The US DoT in a bit of a rush

General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

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The US DoT in a bit of a rush

Postby lpetrich » Fri Sep 30, 2011 3:18 am

To distribute funds, before the Republicans try to get them back. Some of this is likely old news, but the Obamaites do seem to be a bit panicked.
FRA Press Releases

Lots of incremental upgrades for existing moderate-speed service, a little bit of planning for new lines.
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Re: The US DoT in a bit of a rush

Postby MACTRAXX » Fri Sep 30, 2011 6:13 pm

LP: Is is good to see that these projects will be funded...

Things may well be quite different in 2012...MACTRAXX
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Re: The US DoT in a bit of a rush

Postby steve4031 » Sat Oct 01, 2011 8:23 am

Desperate?! How about committed. At least they didn't back off and needed improvements are getting done. Yesterday Michigan did their part too.
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Re: The US DoT in a bit of a rush

Postby afiggatt » Sat Oct 01, 2011 9:27 am

There is no panic here. The threat of rescission in the next 3-6 months was taken away with the continuing resolution FY12 budget deal for transportation that extended transportation funding at FY11 levels though March 31, 2012. The threat of rescission during the summer likely got some of the state DOTs off the dime and motivated them to hurry up on the engineering studies, detailed costing, contracts and other documents done to get the funding committed and get started on the work. That is not a bad thing. The FRA also had to ramp up on staff to handle and oversee the HSIPR program and projects which was suddenly added in 2009. Takes time to hire people with the right background and experience in railroads and transportation matters.

September 30, 2011 is also the end of the federal fiscal year. There has been quite a number of projects obligated in the past few weeks, especially in the past week, and I figure much of that is the desire to get the project accounts funded and on the books before the end of the fiscal year.

The complete list of obligated HSIPR projects - which is continually updated every few days as projects are obligated - can be found at the FRA website at http://www.fra.dot.gov/rpd/HSIPR/ProjectFunding.aspx. As of today, there are now 126 projects for a total of $8.08 billion. The link to the Master Selection sheet listing all the selected projects after the Florida HSR funding re-allocations in May is also on that page. There are many smaller and medium sized projects that will improve trip time, reliability, fix up stations, and add additional daily frequencies to many Amtrak corridor services across the US.

Unfortunately, now that the FRA and the states are much better prepared to propose and manage passenger rail projects, the prospects of getting more serious funding from Congress in the next 2 years is bleak, although not entirely gone. Still, the $10.1 billion that was provided will result in a lot of improvements and expanded & faster service.
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Re: The US DoT in a bit of a rush

Postby gprimr1 » Sun Oct 02, 2011 10:28 pm

This is an interesting topic, but we are all adults here. Using names like "teabagger" does nothing to help your argument. I will not tolerate anyone calling Tea Party members "teabaggers" anymore than I will tolerate anyone calling a Liberal a "libtard." Name calling in an argument is childish, does nothing to further a point, and suggests that you have nothing to rebut an argument with.

Now let's continue an otherwise good topic.
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Re: The US DoT in a bit of a rush

Postby lpetrich » Mon Oct 03, 2011 12:20 pm

The projects are a rather eclectic mix.

Some of them are additional tracks. That should be useful for (1) coexistence with freight trains and (2) adding new service. It's a rather cheap but still useful sort of improvement: speeding up the slowest parts.

The latter goal will also be enabled by the purchase of new locos and railcars. That's reportedly a limiting factor in expansion of Amtrak service -- not enough rolling stock for more trains. I suspect that Amtrak will keep its older rolling stock and retire only its oldest or least salvageable locos and railcars.

As to the Amtrak Susquehanna River Bridge - Wikipedia between Perryville and Havre de Grace, I'm guessing that a new bridge would be built alongside the currently-existing bridge. One can still see the original bridge's piers to the south of the existing bridge; the original one was built in 1866 and the existing one in 1906. I'm guessing that a new bridge would be built where the original one was. The original bridge has a drawbridge in it, and the existing one has a swing spam. A new one may have a vertical-lift bridge, like some new Connecticut bridges.

The money includes planning for two new routes. The Minneapolis - Duluth Northern Lights Express will be using existing tracks. The Richmond - Raleigh Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor line will be using an abandoned line that will be rebuilt for it.

There will also be a study of filling a gap in Texas HSR plans: Houston - Dallas. The existing FRA-blessed corridors include Dallas - Austin but not Houston - Dallas or Houston - Austin, for some odd reason.
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Re: The US DoT in a bit of a rush

Postby electricron » Mon Oct 03, 2011 1:39 pm

lpetrich wrote:There will also be a study of filling a gap in Texas HSR plans: Houston - Dallas. The existing FRA-blessed corridors include Dallas - Austin but not Houston - Dallas or Houston - Austin, for some odd reason.


Getting in and out of Houston is the main problem of increasing train services to Houston. Houston is a major seaport, all the existing rail corridors to Houston are over-crowded with freight trains. That's just one reason why the Sunset Limited is limited to three days a week service. They would have to double track almost the entire line between Dallas and Houston to have reliable passenger train service while sharing the selected corridor with freights. It might be wiser long term to just build a new more direct dedicated corridor for 200 mph HSR. That's why money is needed to seriously study this corridor's potential. The other corridor between Dallas and San Antonio already has daily Amtrak service; many believe more frequent 90 mph service would be sufficient because of shorter station spacing.

Both Dallas and Houston have plenty of room for additional flights at both of their airports. They're not over-crowded yet. Southwest could spend $100 Million for an additional 737 aircraft to add more service, it's take $ Billions to start up train service, whether 80 mph or higher speeds.
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Re: The US DoT in a bit of a rush

Postby Passenger » Wed Oct 05, 2011 10:38 am

This would be good news if there were really any intention of building anything, but that isn't a requirement of getting the money.

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Re: The US DoT in a bit of a rush

Postby Smart » Mon Oct 10, 2011 1:17 am

I'm a Republican who strongly supports HSR.

Here's the problem: traditional Eisenhower/Hoover Republicans, that believe in infrastructure projects, are being kept in the basement in Washington. It is now "Republican" to cut infrastructure, instead of government programs that need to end, like the Department of Education and Department of Energy.

That said, LaHood's successor will probably be just as devoted to HSR. We may have delays, but if Ron Paul is elected, we won't have to worry about money for HSR. As he will end the wasteful departments, two of which I already mentioned.
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Re: The US DoT in a bit of a rush

Postby neroden » Tue Oct 18, 2011 12:24 am

Smart wrote:I'm a Republican who strongly supports HSR.

Here's the problem: traditional Eisenhower/Hoover Republicans, that believe in infrastructure projects, are being kept in the basement in Washington. It is now "Republican" to cut infrastructure, instead of government programs that need to end, like the Department of Education and Department of Energy.

That said, LaHood's successor will probably be just as devoted to HSR. We may have delays, but if Ron Paul is elected, we won't have to worry about money for HSR. As he will end the wasteful departments, two of which I already mentioned.


I'm surprised that, as an infrastructure supporter, you think the Department of Energy is wasteful, given that the majority of its funding is for managing nuclear plant infrastructure.... and cleaning up after them. Most of the rest is R&D with some more funding of, yes, infrastructure (from transmission lines to solar panels). Finally, it provides some very useful informational-clearinghouse facilities, which are cheap. Perhaps you just haven't thought this one through, or haven't looked at the Energy Department budget?
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Re: The US DoT in a bit of a rush

Postby kaitoku » Wed Oct 19, 2011 4:34 am

We may have delays, but if Ron Paul is elected, we won't have to worry about money for HSR. As he will end the wasteful departments, two of which I already mentioned.


I hope he ends the FRA, which would be a victory for advocates of modern passenger rail.
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Re: The US DoT in a bit of a rush

Postby gprimr1 » Mon Oct 24, 2011 7:56 pm

How do you propose the FRA hinders passenger rail? The safety requirements? They seem to be doing a pretty good job if you ask my opinion. Several of the recent train accidents were pretty epic, but produced very few fatalities.

I would never advocate compromising safety for speed.
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Re: The US DoT in a bit of a rush

Postby kaitoku » Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:14 am

gprimr1 wrote:How do you propose the FRA hinders passenger rail? The safety requirements? They seem to be doing a pretty good job if you ask my opinion. Several of the recent train accidents were pretty epic, but produced very few fatalities.

I would never advocate compromising safety for speed.


Actually the U.S. has a higher fatality rate per passenger km than most other industrialized countries, and, if figures are to be believed, even China, at least before the recent accident:
http://pedestrianobservations.wordpress ... il-safety/

The problem is not so much FRA crash standards, which may save some lives in low speed collisions, but rather the lack of standard practices in N.A. that are taken for granted in nations with modern passenger rail systems, namely the emphasis put on crash avoidance. It's not a simplistic either/or choice, you can have speed and safety- developments in one area lesson the need for costly additions in another, which is what engineering should be about.
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Re: The US DoT in a bit of a rush

Postby Zmapper » Fri Nov 04, 2011 1:14 am

The elimination of the FRA would not be such a disaster like you predict. Instead, it would be the best thing Congress (and a hypothetical President Paul) could do for the railroads.

Today, we have a system where the railroads can hide behind the oblique wall of Federal Regulations when local communities, transit agencies, anyone questions their ways. Horn regulations are a fine example. No two crossings are exactly alike; each differs in sight distances, geometry, track/road speed limits, etc. The idea that an overpaid Washington bureaucrat somehow knows better than the local traffic or railroad engineer is nonsense. Ideally, the EPA would come down on the railroads (like any other industry, mind you) and tell them to quiet their horns that can be heard 3 miles away in an urban environment. No other industry would be allowed to make that much noise unfettered like that.

Freight Railroads find it in their best economic interest to run things safely. After all, a route shut down because of a derailment is losing them money. If anything, the freight railroads know more about what they are doing than the aforementioned Washington bureaucrat does.

Passenger Railroads would seek out the safest trains they can afford. Caltrain found the European train designs better preforming in nearly every instance with regards to safety. Every time a major accident occurs, they have to pay out settlements, deal with bad PR, etc.

Uh, 12:00 am I will type more in the coming days on this, particularly about protectionism, after I get some sleep. For now, I leave you with a fitting Ron Paul quote he made during a debate: "If we legalize heroin tomorrow, everybody's gonna use heroin. I bet nobody would use it. I don't want to use heroin so I need these laws! (wild applause)"

Replace heroin with lighter trains to put the quote in context.
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Re: The US DoT in a bit of a rush

Postby The EGE » Fri Nov 04, 2011 12:24 pm

After Britain privatized, there were several nasty accidents. Southall and Ladbroke Grove were caused by companies not installing ATP systems because they were expensive. Hatfield, Potters Bar, and Grayrigg all caused by deferred/cheapened maintenance. 50 dead and over 900 injured in 5 crashes, all caused by profit motive taking precedence over safety.

And that's not even considering Ufton Nervet, Great Heck, and others where FRA-type trains would have saved lives when trains hit cars.
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