Opening High-Speed Rail to the Market — Before the Market’s Even There

» The good old money-making American tradition continues, but in whose interest?

Matthew Lewis’ brilliant story published today by the Center for Public Integrity and partially in Politico provides material evidence for the direct involvement of corporate lobbyists in the push for high-speed rail in the United States. The article is sobering in the details it uncovers on the degree to which public and private lobbying groups have attempted to influence decision-making in Congress and at the Department of Transportation. All this despite — or even because — the federal government has yet to announce even the first of the $8 billion in stimulus money it plans to award over the next few years to states and other agencies embarking on fast train system construction.

If Mr. Lewis’ report doesn’t provide specific evidence of government officials altering their planned allocations because of the influence of lobbying groups, it certainly warns

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As Minnesota’s Proposed Northern Lights Express Rises in Cost, Chances for Its Construction Fall

Northern Lights Express Route Map

» 155-mile line between Duluth and Minneapolis would cost nearly $1 billion.

The Northern Lights Express is too expensive to justify construction.

For inhabitants of northern Minnesota hoping to be provided a quicker route into the Twin Cities, that fact is heart-breaking. Indeed, the initial promise of this 155-mile line, which would run between Minneapolis and Duluth, via Cambridge, Hinckley, Sandstone, and Superior, was exciting for its proponents: it would provide two-hour service along a corridor whose Amtrak operations were discontinued in 1985 and provide for increased economic competitiveness in parts of the state that have suffered as Minneapolis has grown.

The Minneapolis-Duluth/Superior Passenger Rail Alliance, which has been pushing the train link since 2007, completed a preliminary study of the corridor last year, and claimed that the project could offer eight daily round trips by 2012 at the cost of just over $300 million — or up to $615 million

Continue reading As Minnesota’s Proposed Northern Lights Express Rises in Cost, Chances for Its Construction Fall »

Problems with a Front-Loaded Infrastructure Package

» The projects funded will be mostly roads-based. How about a series of grants to public service agencies instead to keep up operations?

Even as the nation’s GDP expands, job losses continue to mount; the stimulus earlier this year wasn’t large enough to offset the mammoth effects of the recession. Faced with the possibility of devastating losses in the 2010 mid-term Congressional elections, Democrats have no choice but to focus next year on job creation.

Nancy Pelosi had it right when she argued thatThe debate between deficit reduction and job creation is not a real choice, because we’ll never have deficit reduction unless we have job creation.” Indeed, the U.S. government must push for measures that will increase overall employment, both for the health of the Democratic Party and that of the federal budget.

As a result, some members of Congress are looking to a second stimulus in the form of major

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New Rail Corridor for Dallas Would Double Downtown Transit Capacity

» Streetcar project is also under consideration.

If the September opening of the first phase of Dallas’ Green Line was good news for what is becoming an increasingly impressive city from the standpoint of livability, Texas’ second-largest metropolis still has a while to go before it will be urban. The local transit authority, DART, has been proactive in planning for the city’s inner-city future, with new light rail and streetcar lines proposed downtown. Whether those projects will provide the kind of density of transit provision necessary to significantly alter attitudes about public transportation in D-Town, however, remains to be seen.

Dallas was one of the first cities to offer modern light rail in the country, but its system is expanding quickly in response to the region’s quick growth. The Green Line’s second phase, which will extend almost 30 miles from Carrollton to Buckner by 2010, is

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Qatar Signs Massive $25 Billion Deal with Germany’s DB to Develop Rail Network

» Rapidly growing Middle Eastern state will invest massively to expand already booming economy.

If Dubai and Abu Dhabi have grabbed most of the headlines recently, neighboring Qatar has been quietly building up from an out-of-the-way desert country to a center of world trade. Despite the country’s overall small 1.5 million-person population, the capital city Doha has been the site of increasing government-sponsored development thanks to huge oil and gas revenues and the country is now arguably the richest on the planet per capita. Next year, its economy is set to expand by 16%, the largest increase in the world, further solidifying its position as a regional powerhouse.

Government officials see infrastructure investment as a crucial element to economic viability, so last week Qatar signed a $25 billion deal with Germany’s Deutsche Bahn to develop local and high-speed rail links over the next fifteen years. The project will

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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