variations in actual growth will influence the final retirements and the actual production rates of new vehicles may be varied to accommodate such changes. Once the initial retirement process is complete, we will be approaching the commencement of the retirement of the first equipment bought under this program.

“The capital cost associated with acquiring this equipment over the period to 2040 is approximately $23 billion in 2009 dollars ($46 billion in escalated dollars). This includes the cost of the equipment, the project management expenses involved in such large scale procurement activity, the modifications to the maintenance infrastructure to support the new vehicles, the procurement of sufficient spare parts to support the vehicles in service and the provision of overhaul services on both the new vehicles and those required to remain in service pending their introduction.

    1. Based on assumed 4% per annum escalation rate

    2. No assessment has been made on the relative financial merits of individual services, only what is necessary to deliver those services.

“Follow on work to this report will include investigating the merits of changing from utilizing a car-based consist approach to the use of trainsets as currently used on Acela service, Cascades service and elsewhere worldwide. Additionally, a structured research and development process will be required to ensure that future fleet acquisition programs will have sufficient data to support decisions on equipment specifications. The provision of a long term program of vehicle acquisition has a number of positive effects.


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

FRA “High-Speed Rail” Grants Are A
Political Balancing Act, But They Should
Improve Our Rail Service

Part 2 In A Series

By David Peter Alan

“Higher-Speed Rail” Is The Key

There is something about the concept of high-speed rail that is both romantic and futuristic. The idea of traveling comfortably between Los Angeles and San Francisco in less than three hours, or between New York and Washington, D.C. in less than ninety minutes, appeals to almost everybody who hears about it. Trains serve downtown areas, with none of the hassle or discomfort of air travel, and true HSR could beat the airlines’ time over sizable distances. Still, true high-speed lines that would operate here as they do in Europe and Japan are not even part of most rail planners’ dreams.

The biggest winners - California, the Midwest, Florida:

Where planners have gone beyond dreaming about high-speed lines, they and their future riders will be rewarded. Of the $8 billion available for grants under the Federal Railroad Administration’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program, California will receive over 28% of the total for its proposed HSR line between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and Florida will be awarded another 15% for building 84 miles of high-speed track between Tampa and Orlando.

The rest of the country: higher speed rail will provide substantial improvements in service:

Since there are no other projects on the drawing board that resemble true HSR, the other $4.5 billion (56.5% of the money) will be spread around the country for incremental improvements. Most regions will get an improved rail line, and the states that have been developing their own corridors during the lean years of the Bush Administration will be rewarded. Still, there is not much money to go around; grant requests totaled $57 billion, and more than seven times the available funds. It appears that the grants awarded to the states reflect political, as well as transportation, reality.

Many rail advocates conjectured that the one line in the Mid-west most likely to receive an upgrade would be the Chicago-St. Louis line. That will now happen, thanks to a grant of slightly more than $1.1 billion, which is intended to allow track speed of 110 mph. While there is talk of moving the station in Springfield, the work that will proceed under the grant should reduce overall travel time to 4 hours, down from the current 5 1/2. The shorter travel time should be enough to add several frequencies and provide a faster trip between downtown Chicago and downtown St., Louis than is available by air, even though the airports in both cities have rail transit to downtown. Chicago is the home of President Obama and FRA Administrator Szabo, and Illinois has supported its rail corridors with funding to increase service, so it is no surprise that the Chicago-St. Louis corridor will be upgraded.

The surprise in the region is the $810 million grant to develop a new corridor between Milwaukee and Wisconsin’s capital, Madison. The last passenger train ran from Chicago to Madison in 1971, and it bypassed Milwaukee, running on the historic C&NW route through Beloit and Janesville. Former Republican Governor and Amtrak Chair Tommy Thompson talked about Madison service during his tenure in office, but it appears that the current Democratic administration in Washington plans to deliver the service that the Republicans failed to provide. The present governor, Jim Doyle, and Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacci support expansion of passenger rail in their state.

The other new service planned under the program will be the 3-C (Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati) corridor in Ohio, which is slated to receive $400 million. The line last saw a passenger train in the late 1960s, and the only city pair within Ohio that is connected by rail today (Cleveland-Toledo), has service only in the middle of the night. Clevelanders can go to Chicago, New York or Washington, D.C. at inconvenient hours, but have no conveniently-scheduled trains. Governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat, supports the 3-C initiative, while his Republican predecessors opposed it. Strickland faces a hard challenge in his bid for re-election, and a rail line that will take people from one place in Ohio to another is a “deliverable” for which he can claim credit. Ohio is also a “battleground” state, which was crucial in 2004. If Democrat John Kerry had won the state, he would have ousted George Bush from office.

Michigan will also receive some grants, but these pale in comparison to the amounts that were spent last year to keep the auto industry going. Michigan will not see any new lines but, as the home of the “other” Mid-west corridor route, the state will get some rail upgrades, too.

In the Northwest, Washington State will benefit from $590 million to improve the existing corridor between Seattle and Portland; two cities that have heavy bicycle use, strong rail transit, and pedestrians who use transit and then walk to their destinations. Since the line is the strongest part of the only existing rail corridor in the Northwest Region, there is nowhere else in the region where financial support for rail would have made more sense.

The Northeast and the South get short shrift this time around:

There were two regions of the country that received remarkably few grants. One was the South, a region that has traditionally been weak on rail, with few intercity trains and only a handful of cities that have local rail transit. There are only two lines that could be called “intrastate corridors;” the line between Washington and Richmond (often considered part of the Northeast Corridor) and the emerging North Carolina corridor between Raleigh and Charlotte. The latter line will receive $520 million for development, and there appears to be no other place in the South where a rail development grant makes sense for a line contained within one state. There is a strong rail division in the state’s Department of Transportation, which has begun to develop the Raleigh-Charlotte corridor and is planning more lines elsewhere. The state also voted for the Democratic ticket in the last election for the first time in many years, so it is reasonable to expect that the Obama Administration would wish to encourage North Carolinians to vote that way again.

The big loser was the Northeast, which surprised this writer, since Vice-President and former “First Commuter” Joseph Biden comes from there. Only $485, or about 6% of the total grants, will be spent in the part of the country that has the most rail service. The Downeaster trains will eventually be extended to Brunswick, Maine on improved track, and the line extending due north of Springfield, Massachusetts, will be fixed and again used by the Vermonter. There will be other modest enhancements in Connecticut, and the Baltimore Tunnel will be upgraded to improve operations and security. All other projects on the current NEC line will be small, and New Jersey Transit will only receive a small sum toward its Portal Bridge project for final design work.

Many rail advocates outside the Northeast Region have complained that other parts of the country have gotten too little funding for rail, because the Northeast has received so much attention and funding over the years. They should not be disappointed with the geographical distribution of the current set of grant awards.

Amtrak No. 683, enroute from Boston to Portland

New England Rails Photo Archive: Mike Duprey

From an earlier editon of Destination: Freedom, Amtrak No. 683, enroute from Boston to Portland, passes Scarborough Marsh in Maine.

Politics in the battle to put back the ARC** tunnel connection to Penn Station:

**( Access to the Region’s Core - a project conceived over 20 years ago to build a much needed rail tunnel under the Hudson River to connect with Penn Station and then continue with a direct link to Grand Central, opening up New York City to through travel by rail east and west, north and south. The plan was changed about two years ago to a deep cavern tunnel ending at 34th Street in a stub-end terminal two blocks from Penn Station. If built, this tunnel would serve only New Jersey Transit. - Ed. )

There is nothing unusual about an administration considering the political effects of funding any particular project of set of projects. Rail advocates in the local region, as well as elsewhere in the nation, understand that recent election results in New Jersey may determine whether or not they succeed in preventing construction of a deep-cavern terminal under New York City for New Jersey Transit’s trains. They favor bringing new tracks into the existing Penn Station, instead. Californians are aware of the legal and political battles that are fought over rail and transit in their state, both for capital and operating funds. In the states that give financial support to Amtrak to operate trains within their borders, it seems that funding battles over these trains are fought in the legislatures of those states every year.

Both Democratic and Republican administrations have awarded highway construction grants to various states throughout the years, as a means for inducing the voters of those states to vote their way in upcoming elections. Critics call the process the “pork barrel” and the donors of the largesse say that they are just doing their part to keep building America. The highway grants will continue as long as entrenched interests want them to.

There is something new in the transportation mix: Grants from the Federal government to improve our rail infrastructure for passenger service.

These FRA grants are baby steps toward rail in the nation’s future, far from the giant leap of faith that the same government took toward GM last year. Still, an administration in Washington has committed funds to improve our rail lines so people can use them more conveniently and save time when they travel. The Rail Grant Train may have just left the station on the start of a long journey, but at least it is heading in the right direction.

How will the projects funded under the FRA program affect rail travel in the years to come, given the political conditions that affect the rail scene today and into the foreseeable future? The answer to this question will be the subject of the next article in this series.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2010 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

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