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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

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tackling the Headlines 24


Mica gives up on spinning off NEC
So the uproar worked. Just today, the House Transportation Committee chairman waved the white flag on spinning off the 457-mile line to the USDOT.

Take: Too bad since Amtrak will continue to be saddled with the infrastructure costs along the Boston-to-Washington route. It also shows how difficult it is to wrest away the rights of the line from Amtrak to USDOT. Thanks, Ford Administration. I also think that with Mica's about face, we can forget about any competitors along the route, so, shortline and regional railroads are likely to be the only alternatives to Amtrak in the northeastern United States.

CAHSR's costs almost triple vs 2008 estimates
Ninety-eight and a half billion dollars?!? Yep, that's the latest cost estimate for the planned San Francisco-Los Angeles route, with full completion pushed back to 2033!

Take: While I still support the project, there are a lot of things that the Authority is doing wrong. First, is the lack of blending with Caltrain in the Bay Area. There is no reason for separate rights of way in San Jose when the HSR route should be sharing the tracks with an electrified Caltrain. 

Second, as Drunk Engineer and Mulad have pointed out, these viaducts invite urban blight. I mean, there's no reason why there should be a viaduct that is FOUR TIMES AS TALL as the Caltrain bridge near the San Jose train station. 

Finally, as people openly question whether this project should be built, the Authority has to take costs into account. Building 60 foot viaducts burns--rather than saves--money. Why no one with any pull listens to more rational people like Clem is baffling to this East Coaster. With most people in a cost-cutting mood, this project is in jeopardy of being a missed opportunity. The Authority should fire the firm that is responsible for advocating the South Bay blight.

A screwup in Maine
Because of a delay in the maintenance facility in Brunswick, Amtrak will only extend two of its Downeasters from Portland to the new northern terminus next fall.

Take: Oh, boy. With NIMBYs and cost issues, the southbound runs are in a tighter time span than the northbound. The lack of evening southbound and morning northbound trips will initially make the extension a bit unmarketable. The problem needs to be fixed ASAP.


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