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
 

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January 10, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 1

Copyright © 2011
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 12th Newsletter Year

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

  News Items…
U.S. PIRG Report Rips The Veil Off Of
   Decades Of Highway $ Lies
  Funding Lines…
MBTA Looks At Sale Of Future Parking Revenues
   To Help Avoid Another Fare Increase To Commuters
  Commuter Lines…
Florida Offers $118M For Jacksonville-Miami Passenger Rail
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Off The Main Line…
“Cape Cod Tunnel Permits” To Become A Reality?
 
  Commentary …
New Orleans: Five Years After Katrina - Last Installment
  Across The Pond…
Fair Weather Railroad?
  Guest Column…
Virginia Rail Observations & Commentary
  Editorial…
A New Congress Convenes And Rail Is On The Agenda
  Publication Notes …


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

No Surprises Here For The Infrastructure Advocacy Community

 

U.S. PIRG Report Rips The Veil
Off Of Decades Of Highway $ Lies

By DF Staff

WASHINGTON --- While its conclusions will come as no surprise to anyone who has seriously engaged in infrastructure advocacy in the United States over the past few decades, the general news media and journalists in particular would do well to take a close look at US Public Interest Research Group’s new report out this week, Do Roads Pay for Themselves? Setting the Record Straight on Transportation Funding (www.uspirg.org).

It has been an on-going lie of the highway/petroleum lobby almost from the very beginning of the automobile era that roads “pay for themselves” through “user fees;” as readers of Destination: Freedom have read in these on-line pages, even formerly highway-oriented organizations such as AASHTO, which in recent years has broadened its viewpoint, have noted that highways receive massive subsidies from local, state, and Federal budgets far beyond the monies contributed each year to the Highway Trust Fund by the Federal gas tax, or by state gas tax revenues.

What US PIRG has done, with the support of the Surdna Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, and others is to document in great detail just how big and pervasive that lie has been, to the detriment of the United States and its economy, whose almost total dependence on petroleum has hobbled our nation’s ability to compete in world markets, while simultaneously poisoning the air we breathe and the water we drink.

Authors Tony Dutzik and Benjamin Davis of the Frontier Group and Phineas Baxandall, Ph.D. of the U.S. PIRG Education Fund make the following major points, and then back them up:

Among the findings of the report:

“America needs to make difficult choices about how to fund our troubled transportation system. The first task is to discard common myths about how roads are paid for,” said U.S. PIRG Transportation Associate Dan Smith., in releasing the report.

“This year, Congress will again address funding for the nation’s Highway Trust Fund, which has been bailed out four times with $35 billion from general funds since 2008. Federal gas taxes have not increased since 1993 and revenues are expected to remain flat as Americans continue to drive less and use more fuel-efficient cars” writes U.S. PIRG. “Highway advocates often wrongly portray highway spending as financially conservative by falsely labeling gas taxes as ‘user fees’ that pay for roads,” said Smith. “Funding programs based on myths instead of what is most needed is wasteful and unproductive.”

For the full report go to: www.uspirg.org; here in full is the report’s Executive Summary:

Highway advocates often claim that roads “pay for themselves,” with gasoline taxes and other charges to motorists covering—or nearly covering—the full cost of highway construction and maintenance.

They are wrong.

Highways do not—and, except for brief periods in our nation’s history—never have paid for themselves through the taxes that highway advocates label “user fees.” Yet highway advocates continue to suggest they do in an attempt to secure preferential access to scarce public resources and to shape how those resources are spent.

To have a meaningful national debate over transportation policy—particularly at a time of tight public budgets—it is important to get past the myths and address the real, difficult choices America must make for the 21st century.

Gasoline taxes aren’t “user fees.”

Highway advocates often describe gasoline taxes as “user fees” in order to argue that those funds should be used only on highways. Yet, gasoline taxes are not user fees in any meaningful sense of the term.

To make the right choices for America’s transportation future, the nation should take a smart approach to transportation investments, one that weighs the full costs and benefits of those investments and then allocates the costs of those investments fairly across society.


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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

MBTA Looks At Sale Of Future Parking Revenues
To Help Avoid Another Fare Increase To Commuters

From The Boston Globe

BOSTON--- “Trying to avoid a fare increase and service cuts despite a crushing debt burden, MBTA officials are considering a plan to sell long-term parking revenue to investors in exchange for a lump sum of as much as $325 million,” the Boston Globe reported this week

“The proposed arrangement,” wrote reporter Eric Moskowitz, “would help the T close a projected deficit of more than $100 million for fiscal year 2012, which begins July 1, and pay off some debt ahead of schedule to reduce expenses in the coming years. MBTA officials are also considering going from two operators to one on Red Line subway trains, replacing staff at parking lots with machines, and doing some currently contracted maintenance in-house. T officials also hope to save up to $30 million on health insurance by transferring employees to a state insurance plan, a move being contested in court by several unions, General Manager Richard A. Davey told the Department of Transportation’s finance committee yesterday.

“Our number one priority is to deliver a balanced budget without fare increases and service cuts, and we’re looking under every cushion we can, to find every nickel to do that,’’ Davey said.

The Globe story also noted that the plan to pay down debt via the sale of future parking revenues is likely to be controversial, as the T, as it is called locally in Boston, has an enormous outstanding debt and already-crushing principal and interest payments.

For the full story go to:

http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/01/05/mbta_considers_selling_future_parking_revenue/


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Florida Offers $118M For
Jacksonville-Miami Passenger Rail

Pressure For Investment In Passenger Rail In Florida Turns To A Historic Line Now Used Exclusively For Freight.

DF Staff

From Jacksonville Business Journal And Other Internet Sources

Photo: FEC 

JANUARY 3 -- The Florida Department of Transportation is offering to put up $118 million to bring back passenger rail service to the Jacksonville-Miami line if the federal government kicks in the remaining $150 million.

The need for passenger transit service along the east side Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties has long been apparent to transportation planning agencies. In 2004, when a number of independent studies were being done for sections of the east coast line, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) agreed to coordinate the various reports into one regional study. By 2010, cost estimates had been done and funding was being sought. Now that the Florida DOT has offered the state’s share, the federal grant could become a reality.

In order for Amtrak passenger trains to run 90 mph service connecting east coast cities on this Miami-Tampa-Orlando-Jacksonville line, about $268 million is needed to upgrade the tracks and signaling. And that would have to come from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). It is not known when the agency would release the next wave of grants, said FRA spokesman Warren Flatau.

The 351-mile railway line built by 19th-century tycoon Henry Flagler, ended passenger service in 1968.

About the FEC railroad

The Florida East Coast Railway had its beginnings in 1895, when, on September 7, it was officially dedicated by its most prominent and original owner, Henry Flagler, who is known not only for his wealth, but also for a number of successful businesses.

The Railway operates 351 miles of mainline track along the east coast of Florida. With interchanges of Class I carriers, NS and CSXT, the reach of the FEC is expanded throughout all of North America.

FEC moves major carload commodities of aggregate, automobiles, lumber, farm products, food and kindred, machinery, pulp and paper, petroleum products, and stone, clay and glass. Volumes for FEC exceeded 118,000 in 2007.

It continues to operate almost all of its original railroad lines although a few segments have been abandoned over the years. For many years the company held Class I status until one of the more recent class changes bumped the railroad to a Class II, or Regional.

The railroad is an independent company and today is under the holding company known as Fortress Investment Group, LLC, which oversees the railroad and other businesses. This company also owns the Rail America company of short line railroads and in March 2008 RA was designated operator of the line.

Perhaps what the FEC is best recognized for is its ambitious plan to connect the Florida Keys with the state’s mainland. Construction of the project was completed in 1905 and finished in 1912 with Flagler’s ultimate goal of using the line as a link for traffic coming to and from the Panama Canal, whose construction had also begun in 1905. Hailed as an engineering masterpiece upon completion, the line saw a mere 23 years of active service before being destroyed by the massive Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. The railroad never sought to rebuild the line partly because its intended use never came to fruition. However, the line was so well built that much of the remaining pier infrastructure was used for Highway 1, which now connects the entire Key West island system to the state’s mainland.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)67.54---
Canadian Pacific (CP) 65.83---
CSX (CSX)67.79---
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)53.16---
Kansas City Southern (KSU)51.25---
Norfolk Southern (NSC)65.04---
Providence & Worcester(PWX)15.99---
Union Pacific (UNP)95.18---

Due to the NCI holiday break, stocks for the prior week are not being reported.


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

“Cape Cod Tunnel Permits” To Become A Reality?

From: Capecodonline.Com

CAPE COD, MASSACHUSETTS --- Long an inside joke among traffic-weary vacationers flocking to New England’s famous Cape Cod destination spot are the bumper stickers that read “Cape Cod Tunnel Permit #000”, which can often be seen on cars stuck in traffic on the region’s in famously crowded Route 3 that connects Boston to Cape Cod.

There is, of course, no tunnel under the Cape Cod Canal that separates the Cape, which is in reality an island, from the mainland of the United States, but there has been talk for years of creating one; one solution which has also been suggested is making much better use of the freight rail line that does in fact bridge the canal, and use it for regular passenger service once again from Boston and Providence.

Capecodonline reports:

BOURNE — It could be a third bridge for cars and trucks. Or a pair of new bridges. Or maybe, just maybe, that tunnel sticker many drivers have on their bumpers will finally be more than just a local joke.

The long-term solution for what to do about the 75-year-old Bourne and Sagamore bridges may be none of the above, but state and local officials, politicians and business leaders are focused on the problem more than ever after the traffic headaches from repairs during the past two years and the promise of more in the future.

Cape Cod Canal Bridges

“There’s no panacea. We’re going to have to be creative and work together,” Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority Administrator Thomas Cahir said during a meeting last month with then-state Senator-elect Dan Wolf and Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Jeffrey Mullan.

While the bridges are owned and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, they are the most important link between the Cape and the mainland, making their continued use or replacement a concern for everyone, Mullan said.

The Canal Area Regional Task Force, created a year ago to study short- and long-term solutions to the problem of the aging bridges, continues to meet.

But finding money to pay for any solution could prove difficult, Wolf and Mullan said.

“There also needs to be a plan for how we’re going to pay for it,” Wolf said.

Newly-sworn-in Congressman William Keating, who owns a home in Bourne, agreed.

“Anything that’s done ahead of time in a thoughtful manner, not only will have a better result, but it’s probably going to be more cost-effective,” Keating said recently. “I think the idea of examining that, making sure there’s a long-range view is important.”

But while a new long-term transportation authorization bill could finally be approved by Congress in 2011, funding even short-term projects on the bridges is not guaranteed, according to Corps officials.


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

New Orleans: Five Years After Katrina

More Streetcars In The Future!

Last In A Series

By David Peter Alan

Some cities are known by their transit; the cable cars that are unique to San Francisco, the New York subways and the Loop in downtown Chicago, with the CTA’s “L” trains passing overhead. In New Orleans, the city’s identity is represented by its streetcars, which have been part of the city for generations. Justin T. Augustine, General Manager of the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA), confirmed this identity when he said: “If you want to do anything in New Orleans, associate the streetcar with it.”

Both local residents and outsiders view the city’s historic and heritage-style streetcars as part of the unique character of the Crescent City, and have done so for the better part of two centuries. Streetcars began running on St. Charles Avenue in 1835, when the line was called the New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad. The cars were pulled by horses then, and the rails have been replaced several times, but the line that traverses that famous historic avenue then still does so today. The 1923 Perley-Thomas cars that serve the line today are the only vantage cars that survived in regular transit service through the transit holocaust that decimated our nation’s streetcar systems from the 1930s through the 1960s.

Tourists appreciate the historic streetcars as much as New Orleanians do. William Wall, President of the Shoreline Trolley Museum in East Haven, Connecticut, furnished Car #850, a long-time veteran of service on Canal Street, for a tour of New York, Chicago and other cities. The tour was sponsored by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors’ Bureau to promote tourism in the Big Easy after Hurricane Katrina struck, and their choice of a cultural icon for the city was a vintage streetcar. The car is now back in the museum’s barn in Connecticut and the tourists are flocking to New Orleans again.

Augustine, himself a New Orleans native, knows the power of the streetcar as a cultural icon, and he is planning to build more streetcar lines in his city. Funding has already been awarded for one of the planned lines, and transit officials hope to build two more within the next few years.

New Orleans Transit Map

Photo: TheTransportPolitic

Proposed transit in New Orleans

Phase I will run from the Union Passenger Terminal used by Amtrak trains and Greyhound buses, along Loyola Avenue, to Canal Street, where it would connect with the Canal Street Line. RTA has already received a TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant for $45 million to build that segment. Construction is scheduled to begin this spring, and service is expected to begin in April, 2012. Augustine expects one billion dollars in new development along the line.

Phase II would extend the line along Rampart Street, the boundary between the historic French Quarter and the Faubourg Treme, the city’s historic Black community. The line would continue along St. Claude Ave., the boundary of the Faubourg Marigny (now an arts and entertainment district), to Press Street in the Bywater neighborhood. An additional spur would run along Elysian Fields Avenue from St. Claude Avenue to the existing Riverfront Line, connecting with it. Transit managers hope to receive Urban Circulator and FTA (Federal Transit Administration) Small Starts funding for the project, which Augustine says is shovel-ready.

Phase III would extend the Riverfront Line on the other end, in the vicinity of the Convention Center, and connect with the St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street Lines. Augustine and his team hope to receive FTA Small Starts and New Starts funding for that line.

According to Augustine, the community has given his plans “nothing but positive praise. It’s been phenomenal.” He also credits the city’s mayor with supporting his streetcar plans, and said “We’re staying on track with what we have designed.” Funding is an issue with any new transit project, but Augustine and his managers are confident that they can build the system they have planned. It appears that the community shares their confidence.

New Orleans has come a long way since Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the city and nearly all of its transit slightly over five years ago. The streetcars go everywhere they went before the storm, and the St. Charles Avenue Line has been rebuilt. So have the Canal Street cars. Buses are back, too, although there are not as many of them as there were before the storm. Even neighborhoods that were decimated, including the Lower Ninth and Gentilly, now have some transit with the Lil’ Easy circulators which were introduced in 2009.

The frequency of service on the streetcars is approaching pre-storm levels, and RTA has announced that late-evening service, currently limited to Friday and Saturday evenings, has been increased on the St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street Lines. In an era when transit in almost every city in the nation has been cut back, New Orleans transit managers dare to plan for expansion. It also appears that they have the full support of the community. Transit chief Augustine told this writer: “The biggest problem we have is that the public wants more service, but that has to do with the ability to finance that service. We’re implementing all sorts of new technology into the system. We’re doing all of this without asking the general public for an increase in fares.” The base fare is $1.25 and a day pass (now called the “Jazzy Pass”) is $5.00, as they have been since 1993.

Augustine hope to have all of the planned new lines running within the next five years, and his hopes could become reality. Streetcars are an integral part of the New Orleans experience, for both residents and visitors.

As often happens in New Orleans, life may imitate art on street-borne rails. Many locals and visitors remember Tennessee Williams’ triangular drama set in the Crescent City and want to ride a streetcar named Desire. RTA’s current Phase II is essentially an initiative to restore that line, and D:F publisher James P. RePass is part of that initiative.

The original Desire line actually ran on Desire Street and was discontinued in 1948, the year Williams’ play became a hit. RTA advanced A Proposal Named Desire in 2002. It was similar to the current Phase II plan, but would have extended service further along St. Claude Avenue, into the Lower Ninth Ward. The FTA rejected that plan in 2003.

Nonetheless, RePass and other hope that, in the future, visitors to the Crescent City will think of Stanley and Stella Kowalski and her sister Blanche Dubois as they again ride on a Streetcar Named Desire. If that initiative, and the others now on the table, succeed in gaining funding and public acceptance, it seems highly likely that Justin Augustine and his team from Veolia Transportation and the RTA will be there to make it a reality.


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

Installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

 

Fair Weather Railroad?

Germany’s Deutsche Bahn Winter Weather Failures Enrage Public and Politicians

Hannover – After a heavy blast of several late December winter storms in northern Europe, Deutsche Bahn – German Railways – has been enduring a massive political storm resulting out of chaos which ensued in numerous German passenger rail stations and stranded trains. Numerous train cancellations and delays compounded travel problems caused by significant snow fall all across Germany in the second half of December, which also shut down numerous highways and roads and airports. Long term freezing temperatures even brought ship and barge travel to a stop on several rivers and canals.

As temperatures plunged to the -6°C to -12°C range (low twenties to low teens in °F) across the region just a week before Christmas, the second busiest travel period of the year in Germany and in much of Europe, problems with frozen rail switches, malfunctioning locomotives and some train sets, including DBAG’s trouble-prone ICE-3 series, began to snowball. By the 22nd of December less than half of ICE trains were within 10 minutes on schedule and many ICE high speed trains were running 1 – 3 hours behind schedule and others canceled altogether. Passenger loads were extraordinarily high due to numerous snow-related cancellations and closures on highways and airports.

Service failures ranged from several IC and ICE trains. with well over a thousand passengers between them, stalled for hours on the Wolfsburg – Berlin high speed line due to heavy icing causing the trains to lose their electrical connection to the overhead catenary, malfunctioning brakes and doors on hundreds of trains, and internal faults in several ICE-3 train sets and with various EMU and electric locomotives around the rail network. A Hannover area S-Bahn commuter train became stranded just outside of Lehrte for nearly 8 hours with dozens of passengers on board, after ice accumulation on the train’s pantograph insulated it from the power in the overhead line. After several futile attempts with other rescue trains, the passengers, some of whom were suffering from hypothermia due to loss of heating in the commuter train, were trans-loaded onto an ICE train, which pulled up along side the stranded train on the adjacent track.

A DB Regio regional express train

Photo: David Beale

Back when the trains ran on-time – in early December 2010. Winter-weather problems were still manageable for Deutsche Bahn AG when a winter storm hit northern and eastern Germany on the 5th of December 2010, as a DB Regio regional express train left Haste on-time during a trip from Braunschweig to Bielefeld with a Bombardier TRAXX locomotive (DB Class 146) pushing from the rear.

The massive number of service disruptions quickly brought on the wrath of the press, passenger rail advocacy groups and various politicians. On the 27th of December, the first full business day and publication day for a large number of German newspapers, headlines were predominated by German words for “Fair Weather Railroad”. DBAG chief Dr. Rüdiger Grube and German transportation minister Peter Ramsauer were immediately placed on the defensive by numerous members of Parliament, who demanded explanations. Various politicians and industry observers made statements to the press that the main culprit for the widespread winter-weather was the cost cutting measures placed into effect by Deutsche Bahn in the past decade by its former CEO Hartmut Mehdorn and his successor Dr. Grube.

Many industry observers noted that DBAG has just barely enough rolling stock and employees to cover intercity passenger operations in good times without weather related troubles. Many customers and travelers complained of a total lack of information, customer service telephones lines were either not answered or placed on hold, real time information placed on the DBAG website was scant and often not correct, and minimal information provided at a number of large stations, including the new Berlin Hauptbahnhof left thousands of passengers guessing. Not helping DBAG in this publicity nightmare was the release of a 1970s era TV commercial onto the internet, in which DBAG’s predecessor Deutsche Bundesbahn, claimed how immune its intercity trains were from winter-weather disruptions, back in a decade when winter-weather in Germany was far colder and snowier than it has been in the past decade.

As weather conditions across Germany returned to more mild temperatures in the first full week of 2011, albeit with some flooding in various areas due rain and rapid snow melting, Deutsche Bahn disclosed that it was processing over 110,000 claims for compensation due to canceled or delayed passenger trains for the second half of December 2010. The poor performance of the rail network directly in the middle of the Christmas / New Years travel peak comes on the heels of significant hot-weather failures of ICE-2 trains in the summer of 2010 and significant reduced availability of ICE-3 and ICE-3 train sets due to dramatically increased inspection frequency of their axles for cracking, as well as similar wheel fatigue cracking issues in a large part of the commuter train fleet of DBAG subsidiary S-Bahn Berlin in the summer of 2009.


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GUEST COLUMN... Guest Column...  

Virginia Rail Observations & Commentary

By Richard L. Beadles

Volume II, No. 24      December 30, 2010      Re: If We Are Serious About Rail

What’s this, a theme park thrill ride? “No”, it’s one of only two main line rail links across the Potomac River! The other, the one more familiar to Virginians, is CSX’s Long Bridge in D.C. Pictured below is the only realistic north-south alternative to Long Bridge in case we are denied use of the rail line through the District. Such a disruptive prospect is entirely possible at some time in the years ahead, given that freight trains operate within a short distance of the U.S. Capitol. Is anybody worrying? Probably. Is anybody doing anything about providing for that contingency? Perhaps, but what? Rerouting north-south freight through Cincinnati? We simply must get serious about rail infrastructure planning and development, for both freight and passenger, if Virginians expect rail to play a significantly larger role in meeting our transportation needs in the decades ahead.


Photo: via Richard Beadle’s Commentary

North end of NS (former N&W) single-track bridge over the Potomac River, Shepherdstown, WV/MD – on the Crescent Corridor Intermodal Freight route.

Although the Commonwealth of Virginia has made great strides over the past decade in bringing rail into the total multi-modal transportation mix, much more needs to be done. Some of it does not necessarily cost a great deal of money, not initially anyway. Strategic thinking and planning have not been the hallmarks of the State’s approach to rail. With gubernatorial administrations changing every four years, and mid-level managing directors coming and going, we have not always pursued our rail planning with the focus and consistency we should. Too many starts, stops, skips, and detours thus far.

While White House politics certainly played a role in Virginia’s poor showing in recent Federal rail funding allocations, the fact is that we should have been better prepared, and we were not. Ultimately, the Commonwealth may have to choose between two basic approaches. Continue the present practice of responding to grant requests from private railroads to fund their perceived needs and opportunities, or better yet, first determine what the State wishes to accomplish for the broader public benefit; design and build it, and enter into long-term contracts for use of such infrastructure by rail operators. The second approach might require a vehicle akin to the Virginia Port Authority, a concept bureaucrats and policy makers have not yet embraced. But, there has not been a major rail line constructed in Virginia for about 100 years. Private railroads are not likely to do that again. If ever we see such rail construction again, it will be done by the public.

An appropriate forum for such discussions would be the Virginia Rail Advisory Board, but it is in jeopardy of being abolished to save $10,000. A Bad idea! XXXXX!


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

A New Congress Convenes
And Rail Is On The Agenda

By James P. RePass
Publisher
Destination Freedom

A new Congress, the nation’s 112th since its founding, convened this past week in a show of civility and tradition that masked for at least a time the deep divisions that face its members, as they cope with a new GOP majority in the House, and the announced intention of Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in the still Democrat-controlled Senate to focus his time of making sure President Obama is a “one-term President.”

While procedural matters are already coming to the fore, in particular the Senate “cloture” rule which permits a single Senator to prevent a vote by keeping the floor --- “filibustering” --- as long as he or she chooses, unless 60 of his colleagues vote to cut off debate.

Once used rarely, and only under extreme circumstances, the cloture rule has been invoked so often in recent years as the two parties became more and more bitterly extreme, relative to each other as well as to the American people, that it has essentially become a weapon of minority rule --- abused by both parties, even insofar as to block Presidential appointments seen by one side or the other as too partisan to stomach. The Democrats did it to George Bush (II), and the GOP got even by doing it to Barack Obama so often that scores of important Federal posts remain unfilled, unless by “recess appointment,” which is a temporary measure.

One thing on the agenda, if the Congress ever gets to actual work as opposed to procedural bickering, is going to be the American rail system, and by that we do not simply mean Amtrak, which in recent years has enjoyed increasingly bipartisan support, and has made significant progress bringing the railroad to a state of good repair --- with important and annoying exceptions, like the 1930’s catenary system NY-DC, and 1900’s system New Haven-New York State line that is owned by Connecticut, not Amtrak.

Florida’s John Mica (R-FL) will wield the gavel of the powerful Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman, replacing ousted Congressman and former T&I Chair Jim Oberstar (D-MN), defeated for re-election last November. Congressman Mica is a high speed rail advocate, but has been critical of the rail funding in the Obama Stimulus bill of 2009 that committed $8 billion to “higher speed rail,” often meaning only incremental improvements that will in fact cut travel times significantly between city pairs like Chicago and St. Louis, but will in only a few instances provide for truly high speed service, and that over a long period of investment will require far more than allocated so far (California and Florida).

One thing the new Congress must do is to address the issue of funding of infrastructure, not simply rail, but the nation’s woebegone system of transportation. The Gas Tax must go, to be replaced by a Transportation Tax or a Vehicle Miles Travelled Tax, or we will not have the money to make the system improvements we need, anywhere. That will be a tall order for this divided Congress, but the alternative – doing nothing --- will guarantee America’s further decline as a world economic power. Let’s hope that Congress rises to the challenge --- and let’s make sure they hear from us.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2011 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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In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other transportation initiative sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives – state DOTs, legislators, government offices, and transportation organizations or professionals – as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. If you have a favorite link, please send the web address (URL) to our webmaster.

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