Thursday, January 28, 2010

Urban News Vol. 55

One day after the State of the Union address, the applicables to my narrow focus are the limited (8 out of 787 billion dollars, ~1%), but better than nothing funding grants to "high-speed" rail projects around the nation. I say high-speed somewhat sarcastically because this will be nothing approaching the heights of rail technology seen in parts of Europe or Japan, but I don't mean to diminish the importance of ANY rail enhancement, maintenance, or expansion. We would do well as a country to institute a national program to restore rail service to 1945 levels. This doesn't necessarily mean all work must be conducted with federal dollars and performed by state Departments of Transportation. Simply eliminating the tax burden on railroads, which doesn't exist for the heavily subsidized international airport roster and interstate highway system, makes the prospect of railroad expansion more enticing to existing or potential new private enterprises.

Here is the news on a macro-local scale:

by Brian Tumulty, Gannett Washington Bureau

Article Key Points:
  • Upstate New York projects were awarded $151M
  • Repair and improvement of the Rochester train station
  • Rehabilitation of the Buffalo-Depew station
  • Engineering analysis on 3rd track development between Buffalo and Rochester
  • Improved grade crossings south of Albany
  • Build second track between Albany and Schenectady
  • $3M for a 3rd track north of Albany toward Montreal/Vermont
  • $1M for continued planning of the Empire Corridor
  • Travel time between Rochester and Albany will be reduced from 4:07 to 3:14 by 2018

Pictured to the right of the bulleted list and this paragraph are images of what once was on Central Avenue between Clinton and Joseph. We are unable as a society at this point in time to blend excellent urban gateway programming with meaningful and uplifting archticture such as this. What can this repair and improvement possibly entail while still leaving millions for the critical trackage improvements? I hope this renovation effort isn't considered a permanent solution, but I'd be lying if I wanted highly anticipating any release of plans. Pictured below and to the left is the station I'll be inhabiting tomorrow afternoon (for a short period of time compared to the hassle inherent in 2010 air travel!) while I wait for The Maple Leaf to whisk my wife and I away to the urban paradise of Toronto.

With romanticism completed for the morning, it's time to look at the upstate improvements as a package. It appears the emphasis is on reducing travel delays between Buffalo and the Capital Region. Part of the inability of this region's railroad to even operate at 1945 levels of service is the dynamics of track ownership and the implication on freight vs. passenger train prioritization. This is in no way a swipe at CSX who I think does a reasonably good job in the area trying to balance it all. And I don't for a second think that we don't need more freight trains as opposed to our diesel truck empire. In the past I have lamented the loss of a connection between the Public Market/demised wholesalers and their original supply delivery method and can see usefulness in it in the future. The bottom line is that until the energy situation forcefully dictates otherwise, the railroad must do everything it possibly can to polish its image versus air travel. To this end the number one complaint about Amtrak's brand of intercity passenger rail service from non-urbanist cheerleaders (and even by huge urbanist cheerleaders like Duncan Crary) is the unreliability of schedule.

And here are the highly touted pieces of the national picture:

Obama to Distribute Billions for High-Speed Rail Lines
by Michael Doyle, McClatchy Newspapers

Article Key Points:

  • Washington will spend $8B worth of stimulus money on rail expansion and improvements to existing rail lines
  • 31 states will receive funding
  • California will receive $2.25B for LA-Anaheim, Fresno-Bakersfield, Fresno-Merced, and SF-San Jose corridors, $99M will go toward smaller corridors served by conventional trains
  • $1.1B for Chicago to St. Louis
  • $1.25B for Tampa to Orlando
  • $244M for Chicago to Detroit
  • $810M for Madison to Milwaukee
  • $400 for Cleveland to Cincinnati
  • North Carolina receiving $520M for Raleigh to Charlotte track improvements to allow 90 mph, also station improvements
  • Washington State to receive $590M to eliminate bottlenecks between Portland and Seattle
  • 24 states submitted 45 corridor applications

The Cleveland to Cincinnati corridor is LONG overdue in my opinion. I believe this will run through Columbus, the state capitol, the largest metropolitan area in the country without passenger rail service. This development ought to please the folks at Cincinnati Streetcar and somewhere Over-the-Rhine (or more likely downtown) Chris Heckman and Kristen Myers are likely smiling. I don't have any big opinions on the others, they all seem to be reasonable implementations that help repair the nationwide rail network.

No comments: