Chinese Rail Expansion; Ottawa Prioritizes Transit

I’m sorry I haven’t updated in a few days – for unclear reasons, I ended up in Stuttgart and have been having trouble finding internet other than at the local Starbucks, which is charging 8 Euros an hour, completely unacceptable. So I find myself at Coffee Fellows.

Thanks to the Overhead Wire, more information on China’s enormous rail expansion in Business Week. Looks like the overall $546 billion ($190 billion of which for railways) economic stimulus plan will include, as expected, thousands of miles of new railways serving the entire country. China Daily reports that inner city subway lines will also benefit, though costs are increasing tremendously; for example, subways in Beijing now cost 800 million yuan (about $110 million) a km to build, up from only 100 million a few years back. As a result, the government’s stimulus plan couldn’t come at a better time, seeing as how it will enable cities to invest now, rather than later as costs continue to mount.

Overall, this will allow cities in China to ramp up their urban rail mileage from 550 km today to about 3500 km by 2020. Quite an expansion.

The head of New Jersey’s Department of Transportation, Kris Kolluri, sees China’s path towards increased rail funding as excellent news. He argues that $1.2 billion worth of transportation projects in his state alone could be started in 90 days were Congress to approve its expected infrastructure-funding program in the next few weeks. This would, he estimates, create about 10,000 jobs immediately and act effectively to stem the increase in unemployment rolls the United States is currently experiencing as the economic crisis deepens.

Kolluri also announced that the ARC project, which will produce another rail tunnel from New Jersey into East Midtown, will be under construction next year, as the Federal Transit Administration has granted approval to the project’s environmental impact statement and will begin to release funds. A deficit of funds, importantly, still exists, and the federal and state governments will have to find a way to make up the gap.

Ottawa, the capital of Canada, is moving ahead on a large transit plan of its own. Prioritizing transit over roads, the city’s transportation staff has encouraged the city council to create a “compact, transit city” out of what exists there now. The first phase of the project envisions a $1.7 billion light rail line that will traverse the city east-west along the city’s existing bus transit way. This has been a plan for years, and caused considerable opposition. We’ll see if the city’s council agrees. Second and third phases will include a southern link for the same light rail line. Interestingly, the city is considering selling the line to a private operator. Considering that virtually all transit is unprofitable, we’re not sure that will come through…

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