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Florida Governor rejects Federal funding for high speed rail

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FEDS EXTEND DEADLINE FOR FLORIDA ACCEPTANCE OF HIGH-SPEED RAIL FUNDS: U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he has extended by one more week the federal government’s deadline for Florida to accept $2.4-billion in federal funds for high-speed rail.  He met with Gov. Rick Scott Febr.25. A negative decision is projected to cost the state of Florida around 24,000 jobs. [National Assn. of Railroad Passengers, 2-25-11]

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Guest ___

COURT RULES AGAINST FLORIDA HIGH-SPEED RAIL PLAN:The Supreme Court of Florida has ruled against a lawsuit filed by supporters of the Tampa-Orlando high-speed rail project.  U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood released a statement implying that the $2.4-billion originally awarded to Florida could be redistributed to high-speed rail programs in other states, which would effectively end Florida’s high-speed ambitions for the foreseeable future. [National Assn. of Railroad Passengers, 3-4-11]

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Mudkip Orange

LaHood is smart to let this play out as long as it has. In the end I think Scott will probably succeed in teabagging away FL's rail project, but the important thing is that the GOP then doesn't turn and use the "momentum" of "states canceling rail projects right and left" to try to argue against, say, CA or WA or NY or CT.

 

For instance, when this first started I read news reports that cited Ohio and Wisconsin's similar rejections. Well, Walker's/Wisconsin's rejection doesn't really hold any credence now that we've all been watching the protests in Wisconsin for the last three weeks, and the Florida saga has dragged on long enough that we've all seen Mica and other Florida GOPers supporting the train.

 

All of this forces the lazy-ass "reporters" to dig beyond the surface of "omg, states are canceling rail" and find the real story, which is "everyone in Florida wants a train but the idiots they elect to the governors mansion keep canceling it." That sucks for Orlando, but it's worth it to keep it neutral-to-positive for Anaheim, Hartford, Portland, etc...

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Guest ___

I'm goign to paly devils advocate here. The issue is everybody wants the train, but they'll be damned if they want to pay for it. You tell people, this is what the train is going to cost a year to run, and in order to do this, we need to raise gas tax  ¢10 a gallon. or raise sales tax 1% then suddenly everyone on the planet who wants this train is against it. I think we really can not sit here objectively on the subject cause we're all train buffs. I love trains, spent my entire life working for them, on them, around them. But in the middle of a recession with gas prices shooting through the roof, wage freezes I'll be damned if I'd willing to pay a dime a gallon tax for a train that serves me little to no use at all. this is the mentality that most people have. It's also great to say to people if we invest in rail, you can save money by not driving. Well, I live in rural farm area to get to a train station I'm already halfway in to where the train goes to begin with. Sorry, I'd love to see more trains myself as fan, but as a tax payer, I'd rather see the money go back in to schools, and EMS where at the moment seems to be getting the biggest cuts. We just slashed our county budget for social services, department of th aging and arts by 50%, schools, fire and EMS are losing about 30% and it' still not balanced.

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bikkuri bahn
Sorry, I'd love to see more trains myself as fan, but as a tax payer, I'd rather see the money go back in to schools, and EMS where at the moment seems to be getting the biggest cuts.

 

That's an argument I often see.  Many have honest concerns such as these, and I think we can take most at face value, but unfortunately, the tea baggers and anti-rail at all cost crowd use this argument as a smoke screen for their more nefarious agenda.  Look at Florida governor Rick Scott- after axing Florida HSR he promptly cut the education budget by 10% per student, and proposed projects on further widening of interstate highways.

 

http://www.examiner.com/economy-in-orlando/high-speed-rail-florida-killed-by-rick-scott-private-funding

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Mudkip Orange

bikkuri's correct.

 

In a macro, political sense, we're not broke. Federal tax receipts as a percentage of GDP are at their lowest level in nearly 70 years. The percentage of the national wealth held by the richest 1% and 5% has risen to levels not seen since the 1920s.

 

You see this at the state level in places like Wisconsin, where Walker gave away $140 million in special interest tax breaks and then immediately used "teh deficit!" as a stalking horse to gut the Democratic-leaning public sector employee unions (exempting police and firefighters, because, well, they vote Republican).

 

You see this at the national level where there's this ongoing debate about "cutting spending," but the only spending either side is talking about cutting is nondefense discretionary - which makes up less than 15% of the federal budget. What we're not talking about cutting is the defense budget (over 15% by itself) or entitlement spending (about 2/3rds).

 

At the local level, you have municipalities which are more heavily dependent on property tax receipts, which aren't going back up anytime soon since the housing market will stay deflated for awhile. But the truth is that if the feds just raised taxes there'd be enough money to go around to continue subsidizing municipalities indefinitely.

 

In real terms, the fed deficit is at 1.4 trillion. Jacking the percent of total GDP collected as taxes from 15% (current) to 20% (within historical limits) would raise about $730 billion. However that would have ripple effects as higher corporate taxation would lead to more job creation, since right now Wall Street is sitting on mountains of cash that <i>could</i> be used to hire people, but aren't. That ripple effect in turn would reduce entitlement spending - in Wisconsin for instance, the Medicaid enrollment has gone from 8% to 20% as a result of the recession, and there's no reason to think that full employment wouldn't drop those numbers in a similarly proportional manner.

 

Once you've done all this, the feds could either (i) raise the eligibility age for Social Security in line with current life expectancy, or (ii) leave the eligibility age as-is but means-test below a certain point. Either of these, when combined with the above, would produce such a gigantic federal surplus that the government could then bail out the states, who could bail out their municipalities, and all our budget problems would disappear.

 

Seriously.

 

There isn't a lack of money or wealth in this country. We're just doing a piss-poor job of managing it.

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keitaro
Sorry, I'd love to see more trains myself as fan, but as a tax payer, I'd rather see the money go back in to schools, and EMS where at the moment seems to be getting the biggest cuts.

 

That's an argument I often see.  Many have honest concerns such as these, and I think we can take most at face value, but unfortunately, the tea baggers and anti-rail at all cost crowd use this argument as a smoke screen for their more nefarious agenda.  Look at Florida governor Rick Scott- after axing Florida HSR he promptly cut the education budget by 10% per student, and proposed projects on further widening of interstate highways.

 

http://www.examiner.com/economy-in-orlando/high-speed-rail-florida-killed-by-rick-scott-private-funding

 

 

Happens all the time a whil back john Howard put on a 40% tax on ponies for pubs and clubs. He promised that revenue would go to school education however to this date the schools ain't seen a penny

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Guest ___

HIGH-SPEED RAIL PLAN APPROVED FOR ILLINOIS: Illinois announced March 22 that a $685-million agreement has been reached that will clear the way for construction of the next phase of high-speed rail between Chicago and St. Louis. The federal investment will allow workers to modernize signaling systems between Dwight and Alton; and install new concrete ties and rail between the Mississippi River and Alton, and Lincoln and Dwight.  Construction is scheduled to begin April 5. [National Assn. of Railroad Passengers, 3-25-11]

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Mudkip Orange

Hey, works for me.

 

Ideally I would've liked to see that money go to California, but I also realize doing so would've painted a bullseye on CA HSR for singling out by the teabaggers.

 

Likewise, long term I think 110mph "high speed" rail in busy freight corridors is poopy, but it'll be nice to have an example so in 15 years or whathaveyou people can do an accurate cost benefit on incremental vs. new system using the CA vs IL numbers.

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Guest ___

I was BS'ing with senior management last week, the VP of Planning at Elizabetown PA last week for n official Amtrak VIP tour of the newly renovated station, and got wind that work is underway for electrification to Pittsburgh, pending the funds which looks to be in the final stages of being secured.

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Mudkip Orange

Yeah and any day now we'll create a PA RAIL agency to yoink the regional rail from SEPTA and reinstate service on all the ex-Reading runs that were culled in the 80's.

 

I do not ever foresee electrification in a corridor that sees exactly one train per day.

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Guest ___

 

I do not ever foresee electrification in a corridor that sees exactly one train per day.

 

Minus the fact that they run Keystone service what 20 trains a day to Harrisburg.  Even NS seems to be on-board for this. And there has been push for years to reinstate Broadway Ltd and Pennsylvanian service. Amtrak already stated that they intend to start running Acela Service on the Keystone Corridor as soon as the new 10 sets are entered in to service. the funds area already approved, jsut waiting to send the order out to Alstom. They already confirmed work to start on the third track already for the fall, the three remaining at-grades to be removed and upgrading the entire line to 125. the only place where they can't do 110 is the curve at Middletown.

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brill27mcb

The Keystone trains are electric all the way to Harrisburg already -- AEM-7 loco, 4 Amfleet coaches and an ex-Metroliner MU converted to a cab control car.

 

Rich K.

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Mudkip Orange

I certainly wouldn't knock additional service to Pittsburgh, whether that's more locals or a through train to Chi. But it just boggles my mind to think of dropping all that money to electrify *one* corridor, when you could you could instead spread it around on track and trainsets through the state - Scranton-Stroudsburg, Lansdale-Bethlehem, Reading-Norristown, and yeah Pittsburgh-Harrisburg.

 

The last major electrification proposal was the Schuylkill Valley Metro and we all know what happened to that. There is a distinct lack of grounding in reality that seems to affect Pennsylvania transport proposals - Greensburg Maglev, for instance.

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rpierce000

Didn't the ORIGINAL US railways get built by having the Gov't give away the land? As I remember, and it has been a while since history classes, the government gave just about anyone who said they were a railroad chunks of land to build on in order to get a transcontinental railroad built.

 

What they got was a POS, but it DID work and there was enough money made that the old tracks got replaced, the wold curves got straightened and the system worked.

 

We now have an OK rail freight system. Not great, but OK. Passenger systems stink, but that is because cheap air travel made it faster to go that way for the same $$$.  Now, in places like the Pacific NW, Amtrak competes with air due to security, parking and the general pain that air travel has become. As oil goes up this will only get better for rail.

 

When will the private companies come back? When the process becomes streamlined enough that they can build without 1,000 lawsuits blocking them. In the NW every salmon stream, old growth tree or native hut blocks major projects every day. This becomes ridiculous, but judges cost these project millions of dollars every day, private corporations just can't take the risks. This is why we don't have refinery capacity, new power plants, etc.

 

OK, I will shut up now...

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Martijn Meerts

I don't have much experience with the US trains, but the (very) few I traveled on were actually excellent.. I took the Acela form Washington Union Station to New York Penn station. It was a bit expensive perhaps, but comfort was good, and plenty legroom. In the Netherlands, not even 1st class seats are that good, and the price of those on a close-to-3 hour trip quickly comes close to the price of the Acela trip.

 

The trip back I took the NE regional, sat in the dining car, and it was really nice. I didn't book a ticket in advance for this one, so it ended up being almost as expensive as the Acela, but even so, the comfort in the dining car was so much better than in (modern) Dutch trains.

 

What really got me is that people had no problem leaving their stuff with their seats when they went to get something to eat or drink. Do that in the Netherlands, and your stuff will be gone in no time. I also found people to be quite nice in general. The way they handle the tickets was also much better than over here.. Over here you can (and often will) be asked for your ticket 4-5 times during a half on hour trip on the same train. They don't have a way of "marking" whose tickets they've already seen. I also liked that they came buy to tell you that the next stop was your destination.

 

Obviously, I haven't traveled on the US trains a lot, and I haven't experienced them when things to go wrong, but for now my experience with Amtrak has been much better than I thought after hearing all the horror stories :)

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Guest ___

Didn't the ORIGINAL US railways get built by having the Gov't give away the land? As I remember, and it has been a while since history classes, the government gave just about anyone who said they were a railroad chunks of land to build on in order to get a transcontinental railroad built.

 

What they got was a POS, but it DID work and there was enough money made that the old tracks got replaced, the wold curves got straightened and the system worked.

 

We now have an OK rail freight system. Not great, but OK. Passenger systems stink, but that is because cheap air travel made it faster to go that way for the same $$$.  Now, in places like the Pacific NW, Amtrak competes with air due to security, parking and the general pain that air travel has become. As oil goes up this will only get better for rail.

 

When will the private companies come back? When the process becomes streamlined enough that they can build without 1,000 lawsuits blocking them. In the NW every salmon stream, old growth tree or native hut blocks major projects every day. This becomes ridiculous, but judges cost these project millions of dollars every day, private corporations just can't take the risks. This is why we don't have refinery capacity, new power plants, etc.

 

OK, I will shut up now...

 

Yeah and through emanate domain, but that was also during a time when the country was a lot less litigious. Imagine the government trying to do that today, it would never happen.

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Mudkip Orange

When will the private companies come back? When the process becomes streamlined enough that they can build without 1,000 lawsuits blocking them. In the NW every salmon stream, old growth tree or native hut blocks major projects every day. This becomes ridiculous, but judges cost these project millions of dollars every day, private corporations just can't take the risks. This is why we don't have refinery capacity, new power plants, etc.

 

OK, I will shut up now...

 

 

Well a couple things.

 

First, it's fair to say the US freight rail network is the best in the world. Yeah, I said it. All the innovations in freight have come from the US. Knuckle couplers? US. (the Japanese had the good sense to copy us early on). Piggybacks? US. Intermodal containers? Yep, US. Roadrailers? You better believe that was the US.

 

Euro freight trains are cute and there will always be a market for them given the Continent's vast road tolls and fuel excise taxes, but the US moves larger quantities longer distances at higher (average) speeds for less money in a more competetive economic environment. To cite but a couple of examples, there is a hotshot intermodal that leaves Harrisburg 5 days a week and shows up in Los Angeles barely three days later. Just drive up to the yard, and as long as your trailer's in place by midnight, you're good to go. It just shoots right across the country. There's a hotshot produce train that leaves Wallula, Washington (a bit downriver from Pasco) and runs nonstop to New York State where it's broken apart to feed the eastern seaboard with Yakima apples and Tillamook cheese and all manner of fresh foodstuffs from the Pacific Northwest.

 

As far as the failure of private US passenger rail, there's a myriad number of factors you can blame for that. One that I think doesn't get enough attention was the FRA's decision in the '40s to set a maximum speed limit of 79mph on all railways without cab signaling. This effectively "froze" the development of passenger trains at an early 1950s level, since the capital expenditures required to accommodate faster service wouldn't pan out. In fact some of the existing services saw schedule degradation, since both the Milwaukee's Hiawatha and the Burlington's Zephyrs regularly ran north of 90mph.

 

No other Anglo country had this strict of a mandate. The Australians have always been perfectly happy running at 100mph (160km/h) with lineside signals, and the Brits have in places allowed it up to 125mph. Now it's pretty obvious that the track geometry of the American West is capable of supporting these speeds, and it's not unreasonable to posit that the various railroads would have made the incremental improvements necessary for rail travel times competitive with the automobile. Recall that in the 60's speed limits were higher than they are today. The Ohio Turnpike was 75; the Kansas Turnpike was 80; Nevada was a free-for-all.

 

The irony of the whole thing is that our overly-stringent rail safety standards engendered a gigantic mode shift from trains to the automobile, which is perhaps the most dangerous form of transport after the motorcycle. And so the technology stagnated, the market dried up, the companies went out of business, the institutional knowledge decayed, and all of the patents of the once-leading US railcar industry got bought up by the friggin' Canadians.

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Mudkip Orange

Meanwhile the 79mph maximum still controls in many state-subsidized corridors. Amtrak Cascades max out at... 79. Amtrak California maxes out at... 79. Pacific Surfliner? You better believe it gets all the way up 79. The Chicago hub network? 79, 79, 79, and 79.

 

All these corridors could easily support 100mph+ tomorrow if we didn't have that restriction in place.

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Mudkip Orange

160mph through Princeton!

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/post/ne-to-receive-800-million-in-federal-rail-funds/2011/05/09/AF3CQGZG_blog.html

 

The Northeast will receive almost $800 million in federal funding to updgrade rail service along the heavily traveled corridor, according to an announcement made Monday by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

 

More than half the money for the Northeast, $450 million, will go to Amtrak to upgrade rail service between New York and Washington. The project will upgrade power systems and other equipment along a busy segment of track between Morrisville, Pa., and New Brunswick, N.J.

 

The changes will allow Acela trains to increase their speeds from 135 mph to 160 mph along a 24-mile section of track, officials said. Amtrak will also reconfigure some switches outside New York’s Penn Station to reduce congestion. The work is scheduled to be completed by September 2017, according to Amtrak.

 

The money is a portion of more than ... $2.4 billion in high-speed rail funds rejected earlier this year by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican elected in November.

 

Other awards include:

 

• $4 million for an environmental study on a segment between Raleigh, N.C., and Richmond, part of the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor.

 

• $295 million to New York for new train routes to help ease rail traffic around Manhattan;

 

• $300 million for a California rail extension.

 

• Almost $400 million to increase intercity train speeds to 110 mph along more than 400 miles of track in Michigan and Illinois.

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Mudkip Orange

Apparently a big chunk of this is also going to locos and rolling stock, which is good. You can't spend all the money on train track...

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