» The Obama Administration hopes to invest almost $40 billion in new and improved passenger rail infrastructure over the next five years. Good luck getting that through Congress.
It’s an annual spectacle. The President releases his budget. The budget proposes a huge expansion in spending on surface transportation, particularly in high-speed rail. Administration figures testify on Capitol Hill, hoping to raise the specter of infrastructure failure if nothing is done. The Congress responds lackadaisically, with Democrats arguing that something should be done and Republicans doing everything they can to prevent a cent more from being spent, and ultimately no one agrees to much of anything other than a repetition of the past year’s mediocre investments.
Will things be different this year?
The question is particularly relevant because the U.S. Government’s rail investment program — its authorization for allocating funds to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will expire this year. Legislation supporting the FRA, as
Continue reading The Administration Refreshes Its Push for a Major Infusion of Funds into the National Rail Program »
» Opportunities for rerouting commuter rail via the Grand Junction in Cambridge are criticized by community members who fear increases in pollution. Meanwhile, the long-planned Green Line extension in Somerville is threatened by budget limitations.
Just northwest of Boston, Cambridge and Somerville are some of the nation’s exemplar cities when it comes to promoting transportation alternatives. In Somerville, 48% of the population rides transit, walks, or bikes to work; in Cambridge, 57% do. The explanation likely comes down to a strong commitment to livable streets in both cities, a large student population, high residential densities, community activism against limited-access highways, and big concentrations of jobs both in the traditional office center of Downtown Boston but also in the walkable Kendall Square-MIT and Harvard Square areas, both along the Red Line rapid transit corridor.
Yet, with the exception of the Red Line — extended north of Harvard Square in
Continue reading Facing Funding Shortfalls and Protest, Better Rail for Boston Region is Delayed »
» In addition to transit-oriented development, Charlotte’s planners envision a system that appeals to freight users.
In the case of Charlotte, necessity may be the mother of invention.
Lacking sufficient revenues to construct the planned Red Line commuter railroad designed to connect Center City Charlotte with its northern suburbs, planners working for local transit agency CATS have developed a unique vision for its financing.
The $452 million upgrade of the existing Norfolk Southern O Line would allow a significant expansion of capacity not only for passenger trains, but also for freight trains running on the same tracks. In doing so, this agency’s planners are suggesting that the sometimes rivalry between the two types of transportation should really be approached hand-in-hand, especially for a project whose primary right-of-way extends far beyond dense urban neighborhoods that characterize the zones around most successful transit links. Perhaps for the first time so directly, transit-oriented development is proposed to
Continue reading Innovative Financing Points the Way Ahead for a Rail Project in Charlotte »
» With political figures failing to account for the long-term interests of their constituents, the U.S. continues down its confused path.
The opening of the new $32.5 billion Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail link this week marked a significant milestone in the world effort to improve intercity rail systems. Though the development of fast train networks in China has not been without its failings, the connection of the nation’s two largest metropolitan regions — the tenth and nineteenth-largest in the world — is a human achievement of almost unparalleled proportions, especially since it was completed a year earlier than originally planned and just three years after construction began. It comes as the Chinese government celebrates its 90th anniversary.
With ninety daily trains traveling the 819-mile link at average speeds of up to 165 mph, the corridor will likely soon become the most-used high-speed intercity rail connection in the world. Because of safety concerns,
Continue reading In China’s High-Speed Successes, a Glimpse of American Difficulties »