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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

Friday, June 10, 2011

Tackling the Headlines 13

Two former governors take a stand for future passenger rail service
In my home state, ex-governors Jim Martin and Jim Hunt finally spoke up for rail.

Take: Not only was it timely, but it is something that the General Assembly has to take into account before taking an anti-rail stance just for the sake of opposing the Obama Administration and backing oil-funded think tanks. North Carolina has one of the best--if not the best--rail programs in the country, so it makes no sense for the legislature to ruin a good thing.

Another Orlando commuter train route?
While everyone in central Florida waits for Governor Rick Scott to make a decision on SunRail, a long-forgotten commuter rail project called the Orange Blossom Express is apparently a go. This route will be two routes--the primary route will go northwest to Tavares and a spur route will branch off in northern Orlando and continue to Winter Park. U.S. Railcar will pick up where Colorado Railcar left off and supply the vehicles for this service. If all goes to plan, the new service will be in place by 2013.

Take: It's surprising that this project has been in the works since 2002. I guess this is what persistence looks like plus friends in high places (Rep. Mica is a big supporter, and the spur line would serve his hometown). I say, this is a very good idea because the OBE would complement SunRail and be a precursor to a statewide Florida intercity rail system that might have to rely more on the private sector.

Michigan Central Station restoration
In a case of better late than never, Detroit's Michigan Central Station is finally being fixed up by its owner. Old windows are being replaced and asbestos is being removed from the building.

Take: Saying that this is long overdue is an understatement. Rather, it is extremely inexcusable that Mr. Moroun let the 98-year-old building deteriorate to the point that the City Council wanted to use stimulus funds to demolish the station two years ago. Now that these little steps are taking place, perhaps, there is hope that MCS will regain much of its former luster and provide unconventional rail travel alongside SNCF's proposed Express HSR service.

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