Saturday, September 17, 2011

September 17, 2011 weekly rail news

Construction, planning, and funding:
  • The Central Corridor Green Line popped up several times:

    • Transiteer of Let There Be Light Rail documented the first rail pull along University Avenue. Check out her page for the amusing write-up and two more videos.

    • It's behind a paywall, so I don't know the details, but apparently talks about mitigation efforts have broken down between Central Corridor representatives and a group of minority-owned businesses along the route. Finance & Commerce says the group is looking to file/(resume?) a lawsuit to halt the project.

    • A collaboration between the City of St. Paul and two other groups is receiving $750,000 for arts in the corridor. Why the St. Paul Director of Arts and Culture insists on calling the area "the trench" is beyond me, but apparently he wants to "Irrigate" it.

    • U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood is visiting Minnesota on Monday, September 19th in order to take a look at the Central Corridor and Union Depot projects.

  • I haven't followed news of the Chicago–Iowa City route, so I don't know what to make of this, but the Iowa Department of Transportation is asking that Illinois be allowed to build their segment of the line, while Iowa itself would fall back to studying extending the route westward to Omaha.

  • A promotional video for the Red Rock Corridor has been released. Their YouTube channel was also updated a month ago with animations based on station-area plans.

  • The committee set up to build the Saint Paul Greenway bike/ped trail—the city's planned counterpart to and possible extension of the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis—has disbanded. Negotiations with Canadian Pacific have apparently never produced much movement, and the group was dealt a blow last year when legal action to try and allocate room for a trail failed. The group says that they could have fit a bike trail up to 20 feet wide into the corridor while still allowing room for two train tracks plus a 25-foot buffer. There's only one track in the corridor now, though more tracks could appear. Amtrak uses it to get to their Midway station and it is likely that the route will remain the primary connecting line between Minneapolis's "Interchange" station at Target Field and Saint Paul's Union Depot as commuter and intercity services reappear.

  • President Obama's jobs plan outlined last week got more detail a few days later. The proposal includes $4 billion for high-speed/intercity rail and $2 billion for Amtrak (in the NEC?).

  • A 19-year-old man was killed in Hartford Township, Michigan when his car was struck by a Grand Rapids-bound Amtrak Pere Marquette train on Tuesday, Sept. 13.

  • Following up:

    • BNSF Railway has released a video documenting some of their flood-fighting efforts this year.

    • Two more lawsuits have been filed in the aftermath of this summer's deadly collision between an Amtrak train and a semi truck in Nevada.

  • BNSF Railway has started a Friends of BNSF site.

  • Tuesday the 20th is Don't X Out Public Transportation Day (bleh, advocating with a double-negative isn't a good idea). In Minneapolis, Transit for Livable Communities has an event planned at the Government Center light-rail station.

  • Alon Levy lays out the argument that rail-trails are a scam. He also had another interesting post about which types of transportation cause the most motion-sickness.

1 comment:

  1. I’d been curious about what’s been happening with the Chicago-Moline-Iowa City line—this is the first news I’ve heard since January or so. I have three (non-mutually-exclusive) guesses:

    1. It’s a way of delaying a line the current state government has no intention of building. The last things I heard before reading this were that the state government either wanted to cancel the line west of Moline outright or make Davenport and Moline pay for the whole thing. Maybe it’s death-by-additional-study, maybe they’re hoping their funding will be revoked by the Feds (so Iowa politicians can blame Washington for it not getting built), or maybe by delaying they’re banking on funding for the line being cut at the federal level.

    2. It’s a way of building support for the line—by having a clear plan for extending it across the entire state, the state DOT may be able to defuse some of the opposition; having the federal funds held in reserve would allow the state to move swiftly on the project when the political climate becomes more rail-friendly again.

    3. Iowa is unable to implement their part of the line due to a lack of technical experience and expertise. This wouldn’t surprise me—the only passenger route through the state is a long-distance one which Iowa probably does nothing with. In contrast, Illinois already has a lot of state-supported lines and definitely knows its way around (FRA-compliant, lingering on from the sixties and seventies) passenger rail. Reading between the lines in the link, it sounded almost as if Iowa bit off more than it could chew, and as long as they have to do more work on getting Quad Cities-Iowa City ready they might as well look at extending the line west.