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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June 13, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 23

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

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

  News Items…
Chicago Conference: Illinois Makes News; HSR Benefits,
   Politics & Marketing Get Airing
  Equipment Lines…
Boston’s Aging MBTA Rail Cars Need $100 Million
   To Keep Running
  Environmental Lines…
Solar Power For High-Speed Euro Train System
 
  Select Rail Stocks…
  Off The Main Line…
A Vermont Town Celebrates Railroad History, But
   You Can’t Get There By Train
  Commentary…
New England’s Been Slow In The Fast-Rail Race
  Publication Notes …


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

Chicago Conference: Illinois Makes News;
HSR Benefits, Politics & Marketing Get Airing

From The United States High-Speed Rail Association
By Angela Cotey

CHICAGO --- Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s announcement of that state’s plans to push for true High-Speed Rail (220 mph+) made the news, but the U.S. High-Speed Rail Association’s (USHSR) sixth conference in 18 months held in Chicago recently, consisted of both substance as well as headlines.

Angela Cotey writes: “[This conference] started off the same way the others have: with a session called “Bringing High-Speed Rail to America.”

Association President and Chief Executive Officer Andy Kunz began the June 2 opening session by providing an overview of USHSR’s vision for a 17,000-mile nationwide high-speed rail (HSR) network by 2030. He followed with a rundown of HSR’s benefits: shorter total trip times and less hassle than flying and driving, direct connections to downtowns and energy efficiency. In addition, HSR can solve problems related to energy, climate, the economy and crumbling infrastructure.

No need to explain HSR’s benefits to the 100 or so conference attendees — the majority of which work for rail industry engineering or consulting firms, suppliers or contractors. But Kunz’s comparison of how the U.S. traveler makes short-haul trips vs. a European traveler painted a picture of why the United States needs HSR — now. As Kunz put it, “…by the time an American drives through traffic congestion to get to the airport, makes it through security, sits on the runway while their often-delayed plane gets the go-ahead for take-off, makes it to the next airport and then battles with more traffic congestion to get to their final destination, the European traveler has used a mix of local, commuter and high-speed services to reach their destination quickly and has been relaxing in a café for three hours.”

The opening session also featured a speech by Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo. He, too compared U.S. travel to European travel, saying the distance between Paris and London is comparable to the distance between Raleigh, N.C., and Washington, D.C. The difference is that Europeans can travel between the two cities in two hours, 15 minutes using HSR, while rail service between Raleigh and D.C. takes more than six hours.

“What is a day business trip in Paris is impossible in Raleigh-D.C.,” he said. “When the president talks about competing globally, this is what he’s talking about.” Using federal High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail grants, the North Carolina Department of Transportation is making rail upgrades that will eventually make a day trip to D.C. possible, Szabo says. Many other states are counting on HSR to increase efficiency and competitiveness, too. For example, in the Northeast Corridor, HSR can take the place of “costly and capacity-hogging puddle jumper flights” so airlines can focus on providing more of the money-making long-distance and international flights, Szabo said.

In Chicago, congestion on Interstate 55 starts as far south as Joliet. Coupled with $4.50 gas in the Chicagoland area and the $25 a day it costs to park downtown, many people are deeming their trip to Chicago as unnecessary, which is hurting the economy, Szabo said. Once the state completes its HSR line between Chicago and St. Louis, people can take the train into the city while reading or surfing the Internet, and use the money they otherwise would have spent on gas and parking on Chicago hotels, restaurants and theaters.

More HSR Expertise Needed

For USHSR conference-goers, those benefits are obvious. The issue now is getting those HSR systems in place. And, as one attendee asked Szabo, how can the cumbersome process to develop HSR be streamlined so the projects can go from vision to reality more quickly? Szabo’s response? “There is no shortcut to doing things right. The difference of where we’re at building rail today vs. highways is that we have 70 years of experience building highways, a lot of technical experience with state DOTs and with the Federal Highway Administration,” he said. “To a great extent, we’re starting from scratch when it comes to rail, so state DOTs are struggling with having technical expertise with rail projects.”

Szabo also recounted a conversation he recently had with a professor from the University of Illinois who said there will be a shortage of rail engineers. Although the size of the university’s rail engineering program has doubled recently, it’s only gone from 15 to 30 students, the professor said. In a similar vein, USHSR Vice President of Government Affairs Thomas Hart asked Szabo what could be done to expedite the HSR procurement process. “There is no silver bullet that would replace good, old-fashioned hard work, conscientious effort and breaking down the learning curve,” Szabo said.

And again, the program’s expedition will depend in part on the expertise that’s available. That expertise runs the gamut; for example, one state has more than 60 people in its rail department while a neighboring state has half a person dedicated to rail, Szabo said. State DOTS and the FRA need to continue ramping up staff, but that’ll be a challenge with tight budgets, he said. “I’ve been pushing my staff very hard for two years,” Szabo added.

He also briefly addressed the Florida situation, saying he wasn’t surprised that some states rejected their federal HSR funds. “While Florida was a disappointment, I think everybody had to realize going into this that when the first announcements were made, there was going to be a rationalization among those announcements,” he said. “While many states were given the opportunity to move forward, we knew there would be a shake-out between those that are serious about moving forward and those that aren’t, and now we’re seeing who really is serious about this.”

The USHSR conference also featured a presentation by Amtrak Vice President of High-Speed Rail Al Engel, who talked about HSR in the Midwest and Amtrak’s plans for the Northeast Corridor. Another presentation focused on results from a HSR study conducted by Siemens for the Midwest High-Speed Rail Association that outlined the benefits that 220 mph rail service would have on the region. During the Q&A session following the Midwest study presentation, conversation turned to HSR opposition.

“We have to respect our opponents’ ability to get arguments out quickly and make them hard to defend,” said Midwest High-Speed Rail Association Executive Director Rick Harnish. “We’ve seen a very effective way of picking off one project at a time to make some noise in the press that makes sense if you don’t know enough about it. It’s a very well-organized campaign. I wish we had that on our end.” To combat the opposition, HSR supporters need to work to build a much stronger case for high-speed in the United States and be “squeaky” (as in, the squeaky wheel gets the oil) with elected officials, said Harnish. Stakeholders and supporters also need to do a better job of debunking myths about and explaining the benefits of HSR.

“A county road doesn’t make money, but we still invest in it because of the economic development it provides,” said Siemens Industry Inc. Mobility Division Director of High-Speed Rail Development Armin Kick when asked about HSR’s profitability potential during the Midwest HSR study panel. Added an audience member: “We need to get elected officials to understand … it’s not a matter of whether or not a high-speed rail system makes money from ticket revenue – we’re talking about $300 billion of economic development in the Midwest.”

An Image Issue

The discussion set the stage for the next session — “Politics, Public Relations, Media” — during which Association for Public Transportation President Richard Arena talked about how to market HSR. “We have some of the smartest people in this room, but we do a lot of talking to ourselves within this room, and we need to get out and sell high-speed rail to the American taxpayers,” he said. But first, HSR stakeholders need to address high-speed’s imaging issue. The average American doesn’t know what high-speed rail is, and there’s a huge discrepancy between their perception of HSR (bullet trains) and reality (faster Amtrak service). HSR project managers and supporters need to “figure out exactly what type of service they’ll be providing, what they’ll be competing with (automobiles and/or planes) and create a supporting argument for HSR accordingly.”

Among Arena’s points:

• “We need to push the benefits, not the features, and explain these direct benefits to non-HSR users. You put in high-speed rail, and that’s the equivalent of putting lanes on a highway or slots in an airport, so the benefit to people is that their commute times go down.”

• “We need to de-couple HSR from the environmental strategy. Some of the people we need to have support us are the soccer moms, the executives living out in the ‘barbs’ who want to send their kids to a good school and not be demonized for it.”

• “We need to de-emphasize the price of oil and its importance as it relates to developing HSR. We don’t know where things will be in five years — where oil prices will be, what other technologies might be developed. The danger of overemphasizing oil prices is that if prices go way down, people will say we don’t need HSR anymore.”

Arena also touched on the cancelled HSR (or HSR-related) projects that have been cancelled in New Jersey, Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio, giving his thoughts on why each of the projects was cancelled. Republican governors weren’t the only factor, he said.

• New Jersey’s Access to the Region’s Core: “ARC’s cost from $8 billion to almost $14 billion and dropped people off in the middle of nowhere.”

• Florida’s Tampa-Orlando project: “Tampa-Orlando-Miami? There’s no way Gov. Scott could have stopped that project. But for the Tampa-Orlando leg, at 85 miles with three stops in the middle, it gave the opposition the ammunition they needed to kill it. Even though everyone knew it would eventually go to Miami, it wasn’t enough.”

• Ohio’s 3C Corridor: “Somebody foolishly published a timetable. Somebody did the math. The average speed to Cincinnati was 39 mph. That’s all it took. Could it have been fixed? Sure, this was just a first step, but you don’t get a second chance sometimes.”

• Wisconsin’s Milwaukee-Madison project: “This one was purely political.”

The cancelled projects serve as a reminder that no matter how important a project might be, HSR supporters can never assume that those outside the industry understand that importance. And even if they do, there’s no guarantee that taxpayers and legislators will be willing to fund those projects. “How unwavering are our current rail allies?” Arena asked. “Sometimes, you have to test your theories.” For example, if HSR is pitted against programs such as Medicare or affordable housing, you can bet that a legislator will choose to fund one of those programs over HSR. “The support we think we have for rail in general is not as strong as we think,” he said. “That said, we have a very strong business case. But we need to broaden the marketing.”


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EQUIPMENT LINES... Equipment Lines...  

Boston’s Aging MBTA Rail Cars
Need $100 Million To Keep Running

From The Boston Globe By Eric Moskowitz

BOSTON --- MBTA general manager Richard A. Davey revealed this past week for the first time that it will take $100 million to upgrade aging and unreliable Orange and Red Line trains to keep them running until even costlier replacements can be purchased, the Boston Globe is reporting.

Wrote The Globe’s Eric Moskowitz: “He (Davey) reported that an exhaustive review of the two lines confirmed what subway riders had long suspected: The aging subway cars are challenging the MBTA’s ability to run a full set of trains each day, causing longer waits on platforms and more frequent service interruptions.”

Though all 120 Orange Line cars and one-third of the Red Line cars are well past their intended lifespan, their replacement — at a cost of $1 billion — is perhaps a decade away. And service will probably degrade even further without the interim investment, Davey said.

“This is an inconvenient truth,” he told the MBTA’s board of directors. “It’s not a question of whether we do it or not — we must.”

Neither the total replacement nor the expensive band-aid was included in budgets the board approved in April, though members discussed the unmet maintenance needs of the T, which exceed $3 billion for the subway, commuter rail, and bus system. At the same time, Davey asked the T’s new chief mechanical officer, Jeffrey D. Gonneville, to lead a review of the Orange and Red Line cars, working with outside engineers to test car elements, comb maintenance records, and analyze the fleet needs. Gonneville returned those findings yesterday, and they were stark, particularly for the Orange Line, wrote Moskowitz.

The T requires 102 cars every morning to send off a new train every 4 minutes, 52 seconds on the Orange Line. But cars are breaking down roughly twice as often as they used to and require more substantial repairs.

With fewer trains, the platform wait times have increased on the Orange Line by an average of 20 seconds this year, though some days it has been an extra minute or two between trains — to say nothing of prolonged delays when a train breaks down in service.

Eric Moskowitz can be reached at: emoskowitz@globe.com.

For the complete story go to: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/06/09/aging_t_cars_need_immediate_100m_upgrade/


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES... Environmental Lines...  

Solar Tunnel project

Photo by Enfinity via CNET.net

Solar Power For High-Speed
Euro Train System

CNET News On The Internet
By Candace Lombardi

JUNE 8, - High-speed trains running from Paris to Amsterdam will now make part of the trip with the help of solar power. The power comes from panels placed atop a 3.4-kilometer length of a train tunnel that is part of the high-speed rail line running between Amsterdam and Antwerp, Belgium. The Solar Tunnel project, as it is called, made possible the successful inaugural run of a high-speed train on Monday, June 6, said Infrabel, the company that runs Belgium’s railroad network.

Enfinity, the Belgian solar developer, stated that those tunnel panels can now power things like signaling, lighting, and heating for the Antwerp North-South junction and Antwerp Central Station.

The Solar Tunnel project was a collaboration of the municipalities of Brasschaat and Schoten in Belgium, the solar installation company, Solar Power Systems, and solar developer Enfinity.

Approximately 16,000 solar panels are in place and expected to produce 3,300 megawatt-hours of electricity annually, enough to power about 950 Belgium homes, according to Solar Power Systems.

Since the solar tunnel is one of the first to supply energy directly to trains onsite, the solar installation’s performance will be scrutinized and could have an impact on whether other projects in the proposal stage go forward.

Candace Lombardi, a freelance journalist based in the Boston area, focuses on the evolution of green and otherwise cutting-edge technologies, from robots to cars to scientific innovation. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)75.1176.37
Canadian Pacific (CP) 60.6261.59
CSX (CSX)73.5375.74
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)54.7856.41
Kansas City Southern (KSU)52.3756.57
Norfolk Southern (NSC)70.8270.72
Providence & Worcester(PWX)15.6514.75
Union Pacific (UNP)99.60101.14


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

A Vermont Town Celebrates Railroad History,
But You Can’t Get There By Train

By David Peter Alan

There was a big event in the town of Manchester, Vermont on Saturday, June 4th. In fact, it may have been the biggest event the town had seen in years. The event celebrated the town’s connection to railroad history and featured the Sunbeam, a railcar built by the Pullman Palace Car Company in 1886 and converted to a private “office” car in 1903. Ironically, the last time a passenger car called at the town on a train in revenue service was 58 years ago.

The special car belonged to Robert Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s only son to survive into adulthood. The junior Lincoln had taken vacations with his mother during the Civil War, when his father was fighting to keep the nation together. Robert and his mother stayed at the Equinox House, a historic hotel on Main Street, which is still in operation. As an adult, Robert returned to Manchester and built a summer house, which he called Hildene. During the time he spent summers in Manchester, he was president of the Pullman Company. He held that position from 1897 to 1905, after the death of founder George Pullman, who invented the railroad sleeping car. Lincoln was later Chairman of the Board of Pullman, while he lived at Hildene. Today, Hildene is preserved as a house museum.

The Sunbeam was the car which Lincoln used for company business when he headed Pullman. In 2007, museum staff at Hildene had heard that it was sitting derelict in South Carolina and arranged to have it restored and brought to Manchester on a flatbed highway truck. The delivery of the car’s body was the occasion that brought out nearly everyone in Manchester for a special celebration.

The Sunbeam coach

Courtesy of Hildene, photo by Lee Krohn

The Sunbeam rolled in on a flatbed for display.

Hildene’s Director, Seth Bongartz, called cars like the Sunbeam the “Lear jets of the early 20th century” and said: “We will employ the Sunbeam to shed light on those who traveled on these kinds of cars and, equally importantly, on those who worked on cars like these. The relationship between the Pullman Company and its workers resulted in a mixed and fascinating legacy that is as relevant today as it was 100 years ago.” Museum Press Director Paula Maynard said: “Sunbeam will give Hildene a platform to interpret not only this important chapter in Robert Lincoln’s life but that of the country during the Gilded Age, a period in hour history that gave voice to the labor movement and the rise of the Black middle class with the Pullman porters.”

The big day was clear and cool, with temperatures in the high 60s (low 20s Celsius); a great day for a parade. The entire parade consisted of a Girl Scout troop, a marching band, an automobile from the 1920s with a rumble seat that contained two of the auto’s passengers, three antique trucks and the wooden-body Pullman car on its flatbed truck. The line of march along Main Street bustled with hundreds of spectators; a large turnout for a small town in Vermont, but very different from big-city parades that are viewed by tens of thousands. It was relatively easy to chase the parade on foot and photograph the car from several locations.

Later, some of the spectators from the parade watched as a crane lifted the rear end of the flatbed truck to position it to bring the railcar onto the museum grounds through the rear gate. There were more cranes on the grounds, prepared to lift the car body onto its trucks, which were positioned on a small length of track which would become the car’s new home.

Spectators cheered the Sunbeam as it made its way along Main Street. It is ironic that it was not transported by rail, just as it is ironic that the last passenger train to Manchester went through in 1953. Until that time, the Rutland Railroad operated two daily trains between the Albany area (connecting with trains from New York City on the New York Central) to Montreal. Bennington, Rutland and Burlington were other intermediate stops in Vermont.

Getting to Manchester on any sort of public transportation is almost impossible today. Yankee Trails operates two buses daily between Albany and Bennington; at the southwest corner of Vermont, about one half hour by local highway from Manchester. There is also limited local bus service between the two towns. The buses do not connect well and it is impossible to make all connections between New York and Manchester on the same day, so getting to Manchester requires an automobile.

New Jersey rail advocate Albert L. Papp supplied the transportation for himself and this writer to the event. As a tourist destination, Manchester attracts visitors from the New York area. It takes about four hours to get there by highway from New York City, while Boston is further away.

There was an initiative during the 1990s to bring passenger rail service back to Manchester, but it did not succeed. Papp, who owns a summer home in town, was involved in that initiative. Amtrak had a plan to run one of the Albany trains further north to Manchester, with a stop at North Bennington. Planners chose Manchester as the final destination, because one of the train sets sat idle at Albany/Renssalaer long enough to make the trip northeast to Manchester and return in time to make its schedule to New York City. The State of Vermont had supported the initiative, and then-Governor Howard Dean had authorized funding to improve the track sufficiently to run a passenger train. Then the governorship changed parties and the train never ran.

The event at Hildene was festive, with an authentic Vermont flavor. Members of the local Lions’ club sold hot dogs and hamburgers. Representatives form Wilcox’s Ice Cream, a local brand, gave away cones of their product to publicize it, while giving attendees a treat. There were also speeches, using a small, 1940s-vintage flatbed truck as a stage.

The speakers represented Hildene, two local chambers of commerce and the State Department of Tourism. They talked about the connection between the railroad and the town, personified by Robert Todd Lincoln. They also talked about how a passenger train would bring people to their quaint and beautiful region. It seems that everybody was promoting trains that day.

Christopher Parker, Executive Director of the Vermont Rail Action Network, says the initiative to bring a train to Manchester, and perhaps to Rutland on that route, is still alive. He said that there are several “build” alternatives under consideration to route the train from the Albany area to Vermont, and that any new service will not detract from the existing Ethan Allen Express train to Rutland through Albany.

Will the speakers’ wishes for a passenger train become reality in the foreseeable future? Maybe, but the initiative to start service has been on and off the table for about fifteen years. The two trains that currently run in Vermont, the Vermonter to St. Albans through Hartford and Springfield, and the Ethan Allen Express to Rutland through Albany, are occasionally threatened with loss of the state funding that keeps them going. At this time, there is no such threat. Sen. Patrick Leahy has called for the Vermonter to again become the Montrealer, a through train to Montreal. Funding is another matter, however.

There is reason to hope that some state funding is on the way. The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) has reported that the latest state budget calls for $55 million for rail projects; 10% of the proposed transportation budget. $34 million would be spent to upgrade the Vermonter route. Parker says that the state would contribute about $20 million to the upgrade within Vermont’s borders, while the federal government would contribute $52 million to the overall project. There is also an initiative to improve the track north of Springfield, Massachusetts, which would eliminate an indirect routing and reduce running time for trains to Vermont.

Funding would also be needed to extend the Ethan Allen Express, to Burlington, the state’s only relatively-large city. For one summer, nearly a decade ago, the Vermont Railway ran an excursion train between Burlington and Rutland. It connected with the New York trains in both directions, offering a two-seat ride between New York and Burlington most days. That train ran for only one season, and there has been no serious initiative to restore the service since that time. The Champlain Flyer, a commuter train from Burlington south to Shelburne, no longer operates. Neither do tourist trains that ran from Burlington to Middlebury, a college town half-way between Burlington and Rutland. At this time, Burlington service is under discussion, but it is unclear when, or if, a train will actually go there.

Amtrak passengers can still get to Burlington in the summer by taking the Adirondack to Port Kent, New York and a ferry from there, across Lake Champlain, to downtown Burlington. The trip is scenic and it is an enjoyable tourist experience, but it hardly qualifies as reliable and speedy transportation.

There are rider advocates in Vermont, who would be delighted to see a train go to and through Manchester, as well as other towns in their state. If they can convince their elected officials to pay for the operation of such a train, they might get it. Given the current fiscal climate in Vermont and elsewhere, though, they may have to wait for a long time.


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

New England Rising

 

New England’s Been Slow In The Fast-Rail Race

Published By The Providence Journal
On Thursday, June 9, 2011
Used By Permission
By James P. RePass

[NCI Chairman James P. RePass ( jprepass@nationalcorridors.org), a journalist by training (The Washington Post, The St. Petersburg Times) is a monthly contributor to The Providence Journal, and the author of the “New England Rising” column, which also appears in other New England newspapers, and covers issues of concern to the New England states; it appears here because of its rail content].

BOSTON - I saw the early bird get the worm. I can confirm this, eyewitness-style.

One recent damp, gray morning, I was gazing out the window of the Mystic, CT, home where I have my Northeast office. It had been raining for days and the grass was turning green and lush with the new spring. A small robin was patrolling, trailed by a brace of others.

Suddenly the robin’s head swung downward, and came back up with a worm from the moist earth — at which point the other robins flapped their wings excitedly and pointed wing-tips at each other. But, aside from creating a commotion, they did nothing. Then, it all happened again.

I continued to watch as the alpha robin (if there is such) walked purposefully a few paces ahead of his pals, pecking and pulling up breakfast while its retinue squawked and flapped.

All of which leads me back to . . . New England.

Recently, word began to dribble out of the Midwest that a game-changing event regarding the future of America’s high-speed-rail program might be afoot. Since the election of Barack Obama, pro-rail stories have made the national news more than at any time in decades; keeping his campaign promise, the new president committed $8 billion in “stimulus” funds in his April 2009 high-speed-rail plan, which identified 10 initial corridors ranging from 100 to 600 miles long. Another $5 billion in federal capital for new rail programs was also created that year.

That $13 billion is kick-starting high-speed rail as the first Interstate Highway System construction programs did: States that organized and asked, got the money, and built their segments first. That’s the technique President Eisenhower used, pitting one region against another in a competition to get “superhighways” built.

There is, however, a big difference between rail now and highways then: Rail has a well-funded enemy, the oil lobby. It pays “experts” to issue “reports” that debunk rail, loudly and dishonestly. Still, America is going forward with high-speed rail, just as we did with the Interstate Highway System a half century ago, and the competition to be “first” is starting to get hot.

California has been the early bird of high-speed rail — it began planning more than two decades ago — but it is also so big that building a highly functional high-speed-rail (“bullet train”) system there may be a multi-decade affair. And Florida was in the running for awhile. But because of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, the betting on HSR leadership is beginning to move to the Land of Lincoln.

Pat Quinn upped the high-speed-rail ante at a major rail conference June 2 in Chicago on who will build the nation’s first 220-plus mph (European/Asian speed) high-speed-rail system. Illinois (with Chicago at the hub of the federally designated Midwest high-speed-rail network) is working closely with the other states in the region. The Quinn administration has even persuaded Wisconsin’s Tea Party governor, Scott Walker, to reverse himself, and accept high-speed-rail funds for the Chicago-Milwaukee route. So the Midwest system now has more than $3 billion in federal rail funds specifically for the project, plus some other state and federal funds that can be applied to it.

Some of those funds were reallocated from Florida, thanks to its Tea Party governor, Rick Scott, who destroyed that state’s high-speed rail chances by deliberately misrepresenting its economic risks, and then refusing $2.4 billion already headed to the Sunshine State for the project.

What about New England? Are crafty Yankees going to be in the early bird high-speed-rail club? Some would say we already are, with the 150-mph Acela racing through Rhode Island. However, much of its NYC-Boston run is held to far slower speeds by shoreline curves, and by ancient infrastructure south of New Haven.

In addition, the six New England states remain stubbornly independent. Despite their governors’ recent permission for collegial interstate-rail consultations at the secretariat level, the six New England transportation secretaries meet only once every quarter, and have no systematic collaborative approach; it is project-by-project, and that is all. The result so far in the competition for high-speed-rail dollars by region: California and the West, $2.9 billion; the Midwest, now more than $3 billion; the Northeast, barely $500 million.

That’s right. We aren’t the early birds in New England. We aren’t even the middle birds. What will it take to wake up our governors? We have a number of pretty smart ones. Some of them, such as Lincoln Chafee, of Rhode Island, and Peter Shumlin, of Vermont, get it. Massachusetts has Deval Patrick, very brainy but above the fray; New Hampshire also has a bright, accomplished governor, John Lynch, but so saddled with a Tea Party legislature that he very likely will not run again; Maine has a Tea Party governor, Paul LePage, with a tough up-from-poverty background that most people truly admire, but who is still finding his way in politics.

So even though we already have the 150-plus mph Northeast Corridor, and even though House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) thinks that a new Northeast Corridor — relocated inland from the Shoreline’s population centers, and thus less curvy — is the answer, economists think that is unlikely to happen, as it will have a price tag many times the $8 billion Obama program provided for the entire nation.

The wet New England spring is moving into a glorious New England summer. But the robin with the high-speed-rail prize in its beak, unless something drastic happens, will be nesting in Illinois. Too bad for proud, independent New England.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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