Wednesday, April 15, 2009

This Week in Amtrak

This Week at Amtrak; April 13, 2009

A weekly digest of events, opinions, and forecasts from

United Rail Passenger Alliance, Inc.

America’s foremost passenger rail policy institute

1526 University Boulevard, West, PMB 203 • Jacksonville, Florida 32217-2006 USA

Telephone 904-636-7739, Electronic Mail info@unitedrail.org

Volume 6, Number 10

Founded over three decades ago in 1976, URPA is a nationally known policy institute that focuses on solutions and plans for passenger rail systems in North America. Headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, URPA has professional associates in Minnesota, California, Arizona, New Mexico, the District of Columbia, Texas, and New York. For more detailed information, along with a variety of position papers and other documents, visit the URPA web site at

URPA is not a membership organization, and does not accept funding from any outside sources.

1) A strong case can be made that often there is not a lot of intellectual honesty when it comes to discussing passenger rail in the United States.

Different groups have staked out different positions, and they are sticking to those positions, no matter what happens to prove those positions are incorrect. Often, the positions make no sense either ideologically or realistically, but are good for membership drives, which accomplishes very little other than to fatten organization coffers.

Such examples are "there are no passenger rail systems in the world which make money," and "all Amtrak needs is more money and everything will be fine." Both statements, of course, are completely wrong.

The real head-scratcher is how the concept/ideology/operation of passenger rail passed from being the province of the very conservative world of the railroad industry to the socialist and liberal world of no one other than a government has the ability to operate passenger rail. Therefore, this unsavory theory goes, passenger rail should be treated exactly as roads and highways are treated, and funded accordingly, without an honest attempt for passenger rail to be as self-sustaining as possible, with government contributions only after other resources are exhausted, not the other way around.

2) Respected passenger railroad historian David Carleton has provided this very brief outline of recent passenger rail history [Note: a TWA guest columnist is working on a longer and more intricately detailed history of Amtrak, which we hope to bring to you sometime soon.]

[Begin quote]

By David Carleton

In 1956 the Republican Eisenhower administration approved the Interstate Highway program. It was going to have serious implications for the passenger train, but Congress and the administration did nothing to alleviate it.

In 1967 the Democratic Johnson administration directed the Postal Service to remove all remaining Railway Post Office cars from passenger trains. Since this was the one remaining piece of passenger train business which was consistently profitable, the implications for passenger train service were dire. Still, the administration and the Congress did nothing to relieve it.

Then, in 1970 the Congress passed – and Republican President Nixon signed – the bill creating the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (NRPC), commonly known as Amtrak. In light of the previous inaction this would appear to be a dramatic turnabout. What events facilitated it? Here are three:

A) At the end of 1969 the venerable Pullman Company ceased operations and in 1970 was liquidated. Evidence of the impending demise of the Pullman Company became apparent in official Washington when it was necessary to assemble a funeral train to transport the remains of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. The large fleets of stand-by Pullman cars which had once been called upon to assemble campaign trains for candidates such as Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower were no longer available and the railroads had to scramble to assemble a suitable train.

B) In 1970 the Western Pacific Railroad succeeded in winning a train-off case to stop running its segment of the California Zephyr, effectively killing the train. This was America’s train, the train of the movies, the quintessential post-war streamliner. Its discontinuance had symbolic meaning larger than the train itself.

C) The bankruptcy of the Penn Central Railroad threatened the stability of the entire railroad industry. The Penn Central was the largest passenger carrier, and that became an issue – not because of all the passenger train mileage that was being imperiled, but rather because of the size of the passenger train losses which showed up in the railroad’s reports to the Interstate Commerce Commission. If these reports were accurate, then these losses accounted for about ten percent of the railroad’s loss, but they were the most obvious item. Then, too, the Northeast Corridor Improvement Project (NECIP) was just then beginning to bear some results with new Metroliner trains moving swiftly over recently resurfaced Penn Central tracks.

It is important to understand what happened to crystallize the thinking of both Congress and the Nixon administration when the decision was made to form the NRPC, because their reaction to those events continue to shape the national passenger train enterprise till this day.

First of all – The NRPC was to stand in the place of the Pullman Company and manage a fleet of cars that could be deployed as needed.

Second – The ICC and the railroads would be relieved of the complications of train-off litigation. That’s not to say that no more trains would be cut, in fact on Day One of Amtrak, half of all remaining private passenger rail service (Except for the services which opted not to join Amtrak, including the Southern Railroad and the Denver and Rio Grande Western.) was eliminated by the creation of Amtrak under rules governing what were – and were not – viable routes. But, the railroads and the ICC were no longer part of the process, from then on if the public was dissatisfied with changes to their service they would have to take their complaints elsewhere.

And, third – The NRPC (Amtrak) was to save the NECIP and the Metroliners from the bankruptcy of Penn Central. It is interesting to note Amtrak service has typically been meager throughout most of its system, even on the former Penn Central, with the exception of the Northeast Corridor.

In carrying out the above, the NRPC was formed and contracts were made with the various railroads. The contracts called for these railroads to operate certain designated trains "for" the NRPC, and also allowed the railroads to eliminate most of the rest. All the personnel, stations, etc. were to be provided by the railroads per the contract. The better railroads even continued to print timetables for "their" trains and distribute these to "their" stations. After a year even this began to fade away. What happened?

The NRPC acquired an upper management which proceeded to form it into a strong bureaucracy. They replaced the designation NRPC, which stood for something, with Amtrak, a word they made up. And, then they went to work building and reinforcing the Amtrak we know today – perfectly equipped to stand against the travails of 1969/70!

[End quote]

3) Next, we visit a most interesting and thought-provoking white paper by J. William Vigrass. Through the years This Week at Amtrak has been published, we have been honored to publish the writing and speeches of former FRA Administrator Gil Carmichael, who, along with Andrew Selden, are the two greatest passenger rail visionaries in the United States today. Long-time railroad and transportation specialist William Vigrass has shared his thoughts of a vision similar to that of Mr. Carmichael and his Interstate II concept for the future of American railroading.

Mr. Vigrass completed 56 years on the transportation industry, including service with Rutgers – The State University of New Jersey, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy; Hill International, Inc.; Port Authority Transit Corporation, Lindenwold, New Jersey; Battelle Memorial Institute, the Union Pacific Railroad Company, and the Erie Railroad Company. Mr. Vigrass is the past chairman of the Committee on Rail Transit A1E04 of the Transportation Research Board.

Mr. Vigrass has an extensive background in both passenger and freight railroad operations and planning. The following paper was first presented in 2007 at the height of freight congestion in our country. While today many of the problems cited have abated simply because of a slackened economy, as the national and world economy start to improve, these problems will once again be all too prevalent.

[Begin quote]

A proposed National System of Interstate and Defense RAILROADS, as an infrastructure project for the next fifty years

By J. William Vigrass, Member, Blue Ribbon Panel of Experts

Project Manager (retired) Hill International, Inc., Marlton, NJ 08053.

To the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, USDOT Bldg., L’Enfant Plaza, 400 7th St. N.W. Conference Room 4200, Washington, DC, 20590, Tuesday, 10:00am February 6th, 2007.

Background: The scope of the Commission’s mandate is to provide policy direction for infrastructure for the next fifty years. This paper will expand upon the thoughts set forth in my December 7th, 2006 paper and will be confined to the railroad mode because all other modes have numerous advocates for government investment in highways, waterways and airways, all of which are owned by the public sector. All are used by private sector operators which have not invested any of their own capital in the infrastructure provided by government. They pay fuel and other taxes as operating expenses, and said taxes cover but a portion of the government’s investment and maintenance costs. Only the railroad infrastructure is privately owned, maintained and financed. Even though railroad property is devoted entirely to the public interest, the owning companies nonetheless pay real estate taxes on their properties. In urban areas these taxes can be substantial. Railroad freight rates must cover all operating, maintenance and ownership costs, something that competing modes have never had to do.

When railroad companies invest in improvements to their physical plant with internally generated funds, they must be assured of an internal rate of return equal to or better than the cost of borrowing money in the private market. In contrast, when the Corps of Engineers makes improvements to the inland waterways system, the barge operators do not put up any investment dollars. When the FHWA and state DOT’s improve highways, the trucking industry does not have to directly contribute to the investment. This unbalanced situation has led to under-investment in railroad plant with consequent congestion is many locations. Railroads presently have great difficulty adding new train services and have made it clear they are unable or unwilling to add timetable slots for additional passenger train services unless the public sector makes capacity available.

At the same time, an expanding economy has put pressure on freight railroads to add more service and some new services such as long distance run-through trains. The nation’s highways are congested in many places, and the expanding economy has added to the pressure for widening existing Interstates and building new Interstates where they do not now exist. Tests done under the auspices of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) have proven highway damage is geometrically related to heavy loads. There is good reason to divert heavy loads off highways onto railroads since the latter are engineered to handle heavy loads. With several good reasons to add more railroad service, why has not more been done? The answer is, very simply, the railroads cannot afford to make the necessary investments. Their margin of profit is held down by truck competition for the most part. Common carrier truck rates are held down by the ubiquitous owner-driver who often works for bare wages, fuel, a contribution to maintenance and little or nothing for depreciation.

The trucking industry is using an Interstate and Defense Highway System designed and built since 1956, and incorporating improvements in design from time to time. It is largely an up-to-date highway system. The enormous capital invested in the Interstate and federal aid highway systems has been generated by motor fuel and other motor vehicle related taxes borne by the entire motoring public. Past studies have found trucking does not cover about 30% of costs related to truck operation. This allows the trucking industry to offer rates less than their true economic costs. Every time taxes on trucks or trucking have been increased, the industry has lobbied intensely and successfully for increased length and weight limits which in turn allowed freight rates to remain lower than they otherwise would have been. This has attracted more freight to highways, which in turn caused more wear and tear and congestion.

It is recommended the Congress not approve any more increases in the size or gross weight of motor trucks in interstate commerce.

Trucking uses up to date highways.

Railroads use Nineteenth Century Alignments. In contrast, nearly all the US railroad network was designed and built in the 19th Century. Grading was done by manpower, horses and scrapers. Heavy excavation was done by manual drilling (sledgehammers on the drill someone was holding) and black powder. Such engineering achievements as the Horseshoe Curve, Tehachapi Loop, the Central Pacific (UP) over Donner Pass were all great achievements of that era, but they are circuitous compared to competing Interstate highways. No matter how fast railroad freight trains may run, they must go further than a truck in most cases. Curvature imposes permanent speed restrictions. Histories of those early projects often include drawings of proposed realignments that could not be carried out by the privately owned railroads. Major tunnels had been proposed, but not built. Many sharp curves remain although realignments had been planned.

Meanwhile in Europe, at this time, many kilometers of new high speed railways have been – and are being – built. Several Base Tunnels are being built for railway use under the Alps and other mountainous barriers. These are:

– Lötschberg base tunnel – portals at Frutigen (Canton of Bern) and Raron (Canton of Valais) in Switzerland. 34.6 km (21.6 miles) in length. Scheduled to open this year (portions will be single track).

– Gotthard base tunnel – portals at Erstfeld (Canton of Uri) and Biasca (Canton of Ticino) 57 km (35.6 miles) in length. Scheduled to open 2015-2017. They are running into geological problems. (This project has been covered on cable television’s The Discovery Channel.)

– Combination bridge/tunnels connecting Sweden to Denmark provide an all rail connection between Scandinavia and Europe.

– In project planning (length not yet established) – Mt. Cenis (France-Italy and Brenner (Innsbruck), Austria and maybe Bolzano/Bozen, Italy

– Proposed tunnel connecting Spain and Morocco under the Straits of Gibraltar has been planned and is going into the engineering phase. This will connect the railway system of North Africa with that of Europe.

– The Channel Tunnel (50 km, 31 miles long) is well known in the US. Less known in the US is the Japanese Seikan tunnel between the main island of Honshu and the north island of Hokkaido. It is longer and deeper than the Channel Tunnel, and passes through far more difficult geology. It has the following statistics:

Seikan Tunnel

Location: Honshu and Hokkaido, Japan

Completion Date: 1988

Cost: $7 billion

Length: 174,240 feet (33 miles)

Setting: Underwater

Materials: Steel, concrete

Engineer(s): Japan Railway Construction Corporation

The US has no railroad tunnels that compare.

In all such cases, the railroads are owned by the public sector and such projects have national and/or European Union support. (Switzerland is not in the EU.) While European railroads offer much more frequent passenger train service than is found in the US, they carry a tiny percentage of freight ton-miles and are far less efficient than American freight railroads. Yet, with the superiority of American freight railroading, the companies cannot justify or afford the huge investment that would be needed to provide a 21st Century alignment. They need help!

The present US railroad system is the most efficient hauler of overland freight in the world in terms of ton-mile costs. It is also the result of drastic downsizing that followed deregulation. The present system is carrying double or triple the number of ton miles that had been carried on a much larger network prior to deregulation. About one third the track miles are carrying two to three times the traffic. While efficient, this leaves little room for growth. It is also difficult for freight railroads to maintain their track when there is only one track on a given alignment. Trains must be delayed or rerouted over circuitous routes to allow track to be taken out of service for maintenance or replacement. This is not desirable, but it is necessary.

One may conclude that the present railroad system consists largely of 19th Century engineering, has greatly reduced track miles and route miles than existed in the 1950’s, yet is carrying twice the traffic. Expanding capacity to be able to handle increased freight traffic as well as increased passenger train traffic appear to be highly desirable national objectives. Excess capacity is desirable to handle an expanding economy as well as peak loads. Private companies cannot invest in excess capacity (unless they have large profit margins, which the railroads do not.) Redundancy is highly desirable to handle dislocations caused by natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina or terrorist attacks that have not yet been experienced.

It is a point of historic fact the Prussian State Railways in what is now Germany were built in the 19th Century such that the network consisted of a series of triangles. Two routes were provided between strategic points so that the military would always have an alternative route in case of invasion. The US railroad system was not designed with such strategic objectives in mind. The mainland US was never threatened, but now this is a distinct possibility. The loss of a key bridge or tunnel here or there could cause great havoc to the US economy, as there are now fewer alternative routes than there were in the 1950’s. Some of the alternatives might be restored, or new ones created.

One may conclude the basic US railroad network is a product of 19th Century engineering with no thought to redundancy which may be needed to cope with natural or terrorist activity, or even routine maintenance or reconstruction. It is also circuitous compared to the Interstate Highway System, and thereby not as competitive as it might be. This all indicates it probably is an impediment to economic growth of the US rather than a lubricant for economic growth.

What, then, should be done?

It is proposed to create a National System of Interstate and Defense Railroads which would be multi-tracked, grade separated and suitable for competitive speeds. This would mean 75 mph for freight trains and 110 or 125 mph for passenger trains. A combination of tax credits and direct grants would be needed, since some strategic investments desired for passenger train use might not be needed or wanted by freight railroads. Those improvements would be provided by grants, and such grants would consist of federal and non-federal shares. Multi-track means at least double tracked, and where combined passenger/freight traffic requires, three or even four tracks.

Heavy Haul Routes Needed. This is not to ignore the need for separate heavy haul routes that would be (and are) designed for 25 – 40 mph. It is recognized such routes being capable of handling 15,000 to 25,000 ton coal or other heavy trains are needed. Energy needed increases with the square of the speed, such that it requires four times the energy to move a train at 80 mph as at 40 mph. The railroad companies have been relatively successful in generating internal capital for such investments in heavy haul routes. It is desired to keep such traffic off high speed freight/passenger routes to avoid delays to fast trains. It may be desirable to have separate heavy haul tracks alongside fast freight/passenger tracks where both share the same corridor as exist on portions of the Union Pacific Railroad and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. For purposes of this paper, it will be assumed the railroad companies can continue to fund improvements for heavy haul traffic from their own resources. Exceptional needs might be handled on a case by case application for government aid.

A Program to Create a National System of Interstate and Defense RAILROADS.

A number of steps would be needed to approach, identify and quantify needs. This is not something which can be done by a few papers such as this, in which small numbers of man hours have been committed. A major research and planning effort will be needed. This might be done under the auspices of the Transportation Research Board with funding from USDOT.

Assumptions: Some key assumptions must be made upon which planning would be based. Among them would be the following:

– Population of the US would continue to increase as forecast by the Bureau of the Census. Legal immigration would continue at the same rate.

– The US economy would continue to expand at the same overall rate. Shifts within the economy would be recognized to the extent data become available.

– Petroleum would continue to become scarcer with consequent increases in price. Unusual or anticipated changes in the supply/price would be included to the extent data permit.

– Efforts to control degradation of the environment will increase.

– Population distribution will continue to flow to metropolitan areas.

– Others, as may be developed during initial research.

A Proposed Research Program to Develop a National System of Interstate and Defense Railroads.

Some factors which have come to mind and/or have been suggested by some of my many email friends and correspondents follow. They are in a more or less sequential (chronological) order.

– Identify corridors, and quantify traffic to the extent data permits as to what growth would be expected over the 50 year period under study for the Commission.

– Identify where rights of way for double or multiple track remain. Determine when – and if – restoration would be desirable.

– Identify abandoned rights of way that exist (more or less intact). Determine which ones could be rebuilt for modern use. Rank them in order of probable need. Establish a list of rights of way to be purchased and preserved for future rail use. This use might be freight railroad, intercity and/or commuter passenger railroad or rail transit in urban-suburban areas. Funding for purchase and preservation of such rights of way should be the first item to be implemented under the proposed program. Existing rights of way must be preserved especially in urban areas before they are disposed of to developers or other non-rail use.

– Identify where railroads are essential for defense. It is established that railroads are the most efficient way to move an armored division. There are other areas where railroads have been used effectively.

– Identify new areas where railroads might be useful or critical in combating domestic terrorism.

– Identify areas/places where railroads should be protected from terrorism access. Devise means for such protection.

– Identify corridors suitable for electrification in chronological sequence. Given that petroleum will become more expensive and scarcer, it follows that electrification of major corridors will be in the national interest and will contribute to the railroad system’s efficiency. This may well be a major contribution to reducing our nation’s dependency on petroleum and allow petroleum’s use where there is no alternative, such as for aviation. A major shift of freight and passengers from highway to railroad should be an objective to reduce domestic use of petroleum based fuels. No technological development would be needed. Electric locomotives would be similar to diesel-electric locomotives "under the floor" with similar traction motors. "Above the floor" devices such as transformers, rectifiers and inverters are all within the state of the art. Transmission and distribution systems have been developed in Europe and Japan and could be adapted to American conditions.

– Identify where increased electrical generating capacity would be needed. Whether electrification would be nuclear or coal powered would be decided by research in that area and local policy. It may vary from one place to another in the US. Where convenient to waterpower or coal, those sources would be used. Nuclear power might be used widely provided that certain objections to it can be overcome.

– Determine where by-pass freight routes are desired around urban areas. These are desired for carriage of hazardous materials and as ways around urban railroad congestion. In recent months, carriage of hazardous material through Washington, DC has stirred up opposition by local residents and their political representatives. There are few options other than very circuitous routes that would bring the shipments through other communities which would object.

Input from local planning agencies will be desired, but oversight by a steering committee appears to be desirable and necessary because many planners have not had academic training or experience in evaluating what railroad rights of way might be used for. They might want a hiking trail on what might be a strategic interstate freight corridor.

– A nationwide survey is needed to determine where such by-passes are desired. The survey would include identification of existing abandoned or underused alignments that could be incorporated.

– Costs and benefits from such by-passes should be identified and quantified. They could be strategic redundant routes.

– Create a "Greater Amtrak" route structure and overlay it on a proposed fast freight network. Determine where multiple track would be needed, multiple meaning three or more tracks. It used to exist, and roadbeds remain in most places, primarily New York – Cleveland on the ex-New York Central and New York – Philadelphia – Pittsburgh on the ex-Pennsylvania Railroad. Short segments did exist in other places such as on the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie between Pittsburgh and Youngstown where the heavy industry that was served has disappeared. Some multi-track routes may not be needed to be replaced, but new multi-track may be needed where none existed, such as has occurred for the Powder River Coal Field in Wyoming. Other new needs will occur for multiple track.

The sum of all the above efforts will be a very large research effort. It might be separated by task into contracts, or it might be awarded to an agency that could manage and coordinate the entire effort, subcontracting out tasks. The latter appears desirable because of the huge depth and breadth of scope and need to coordinate tasks.

– Financing of such a National System of Railroads will be a major and continuous undertaking. In the recent past, TRB and USDOT/FHWA have sponsored meetings/seminars/symposia on the subject of innovative financing of transportation projects. There is no need for duplication. Rather, research toward financing the National System of Interstate and Defense Railroads should build upon work already done. This new research effort will be separate from but in parallel with research to define and quantify the proposed system.

Win/Win: A key point to be kept in mind is that financing must be acceptable to all parties to any agreement to improve the national railroad system. With win/win in mind, it is suggested that improvements funded by the public sector be owned by a public entity and leased to the railroads so that the improvements should not be subject real estate taxes.

Some assumptions here may be in order, but they should be confirmed before work begins.

– Whatever is proposed must be acceptable to the freight railroads which own nearly all the national railroad system. It must be a win/win combination that benefits the owning railroads, as well as public sector needs.

– Tax credits as proposed by the Association of American Railroads may well be a primary source of capital funds from the private sector. It is suggested a basic percentage be established for all railroad infrastructure, primarily heavy haul routes, and a somewhat higher percentage be allowed for multi-tracked lines handling passenger trains operated by public entities or on behalf of public entities.

– For very large projects (which would be common) having very long pay off periods, precedent of the Alameda Corridor might be followed. A public entity would be owner, and would issue long term bonds to fund the project. Using railroad(s) would pay a fee (a toll) per car, per ton, per ton-mile or whatever logically fits the project for the use of it. If such fees would not cover interest and amortization, public financing of the balance might be used, covered by a port authority or whatever the owning agency might be assuming it has cash flow from other sources.

– Multi-purpose corridors might be established, especially in urban areas, in which a corridor might include separate freight and passenger railroad tracks along with fiber optic cable, electric power lines (especially if the railroad is or is to be electrified), water or other pipe lines, and perhaps truck-only roads. Fees from all users would be applied to bond issues. If forecast revenues were found insufficient, direct grants from relevant public agencies might be sought. The nature of each project would guide choices of funding. It is likely funding will be project specific, although similar projects might well employ similar funding methods. Innovative, new, financing methods should be an objective of research.

– Legislation at the federal and state levels will be needed to implement the proposed National System of Interstate and Defense Railroads. It would be the objective of a final research task to draft such proposed legislation for review by representative staff of relevant legislative bodies.

The above program is ambitious and will require much investment over a period of years. It need not be done all at once. Much of it is already in place, and needs only improvement. Restoration of double track where rights of way exist could be an early development. Some bottlenecks are already apparent, and are the topic of another panel discussion. Elimination of such bottlenecks would be a natural inclusion in the proposed National System. Identification of defense needs is the subject of still another panel that will be fit into the National System.

Task 0: A preliminary first task will be to estimate the funds and time needed to undertake the research outlined above. A source of such funds must then be identified and found. Some money or services in kind might come from the railroad industry itself, as a key beneficiary and would also give them seats on any steering committee. Much must come from the public sector, most likely USDOT through its FRA, FHWA or other appropriate agency. An independent research organization would manage the effort, and this would logically be the Transportation Research Board which already has much experience in some of the proposed tasks. Tasks would be advertised and awarded to research foundations or consultants in the usual manner. This effort might take up to three years and might cost on the order of $3 to $5 million. Output would be a conceptual engineering type of result defining a National System of Interstate and Defense Railroads and putting tasks in prioritized order for implementation.

A sense of urgency is needed to create a National System that will reduce the nation’s dependence upon imported petroleum for its basic interstate transportation needs. The world’s petroleum supply is being used up at an ever increasing rate, and many of its sources are in insecure areas. President Bush’s state of the union message January 23, 2007 included an objective of greatly reducing the US’s consumption of petroleum for surface transportation purposes. The proposed electrified railroad system would contribute to this objective in a big way. Freight railroads are one of the larger users of diesel fuel, much of which must be consumed on main lines which are most conducive to electrification. It has been estimated that railroads consume about six percent of the nation’s consumption of petroleum. Railroads are the only interstate mode that is suitable for electrification using existing technology. We should save petroleum for uses in which there is no readily apparent alternative such as aviation.

If we don’t get started promptly, we will regret it in the not too distant future. The future is approaching rapidly. It is recommended the research proposed above be authorized and funded at the earliest opportunity. It took fifty years to build the Interstate and Defense Highway System as defined in 1956 legislation and amended from time to time. The railroad system envisaged would take approximately the same length of time.

An improved railroad system will benefit the economy.

An electrified railroad system would reduce petroleum use and will also contribute to faster and more efficient operation.

An unimproved railroad system will be a hindrance to economic growth.

If the United States is to continue its role as the world’s leading economy, it must have a 21st Century System of Interstate and Defense Railroads.

The time to begin is now!

[End quote]

4) One highway interchange to be rebuilt in New Jersey using stimulus funds appropriated earlier this year connects an Interstate Highway with a US Highway and a New Jersey state road. The cost of rebuilding this single interchange is $900 million. Amtrak’s average annual free federal monies appropriation is $1.3 billion, just $400 million more than the single interchange in New Jersey.

This does not speak of the unattractive bugaboo of modal envy, but makes business sense for the spending of government resources for the highest and best use of funds and return on investment. While the highway interchange will serve perhaps less than two million citizens in New Jersey, that same $900 million, applied to Amtrak’s national system, would easily serve over 20 million Americans and international tourists, based on Amtrak’s unacceptably skeletal system.

Which is the best return on investment?

Where is the vision in federal, state, and local governments to start seriously including passenger rail in government planning?

Where is the vision in Amtrak to start realigning corporate resources to reach out to the various government agencies to create awareness and programs which benefit everyone involved in domestic network transportation planning?

If you are reading someone else’s copy of This Week at Amtrak, you can receive your own free copy each week by sending your e-mail address to

You MUST include your name, preferred e-mail address, and city and state where you live. If you have filters or firewalls placed on your Internet connection, set your e-mail to receive incoming mail from; we are unable to go through any individual approvals processes for individuals. This mailing list is kept strictly confidential and is not shared or used for any purposes other than the distribution of This Week at Amtrak or related URPA materials.

All other correspondence, including requests to unsubscribe, should be addressed to

Copies of This Week at Amtrak are archived on URPA’s web site, and also on where other rail-related writings of Bruce Richardson may also be found.,

URPA leadership members are available for speaking engagements.

J. Bruce Richardson


United Rail Passenger Alliance, Inc.

1526 University Boulevard, West, PMB 203

Jacksonville, Florida 32217-2006 USA

Telephone 904-636-7739

No comments: