The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.

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

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March 15, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 12

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

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

  News Items…
China Planning Intercontinental High Speed Rail System
  Off The Main Line…
Return Of The Trolley
  Commuter Lines…
Study In-Process For Denver Area Commuter Rail
APTA Applauds Transportation Provisions In Boxer/Kerry
   Climate Change Proposal
APTA Legislative Meeting To Discuss Safety, Jobs
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Across The Pond…
Britain Commits To High Speed 2; Parallel Corridors From
   London To Northern England And Scotland
Russia to Complete St Petersburg-Helsinki Rail
   Line Modernization in 2011
To Grow, Or Not To Grow: That Is The Question
Amtrak: Getting Better
  We Get Letters…
  Publication Notes …

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

China Planning Intercontinental
High Speed Rail System

From The Sydney Morning Herald Traveler

China is in negotiations with 17 countries to build a high-speed rail network to India and Europe with trains capable of running at more than 320 km/h within the next 10 years, the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald Traveler reported this week.

“One network would run from London to Beijing and then to Singapore, according to Wang Mengshu, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering,” reported the paper.

“A second project would carry trains through Russia to Germany and into the European railway system and a third line would extend south to connect Vietnam, Thailand, Burma and Malaysia,” the paper reported.

“Passengers could board a train in London and step off in Beijing, 8160 kilometers away as the crow flies, in just two days,” the paper wrote.

“The best-case scenario is that the three networks will be completed in a decade,” Mr. Wang said.

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OFF THE MAIN LINE... Off The Main Line...  

Return Of The Trolley

From Issaquahpress On The Internet
Staff Writer Warren Kagarise

The First Of Two Trolleys Delivered To Issaquah

Photo: The Issaquah Press  

The first of two trolleys from Aspen, Colo., was delivered to Issaquah Nov. 25, 2002, here being placed into position at the train depot.
ISSAQUA, WA, MARCH 9 -- After a long wait, city planners in Issaquah, Washington, have decided that restoring trolley service permanently to their town will be a good thing. Work will start this spring to rehabilitate tracks where the trolley will run.

It has taken close to a decade to get the project from a dream to a reality. In 2001, the historical society of Issaquah formed a trolley committee when some energetic volunteers thought trolley service would be popular in town.

They leased a trolley from Yakima Valley Trolleys for one year and ran it along a downtown route. The trolley ferried more than 5000 passengers. Since then, the volunteer group, called Issaquah Valley Trolley Project and led by Barb Justice, has been pressuring town officials and citizens to bring back regular trolley service to their town.

They got a break in 2002 and 2003 when the Project inherited a pair of cars from Aspen, Colorado. The circa-1925 vehicles had run on streets in Lisbon, Portugal, and came to Issaquah after Aspen voters rejected a 2002 ballot measure to support a trolley project there. The unused trolleys await restoration in a barn.

Tracks will be rehabilitated on a stretch of unused railroad track extending a little more than a half-mile from the historic Issaquah Train Depot to Northwest Gilman Boulevard.

Federal grant dollars awarded to the Issaquah Valley Trolley Project will pay for the $500,000 project. Bids will go out in April or May.

Crews will repair 3,400 feet of track — replacing railroad ties, resetting rails and replacing ballast, or the crushed stones on the rail bed. The city owns the rail corridor.

Justice, who is now the Trolley Grants Coordinator, plans for the track work to take place between the depot and the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce office. She estimates the track will cost about $100,000 to repair, while renovations to the trolley could total $200,000 to $250,000 from the $500,000 project budget. Grant dollars will also be used to retrofit traffic signals along the trolley track.

She wants to see the trolley in operation by late summer.

Besides the railroad track repairs and the car restoration, the project includes modifications to traffic signals along Front Street North and Northwest Dogwood Street for trolley crossings. New lighting and signs will be installed as well.

Barb Justice was inducted into the Issaquah Hall of Fame last year for her efforts in making the initial run a success a decade ago and keeping up the momentum to get the project off the ground.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or

Other Stories of Interest:

Barb Justice

Issaquah City Council

Issaquah Creek

Issaquah Historical Society

Issaquah Train Depot

Issaquah Valley Trolley Project

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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Study In-Process For Denver Area Commuter Rail

From 2010 Longmont Times-Call On The Internet
Staff Writer John Fryar

LONGMONT, CO — A commuter rail project in the Northwest Rail Corridor between Longmont and Denver looks like it won’t have too many obstacles. A draft environmental evaluation commissioned by the Regional Transportation District (RTD) is being done to study the impacts of passenger rail between the two cities, a distance of 41 miles. This project is part of the long range rail plans in the Northwest called FasTracks.

FasTracks (from Wikipedia)

FasTracks is a twelve-year, $6.5 billion (originally $4.7 billion) public transportation expansion plan for the Denver-Aurora and Boulder metropolitan areas in Colorado, USA, developed by the Regional Transportation District. The plan calls for six light rail, diesel commuter rail, and electric commuter rail lines with a combined length of 119 miles (192 km) to be opened between 2013 and 2016 to help relieve traffic congestion on the region’s roads and highways.

Since the corridor falls within a railroad right of way owned by Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Corp, the plan would be consistent with local land uses and zoning regulations. According to the study, much of the proposed station area planning has already been completed by municipalities. Thus locations of proposed stations are already consistent with the regulations.

The report details impacts such as noise, vibration, air quality, visual and aesthetic qualities, water quality and drainage. It also examines the effects on farmlands, wetlands, wildlife habitat, open space and the urban and rural neighborhoods.

It then recommends ways of reducing potentially negative impacts.

After the comment period, which ends March 29, the environmental evaluation will be completed, reviewed by the TRD, and then sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Officials are hoping for a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) by the Corps. The project would then move to the final design and construction phases.

The RTD board also is considering a possible sales tax election to help close a multibillion-dollar gap in being able to complete its entire system of FasTracks projects, including the Northwest Rail Corridor, by 2017 or 2019.

John Fryar can be reached at 303-684-5211 or

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APTA Applauds Transportation Provisions
In Boxer/Kerry Climate Change Proposal

Statement By APTA President William Millar Reprinted with permission

“The ‘Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act’ introduced by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and John Kerry (D-MA) this week potentially offers important new funding to expand access to public transportation and improve our daily travels while reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and oil consumption.  APTA supports their efforts to move our nation toward a vibrant clean energy economy while controlling global warming. 

The bill introduces an innovative plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and petroleum consumption within the transportation sector, a much needed element in energy and climate legislation. Transportation is responsible for 28 percent of GHG emissions in the United States and approximately 70 percent of domestic oil consumption.   If funded and enacted, the bill’s plan for transportation will help improve transit service throughout the country and implement other important strategies. 

The ‘Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act’ outlines potential direct investment in transit systems to expand and improve service in both urban and rural areas.  Public transportation provides a great solution to address climate change.  Transit use last year prevented the release of more than 37 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of electricity consumption by 4.9 million households.  The bill would also create a competitive multi-modal program to fund transportation projects indentified by new regional and state planning efforts to reduce vehicular emissions.  This program could advance significant projects such as light-rail systems, bus-rapid-transit (BRT) installations, and subway extensions that improve land-use, spur private investment and significantly reduce transportation-related emissions in metropolitan areas.

In addition to benefiting the environment, these investments could be a significant source of employment.  Every $1 billion invested in federally aided public transportation capital projects supports approximately 30,000 jobs. 

We strongly urge the Senate to provide robust funding for transit and transportation investment in future versions of the ‘Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act’.”

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APTA Legislative Meeting To Discuss
Safety, Jobs

From Metro Magazine

MARCH 11 --More than 600 public transportation leaders will convene in Washington, D.C. at the 2010 American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Legislative Conference, March 15 to 17 to discuss a variety of topics, including: legislative issues facing the transit industry’s long-term authorization, jobs, rail transit safety and climate change, as well as the Obama administration’s transportation priorities.

The 600-plus public transit leaders will spend Tuesday and Wednesday visiting their congressional representatives, lobbying their transit initiatives on Capitol Hill.

The 2010 Legislative Conference will feature a lineup of transportation leaders including: Ray LaHood, secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation; Joseph C. Szabo, administrator, Federal Railroad Administration; Peter Rogoff, administrator, Federal Transit Administration; U.S. Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-MN.) chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL.), ranking member, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, U.S. House of Representatives; U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) chairman, Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development, Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR.) member, Committee on Ways and Means; U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR.) chairman, Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; and U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH) member, Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development and Committee on Appropriations.

For a complete conference schedule visit:

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Week (*)
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe (BNI)



Canadian National (CNI)57.1456.25
Canadian Pacific (CP) 55.1355.04
CSX (CSX)50.9848.97
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)33.9233.20
Kansas City Southern (KSU)35.7535.45
Norfolk Southern (NSC)54.4552.97
Providence & Worcester(PWX)12.0012.35
Union Pacific (UNP)73.0069.13
** - Burlington Northern Sante Fe has been purchased by the Berkshire Hathaway Corporation.
       BNI closed in final sale at 100.21 and will no longer be reported here.

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ACROSS THE POND... Across The Pond...  

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

Britain Commits To High Speed 2;
Parallel Corridors From London To
Northern England And Scotland

Y-Shaped Rail Corridor To Replace Most Domestic Air Travel?

Via Lok Report And British Department Of Transport Statements

LONDON – On Thursday (11th March 2010), the British minister of transportation, Lord Andrew Adonis, announced in a statement in the British Parliament that the government will now commit to building a new high speed rail corridor, which has the name High Speed 2. High Speed 1 is the name given to the high speed rail corridor which connects London’s St. Pancras station to the Channel Tunnel on the southeastern England coastline.

High Speed 2 will actually be two high speed rail corridors, one of which will follow a route from the London area towards Glasgow, Scotland and the other will follow a route toward Newcastle, England along the east coast of the island. Construction is planned to start in 2018, in order to permit the massive “Crossrail” project in greater London to be completed, thus allowing much of the construction talent, manpower and logistics in-place for construction of Crossrail to transition directly into work on High Speed 2. Crossrail is a large rail infrastructure project to create an east-west rail corridor through the city of London, thus allowing commuter, intercity and regional passenger trains to travel easily through urban and suburban London, thus bypassing several dead-ended Victorian-era rail terminals located around the perimeter on central London such as Euston, Paddington, Waterloo and Victoria.

Images: British D of T

Maps of proposed new High Speed 2 rail corridors.

The new rail lines will be located on all new right-of-ways and built to a standard to allow service speeds to reach 400 km/h (250 mph), which would be the fastest in Europe. The new rail lines would also remove most intercity trains from the existing north-south rail mainlines in the country, thus freeing up substantial capacity on these existing routes for more commuter, regional passenger trains and freight trains.

The y-shaped corridor will most likely have its southern terminus at London’s Euston Street station, which is currently the prime station in London for trains headed to the northwest part of the country and to Glasgow, Scotland. It is a few city blocks away from St. Pancras station, where trains to north central England and eastern Scotland depart from as well as Eurostar trains to Paris and Brussels. The estimated cost for High Speed 2 is GBP 30 billion (US $45 billion) for the full project with the first phase (section from London to a junction with the existing West Coast Main Line north of Birmingham) expected to cost GBP 17 billion.

Lord Adonis has stated several times in the recent past that his vision for Britain is to replace most domestic airline flights between major English and Scottish cities with high speed rail. Although his statements have created massive controversy and criticism from the U.K.’s substantial airline and aerospace industries, public support in the U.K. seems to be aligned with his vision. But with a general election in the U.K. coming within a few months, there are no guarantees that his ambitious plans will be realized. Many polls show that the Conservatives are likely to take control from the Labour Party, currently in control of the British government. British rail transportation in general suffered heavily under Conservative rule in the U.K. during the early and mid 1960s and for most of the 1980s and 90s.

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Russia to Complete St. Petersburg – Helsinki
Rail Line Modernization in 2011

via RZD press release

Moscow: RZD – Russian State Railways – plans to finalize the modernization of St. Petersburg – Helsinki (Finland) railway line in 2011. On this line operate high-speed trains. The modernization will allow Alstom Pendolino trains to run at a speed higher than 200 km/h.

To that end, the investment budget for the upgrade of the 157 km-long St. Petersburg - Buslovskaya line has been approved. The upgrade will reduce the travel time on Russian territory by up to 1 h 30 min. The project stipulates investments of RUB 14.3 billion (US $520 million) for 2010 and RUB 10.1 billion (US $ 365 million) for 2011. The project includes the rehabilitation of 14 stations, infrastructure upgrade on the St. Petersburg – Pargolovo – Vyborg – Buslovskaya section, the construction of a new electrified line between Losevo and Kamennogorsk (64 km) and the modernization of the safety and signaling systems. As for the project for the high-speed rail link between Russia and Finland, the modernization of the Pargolovo – Kirillovskoe section (90 km) has been completed.

Russia plans to develop a high-speed rail link between Moscow and Helsinky. On the 5th March 2010, RZD announced that the number of journeys on the Sapsan rail link between Moscow and St. Petersburg was supplemented from 3 to 5 journeys/direction and that the number of passengers recorded in the first months of operation exceeded all expectations. On the 17th February 2010, 2 months after the inauguration of the service, RZD recorded 166.000 passengers, more than in February (82.000), when the number of passengers recorded was 4% higher than in January. Sapsan is the name given to the Siemens Velaro high-speed EMU train sets (similar to Germany's ICE 3 trains) which recently began operations between Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Russia and Finland share the same track gauge of 1520 mm dating back to the time of Russian Czars. The rest of Scandinavia and most of Europe use 1435 mm “standard gauge” track, with exceptions on the Iberia peninsula, Ireland and the former republics of the USSR such as Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine and Belarus. China and North America also use almost exclusively the 1435 mm track gauge.

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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

To Grow, Or Not To Grow:
That Is The Question

By David Peter Alan

Like the fictitious Hamlet, Amtrak ponders its future. Unlike Hamlet, Amtrak may not yet be pondering its very existence, but rail advocates are asking if Amtrak can remain a viable representative of America’s rail transportation future if it refuses to develop a larger network of trains.

On March 6th, senior Amtrak officials met with about 250 rail fans and advocates, at a meeting which some managers at Amtrak dubbed the “foamer forum” according to veteran transportation writer Don Phillips. Even if Amtrak believes that most attendees were rail fans, there were a number of active rail advocates in the audience, and they did not seem pleased with the outcome.

Much of the meeting was taken up by Amtrak’s explanation of its unpopular photo policy (an important civil liberties issue and the subject of a future column), Amtrak’s plan for acquiring new equipment (also the subject of a future column) and the displeasure of many attendees at what Amtrak told them.

From reports that this writer has received, advocates for better rail service were particularly displeased with Amtrak’s attitude about expanding its skeletal network of trains. Today, there are 15 such trains by Amtrak’s count; less than there were in 1971. It appears that Amtrak has no desire to increase that count to 16 or more. Amtrak is also willing to operate corridors or short-distance intercity trains, but only as long as the states are willing to pay for these services. Of course, everybody in the transportation field, whether manager, advocate or informed politician, knows that the states do not have enough money to run the trains or transit they have now, much less expand the existing network of corridors. Amtrak’s unwillingness to expand our long-distance rail map means that any emerging corridors will not be connected to other places in the future any better than they are today.

It appears that Amtrak’s attitude stands in sharp contrast to the view expressed by rail advocates and the public they represent. The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) says that Americans want more passenger trains and cites one poll after another to support its assertion. State rail coalitions continue to fight for new corridors (All Aboard Ohio for the “3-C” Corridor), to improve an existing corridor within their state (the Empire State Passengers’ Association to upgrade the Empire Corridor), or just to restore a train that will take people somewhere they want to go (the Oklahoma Passenger Rail Association’s advocacy for an extension of the Heartland Flyer to connect Oklahoma to Kansas City and Chicago).

Rail advocates, and even some politicians, believe that there has never been a better time to add more trains. Their arguments have not yet prevailed, although the expansion of the nation’s highway system continues unabated. On the positive side, airlines are retrenching, and the time seems right to replace short-haul air service with rail corridors. This change would save petroleum, help the environment and make intermodal journeys more convenient for travelers, if transportation facilities are planned properly.

Unfortunately, most elected “leaders” at the Federal and State levels do not agree. Amtrak’s budget is never big enough to allow the railroad to expand service, or even to run appropriate levels of service on the lines it has. State-sponsored trains always appear to be in trouble, as legislatures in Missouri, Michigan, New York and other states hold annual debates on whether a train should be allowed to operate for another year. Through it all, riders (and potential riders) observe the drama with baited breath. A report has surfaced that one of the two Missouri “mules” will be eliminated. Still, highway budgets are not cut, and the same politicians who are unwilling to raise gasoline and other highway user fees have no problem cutting funding for the train that might get some automobiles off the highway.

Against this backdrop, Amtrak dithers. Management talks about record ridership and strong ridership growth, while growth in capacity to accommodate more riders seems out of the question. Amtrak claims that the amount of money required to restart Gulf Coast service between New Orleans and Florida is prohibitive, but the same management says that service was only “suspended” in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, rather than abandoned (which would require a far more expensive restoration process). Amtrak has also released a study that claims that a restored North Coast Limited on the historic Northern Pacific route between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest (through Billings, Montana; south of the route of the Empire Builder) would provide a useful transportation option and attract significant ridership. Despite this prediction, Amtrak alleges that it would be very costly to start running the train. It appears that no passenger train will ever run on the route unless Warren Buffett and Matt Rose decide to find (or build) some equipment and run the train under BNSF’s own auspices.

If anyone besides volunteer advocates (in NARP and elsewhere) has an obligation to push for more passenger trains, Amtrak does. Instead, Amtrak appears more interested in cutting costs than in expanding revenue. Amtrak’s lack of enthusiasm for furnishing the American people with more trains sends a signal to politicians everywhere that a viable rail travel option is not a high priority, and that scarce dollars should be spent elsewhere. Amtrak has been reluctant to advocate vigorously for more trains throughout its history. Even David Gunn eliminated some trains while he was Amtrak’s president. Rail advocates complain that the late George Warrington implemented a “circle the wagons” mentality when he was President of Amtrak, and later as Executive Director of New Jersey Transit. Before him, Thomas Downs eliminated several trains and cut most of the others so they only ran three or four times a week, during the era of the infamous “Mercer” cuts of the mid-1990s.

It seems that Amtrak has a similar mentality today. To paraphrase Shakespeare again, Amtrak seems more interested in blaming the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune for the degraded state of passenger rail in America, than in taking up arms against the sea of trouble that enemies of the passenger train are causing. Some Amtrak managers care about customer service, frequency of operation and other customer-focused issues. Unfortunately, such managers are few and far-between.

Could a major change of attitude at Amtrak make a difference? It seems likely, if that should ever happen. If Amtrak’s lack of enthusiasm for running trains sends a negative signal to our politicians, a new level of enthusiasm should send a positive signal. Whatever problems the current business model for Amtrak may have (and that, also, will be the subject of a future column), Amtrak managers can demonstrate to our politicians that they believe in trains, and that they believe the nation should have plenty of them. In this writer’s opinion, Amtrak managers have an obligation to do just that.

In the meantime, Americans, and also visitors to the country, will only have 15 long-distance trains, a few corridors and a small amount or local rail transit to ride. We continue to wait for an expanded rail network, as we have waited for the past 39 years. Many of us are senior citizens now. We can only hope that we will last long enough to ride a few routes that we once had and do not have any more.

David Peter Alan practices law in New Jersey and has been a rail advocate for the past 25 years. He has been a Director of NARP and is a Board Member of the Rail Users’ Network (RUN). He has ridden every Amtrak route in its entirety, along with some former Amtrak routes that no longer exist.

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And now another view…  

Amtrak: Getting Better

Amtrak has long suffered from the effects of decades of underfunding, which until recently was in the realm of shear penury when compared to the support given other national passenger rail systems in the industrialized world.

That situation us beginning to change, and one of the reasons, in addition to more robust Federal support, is an Amtrak management that is more and more attuned to public input.

Good evidence for that was on display in Chicago recently when Trains Magazine hosted a “town-hall” style conference of rail supporters, and Amtrak’s two top execs --- Board Chairman Tom Carper, and President and CEO Joseph Boardman --- participated fully in the program.

It is a truism that “listening to the customer” is good marketing, but for most of its life, Amtrak has not been known for that. Indeed, it has been known for insularity and brittleness in customer relations, due in large measure to the fact that so many of its shortcomings were directly related to a lack of basic funding, even for routine maintenance items.

That era is ending, at long last, and even casual observers have noticed the consistently improving state of repair of the railroad’s operating equipment. While much of that equipment should have been replaced a decade or more ago, Amtrak’s ability to repair and re-use equipment, due largely to a work force that really does know its territory, and to a management that has been getting better and better at listening, and responding, to the customer. The turn-around began with former Amtrak President David Gunn, who without question saved Amtrak from collapse by his blunt honesty and railroad operating skills, and it has continued as bi-partisan support for Amtrak has grown.

Amtrak is not out of the woods, by any means. But it is, at long last, heading towards the edge of the forest. The Town Hall meeting recently conducted by Trains Magazine is a format that should be continued, and expanded. Kudos to Tom Carper and Joe Boardman for starting what could become a major contribution to the continued strengthening of public support for Amtrak.

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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

Dear Editor:

David Peter Alan offers public transit advocates a false choice between bullet trains and local public transit. I believe that we can, and indeed must, advocate for both at the same time.

The real choice is between restructuring our economy by using transit and high-speed rail to strengthen connections within and between our cities, or letting our economy wither as driving and flying become more expensive, breaking connections in the economy.

President Obama has expressed an exciting vision for an integrated network of local transit and high-speed trains. The President’s leadership has set the stage for a rapid expansion of transit and high-speed rail. He needs our support.

As Mr. Alan points out, achieving the President’s vision “requires an about-face in transportation policy.” Congress will need to restructure the transportation program and prioritize funding for transit and high-speed rail. Local leaders need to replace the declining sales tax revenues that have forced transit cuts. A unified effort is needed to create this radical transformation of public policy.

Bullet trains transform cities by creating new opportunities for individuals to interact face-to-face, making them more productive and innovative. The push to bring bullet trains to North America can transform transportation policy. We can use bullet trains to drive a national decision to create a new, more productive and less expensive transportation network.

The Nation is in crisis. We need a bold and exciting project with the power to transform our thinking. High-speed rail is that project.

Rick Harnish
Executive Director
Midwest High Speed Rail Association
4765 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625
Join us at

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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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