DOT Releases Second Round of High-Speed Rail Grants, Bringing Good News to California

Second Round of High-Speed Rail Grants

» In the shadow of the coming elections, California’s large commitment to its rail program continues to be rewarded by Washington; a focus on the Central Valley encourages long-term thinking about the state’s future train network.

Nine months after allocating $8 billion to intercity rail projects across the nation, the U.S. Department of Transportation has announced an additional $2.5 billion in investments designed to encourage the spread of rail passenger transportation. Unlike the first expenditures, these funds do not come from President Obama’s early 2009 stimulus but rather from the FY 2010 budget. Though the FY 2011 budget may also include funding for this mode of transportation, that spending has yet to be agreed upon by the Congress, making today’s announcement the last definite federal distribution of rail dollars.

Each state receiving funds will for the first time be required to contribute its own funds to its

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ARC Project Definitively Cancelled, But There Are Other Ways to Improve New Jersey’s Transit Future

New Jersey Transit train

» Capacity on New Jersey Transit can be expanded by transforming the system.

Access to the Region’s Core was to be the nation’s largest investment in transit, ever: At a cost of $8.7 billion, the project would have dramatically expanded rail capacity between New York and New Jersey by doubling the number of rail tracks available for use under the Hudson River. The result could have been a large increase in service on New Jersey Transit’s commuter rail and Amtrak’s intercity rail operations.

The project is now dead. After a two-week review demanded by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has reaffirmed his decision to stop all work on a scheme for which he argues the state has no money. In other words, the ARC tunnel is low on the Governor’s priority list and certainly not worth raising taxes for: Instead, he has increased

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With More Federal Funding, Florida in Striking Distance of New High-Speed Line

Orange County Convention Center Station

» In sinking $800 million more into the Tampa-Orlando line, Obama Administration is making clear its interest in making this the nation’s model program for fast trains.

In terms of high-speed rail funding, the thinking of the current Department of Transportation is easy to understand: Of the dozens of projects proposed across the country, only one could offer true high-speed service and open before the end of President Obama’s second term, all within a relatively tight budget. That is Florida’s 84-mile Tampa-Orlando link, expected to be complete by 2015 at a cost of less than $3 billion. It is therefore no surprise that in the latest round of grants for fast train services, the project has been awarded enough money to virtually ensure its construction.

The DOT’s announcement, expected to be formalized on Thursday, will hand Florida $800 million of the $2.5 billion in total allocations

Continue reading With More Federal Funding, Florida in Striking Distance of New High-Speed Line »

When Voting for the Lesser of Two Evils Could Save a Transit System

Toronto Streetcar

» In a three-way race for Toronto mayor, picking the best candidate could result in the worst outcomes for the city.

Because the U.S. political system is basically a two-party duopoly, few electoral races offer more than a singular comparison between a Republican and a Democrat. In terms of transportation issues, there frequently is little question about who is the better candidate. Nonpartisan elections offer an alternative by opening up a broader range of choice for voters.

Case in point is Toronto, where local voters are going to the polls Monday to pick their new mayor. There, three candidates have made it to the end of the race, right-wing Rob Ford, centrist George Smitherman, and left-wing Joe Pantalone, the last being the heir to current Mayor David Miller. A new poll suggests Ford is leading the race with 43.9% of expected votes; Smitherman follows with

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TIGER II Grants Emphasize Limited Investments in Small and Mid-Size Communities

Des Moines Transit Hub

» After focusing on streetcar grants for big cities earlier in the year, the Department of Transportation takes a step back, providing funds for a number of smaller communities. Three big exceptions: Atlanta, Orlando, and Salt Lake City.

After months of waiting, the U.S. Department of Transportation has finally revealed which projects it will be funding under the TIGER II grant program, a series of discretionary allocations under the direct review of the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood. $600 million has been split between dozens of communities across the country; most funding has been allocated to small-scale projects in small and mid-size cities for the purposes of street improvements, the construction of transit centers, and the rehabilitation of freight railway lines.

Of the total funding, 29% went to roads projects, 26% for transit improvements, 20% for railway renovations, 16% for ports, 4% for bike and pedestrian programs, and 5%

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by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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