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With a new administration in D.C., it's time to think outside of the box because passenger rail's survival just may depend on it

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tackling the Headlines 10

May Railfan & Railroad article on the Amtrak holdouts
The latest issue of the magazine looked at three of the four major railroads that did not hand their trains over to Amtrak on April 1, 1971. Southern, the Rio Grande, and Georgia were all discussed (the only one that wasn't discussed happened to be the one railroad that was going broke [Rock Island]). The thing that interested me the most was that the Georgia Railroad was the last carrier to operate mixed trains (Southern eventually gave up on its mixed trains in Virginia later on in the '70s).


The magazine is definitely worth a read given that this week marks 28 years after both the Rio Grande and the GARR gave up carrying people. It's just a shame that the Class Is' speaking head shot down the possibility of mixed trains being revived on the Diane Rehm Show earlier this year when a caller brought it up (go to 10:33:48 and 10:34:24 of the transcript). If the big boy railroads aren't even willing to consider mixed trains, then it will be up to their regional and shortline counterparts to lead the way and show just how much of a successful business model carrying people can potentially be.



Iowa Pacific looks east
I just stumbled upon this after reading a Railfan & Railroad article on the issue at hand and I'm astonished at how this group of tiny railroads can continue adding service so methodically. The company has spent much of its 10 years providing freight and passenger service out west. The trains will run between Saratoga Springs and North Creek in New York and connections to Amtrak will be possible at Saratoga Springs for regular passenger service. The new Class III owner also plans to add excursion runs to Gore Mountain in the form of a ski train. Amazing, just amazing!

What's that going on in Connecticut?
New London's mayor wants to reinstate train service between the city and Brattleboro, VT by upgrading the tracks. Ever since the overnight Montrealer was replaced by the daytime Vermonter in the spring of 1995, that area has not had any train service. Instead, the Washington-St. Albans route branches off the Northeast Corridor route 51 miles to the west in New Haven and stops in Springfield, MA instead of Norwich. Regional leaders have been trying to shush him up.

Mayor Martin Olsen wants to boost tourism in southeastern CT and sees a bright future in rail given that his proposal would also serve Storrs, home to the University of Connecticut. I say, good for him because it only takes one renegade to get a good idea going. The article brought up the possibility of either track owner New England Central Railroad or another operator running the Central Corridor Rail Line. NECR and its owner Rail America are open to the idea as the possibility of additional passenger service from upgrades would also improve NECR's freight business. Both of the proposals in NY and CT would actually complement--not compete with--Amtrak, which is something that will make certain railfans relax.

Big things happening in Virginia
While President Obama is having trouble finding support for a $53 billion Infrastructure Bank, down the road in Richmond, Governor Bob McDonnell just signed a bill that will provide $4 billion to fund roads, rail and transit in the next three years.

Perhaps, the way to get an infrastructure bank going is at the state level. Once enough states have protection for various projects, Washington can step in and help the states with anything enormous like the nationwide high speed rail system that so many want.

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