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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

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Year In Review Part 3

4. During the summer, rail advocacy group ESPA sided with CSX rather than the NY State DOT in a dispute over increased speeds of future Empire Service trains between Albany and Buffalo. The railroad wants passenger trains to top out at 90 mph while the state wants trains to go 110 mph.


The rail advocacy group is likely looking ahead to the 2013 deadline and wants to make sure that Albany is not holding the bill for costly upgrades. Taking baby steps may prove to be the best solution for NYSDOT because as long as feds are giving it money, incrementalism could eventually lead the state to upgrade Empire Service to Regional HSR status and allow for separate passenger tracks in the Upstate. Now, if someone can just convince how wrong CSX's CEO is on the money making potential of passenger rail...


5. A couple of big things happened in the state of Georgia. The first was Atlanta taking a step closer to having a new downtown station, and the second item was Armstrong Atlantic State University doing a feasibility study on reviving a Savannah-Macon-Atlanta train that would be a modern day Nancy Hanks train. The problems? 


If a privately operated Nancy Hanks III train takes off, it may be the only route to use the downtown facility until the Peach State gets serious about passenger rail. I say that because as long as Amtrak continues to operate the Crescent, it may punt on leaving Peachtree Station just like it apparently did with leaving Midway Station for Union Depot in St. Paul for years due to an issue over who would pay for maintenance. The difference is that two issues may come into play: 1) the national carrier once objected to backing into the MMPT even though it has done so in Tampa for the last 15 years for its Silver Service trains (a recent NARP newsletter said that Amtrak is resistant to relocating "because it would be impractical for the Crescent to serve such a station"); 2) track owner Norfolk Southern has rejected improvements to the Crescent in the city according to Rail PAC.


Another problem can also be found on the southeastern end of the planned Nancy Hanks III route in that AASU wants to revive train service to the old Central of Georgia depot, which is about three to four miles from the Amtrak (ex-ACL) station. The problem is that the CofG station currently lacks tracks so it may be a bit of a challenge to rebuild the tracks. Then again, it may be worth a shot to revive the tracks especially if the current Amtrak station is deemed to be too small to handle two operators and the city balks to build a new Union Station.

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