A Bipartisan Push for Rail in Virginia Produces Ridership Successes

» An expanding rail network in Virginia serves more customers and demonstrates that the public will come when new and better train service is offered.

Despite the significant opposition to investment in intercity rail from Republican governors in states from Ohio to Florida, Virginia’s GOP leadership has taken a considerably different course. In office since January 2010, Bob McDonnell has presided over a significant expansion in Amtrak routes — and more is expected by the end of this year. In the meantime, the state’s population has gobbled up the service offered, seeing very significant increases in ridership, offering considerable evidence that Americans are perfectly willing to take the train — if the right routes are provided.

Amtrak service to the state capital at Richmond and points further south via services such as the Carolinian, Palmetto, and Silver Meteor/Silver Star has been offered for decades, as has a line to

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How significant an opportunity for reducing U.S. construction costs?

» Norfolk, Virginia celebrates the opening of a relatively cheap new rail corridor. It’s not as out-of-the-ordinary as we might hope, though.

Last weekend, Norfolk’s Tide light rail line opened to big crowds and lots of excitement in a state that has never before seen modern light rail technology in action. But the project was overbudget and the subject of years of controversy. What was once supposed to be a $232 million line had ballooned in cost to $318.5 million and in the process taken down political leaders who had supported it. Perceived mismanagement delayed consideration of extensions into nearby Virginia Beach. And the scheme’s implementation flaws emboldened conservative activists insistant on playing up the poor performance of government.

The irony of the story, it turns out, is that even at its higher-than-expected cost, the Tide’s construction came in at just $43 million a mile, less than any recently completed or

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Midwest HSR News; Jerusalem and Virginia Beach LRT

Midwest High-Speed Rail Has Many Backers for Stimulus Funds in Wisconsin, but Controversy Abounds in Minnesota

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle wants to see federal stimulus money used for the Midwest High-Speed Rail program. Meeting in Milwaukee, the Governor suggested that a line would run from Chicago to Minneapolis, through Milwaukee and Madison, with a potential extension to Green Bay. Mr. Doyle seems to know a little something about transportation, eschewing the typical superficial arguments to point out that all forms of transportation are subsidized by the government, so a public investment in rail isn’t somehow inappropriate:

Just as we heavily subsidize our road transportation system, we subsidize heavily our air transportation system. I don’t think people should say rail is somehow not subject to subsidy when the others are.

We’re obviously happy to hear such clear language from a Governor, and we hope to see more such arguments as the push for

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Big News Day: DC, Balto, Seattle, SF, Norfolk, NYC

There’s so much news today, we’re just going to summarize it quickly:

Washington‘s Metro is testing new seats on its trains that will be covered with fabric instead of the vinyl it has been using for the last thirty years. There will be more than one color tested.

There’s increasing support in Baltimore for the construction of the $1.6 billion Red Line light rail system. It will run partially underground, partially overground, and complement the existing light and heavy rail systems in the city.

Sound Transit in Seattle got a huge rebate on its plans for an extension of its light rail line underconstruction: bids for the University extension were under estimates by $10 million.

San Francisco will be breaking ground on its Transbay Terminal today, which will serve as the site of a new tower, terminal for bus lines, and eventually as the end of the California High-Speed Rail

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The Site / The Fight

  • by Yonah Freemark
  • Twitter: @yfreemark
  • yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com
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