TOPIC: Federal Railroad Administration

Stop that train, I wanna get on

Sharp objections to high speed rail in Wisconsin and Ohio (which Ned Hodgman also looked at today) are paying dividends for California and ten other states.

The newly elected Republican governors in the two Midwestern states, who declined federal seed money to begin developing a Chicago-based fast train network reaching from Cleveland to Minneapolis and Kansas City, just inadvertently gave a $1.2 billion gift to less recalcitrant states, reports Dan Weikel of the Los Angeles Times.

The Federal Railroad Administration announced that it was pulling stimulus funding from Ohio and Wisconsin and rather than allowing the governors to repurpose the funding, will re-allocate it to states where high speed rail is wanted. (more…)

Talking about transportation (all of it)

California’s latest whipping boy, the state’s proposed High Speed Rail project, receives another lashing today from The Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walter, who’s aghast at what he sees as blatant political patronage behind the award of another major federal grant just before this month’s election.

Walter connects the dots between US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s announcement that about a quarter of the funding for 56 high speed rail projects around the nation will go to California’s initiative and that the very first segment will be constructed in a swing district represented by Democrat Jim Costa, which until the dust cleared was thought to be a pick-up for Republicans. (more…)

The late great high-speed railroad?

Changing political winds may endanger the nation’s nascent rail modernization efforts, as the newly ascendant Republican House majority seeks to scupper high-speed rail projects, including a planned network in California, by yanking already-approved funding.

As Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury-News reports, 27 House Republicans are pushing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Rescission Act, which would strip $12 billion in unspent stimulus funds and return it to the Treasury for deficit reduction.

About half of that total has been promised to high-speed rail projects around the nation, including $2 billion for California’s planned route linking Los Angeles with San Francisco. (more…)

Let’s find out why Chicago air stinks

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin has called for a federal investigation of air pollution from Chicago area Metra trains and other pollution sources, following a Chicago Tribune investigation. WLS radio reports that Durbin wrote letters to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Federal Transit Administration, and Federal Railroad Administration with the request that they review particulate matter in the atmosphere around Metra trains and train stations. (more…)

Sunshine State congressman not sure Golden State can use high-speed rail

Construction of California’s planned bullet train system, linking Los Angeles with San Francisco, will begin next year in the wide open fields of the state’s Central Valley, reports Rich Connell of the Los Angeles Times. That is, unless the new Republican majority moves swiftly enough to derail the entire project, which may actually be a possibility — according to a report by Teresa Garcia of KGO-TV. (more…)

Midnight policymaking express

That's not Pat Quinn. That's Jim Doyle

Here is an election-related catch by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Larry Sandler: Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle completed an agreement over the weekend that commits $810 million in federal stimulus cash toward a high-speed rail link between Milwaukee and Madison. The agreement comes as Doyle leaves office due to term limits and will likely be replaced by Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker. Walker wants the high-speed rail project killed and accused Doyle of “raw political power” when he got wind of the unannounced agreement between Wisconsin, the Federal Railroad Administration, and rail companies. (more…)

High-speed rail in California still on track

California’s bold plan to build the nation’s first truly high-speed rail line will receive almost $1 billion in additional funds from Washington, reports Michael Cabanatuan of the San Francisco Chronicle. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the news to Congress Monday, ahead of an official announcement planned for Thursday. Of the $902 million dollar total, $716 million will go towards work in California’s Central Valley. Another $100 million would be used to buy new locomotives and passenger cars. (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…)

Making real choices on high-speed rail

The nation’s biggest public works project could end up as the biggest boondoggle in history, according to Mike Rosenberg and Gary Richards of the San Jose Mercury News, who scour up a myriad of reasons why linking California’s major cities by high speed rail will be a colossal failure. (more…)

Railing against high fatalities at railroad crossings

Here is an underexposed public safety issue: railroad-crossing fatalities.

Jon Hilkevitch of the Chicago Tribune reports that in the past four years Illinois has had 98 deaths and 588 accidents at railroad-crossings. Now the Federal Railroad Administration – part of the Dept. of Transportation – has intervened, forcing Illinois and nine other states with high fatality rates to devise plans to reduce accidents. The ten states each have an entire year to come up with a safety plan and then five years for implementation. (more…)