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 24, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 3

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

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

  News Items…
Senator, Governor Raise Voices, Profile Of Critical NY-NJ
   “ARC” Tunnel Project
St. Louis Throws Car-Oriented Planning “To The Curb”
  High-Speed Rail…
Why And How Florida’s High-Speed Rail Line Must Be Built
  Political Lines…
Senator Chris Dodd Lays Out An American Vision,
   Going Forward
John Kerry - “Purpose And Civility” Need To Make
   A Return To The Washington Arena
 
  Select Rail Stocks…
  Editorial…
A Modest Proposal For NY/NJ Govs Andrew Cuomo
   And Chris Christie
  View From Europe…
Three Steps Forward – Two Steps Back
  We Get Letters…
  Publication Notes …


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

NY Dem Senator Schumer Blasts NJ GOP Gov Christie And Vice Versa

 

Senator, Governor Raise Voices, Profile
Of Critical NY-NJ “ARC” Tunnel Project

By DF Staff And From Internet Sources

NEW YORK CITY/TRENTON,NJ --- One of the nation’s most important transportation projects, whose fate and fortune has been whipsawed for two decades, made it back to page one last week when New York Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) blasted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, for stopping the critical project in its tracks.

Christie blasted back, noting that while Federal funding was providing most of the money, likely cost over-runs on what had become a badly compromised project would be solely on the backs of New Jersey taxpayers, even though the project --- a rail tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey --- would also benefit New York City.

The situation is complicated by the fact that the project for which ground was broken in 2009, then stopped in October 2010 by Christie, was badly flawed: originally designed to back up and then expand existing rail capacity between the New Jersey side of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and Pennsylvania Station in New York City (with a planned extension to Grand Central Terminal), the project alignment was changed in 2007 to be only a dead-end tunnel ending under 34th Street, serving only New Jersey Transit trains, and requiring an entirely new and expensive excavation for a brand new train station there --- even while cutting out Amtrak and thus the rest of the Northeastern United States from the benefits of the project.

In a New York Observer piece written by David Freedlander, Schumer blamed Christie, a rising and very visible star in GOP national circles, for the demise of the project:

“As we reported earlier, Chuck Schumer delivered a blistering address this morning [January 18] about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s decision to kill the trans-Hudson tunnel project. Afterward, in a brief scrum with reporters, he was no less forgiving,” wrote Freedlander, “saying that, ‘History will regard this decision as one of the worst that New York has made.’

“‘We are one region,’ Schumer continued, reported the Observer, ‘And we need to understand that if we don’t improve transportation we will start shrinking and our young people will start leaving. It’s that simple. I understand the minute-to-minute and day-to-day and week-to-week and even the decision this year. We have a real budget deficit. Let’s find money anywhere. You don’t eat your seed corn. You don’t eat your young. It’s that simple.’

Christie’s office was as the Observer reported quick to respond; it quoted Christie’s office as telling WNYC: “Where was the senior senator from New York with funding alternatives to a project that was predicted to run billions over projections - all of which were to be borne by New Jersey and its taxpayers? This was a ‘bi-state’ project for which Senator Schumer’s state and the federal government were set to pay zero, zilch, nothing for the cost overruns. We can live with the criticism while protecting taxpayers from this boondoggle, which was simply a bad deal for New Jersey.”

In the meantime, the existing tunnel system, opened one hundred and eleven years ago, and upon which all eastern New York, New England, and Eastern Canada is dependent for passenger service, continues to need constant maintenance to stay functional, with one tunnel out of service completely every weekend for repairs.

The Observer also reported that radio station WABC “grabbed the governor himself” who then said:

“I’ll say what I said about other senators. Their job is easy. They get to sit in front of microphones and bloviate. I’ve got to balance budgets...If Senator Schumer would like to tell me where he was going to get the additional $5 billion? If he’s got it - since he’s such an important guy in the U.S. Senate maybe he’s got it himself. If he wants to offer me $5 billion, then maybe we can have a conversation. Until that time, he should mind his manners on the other side of the Hudson River.”

For the complete Observer story go to:http://www.observer.com/2011/politics/schumer-christie-escalating-battle-over-arc-project


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St. Louis Throws Car-Oriented
Planning “To The Curb”

1912 Map of St. Louis

Photo: From The Architect’s Newspaper Blog

The City Of St. Louis In 1912

From The Architect’s Newspaper Blog
http://blog.archpaper.com/wordpress/archives/11842

ST. LOUIS --- Like many cities around the country, St. Louis is in search of a more sustainable, more dense city that promotes walk-ability and public transit. With the help of $150,000 in stimulus funds, the city will soon be evaluating its zoning codes to affect such land-use changes in unincorporated areas. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch described plans to densify the city focusing on redeveloping currently built-up areas.

St. Louis has been making smart growth gains as its downtown and surrounding neighborhoods have been built up over the years and with the construction of light rail lines connecting the city and suburbs. Plans for a revamped zoning strategy would be targeted at unincorporated areas of the county outside the city limits where an estimated one-third of the county’s population live. Most of this space has been built up in an unwalkable pattern that diminishes the value of any density that already exists.

Interviews with four finalist planning firms have already taken place and a winner is expected to be named soon. Final zoning changes could be approved within a year and a half. Among the strategies for promoting a denser city, planners hope to boost walk-ability around transit lines, promote mixed-uses in taller buildings, increase sustainable rainwater management practices, and expand the urban realm with sidewalks that promote outdoor dining, all while appealing to developers to add emphasis to public spaces.


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HIGH-SPEED RAIL... High-Speed Rail...  

New York Regional Plan Association ‘America 2050 Group’ Defends High Speed Rail

 

Why And How Florida’s High-Speed
Rail Line Must Be Built

NEW YORK CITY --- This week, America 2050 released a report evaluating all potential high-speed rail corridors around the country on their ability to attract riders based on quantifiable regional characteristics, such as concentrations of jobs, population density, and rail transit networks. Our report drew attention to the fact that Florida’s population and jobs are more decentralized and auto-dependent compared to other regions around the country, potentially challenging the state’s ability to attract riders to a high-speed rail system.

Some critics may seize on this evaluation to bolster their claims that Florida should not invest in a high-speed rail system. They are misinterpreting the point of our report, which identifies the most promising corridor in each region and points to ways to improve each project’s chances for success.

The Tampa-Orlando-Miami corridor is the most promising corridor in Florida, while also possessing several key attributes that make it an excellent project. These include project readiness and public ownership of the right of way for the initial segment. Because of the difficulty in quantifying these important attributes, they were not accounted for in our report scoring system, but of all rail corridors in the nation currently being discussed, Florida’s first leg – Tampa to Orlando – leads the nation in feasibility.

The importance of feasibility cannot be overstated. The promise of true high-speed rail has yet to be experienced anywhere in the United States, not even in the Northeast Corridor, where Amtrak’s Acela Express service falls short of international standards. The Tampa-Orlando segment of Florida’s high-speed rail corridor will be the first leg in a statewide and national system that can demonstrate the potential of high-speed rail to transform inter-city travel. This is similar to the role that the first segments in the Interstate Highway System played half a century ago in demonstrating the potential for these highways to transform late 20th century travel.

Central Florida also possesses a special attribute that distinguishes the region from almost every other: close to 50 million annual visitors to Central Florida destinations like Disney World. Our study did not fully incorporate the impact of these visitors into the evaluation as that situation is unique to the Florida corridor. If only 5 percent of these visitors take the high-speed rail line to connect from the airport to Disney World, they would meet the passenger estimates of 2.4 million for the entire Tampa-Orlando line in the first year of operation. A growing share of Florida’s European and Asian visitors also use high-speed rail at home and can be expected to travel on Florida’s new system, giving the state’s vital tourism economy a boost.

But what of Florida’s spread-out cities and Floridians’ love of their cars, which contributed to the lower ranking? The Orlando region, with its projected 60 percent growth by 2040, has the opportunity to focus future jobs and development around the high-speed rail system’s stations, as European and Asian countries have done with their own high-speed rail lines. In so doing, these station areas have the potential to become magnets for new residents and businesses as the Florida economy recovers. These developments can also help subsidize high-speed rail capital and operating costs while boosting ridership on the rail network, further advancing its value to the state’s economy and transportation system.

For all these reasons we believe that building the Tampa-Orlando high-speed rail line is in Florida’s—and America’s—best interest.

About America 2050

America 2050 is a national initiative to develop an infrastructure plan for the United States that will position America for equitable, sustainable and prosperous economic growth. We are developing strategies that anticipate the challenges of rapid population growth, climate change, mobility, and ensuring national prosperity in a changing global economy.

A major focus of America 2050 is the emergence of mega regions – large networks of metropolitan areas, where most of America’s growth by mid-century will take place – and how to organize infrastructure investments, environmental protection, and economic opportunities for all at this new scale.

For more information see: http://www.america2050.org
or contact petra@rpa.org
T: 212-253-5795


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

A Farewell Address:

 

Senator Chris Dodd Lays Out
An American Vision, Going Forward

Publisher’s Note: One of those voices missing from the 112th Congress assembled this past week is that of Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, first elected to the United States Senate in1980. One of the most innovative Senators in Connecticut history, Chris Dodd contributed mightily to the national legislation of the past three decades; one of the most important proposals he made, which may well become law, was for the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank. The Senator first proposed this way of re-building our nation’s lagging transportation and other infrastructure when running for the Democratic nomination for President; when he dropped out of that race in 2008, his proposal was picked up and adopted by then-candidate, now-President, Barack Obama. We reproduce this speech here in its entirety not only out of the respect for Chris Dodd, who we have known for many years and who has been a key speaker at NCI conferences, but because his is a great valedictory by someone who, confronted with no future political ambitious, need not trim his sails or otherwise mince his words; hence, it is that rare political document, a real statement from the heart, as well as the mind. Here it is:

 

Farewell To The Senate From
Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT)

From the US Congressional Record: November 30, 2010 (Senate)]; [Page S8277-S8282]
And From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov] [DOCID: cr30no10-170]

Mr. DODD:   Mr. President, first of all, let me express my gratitude to all of the colleagues and other individuals who have come to the Chamber at this moment. Everyone who serves in Congress usually recalls two moments in their service: the maiden speech they give shortly after their arrival and their closing remarks. I can’t recall what the first speech I gave as a new member of the House of Representatives 36 years ago was even about.

I do, however, recall very vividly that there was no one else in the Chamber when I gave it. It was an empty hall early one evening with the exception of one colleague, Johnny Dent from Pennsylvania. He was sitting in his chair with his trademark dark glasses, listening patiently as I gave my knee-rattling, hand-shaking maiden address. Midway through the speech, he walked up to me and said quietly: ‘You know, kid, it is not on the level’.

Well, that was my first speech before the House, and I am deeply honored that so many of you have come out to listen to my closing remarks today so I do not have to speak to an empty Chamber.

For more than 200 years, a uniquely American story has unfolded here in the Chamber of the United States Senate--a fascinating, inspiring, often tumultuous tale of conflict and compromise, reflecting the awesome potential of our still-young democracy and its occasional moments of agonizing frustration. For much of my life, this story has intersected with my own in ways that have been both thrilling and humbling. As a 14-year-old boy, I sat in the family gallery of this very Chamber watching as my father took the oath of office as a new Senator. A few years later, in 1962, I sat where these young men and women sit today, serving as a Senate page. John F. Kennedy was President and Lyndon Johnson presided over this body. Eighteen years later, in the fall of 1980, the people of Connecticut gave me the honor of a lifetime when they asked me to give voice to their views, electing me to serve as their U.S. Senator. For the past 30 years, I have worked hard to sustain that trust. I am proud of the work I have done, but it is time for my story and that of this institution, which I cherish so much, to diverge. Thus, Mr. President, I rise to give some valedictory remarks as my service as a U.S. Senator from Connecticut comes to a close.

Now, it is common for retiring Senators to say the following: I will miss the people but not the work. Mr. President, you won’t hear that from me. Most assuredly, I will miss the people of the Senate, but I will miss the work as well. Over the years, I have both witnessed and participated in some great debates in this Chamber, moments when statesmen of both parties gathered together in this Hall to weigh the great questions of our time. And while I wish there had been more of those moments, I will always remember the Senate debates on issues such as Central America, the Iraq war, campaign finance reform, securities litigation, health care, and, of course, financial reform.

And when I am home in Connecticut, I see the results of the work we did every day. I see workers coming home from their shifts at Pratt & Whitney, Electric Boat, the Sikorsky helicopter plant--the lifeblood of a defense manufacturing sector so critical to our national security and to the economic well-being of my home State. I see communities preparing for high-speed rail and breaking ground for new community health centers. I see the grants we fought for helping cities and towns to build sustainable communities and promote economic development.

When I am home, I meet parents who, because of the Family and Medical Leave Act, don’t have to choose between keeping their jobs and taking care of their sick children. I visit with elderly folks who no longer have to choose between paying for their prescription drugs and paying for their heat. I hear from consumers who have been victimized by unfair practices on the part of credit card companies and who will no longer be subject to those abuses. And I meet young children as well who, through Early Head Start or access to after school programs, have blossomed academically in spite of difficult economic circumstances.

As proud as I am of the work that has made these stories possible over the last three decades, I am keenly aware, particularly today, that I did not do any of this alone. Until this last Congress, with rare exceptions, every major piece of legislation I authored that became law--including the ones I have just mentioned--had a Republican cosponsor as well as support from my Democratic caucus. So to my Democratic and Republican Senate colleagues who joined me in all these efforts over 30 years, I say thank you this afternoon.

I also want to thank, if I can, the unsung heroes of this institution--the Senate staff and my personal staff. It would be a grievous understatement to simply say they make the trains run on time. Without them, as all of us know, the trains would never leave the station at all--the floor staff, the cloakroom professionals of both parties, and the hundreds of unknown and unseen people who show up every day in this body to make this critical institution of democracy function. Without them, no Senator could fulfill his or her obligations to the American people.

Many of my personal staff and committee staff are present in the Senate gallery today. Neither I nor the millions of Americans whose lives you have enriched or whose burdens you have lightened can ever thank you enough. I only hope your time with me has been as fulfilling as my time with you.

Of course, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the people of Connecticut, whose confidence, patience, and spirit have given my life and its work deep meaning. As rich as our common language is, words cannot even come close to capturing the depth of my affection for and appreciation of the people of the State of Connecticut. For almost four decades--three terms in the House of Representatives, five terms in this Chamber--you have entrusted me to labor on your behalf, and I deeply thank you for that honor.

And lastly, my family. My parents are long since deceased, but their guidance, inspiration, and example have never departed. For the past 30 years, I have sat at this very same desk occupied by my father during the 12 years he served in this Chamber. His courage, character, and conviction have been a constant reminder of what it means to be a U.S. Senator. I thank my siblings and their children and other relatives for their enthusiastic support, particularly during the rough patches. From time to time, we all need the safe harbor of family at the darker moments. And to Jackie, Grace, and Christina, who have supported and inspired me every day: You mean more to me than I could ever say in these few short moments. So come January, I am glad I will have more time to say it to you more often. And to Jackie in particular: You have been my anchor to windward in the rough and turbulent waters of public service. When it was the darkest, you were the brightest. I love you more than life.

As this chapter in my career comes to a close, a new chapter in the Senate’s history is beginning. When this body is gaveled to order in January [this speech was delivered before the new Congress was sworn in], nearly half of its Members will be in their first term. And even though I could spend hours fondly recalling a lifetime of yesterdays, this new Senate and the Nation must confront a very uncertain tomorrow. So rather than recite a long list of personal memories or to revisit video highlights of my Senate service, I would like to take this brief time, in these few short moments, to offer a few thoughts to those who will write the Senate’s next chapter.

I will begin by stating the sadly obvious. Our electoral system is a mess. Powerful financial interests, free to throw money about with little transparency, have corrupted, in my view, the basic principles underlying our representative democracy. As a result, our political system at the Federal level is completely dysfunctional. Those who were elected to the Senate just a few weeks ago must already begin the unpleasant work of raising money for their reelection 6 years hence. [Emphasis added-the Publisher]

Newly-elected Senators will learn that their every legislative maneuver, their every public utterance, and even some of their private deliberations will be fodder for a 24/7 political media industry that seems to favor speculation over analysis and conflict over consensus.

This explosion of new media brings with it its own benefits and its drawbacks--and it is occurring simultaneously as the presence of traditional media outlets in our Nation is declining. So while the corridors of Congress are crowded with handheld video and cell phone cameras, there is a declining roll for newspaper, radio, and network journalists reporting the routine deliberations that are taking place in our subcommittee hearings. Case in point: Ten years ago, 11 or 12 reporters from Connecticut covered the delegation’s legislative activities. Today, there is only one doing the same work.

Meanwhile, intense partisan polarization has raised the stakes in every debate and on every vote, making it difficult to lose with grace and nearly impossible to compromise without cost. Americans’ distrust of politicians provides compelling incentives for Senators to distrust each other, to disparage this very institution, and to disengage from the policymaking process. These changes have already had their effect on the Senate. The purpose of insulating one-half of the national legislature from the volatile shifts in public mood has been degraded. And while I strongly favor reforming our campaign finance system, revitalizing and rehabilitating our journalistic traditions, and restoring citizen faith in government and politics, I know that wishes won’t make it so.

I have heard some people suggest that the Senate as we know it simply cannot function in such a highly charged political environment; that we should change Senate rules to make it more efficient, more responsive to the public mood--more like the House of Representatives, where the majority can essentially bend the minority to its will. I appreciate the frustrations many have with the slow pace of the legislative process, and I certainly share some of my colleagues’ anger with the repetitive use and abuse of the filibuster. Thus, I can understand the temptation to change the rules that make the Senate so unique and simultaneously so terribly frustrating. But whether such a temptation is motivated by a noble desire to speed up the legislative process or by pure political expedience, I believe such changes would be unwise.

We 100 Senators are but temporary stewards of a unique American institution, founded upon universal principles. The Senate was designed to be different, not simply for the sake of variety but because the Framers believed the Senate could and should be the venue in which statesmen would lift America up to meet its unique challenges.

As a Senator from the State of Connecticut--and the longest serving one in its history--I take special pride in the role two Connecticut Yankees played in the establishment of this very body. It was Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth, delegates from Connecticut to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, who proposed the idea of a bicameral national legislature. The Connecticut Compromise, as it came to be known, was designed to ensure that no matter which way the political winds blew or how hard the gusts, there would be a place--one place--for every voice to be heard.

The history of this young democracy, the Framers decided, should not be written solely in the hand of the political majority. In a nation founded in revolution against tyrannical rule which sought to crush dissent, there should be one institution that would always provide a space where dissent was valued and respected. E pluribus Unum--out of many, one. And though we would act as one, and should, the Framers believed our political debate should always reflect that in our beliefs and aspirations, we are, in fact, many. In short, our Founders were concerned not only with what we legislated but, just as importantly, with how we legislated.

In my years here, I have learned that the appreciation of the Senate’s role in our national debate is an acquired taste. Therefore, to my fellow Senators who have never served a day in the minority, I urge you to pause in your enthusiasm to change Senate rules. And to those in the minority who routinely abuse the rules of the Senate to delay or defeat almost any Senate decision, know that you will be equally responsible for undermining the unique value of the Senate--a value, I would argue, that is greater than that which you might assign to the political motivations driving your obstruction.

So in the end, of course, I would suggest this isn’t about the filibuster. What will determine whether this institution works or not, what has always determined whether we fulfill the Framers’ highest hopes or justify the cynics’ worst fears is not the Senate rules or the calendar or the media; it is whether each of the 100 Senators can work together, living up to the incredible honor that comes with this title and the awesome responsibility that comes with this office.

Politics today seemingly rewards only passion and independence, not deliberation and compromise as well. It has become commonplace to hear candidates for this body campaign on how they are going to Washington to shake things up--all by themselves. May I politely suggest that you are seeking election to the wrong office. The U.S. Senate does not work that way, nor can it, nor should it. Mayors, Governors, and Presidents can sometimes succeed by the sheer force of their will, but there has never been a Senator so persuasive, so charismatic, so clever, or so brilliant that they could make a significant difference while refusing to work with other Members of this body.

Simply put, Senators cannot ultimately be effective alone.

As I noted earlier, until last year’s health care bill, there had not been a single piece of legislation I had ever passed without a Republican partner.

Of course, none of those victories came easily. The notion that partisan politics is a new phenomenon, or that partisan politics serve no useful purpose, is just flat wrong.

From the moment of our founding, America has been engaged in an eternal and often pitched partisan debate. That is no weakness. In fact, it is at the core of our strength as a democracy, and success as a nation. Political bipartisanship is a goal, not a process.

You do not begin the debate with bipartisanship--you arrive there. And you can do so only when determined partisans create consensus--and thus bipartisanship.

In the end, the difference between a partisan brawl and a passionate, but ultimately productive, debate rests on the personal relationships among those of us who serve here.

A legislative body that operates on unanimous consent, as we do, cannot function unless the Members trust each other. There is no hope of building that trust unless there is the will to treat each other with respect and civility, and to invest the time it takes to create that trust and strengthen those personal bonds. No matter how obnoxious you find a colleague’s rhetoric or how odious you find their beliefs, you will need them. And despite what some may insist, you do no injustice to your ideological principles when you seek out common ground. You do no injustice to your political beliefs when you take the time to get to know those who don’t share them.

I have served with several hundred Senators under every partisan configuration imaginable: Republican presidents and Democratic presidents, divided government and one party control.

And as odd as it may sound in the present political environment, in the last three decades I have served here, I cannot recall a single Senate colleague with whom I could not work. Sometimes those relationships take time, but then, that is why the Framers gave us 6-year terms: so that members could build the social capital necessary to make the Senate function.

Under our Constitution, Senators are given 6 years, but only you can decide how to use them. And as one Senator who has witnessed what is possible here, I urge each of you: Take the time to use those years well. I pledge to those of you who have recently arrived, your tenure here will be so much more rewarding.

More importantly, you will be vindicating the confidence that the Framers placed in each person who takes the oath of office, as a U.S. Senator, upholding a trust that echoes through the centuries. I share the confidence that Roger Sherman, Oliver Ellsworth, and the Framers placed in this body and in its Members. But I am not blind. The Senate today, in the view of many, is not functioning as it can and should.

I urge you to look around. This moment is difficult, not only for this body, but for the nation it serves. In the end, what matters most in America is not what happens within the walls of this Chamber, but rather the consequences of our decisions across the Nation and around the globe.

Our economy is struggling, and many of our people are experiencing real hardship--unemployment, home foreclosures, and endangered pensions.

Meanwhile, our Nation faces real challenges: a mounting national debt, energy, immigration, nuclear proliferation, ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq and so much more. All these challenges make the internal political and procedural conflicts we face as Senators seem small and petty.

History calls each of us to lift our eyes above the fleeting controversies of the moment, and to refocus our attention on our common challenge and common purpose. By regaining its footing, the Senate can help this nation to regain confidence, and restore its sense of optimism. We must regain that focus. And, most importantly, we need our confidence back--we need to feel that same optimism that has sustained us through more than two centuries. Now, I am not naive. I am aware of the conventional wisdom that predicts gridlock in the Congress.

But I know both the Democratic and Republican leaders. I know the sitting members of this chamber as well. And my confidence is unshaken.

Why? Because we have been here before. The country has recovered from economic turmoil. Americans have come together to heal deep divides in our Nation and the Senate has led by finding its way through seemingly intractable political division. We have proven time and time again that the Senate is capable of meeting the test of history. We have evidenced the wisdom of the Framers who created its unique rules and set the high standards that we must meet.

After all, no other legislative body grants so much power to each member, nor does any other legislative body ask so much of each member.

Just as the Senate’s rules empower each Member to act like a statesman, they also require statesmanship from each of us.

But these rules are merely requiring from us the kind of leadership that our constituents need from us, that history calls on us to provide in difficult times such as the ones we’re encountering.

Maturity in a time of pettiness, calm in a time of anger, and leadership in a time of uncertainty--that is what the Nation asks of the Senate, and that is what this office demands of us.

Over the past two centuries, some 1,900 men and women have shared the privilege of serving in this body. Each of us has been granted a temporary, fleeting moment in which to indulge either our political ambition and ideological agenda, or, alternatively, to rise to the challenge and make a constructive mark on our history.

My moment is now at an end, but to those whose moments are not yet over, and to those whose moments will soon begin, I wish you so much more than good fortune. I wish you wisdom. I wish you courage. And I wish for each of you that, one day, when you reflect on your moment, you will know that you have lived up to the tremendous honor and daunting responsibility of being a United States Senator.

To quote St. Paul, “. . . the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

So, Mr. President, it is with great pride, deep humility and incredible gratitude, as a United States Senator, that I yield the floor.

Thank you, Mr. President.


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Senator John Kerry Addresses Gridlock And Globalization

 

“Purpose And Civility” Need To Make
A Return To The Washington Arena

[It is unprecedented in D:F’s history that two Senatorial speeches deserve the privilege of being reprinted in their entirety in these pages.- but read on]

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. --- Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, delivered an address this morning at the Center for American Progress in Washington on political gridlock, the urgent need to restore a sense of purpose and civility to the U.S. political process, and the global economic consequences of the breakdown in Washington.

At the top of his remarks, Kerry addressed the tragedy this weekend in Tucson and the discussion that’s ensued about the state of our political discourse.

The full text of his speech, as prepared, is below:

 

Someone might ask why, with our country in mourning, we are here this morning continuing to talk about the business of the country.  But the truth is that is what Gabrielle Giffords was doing – talking about the business of the country.  And the truth is, talking about the business of our country is more urgent than ever.

John and I considered postponing this speech, which had been planned for some time.  But serious times call for serious discussions.  And after some reflection, both of us felt that not only should this speech not be postponed, but that, in fact, it was imperative to give it.

So obviously, as we gather here this morning, last weekend’s unspeakable tragedy is at the forefront of all of our minds. Our thoughts are with Congresswoman Giffords and the families of all the victims. We pray for her full recovery, even as a nation mourns the loss of innocent life in such a senseless act. 

All of us struggle to understand this horrific event. There is much we still don’t know about what happened and why. But here’s what we do know without any question: on Saturday, a public servant went to meet with her constituents in the best tradition of our democracy, and while out, just doing her job, Congresswoman Giffords was shot down. Today she’s fighting for her life, and six people lost their lives in this senseless assault not just on them, but, in its calculated planning for assassination, an assault on our democracy itself.

Eerily, I heard this weekend’s news while in Sudan, representing our country in our collective effort to help a people who have endured unspeakable violence and who are trying to make a fresh start through their democracy. Yet as I stood beside those Africans who have lost loved ones in pursuit of the democratic values we Americans so proudly export to the world, there was an unavoidable clash with the events unfolding in Tucson – a dramatic underscoring of the work that must be done to revitalize our own democracy here at home.

Many observers have already reduced this tragedy to simple questions of whether overheated rhetoric is to blame, or one partisan group or another. And surely today many pundits and politicians are measuring their words a little more carefully and thinking a little more about what they’re saying.  But in the weeks and months ahead, the real issue we need to confront isn’t just what role divisive political rhetoric may have played on Saturday – but it’s the violence divisive, overly simplistic dialogue does to our democracy every day.

In the wake of this weekend’s tragedy, Speaker Boehner was right to suspend the House’s usual business; the question now is whether we’re all going to suspend and then end business as usual in the United States Capitol.

Because even before this event shook us out of our partisan routine, it should have been clear that on bedrock questions of civility and consensus– discourse and democracy – the whole endeavor of building a politics of national purpose – the big question wasn’t whose rhetoric was right or wrong, but whether our political conversation was worthy of the confidence and trust of the American people.

Millions of Americans know we can do better than we’ve done these last bitter years – because our history has proven it time and again.  

When the Soviets sent the first satellite in history into orbit half a century ago, leaders from both parties rose with a sense of common purpose and resolved that never again would the United States fall behind anyone, anywhere.  President Kennedy summoned our nation to reach the great and audacious goal “before (the) decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.”

There were no partisan divisions that blocked the way. With daring and unflagging determination we moved immediately to unprecedented levels of investment in science and technology, engineering and R&D – and only twelve years after Sputnik, two Americans humbly took mankind’s first steps on the moon.

Back then – just as today - our leaders, Democrat and Republican, had deep disagreements on many issues, but back then, they shared an even deeper commitment to stand together for the strength and success of our country. For  them, at that turning point, politics stopped not just at the ocean’s edge, but at the edge of the atmosphere. For them, American Exceptionalism wasn’t just a slogan; they knew that America is exceptional not because we say we are, but because we do exceptional things.

As I first said last month, we as a people face another Sputnik moment today. And the great question is whether we will meet this moment as Americans did so boldly five decades ago. The decisions we make – or fail to make – in this decade on new energy sources, on education, infrastructure, technology, and research, all of which are going to produce the jobs of the future, and our decisions on deficits and entitlements will without doubt determine whether the United States will continue to lead the world – or be left to follow in the wake of others, on the way to decline, less prosperous in our own land and less secure in the world.

Some will question how in the world this could be possible – America less prosperous? America on the decline? They forget that exceptionalism for America has never been an automatic fact – a birthright on autopilot – but an inheritance of opportunity to be renewed and revitalized by each generation.

So, let me share some facts with you. Right now, other developed and developing countries are making far-reaching choices to reshape their economies and move forward in a new and very different global era. But instead of us responding as Americans have in the past, the frustrating reality is that our American political system is increasingly paralyzed and Balkanized into a patchwork of narrow interests that have driven the larger “national good” far from the national dialogue altogether. Increasingly, overheated ideology and partisan infighting leave us less able to address or even comprehend the decisive nature and scale of the challenges that will decide our whole future.

The fact is – our strength at home determines our strength in the world.  And other countries are constantly taking our measure, sizing us up, watching our politics, measuring our gridlock.

On issue after issue, enduring consensus has been frayed or shredded by lust for power cloaked in partisan games. Health care’s individual mandate? Guess what -- it started as a Republican idea-- a pro-business idea-- because rising insurance costs leave big holes in profits.  Cap and trade?  Guess again -- another Republican idea based on market principles and, with bipartisanship, successfully implemented by President George Herbert Walker Bush, now denounced as ideological heresy. And energy independence?  For forty years, every President since Richard Nixon has recognized that foreign oil imports are America’s Achilles heel.  But whenever we’ve had a chance to act, we’ve been blocked by entrenched influence and the siren call of short-term interest instead of achieving long-term success.

Even as we were clawing our way to the ratification of START Treaty last month, I noted that far more ambitious treaties had previously been ratified by votes of 90 or 95 to zero.  I joked that in this Senate, in this hyper-partisan Washington, 67 might be the new 95. I’m proud that in the end we sent a signal to the world that in American foreign policy, however uphill the slog and improbable the victory, partisan politics can still stop at the water’s edge. But the fact remains that it was closer than it ever should have been.

All of this underscores the current danger to our country in ways that go far beyond that single debate and highlight a host of other issues that demand and deserve common resolve, not constant suspicion and division. If treaties ratified almost unanimously yesterday get just 71 votes today, what’s the forecast for other decisive endeavors that once would have commanded 79 votes in the Senate?  We can’t afford for the old 79 to become the new 49, dooming our national will to unbreakable gridlock.  Because in the 21stcentury where choices and consequences come at us so much faster than ever before, the price of Senate inaction isn’t just that we will stand still; it isn’t just  that America will  fall behind; it’s that we will stay behind as we cede the best possibilities of this young century to others who are more disciplined.

Just think about an issue as simple and fundamental as building and investing in America – an issue that was once so clearly bi-partisan. The Republican Mayor of New York City Fiorello LaGuardia famously said:  “There’s no Republican or Democratic way to clean the streets.”  Well, for decades there was no Democratic or Republican way to build roads and bridges and airports. The building of America was every American’s job. 

This wasn’t narrow pork; it was a national priority.  But today, we’re still living off and wearing out the infrastructure put in place by Republicans and Democrats together, starting with President Eisenhower’s interstate highway system. We didn’t build it; our parents and grandparents did.  Now partisan paralysis has kept us from renewing that inheritance even as it decays from neglect.  And the question  is – what are we building for our children and our future generations?

Reliable, modern infrastructure isn’t a luxury. It’s the lifeblood of our economy-- the key to connecting our markets, moving products and people, generating and sustaining millions of jobs for American workers, to not wasting hundreds of thousands of hours and millions of gallons of gas on clogged highways.

In the face of global competition, our growth and exports are directly tied to the modernity of our infrastructure. As we invest too little and our competitors invest more and more, the harder and harder it will be to catch up – and the more and more attractive those countries will be for future investments.

In 2009 China spent an estimated $350 billion on infrastructure-- 9 percent of its GDP. Europe’s infrastructure bank financed $350 billion in projects across the continent from 2005 to 2009, modernizing seaports, expanding airports and high speed rail lines, and reconfiguring city centers. Brazil invested over $240 billion in infrastructure in the past three years alone, with an additional $340 billion planned over the next three years.

And what about us?  Well, we know that Americans have always been builders.  We built a transcontinental railroad. We built an interstate highway system.  We built the rockets that let us explore the farthest edge of the solar system and beyond. But as a result of our political gridlock and attention to the short-term, that’s not what we’re doing today.

For too long we’ve under-built and underinvested, and too much of what we have done has been uninformed by any long-term strategic plan. In 2008, it was estimated that we had to make an annual investment of $250 billion for the next 50 years to legitimately meet our transportation needs.  Right now, we aren’t even close to that.  Right now, we are as many miles away from it as we ought to be building to get there.

Other countries are doing what we ought to do. They’re racing ahead because they created infrastructure banks to build a new future; but we’ve yet to build a new consensus for our own national infrastructure bank to make Americans the world’s builders again-- and to keep our country the leader in the new world economy.

Imagine the possibilities that would come from this endeavor - financing projects from high-speed rail to air and sea ports, all with the expectation of being repaid, lending directly to economically viable initiatives of both national and regional significance, without political influence, run in an open and transparent manner by experienced professionals with meaningful Congressional oversight.  That is an indispensable strategy for prosperity and a legitimate vision that Americans could embrace. And if we offer America the leadership it deserves, it ought to be an undoubted opportunity and necessity for bi-partisanship.

It’s not just infrastructure where we must rebuild our sense of great national purpose: virtually every measure shows that we’re falling behind. Today the United States is ranked 10th in global competitiveness among the G20 countries. America is now 12th worldwide in the percentage of 25-to-34-year-olds with a college degree, trailing, among others, Russia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Israel. This year investors have pulled $74 billion out of domestic stock funds and put $42 billion into foreign stock funds. High-profile multinational companies including Applied Materials and IBM are already opening major R&D centers in China. And as we look to the Googles of the future, it is increasingly possible that they will be founded by students from Tianjin University, rather than MIT or Stanford.

We need to face up these new challenges-- not just as individuals or separate interests, but as a nation with a national purpose. The world of the next generation will change too rapidly for political parties to focus too narrowly on the next election. And the 21st Century can be another American century-- but only if we restore a larger sense of responsibility and replace the clattering cacophony of the perpetual campaign with a wider discussion of what is best for our country.

For the last months we’ve watched the news and read the campaign literature and heard a lot the sound bites. We’ve heard politicians say they won’t become a part of Washington. That say they’re for small government, lower taxes, and more freedom. But what do they really mean?

Do they want a government too limited to have invented the Internet, now a vital part of our commerce and communications?  A government too small to give America’s auto industry and all its workers a second chance to fight for their survival?  Taxes too low to invest in the research that creates jobs and industries and fills the Treasury with the revenue that educates our children, cures disease, and defends our country?  We have to get past slogans and sound bites, reason together, and talk in real terms about how America can do its best.

If we are going to balance the budget and create jobs, we can’t pretend that we can do it by just eliminating earmarks and government waste.  We have to look at the plain facts of how we did it before, and by the way, you don’t have to look far. In the early 1990’s, our economy was faltering because deficits and debt were freezing capital. We had to send a signal to the market that we were capable of being fiscally responsible. We did just that and as result we saw the longest economic expansion in history, created over 22 million jobs, and generated unprecedented wealth in America, with every income bracket rising. But we did it by making tough choices. The Clinton economic plan committed the country to a path of discipline that helped unleash the productive potential of the American people. We invested in the workforce, in research, in development. We helped new industries. Then, working with Republicans, we came up with a budget framework that put our nation on track to be debt free by 2012 for the first time since Andrew Jackson’s administration.

How we got off track is a story that doesn’t require retelling. But the truth of how we generated the 1990’s economic boom does need to be told. We didn’t just cut our way to a balanced budget; we grew our way there.

And nothing played a more important role than the fact that we developed a one trillion dollar technology market with one billion users. Today we’re staring another economic opportunity of extraordinary proportions right in the face – and so far we’re doing precious little about it. The current energy economy is a $6 trillion market with 4 billion users (and the possibility of growing to 9 billion in the next 30 years) – and the fastest growing segment of that is green energy – projected at $2.3 trillion in 2020. Yet, as of today, without different policy decisions by us, most of this investment will be in Asia, and not the United States.  Two years ago, China accounted for just 5 percent of the world’s solar panel production.  Now it boasts the world’s largest solar panel manufacturing industry, exporting about 95 percent of its production to countries including the United States. 

We invented the technology but China is reaping the rewards.

China’s government is poised to outspend the U.S. 3 to 1 on public clean-energy projects over the next several years. They have installed 36 percent of the global market share in wind energy in 2009 and surpassed the United States as the fastest growing market.  Deutsche Bank’s Kevin Parker, who manages $7 billion in climate change-related investments, calls the US “asleep at the wheel on climate change...[and] on the industrial revolution taking place in the energy industry.” Because of political uncertainty and inaction in this country, he’s now focusing Deutsche Bank’s “green” investment dollars more and more on opportunities in China and Western Europe, where governments provide a more positive environment. Today only $45 million of the $7 billion green investments fund that Deutsche Bank manages is from the United States.  Simply put, because we are asleep, the investments are going elsewhere.

Now is the moment for America to reach for the brass energy ring – to go for the moon here on earth by building our new energy future-- and, in doing so, create millions of steady, higher paying jobs at every level of the economy.  Make no mistake - jobs that produce energy in America are jobs that stay in America.  The amount of work to be done here is just stunning.  It is the work of many lifetimes. And it must begin now. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue; but instead of coming together to meet the defining test of a new energy economy and our future, we’re now leaving a political season in which too many candidates promised not to work with the other party. And this in the wake of a Senate session that started for Republicans with a power point presentation pronouncing - and I quote - “the purpose of the majority is to pass their agenda, the purpose of the minority is to become the majority.”

It’s no secret that I’m a convinced Democrat. And I know it’s better to be in the majority than in the minority. And I don’t want anyone to come to the Senate, check their beliefs at the door, and “go Washington.” Neither did the Founding Fathers. And certainly no one’s elected to the Senate promising to join an exclusive club-- or to forget where they came from. But the truth is some of the most fiercely independent, plain-talking, direct, and determined partisans I’ve ever known in the Senate have also been the ones who tackled the toughest issues, finding common ground with people they disagreed with on damn near everything else.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a New York liberal. Alan Simpson was a Wyoming conservative. But they could sit down and talk and debate and disagree about deficits, debts, and entitlements and somehow someway they could shape a way forward.  And they did it in a way that enlisted liberals like Bill Bradley, moderates like Jack Heinz, and conservatives like John Danforth because they knew that certain issues were just too important to be lost in partisan squabbling.

And you couldn’t find three more proudly partisan and ideologically distinct politicians than Ronald Reagan, Tip O’Neill, and Bob Dole.  But they found a way to put politics aside and save Social Security for a generation rather than saving it for misuse as a cudgel in the next campaign. They didn’t capitulate - they compromised.

And, speaking of backroom deals, they agreed NOT to let either party demagogue the issue against the incumbents who cast the tough votes to pass the bill. Now, if you’ve got to have a backroom deal, that’s the kind to have.

Folks, you won’t find a Republican today who would dare criticize Ronald Reagan. Last week, when the candidates for chairman of the Republican National Committee had their debate, Grover Norquist asked each of them to name their favorite Republican other than Ronald Reagan. He said he had to add that caveat so everyone didn’t give the same answer. But we’d all be better off if some of these Republicans remembered that Ronald Reagan worked across the aisle to solve big problems. And we’d all be better off if Grover Norquist thought of THAT Ronald Reagan before he announced that “bipartisanship is just another word for date rape.”

That’s the difference today. Ideology isn’t new to the American political arena and ideology isn’t unhealthy. The biggest breakthroughs in American politics have been brokered not by a mushy middle or by splitting the difference but by people who had a pretty healthy sense of ideology. Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch were a powerful team precisely because they didn’t agree on that much and they spent a lot of time fighting each other --and  so the Senate leaned in and listened on those occasions when somehow this ultimate odd couple found things they were willing to fight for together.

Sometimes, as John Kennedy once said, “party asks too much.” Sometimes, party leaders also ask too much, especially if they exploit the rules of the United States Senate for the sole purpose of denying a President a second term. But that is what we have witnessed the last two years; Republicans nearly unanimous in opposition to almost every proposal by the President and almost every proposal by Democratic colleagues.   The extraordinary measure of a filibuster has become an ordinary expedient. Today it’s possible for 41 Senators representing only about one tenth of the American population to bring the Senate to a standstill.

Certainly, I believe the filibuster has its rightful place. I used it to stop drilling for oil in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge because I believed that was in our national interest --and 60 or more Senators should be required to speak up on such an irrevocable decision.  But we have reached the point where the filibuster is being invoked by the minority not necessarily because of a difference over policy, but as a political tool to undermine the Presidency.

Consider this:  in the entire 19th century, including the struggle against slavery, fewer than two dozen filibusters were mounted.  Between 1933 and the coming of World War II, it was attempted only twice.  During the Eisenhower administration, twice.  During John Kennedy’s presidency, four times-- and   then eight during Lyndon Johnson’s push for civil rights and voting rights bills. By the time Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan occupied the White House, there were about 20 filibusters a year. 

But in the 110th Congress of 2007-2008, there were a record 112 cloture votes. And in the 111th Congress, there were 136, one of which even delayed a vote to authorize funding for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps during a time of war. That’s not how the Founders intended the Senate to work-- and that’s not how our country can afford the Senate not to work.

Chris Dodd said it best in his farewell address just a few weeks ago – a speech the Republican Leader called one of the most important in the history of the chamber.  Chris sounded a warning: “What will determine whether this institution works or not, what has always determined whether we will fulfill the Framers’ highest hopes or justify the cynics’ worst fears, is not the Senate rules, the calendar, or the media. It is whether each of the one hundred Senators can work together.”

That was a speech that needed to be heard. But the question now isn’t whether it was heard; it’s whether we really listened to it.  Because when it comes to the economy, our country really does need 100 Senators who face the facts and find a way to work not just on their side, but side by side.

No one runs for the Senate arguing that the United States should have one fifth of its foreign debt held by China. No winning candidate has ever suggested that the United States should trail Poland in education. Or that Germany should invent the next Google or develop the cutting edge new clean energy industries. No one has ever gone into a debate pledging that Indian workers should hold the jobs of the future not American workers.

There’s a bi-partisan consensus just waiting to lift our country and our future if Senators are willing to sit down and forge it and make it real. If we’re willing to stop talking past each other, to stop substituting sound bites for substance. If we’re willing finally to pull ourselves out of an ideological cement of our own mixing.

We will no doubt continue to be frustrated and angry from time to time, but I believe that more often than not, we can rise to the common ground of great national purpose. Surely we can agree and act to realize the goal set by the President who called his fellow citizens to meet that earlier Sputnik moment-- an America “ that is not first if, not first but, but first period.” 

So, in this time of crisis and mourning, in this time of challenge and opportunity, we need to commit to reaching across the aisle, as colleagues did before us, to unite to do the exceptional things that will keep America exceptional for generations to come.


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

A Modest Proposal For NY/NJ Govs
Andrew Cuomo And Chris Christie
For New York/New Jersey/America

 

ALBANY/TRENTON --- As an organization that while strongly biased in favor of infrastructure investment has frequently found allies on both sides of the political aisle, the National Corridors Initiative would like to interject itself once again into the ARC project crisis --- and make no mistake about it, it is a crisis.

For those Destination:Freedom readers who have missed it, “ARC” stands for “Access to the Region’s Core,” and involved building two new train tunnels between New Jersey and New York to supplant the ancient and crumbling tunnels now in use, which were opened in 1910, and show every sign of that.

It has been under debate/planning for the better part of two decades, and has had various alignments, the last of which helped to kill it. That was a decision made in 2007 by New Jersey Transit to take completely over the project – which until then had been jointly planned with Amtrak --- and re-align the route of the tunnels from their original destination, New York’s Pennsylvania Station thus connecting on up to New England trough Queens and the Bronx, to a new alignment end-ending in a new, to-be-built train station under 34th Street.

Without getting too much into the details of why such a brain-dead alignment change would even be proposed, other than the obvious (and accurate) one re grown men competing over who gets to control [life-sized] train sets, the outcome of this alignment change was a far more expensive tunnel project than the publicly acknowledged $8.7 billion estimate originally cited as the cost.

Indeed, it was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who learned that NJT had been concealing the likely cost over-runs caused by their dead-end 34th Street new alignment, and demanded answers; getting none, and getting no guarantees from the Feds that anyone other than New Jersey taxpayers would be on the hook for those over-runs, Chris Christie pulled the plug on the project, to the screams of the some in the news media, including the New York Times which clearly and to its shame clearly coordinated a series of hysterical post ARC-killing Op-Ed attacks on Christie --- did you really need to give the talk-radio Bigot-ocracy the “liberal-lamestream-media conspiracy” ammunition it needs, Arthur? --- not only by its heavy-weight columnists but also by its news staff, even going so far as to play up a non-story Justice Department study on Federal prosecutors’ expense practices “released” by the Obama Administration in early November 2010, just after Christie killed the ARC project, detailing how Christie as the US Attorney for New Jersey took a car service instead of a taxi once, while at a meeting in Boston --- gasp! --- and then stayed at a fancier hotel than what was expected --- another gasp. Please.

Instead of engaging in drive-by reporting, which gives justification to those who really are the enemies of democracy, let us all take a deep breath, and observe the following facts:

  1. New Jersey and New York have aggressive, popular, no-nonsense new governors in Chris Christie (Republican, 2010) and Andrew Cuomo (Democrat, 2011). Both are former prosecutors. Both are tough. And both are facing terrible real-world budget problems in their state, and don’t have a lot of time for posturing;

  2. The existing rail tunnels between New Jersey and Penn Station New York are 100 years old, and need a) back up NOW and b) eventual replacement; the ARC project as originally designed would have solved that problem, and served New England, not just the West Side of New York. Re-start it, with the original Penn Station alignment.

  3. Gov. Christie, Gov. Cuomo, as tough as things are, telephone each other (we WON’T print your phone numbers here; you have them already). Agree to back each other on project cost over-runs which, using the original Penn Station alignment should be more manageable, and then ask President Barack Obama to back the rest. This is a national project, and Sen. Chuck Schumer is right about this: we can’t eat our seed corn, and failing to build this project THE RIGHT WAY is doing just that.

Get to work, and do it. It’s do-able, by a couple of young Governors, both of whom have a brilliant future, but right now who don’t have to do anything…except govern.

Jim RePass
Chairman and CEO
The National Corridors Initiative


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VIEW FROM EUROPE... View From Europe...  

Three Steps Forward – Two Steps Back

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

Is Germany Going Backwards With Its Current Transportation Policies?

Hannover – My first exposure to the well-advanced transportation infrastructure in Germany dates back to 1982 during an extended family visit I had back in that year. I remember being impressed with the ability to travel from nearly any city in Germany to any other via train. Before I moved to the country in early 1998, my job took me back to Germany multiple times starting in 1988, on numerous business trips. In the autumn of 1991, I rode on the ICE high-speed train from Frankfurt to Hamburg, only months after ICE trains started services. Back in those days the country was continuing a tradition of significant investment in rail-based transit that goes back to 1840 when Germany was not yet a unified country, but rather a collection of several countries, city-states, and small independent kingdoms.

However, Germany is also married to the Automobile. Today the country is home to luxury automobile producers Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, plus General Motors’ prime European division Opel, Ford’s major European car operation, and of course automobile heavyweight Volkswagen AG (VW AG) which owns automobile brands ranging from mass-market brands VW, SEAT, and Skoda, to high end luxury marks such as Audi, Bentley, and Bugatti.

An exception to the rule – The Bremem S-Bahn commuter rail system started operations back in Dec. 2010 (after many years of planning and a long tender / RFP process) as a division of Nordwest Bahn, and is one of the very few S-Bahn rail systems in Germany not operated by Deutsche Bahn. Nordwest Bahn uses Alstom Coradia LIREX (DB class ET 440) low-floor EMU train sets. The new Bremen S-Bahn system is also perhaps the only S-Bahn system in Germany which is not using mostly Bombardier / ADTranz rolling stock. State funding helped finance the start-up of the Bremen S-Bahn and the new Alstom train sets were purchased by the Lower Saxony state government for lease to Nordwest Bahn.

And Germany is the birthplace of the modern divided, limited access highway, known in Germany as the Autobahn, and elsewhere as the freeway, expressway, interstate highway, motorway, etc. Germany started developing its world-famous Autobahn network shortly before Adolf Hitler rose to power, but Hitler gave the Autobahn construction program high priority, resources, and lots of extra thrust. Just prior to the full outbreak of World War II in 1939, Hitler’s Germany was spending massively on building the highway network as fast as it could – partly to stimulate its Depression era economy, and partly to prepare the way for a massive logistics program needed to support Germany’s military aggression which Hitler was planning for both eastern and western neighbors of Germany. Hitler actually demanded that the state-owned railroad, Deutsche Reichsbahn, replace or supplement existing passenger trains with buses which traveled on newly built Autobahns.

In the decades since the end of World War II, Germany has invested huge sums in both its highway network, including Autobahns, and on its rail network. Funding for the highway network has come mostly from vehicle fuel taxes (and a recently introduced toll on large trucks), which have been and still are multiple times higher than fuel taxes charged in the USA and Canada, thus allowing Germany to finance most, but not all, of the construction and maintenance cost of the highway network directly from the highway users, unlike in the USA where the highway system has been significantly subsidized by general income, sales taxes, and property tax revenues unrelated to highway use. Likewise Germany’s rail system has been able to pay its own way for the most part, with revenues collected from ticket sales and freight charges covering on the order of 80 -90% of the rail system’s capital and operating costs over the past five decades.

Although the past 10 to 15 years have not been very kind to rail transit in Germany, when compared with the previous four decades, the past three weeks have been particularly difficult:

  1. The current CDU / FDP coalition in the German parliament decided to lift a decades-long ban on scheduled intercity bus lines competing against intercity trains. Who can be against competition? Except when Europe is already overpopulated with hundreds of shady fly-by-night bus operators who pay minimum wage, operate safety-deficient vehicles and routinely violate existing laws for on-duty time and rest periods for bus drivers. Industry observers in Germany expect that buses will soon replace a number of intercity train routes with lower passenger loads, including new intercity bus routes to be operated by Deutsche Bahn – the traditional passenger rail operator in Germany.

  2. The conservative-party (CDU) governor of the German state of Lower Saxony, David McAllister (a British name due to his British father), has proposed expanding the A2 Autobahn from its current six lanes (three lanes eastbound and three lanes westbound) to eight lanes – at first on the Braunschweig – Hannover section of the highway. The A2 is the major east-west highway corridor across northern Germany. It roughly parallels the Berlin – Wolfsburg – Hannover – Minden – Osnabrück – Amsterdam and Berlin – Braunschweig – Hannover – Paderborn rail corridors. The A2 was expanded just 12 years ago from four lanes to six lanes from the junction with the A10 highway near Berlin all the way to the state line between Lower Saxony and North-Rhine Westfalia in a huge multi-billion dollar project.

  3. Several German states made new financial support available to logistics firms in late 2010 and early 2011 for the construction of new “green field” truck terminals, thus continuing a 10 year long practice of extending state support to building massive trucking warehouses and distribution centers far away from any rail network connections and thereby guaranteeing additional reliance on highway trucks for freight delivery. At the same time a large number of “brown field” sites located next to rail lines, remain as vacant eye-sores while missing out on the chance to redevelop these former locomotive depots, switching yards and abandoned factory sites into modern inter-modal rail / truck terminals.

  4. Several rail labor unions including Transnet and GDL forged an agreement last week with most third-party train operators in Germany, which compete against incumbent rail operator Deutsche Bahn AG (DBAG) and its various divisions, to pay train staff the same pay rates and scales as those negotiated with DBAG, a settlement which the German government helped negotiate. Of course this makes sense not to use train staff and their pay as the hammer which train companies might use to compete against one another. But the bigger picture in Germany is that trucking, bus and airline companies based in other countries are operating in Germany and competing against rail transport, but no one is forcing them to harmonize their pay with their competitors. An on-going scandal in German transportation is the use of truck and bus drivers from Eastern and Southern Europe who drive within Germany at pay rates which are often a fraction of what Germany-based truck and bus companies have to pay their drivers. Often these drivers flaunt maximum time on-duty laws as well. How are the railroads suppose to compete against this practice? No one in the numerous levels of German government seems to have an answer, nor even be interested in finding one.

ET 440 339 train set

Photo: David Beale

Nordwest Bahn’s ET 440 339 train set pauses at the end of a run from Bremen in the town of Nordenham, a harbor town on the west bank of the Weser River just south of the North Sea coastal area.

In my past editorials I have criticized US transportation policy due to its over reliance on taxpayer subsidized highways and freeways and the resulting suburban sprawl and waste of resources, and the tendency of various political leaders to cut spending and investment on public transport when times are tough, thereby directly and dramatically whacking up the cost of going to work and going to school for a number of working class and middle class Americans. But the USA has made some impressive progress in some areas of energy and resource efficient rail transportation. Rail has something like a 30% share of the ground based freight transportation market in the USA. Compare that to the 12% figure in Germany, or even less in France or Spain and tending down in all three E.U. member countries. Despite a harsh political environment within the U.S. Federal Government with respect to passenger rail from about 1981 through 2008, quite a few American cities were able to start up light rail transit systems and a few regions were even able to start or expand commuter / regional passenger rail operations, and Amtrak finished electrification of the New Haven – Boston segment of the Northeast Corridor.


Photo: Hannover Airport

Not a rail line in sight. This photo from 2009 shows part of a massive complex of truck terminals and distribution centers built in the village of Godshorn (part of the town of Langenhagen) just to the south of the Hannvoer Airport. Since this photo was taken in mid-2009, two more huge truck terminals have been built in the upper left corner of this picture. The nearest rail line is 3 km away with zero chance of ever being connected to this huge distribution complex. Ironically, DB Schenker, the highway trucking division of Deutsche Bahn, has a large terminal here, part of which can be seen in the far left side of this picture. The group of residential houses in the lower right corner is not a residential development. It is a collection of model homes which are not occupied.

Special criticism has to be reserved for people in the “do as we say, not as we do” category. And in today’s Germany, there are numerous politicians who fit this description, starting at the top with Chancellor Angela Merkel and continuing right through much of the current political leadership in Germany. While the country and its political elite use flashy and dramatic sound-bites and photo-ops to push for action on the international level for large scale reductions of CO2 emissions, expensive measures to prevent climate change and push to market Germany’s impressive suite of rail transportation technology, products and services overseas, at home they are placing the nation’s railroad on a starvation diet, cutting funds for local and rural rail transit support, building ever more remotely located truck terminals and adding more and more to the already densely built highway network.

Germany has a huge base of rail transit infrastructure, thanks mostly to past political and industry leaders who kept investment flowing to the rail transit sector from the post WW-2 reconstruction period well into the new millennium. But the current crop of politicians in power in Germany seem more interested in building high-visibility but perhaps low payback projects such as Stuttgart 21 and ICE trains in the Channel Tunnel, while they pull out support for more mundane freight and region passenger rail services and put the throttle back to idle on the nationwide rail network, which connects Germany to the rest of Europe. Future CO2 emissions will not likely fall significantly just because of a handful of new multimillion dollar ICE trains blast along under the English Channel several times per day via the Channel Tunnel or a perfectly acceptable passenger rail terminal in Stuttgart is bulldozed and replaced with a multi-billion dollar underground station. But billions of additional tons of CO2 will certainly be belched into Germany’s skies if even more lanes and routes are added to the already massive Autobahn network, a few more hundred truck terminals are built in the countryside miles away from any rail line and a few dozen more secondary rail lines are abandoned due to cuts in public transportation funding.

One can only hope that sooner or later the political leaders in Europe’s largest economy will come to their senses and begin practicing what they preach. We have heard the all the talk, now its time for these elected leaders to start walking the walk. The rest of Europe is watching. So is much of the world.


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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

To the editor:

May I humbly suggest that the train of realistic competition with China has long ago left the station. In the next 20 years, China will roll past us. Rather than think we will compete head to head with a more nimble government (the DC people will not get along, despite calls for civility and bipartisanship), cheap labor (I like the fact we are helping the rest of the world catch up to Western standards), and young-nation energy (already way ahead of us on clean coal, for example), those of us not in government should do two things.

  1. Forget government assistance as the way forward. Think of competing on your own, in the global market place.

  2. Find niches where you can survive. Local food, and other activities which China cannot do. Let’s see, what else is fixed to the land here. Hmmm, fixed, held by ties...hmmm. Rails! Oh yes, railroads! Let’s continue to improve our freight network (encourage the railroads to do so), so that the goods providers which do survive in this country (coal, grain) have the fastest route to market.

Chalmers (Chop) Hardenbergh, editor
Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports
weekly trade newsletter covering
New England, Maritimes, & eastern Quebec.
vox: 207-846-3549, fax: 866-484-4490
editor@atlanticnortheast.com
www.atlanticnortheast.com
162 Main Street, Yarmouth, Maine 04096


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