Posts Tagged: Amtrak

Scott Walker’s high-speed blunder

When Scott Walker used a balanced budget bill to strip the collective bargaining rights of public employees, it was defensible if you believed — as the Wisconsin governor did — that unionized public employees had destroyed Wisconsin’s finances. Walker’s rejection last November of U.S. Dept. of Transportation money for a high-speed train between Milwaukee and Madison, however, cannot be defended. Not after the governor pushed — and the state legislature will soon approve — an upgrade of the Chicago-to-Milwaukee “Hiawatha” rail line.

As Jason Stein and Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel make clear, the $31.6 million upgrade could have been covered by the $810 million offered by the Obama administration to build the Madison-to-Milwaukee line.


Nationwide approach to infrastructure is stalled on the tracks

Ray LaHood

Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood announced this week which states won a total of $2 billion in U.S. Dept. of Transportation grant money for train lines. Larry Sandler of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Wisconsin received none of the $150 million it wanted in upgrades to the Amtrak line between Chicago and Milwaukee. The reason Wisconsin didn’t get any money partly lies in Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s past opposition to federal transit cash. The bigger issue here, though, is with the Obama administration.

Walker applied for the grant months after he rejected $810 million in federal money to build a rail line between Milwaukee and Madison. (more…)

Congress to Chicago: Let’s not cross that bridge when we come to it

Last year the Federal Railroad Administration gave Illinois $133 million to construct a rail bridge in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood in order to eliminate “thousands of hours of delays each year for Metra and Amtrak riders.” This year, though, that money has been cut in the U.S. House’s just-passed budget, reports the Chicago Tribune’s Jon Hilkevitch. Hilkevitch writes that the cut has “nothing to do with the merits of the project” but instead is about House Republicans’ pledge to reduce domestic spending. Illinois’ Dick Durbin, the no 2. Democrat in the Senate, goes a step farther and calls the lost bridge money a “mindless cut.”

High-speed rail*

In December, the Illinois Dept. of Transportation and Union Pacific Railroad reached an agreement on high-speed rail service between Chicago and St. Louis, triggering the release of $1.1 billion in U.S. Dept. of Transportation money. But Bruce Rushton of the State Journal-Register reports that the rail service might not always be high-speed: Union Pacific will incur no penalties if freight trains on the Chicago to St. Louis rail line interfere with passenger service. Moreover, Union Pacific “expects to dramatically increase the number of freight trains on the line” because of a new freight terminal in Joliet, Illinois.

High-speed rail sounds futuristic, but this news reinforces that, unless some decisions are made to prioritize passenger routes, it won’t be too dramatic a change. (more…)

Iowa: Not trainspotting

Iowa could join Ohio and Wisconsin as Midwestern states against federally-funded rail projects. (more…)

Illinois HSR project now in motion

The Illinois Department of Transportation has negotiated an agreement with Amtrak and Union Pacific Railroad that will let the state release $1.1 billion in federal grants for a high-speed rail line from Chicago to St. Louis. (more…)

Taking the first train to Iowa City

The Federal Railroad Administration, part of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, will provide Amtrak $230 million to build a high-speed rail corridor between Chicago and Iowa City. The Chicago Tribune’s Jon Hilkevitch reports that the project is expected to cost $310 million, meaning Illinois and Iowa have to foot $80 million combined, and that it should be completed by 2015. Illinois also received money to run faster trains from Chicago to other Midwest corridors, as part of $2.5 billion in federal grant money handed out by the Obama administration.

It’s nice that there will be a high-speed train from Chicago to Iowa City, but it’s even better that just any train is going to Iowa City. (more…)

Remove skis before entering train

Federal stimulus funds totaling $6.2 million, granted to a state-chartered rail operator linking the San Francisco Bay Area with the state capital, will help pay for major improvements to Sacramento’s Amtrak station, allowing a brownfield redevelopment project to move forward. The cash infusion will help pay for a $43 million project that would move 2.3 miles of tracks used by freight railroads and construct new tracks, build new platforms, install utilities and improve pedestrian connectivity with new footbridges and tunnels.

According to a story in the Sacramento Business Journal, the funds are from the $80 million in Recovery Act High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Funds. (more…)