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Most federal rail grants probably will bypass Texas


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#1 jcl653

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Posted 20 January 2010 - 10:14 AM

Texas: don't hold your breath for HSR funds. From The Dallas Morning New:

The federal government is about to hand out a river of cash to states willing to build a network of bullet trains, as the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress seek to slowly ease the country's dependence on automobiles and airplanes to make short trips between its biggest cities.

It's the nation's first major investment in true high-speed rail, and among its most significant pushes to locate trains of any kind far from the East Coast.

But while the federal grants won't be announced until later this month, or early February, word already has emerged that Texas' chances of snagging much of what it has requested are slim.

http://www.dallasnew...il.3fb19e9.html


Further down, without providing a source, the article states: "The first $8 billion of what could be several times that much money over the next five years is expected to be awarded in the next several weeks."

Edited by jcl653, 20 January 2010 - 10:20 AM.


#2 transit54

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Posted 20 January 2010 - 10:31 AM

Hmm...maybe this improves Vermont's chances at some money!

Really, all we need is around ~$40 million to make a huge difference in the rail service here. That's just a drop in the bucket of what most other states have requested. Extending the Ethan Allen to Burlington would not only greatly improve the Burlington to NYC time by train, but would allow individuals to actually connect to other Amtrak services. Right now there is just no way to get to Albany, upstate New York, or to any LD services from Burlington. And we already have the station ready and waiting to go - we just need the tracks upgraded. (And I wouldn't complain if they put in a QT machine, either!)

#3 Joel N. Weber II

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Posted 21 January 2010 - 08:32 PM

Hmm...maybe this improves Vermont's chances at some money!

Really, all we need is around ~$40 million to make a huge difference in the rail service here. That's just a drop in the bucket of what most other states have requested. Extending the Ethan Allen to Burlington would not only greatly improve the Burlington to NYC time by train, but would allow individuals to actually connect to other Amtrak services. Right now there is just no way to get to Albany, upstate New York, or to any LD services from Burlington. And we already have the station ready and waiting to go - we just need the tracks upgraded. (And I wouldn't complain if they put in a QT machine, either!)


If we were dividing it up proportionally by Senator, VT's share of the $8 billion would be $160 million.

Am I correct in thinking that that $40 million only covers Rutland to downtown Burlington, and will not improve the Burlington to Essex Junction or White River Junction to Montreal tracks? It seems like in the long term, there's no reason the Ethan Allen Express shouldn't get all the way to Montreal.

#4 daveyb99

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Posted 22 January 2010 - 12:02 AM

"Texas' application lacks the kind of political support from the governor and the Legislature that would help it compete against other states where that support has been stronger. "


1/ I am from Texas
2/ I support all rail initiatives.
3/ Is anyone surprised by this move? I mean, our 'governor' called for Secession, and finds a way to reject federal funds at every turn.

4/ Anyone want to guess the next state to lose some funding for similar reasons?

#5 gswager

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Posted 22 January 2010 - 12:40 AM

Better fix the extremely long awaited Austin Light Rail!
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#6 Green Maned Lion

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Posted 22 January 2010 - 12:46 AM

With all due respect to Mr. Nizlek, I bristle at the idea for federal funding for a backwater state whose only purpose in life is to provide a ski resort for wealthy New Yorkers. It is in the states interest to fund its trains, but if it wants to dump $40 million into its train, it can do it on its own. I mean really. $40 million wouldn't cover New Jersey's transit system for 5 days.

I could think of much more useful purposes for $40 million. Like restoring service to Phillipsburg. Or better, restoring service to Scranton.
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#7 Spokker

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Posted 22 January 2010 - 02:59 AM

Fine, more money for California.

We passed a bond measure, suckas! *flips everyone off while doing a backflip onto a motorcycle and speeding away*

Edited by Spokker, 22 January 2010 - 03:00 AM.


#8 Ispolkom

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Posted 22 January 2010 - 09:07 AM

If we were dividing it up proportionally by Senator, VT's share of the $8 billion would be $160 million.


Surely dividing proportionally by Representative would be fairer. Or if I were from Montana or North Dakota, by miles of Amtrak route in the state would seem far and way the best way to divide up the money.

Me, I could provide great arguments in favor of spending all the $8b on a high-speed rail line from Chicago to St. Paul. Not Minneapolis, mind you, St. Paul.

Edited by Ispolkom, 22 January 2010 - 09:09 AM.


#9 transit54

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Posted 22 January 2010 - 09:45 AM

With all due respect to Mr. Nizlek, I bristle at the idea for federal funding for a backwater state whose only purpose in life is to provide a ski resort for wealthy New Yorkers. It is in the states interest to fund its trains, but if it wants to dump $40 million into its train, it can do it on its own. I mean really. $40 million wouldn't cover New Jersey's transit system for 5 days.

I could think of much more useful purposes for $40 million. Like restoring service to Phillipsburg. Or better, restoring service to Scranton.


Now, now, I wouldn't write off all of Vermont in that manner. Though, you could write off most of it....I love the state, but Burlington is the only place I'd ever live.

But your argument brings up three points:

1) Right now, the Ethan Allen is effectively what you describe, a train that really serves a backwater - Rutland. Rutland is a fine little place, but honestly, there's not a whole lot there, and while I know they very much appreciate the service, they also have alternatives - there's no way that you could live in Rutland without a car - so pretty much everyone there has the option to drive over to the Adirondack line (not far) and take the train from there.

Burlington, on the other hand, is a very viable place. It's the only thing that comes close to being a real city in Vermont, there is a large population base, and it's a place with very viable transit. I live perfectly fine without a car here (though I do take advantage of a car-sharing service from time to time) and I know a great many people who do so also. There are a very large number of students here who live here without cars, also, and would provide a large market for the train.

So in essence, for $40 million, you're taking an Amtrak route that serves a backwater, and making serve a great destination. And you'd be sorely mistaken if you didn't think that people from the Metro NY area regularly come to Burlington for all manner of things, especially in the summer, which is when Burlington really shines. I don't think too many people come from that area to visit Rutland, unless you're going skiing, which goes back to your original argument.

2) Burlington is a small city. I'd argue that it's a great small city, and I'll back that up with the fact that we regularly win awards for being one of the top small cities to live and work. But, it is nonetheless small, especially compared to the New York Metro area. So are you arguing that only major metro areas deserve transportation funding? I believe in encouraging urban development and moving towards more compact, efficient forms of living and so I in general support projects that help to strengthen cities of suburban areas or even rural communities. But what you're arguing is that since I live in a smaller city, I'm undeserving of having rail service that comes to my city? Why should those who live in NYC be given a disproportionate amount of funding over those who choose to live in smaller cities? I just don't think that's an argument that makes any sense. I think it benefits everyone to have a wide-ranging and expansive rail network that covers a variety of destinations. If you were arguing that $40 million could build the Lackawanna cutoff versus extend the Ethan Allen, by all means, I'd vote for the former. I'm not arguing that Burlington and New York City should get an equal amount of transportation funding - but I am arguing that they should get a reasonably proportionate amount.

3) I'm sure there are alternatives to getting between NYC and Scranton. They may not be alternatives that you're interested in (i.e. a bus) but I'm sure they exist. Right now, there is absolutely no transportation link on the corridor in question (between Burlington and Albany). I think that bringing transportation to a corridor that needs and does not have it is in some ways a priority over bringing additional transportation to a corridor that already has service, albeit service that is not very good.

#10 transit54

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Posted 22 January 2010 - 10:01 AM

If we were dividing it up proportionally by Senator, VT's share of the $8 billion would be $160 million.

Am I correct in thinking that that $40 million only covers Rutland to downtown Burlington, and will not improve the Burlington to Essex Junction or White River Junction to Montreal tracks? It seems like in the long term, there's no reason the Ethan Allen Express shouldn't get all the way to Montreal.


Even if we divide it by representative, as Ispolkom suggested, VT would be looking at just shy of ~$20 million. I think there's an argument to funding states with rail programs already in place and with a history of supporting passenger rail (at least that's the argument put forth in the Texas article that started this whole thread). If we exclude representatives from such states, VT would still have plenty of money to extend the Ethan Allen.

Now, yes, the $40 million only covers the extension to Burlington. Actually, now that I think about it, it might cover rerouting the train via Bennington and bringing it up that way, so you'd be improving a lot more trackage.

The improvements to the Vermonter tracks (the NECR) was a separate amount and consisted of two projects: improving the 'Knowledge Corridor' in MA so that the Vermonter would not have to reverse direction in Palmer and could use a more direct route between Springfield and Brattleboro and the improvement of tracks on the NECR to bring them up to 79 MPH. While it would be great to get money for those projects, the Ethan Allen extension would be the most drastic improvement, and I'd happily cede all the other money to rail projects of GML's choosing. To be honest, increasing the speed on the tracks wouldn't make a huge difference in travel time on the Vermonter, you really loose all the time between Palmer and Amherst. Cutting out that mess would make the Vermonter a much more competitive train, but it still wouldn't be serving Burlington or solving the dearth of long distance transit on what we call the 'western corridor.'

As for the Ethan Allen Express going to Montreal - why? The Adirondack does that perfectly well and covers a very similar route. I could always take that if I wanted to go to Montreal, and I'd hate for the train to be delayed at the border and make service in Burlington and points south unreliable. If the tracks from the old Rutland railroad were still in place north of Burlington ('the Island line') then you might have some argument. That would be an incredible route (as long as it were done in daylight), but those have been converted to a much used biking and jogging path that a number of my coworkers use to commute in the warmer months.

I could see the argument that the Vermonter continues to Montreal, though. That serves a route different enough from the Adirondack to make running up north worthwhile.

#11 AlanB

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Posted 22 January 2010 - 09:28 PM

With all due respect to Mr. Nizlek, I bristle at the idea for federal funding for a backwater state whose only purpose in life is to provide a ski resort for wealthy New Yorkers. It is in the states interest to fund its trains, but if it wants to dump $40 million into its train, it can do it on its own. I mean really. $40 million wouldn't cover New Jersey's transit system for 5 days.

I could think of much more useful purposes for $40 million. Like restoring service to Phillipsburg. Or better, restoring service to Scranton.


Now, now, I wouldn't write off all of Vermont in that manner. Though, you could write off most of it....I love the state, but Burlington is the only place I'd ever live.

But your argument brings up three points:

1) Right now, the Ethan Allen is effectively what you describe, a train that really serves a backwater - Rutland. Rutland is a fine little place, but honestly, there's not a whole lot there, and while I know they very much appreciate the service, they also have alternatives - there's no way that you could live in Rutland without a car - so pretty much everyone there has the option to drive over to the Adirondack line (not far) and take the train from there.

Burlington, on the other hand, is a very viable place. It's the only thing that comes close to being a real city in Vermont, there is a large population base, and it's a place with very viable transit. I live perfectly fine without a car here (though I do take advantage of a car-sharing service from time to time) and I know a great many people who do so also. There are a very large number of students here who live here without cars, also, and would provide a large market for the train.

So in essence, for $40 million, you're taking an Amtrak route that serves a backwater, and making serve a great destination. And you'd be sorely mistaken if you didn't think that people from the Metro NY area regularly come to Burlington for all manner of things, especially in the summer, which is when Burlington really shines. I don't think too many people come from that area to visit Rutland, unless you're going skiing, which goes back to your original argument.

2) Burlington is a small city. I'd argue that it's a great small city, and I'll back that up with the fact that we regularly win awards for being one of the top small cities to live and work. But, it is nonetheless small, especially compared to the New York Metro area. So are you arguing that only major metro areas deserve transportation funding? I believe in encouraging urban development and moving towards more compact, efficient forms of living and so I in general support projects that help to strengthen cities of suburban areas or even rural communities. But what you're arguing is that since I live in a smaller city, I'm undeserving of having rail service that comes to my city? Why should those who live in NYC be given a disproportionate amount of funding over those who choose to live in smaller cities? I just don't think that's an argument that makes any sense. I think it benefits everyone to have a wide-ranging and expansive rail network that covers a variety of destinations. If you were arguing that $40 million could build the Lackawanna cutoff versus extend the Ethan Allen, by all means, I'd vote for the former. I'm not arguing that Burlington and New York City should get an equal amount of transportation funding - but I am arguing that they should get a reasonably proportionate amount.

3) I'm sure there are alternatives to getting between NYC and Scranton. They may not be alternatives that you're interested in (i.e. a bus) but I'm sure they exist. Right now, there is absolutely no transportation link on the corridor in question (between Burlington and Albany). I think that bringing transportation to a corridor that needs and does not have it is in some ways a priority over bringing additional transportation to a corridor that already has service, albeit service that is not very good.


A few points.

1) I'm hardly a wealthy New Yorker and I ski in Vermont. In fact, I was skiing in Vermont even when I lived in New Jersey and made about 1/4th what I do now.

2) Vermont does a hefty summer business too. Many of the resorts sell out the condo's during the summer months.

3) Vermont sees many wealthy and not so wealthy Bostonites too.

4) Rutland is a very nice town, I've visited it many times. While not the size of Burlington, it holds its own.

5) While not on the scale of Burlington, Rutland does have public bus service. It doesn't run on Sunday's, but the other 6 days you can get around without a car, depending on just where you want to go and of course just how close you are to a bus line.

6) It is possible to get from Burlington to Rutland by bus, although it's not easy.

7) Getting Rutland to Burlington up and running would be a major benefit to all along that corridor.

8) Getting Bennigton into the mix would be nice also, but that would drive the costs up significantly from what I understand. It would also make the running time longer from what I've read, which could hurt ridership.
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#12 Joel N. Weber II

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Posted 22 January 2010 - 10:42 PM

The improvements to the Vermonter tracks (the NECR) was a separate amount and consisted of two projects: improving the 'Knowledge Corridor' in MA so that the Vermonter would not have to reverse direction in Palmer and could use a more direct route between Springfield and Brattleboro and the improvement of tracks on the NECR to bring them up to 79 MPH.


However, the rerouted train will need to back either into or out of Springfield, since after the reroute, the tracks heading both north and south will be at the west end of the Springfield platform.

#13 Guest_Guest_*

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Posted 22 January 2010 - 11:11 PM

Never made sense to me either for rail money to go to the fastest growing state, a state with 3 of the 10 largest cities, 6 of the 20 largest cities, second largest population,
9th largest economy world wide.

#14 Green Maned Lion

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Posted 23 January 2010 - 01:08 AM

3) I'm sure there are alternatives to getting between NYC and Scranton. They may not be alternatives that you're interested in (i.e. a bus) but I'm sure they exist. Right now, there is absolutely no transportation link on the corridor in question (between Burlington and Albany). I think that bringing transportation to a corridor that needs and does not have it is in some ways a priority over bringing additional transportation to a corridor that already has service, albeit service that is not very good.


Yes, but funding the Lackawanna Cutoff would provide economic benefit on a national scale. As such it seems worthy of federal money.

Funding the extension of the Ethan Allen Express, on the other hand, would benefit the City of Burlington, the State of Vermont, and a few New York skiers. I would sit and cheer on Vermont if they wanted to open up their private wallet, extract $40 million bucks, and fund such an extension. But federal money? Why is this of national benefit?

A few points.

1) I'm hardly a wealthy New Yorker and I ski in Vermont. In fact, I was skiing in Vermont even when I lived in New Jersey and made about 1/4th what I do now.

2) Vermont does a hefty summer business too. Many of the resorts sell out the condo's during the summer months.

3) Vermont sees many wealthy and not so wealthy Bostonites too.


Fine. I was being mildly facetious. But skiing is a wealthy person's sport. Being wealthy is a matter of relativity.
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#15 TVRM610

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Posted 23 January 2010 - 01:17 AM

It does seem very silly that Scranton has no rail service (besides Steamtown).

Just imagine if there was.. Michael Scott could visit corporate much easier! : ) :) :)
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#16 AlanB

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Posted 23 January 2010 - 03:14 AM

The Fed has already put up some money for the Lack Cutoff and once NJ & PA get their act together, I've no doubt that more funding will be forthcoming. And it won't need to come from the high speed rail funding side of things.
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#17 jis

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Posted 23 January 2010 - 09:56 AM

The Fed has already put up some money for the Lack Cutoff and once NJ & PA get their act together, I've no doubt that more funding will be forthcoming. And it won't need to come from the high speed rail funding side of things.

Just for the commuter service restoration Lack Cutoff should be funded out of straight FTA appropriations. Now if the antire Lack Cutoff + Scranton - Binghampton -(Buffalo) were being talked about, that becomes a different ballgame.

#18 Joel N. Weber II

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Posted 23 January 2010 - 11:59 AM

If we were dividing it up proportionally by Senator, VT's share of the $8 billion would be $160 million.

Am I correct in thinking that that $40 million only covers Rutland to downtown Burlington, and will not improve the Burlington to Essex Junction or White River Junction to Montreal tracks? It seems like in the long term, there's no reason the Ethan Allen Express shouldn't get all the way to Montreal.


Even if we divide it by representative, as Ispolkom suggested, VT would be looking at just shy of ~$20 million. I think there's an argument to funding states with rail programs already in place and with a history of supporting passenger rail (at least that's the argument put forth in the Texas article that started this whole thread). If we exclude representatives from such states, VT would still have plenty of money to extend the Ethan Allen.


If Vermont doesn't get federal funding, it might also be worth looking for private donations. Olin College has a $460 million endowment that came from a large donation from a single foundation; a tenth of that could go an awful long way towards improving track in Vermont.

As for the Ethan Allen Express going to Montreal - why? The Adirondack does that perfectly well and covers a very similar route. I could always take that if I wanted to go to Montreal, and I'd hate for the train to be delayed at the border and make service in Burlington and points south unreliable. If the tracks from the old Rutland railroad were still in place north of Burlington ('the Island line') then you might have some argument. That would be an incredible route (as long as it were done in daylight), but those have been converted to a much used biking and jogging path that a number of my coworkers use to commute in the warmer months.

I could see the argument that the Vermonter continues to Montreal, though. That serves a route different enough from the Adirondack to make running up north worthwhile.


If the Ethan Allen is so similar to the Adirondack, why aren't you arguing that the Adirondack is good enough for Vermont residents going to Albany and New York City, too?

#19 transit54

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 10:33 AM

4) Rutland is a very nice town, I've visited it many times. While not the size of Burlington, it holds its own.
5) While not on the scale of Burlington, Rutland does have public bus service. It doesn't run on Sunday's, but the other 6 days you can get around without a car, depending on just where you want to go and of course just how close you are to a bus line.
6) It is possible to get from Burlington to Rutland by bus, although it's not easy.
7) Getting Rutland to Burlington up and running would be a major benefit to all along that corridor.
8) Getting Bennigton into the mix would be nice also, but that would drive the costs up significantly from what I understand. It would also make the running time longer from what I've read, which could hurt ridership.


Agreed. I've only been to Rutland three times, and briefly at that, but it really seemed like a nice place. I was more arguing against GML along the lines of "small is unimportant and not worthwhile," which seemed to be the argument that he was putting forth. In reality, that's really not what I believe, and I think it's great that Rutland has train service, though probably a large number of riders are not from the immediate Rutland area.

And Marble Valley transit does do a decent job down there. For rural transit they make it easy enough to get around. You can actually get all the way from Burlington to Bennington and on into MA via transit. It's not easy, and involves taking a number of buses across four different transit agencies, but it can be done and I know someone who's done it. But it's not a viable means of getting around regularly. My biggest problem with getting from Burlington to Rutland is that even if one does it via transit (which involves a 5:05 AM departure), one misses the Ethan Allen by about 15 minutes. I've brought that issue up here, but getting that fixed lies with MVRT.

And I completely agree with Bennington. As much as it would be nice to have train service all along the western portion of the station, I'm worried about the speed. The big advantage of the Ethan Allen is that it has a much faster trip time to New York. Unless it could be upgraded to 79 MPH service (not likely at all) I think it's better off bringing the train up the way it goes now. Plus, there'd probably be some interest in riding between Burlington and Saratoga and a few other points that would get missed if going via Bennington.

If the Ethan Allen is so similar to the Adirondack, why aren't you arguing that the Adirondack is good enough for Vermont residents going to Albany and New York City, too?


Only because in northern Vermont there's a fairly large body of water separating us from the line. In the summer, a ferry can be taken from downtown Burlington, but otherwise the only way to make the connection is using a car. Given the ferry ride and the distance, it'd make more sense to fly than take a cab over to that line. If there was a way to provide year-round transportation to the line from Vermont, then I'd believe that the Ethan Allen extension would be much less of a necessity.

#20 Ispolkom

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 10:47 AM

Only because in northern Vermont there's a fairly large body of water separating us from the line. In the summer, a ferry can be taken from downtown Burlington, but otherwise the only way to make the connection is using a car. Given the ferry ride and the distance, it'd make more sense to fly than take a cab over to that line. If there was a way to provide year-round transportation to the line from Vermont, then I'd believe that the Ethan Allen extension would be much less of a necessity.


And as you know, even if you drive there are problems crossing Lake Champlain. (I know, the Crown Point bridge is way south of Burlington, but it was my second favorite bridge in Addison County, and it's great footage.)

Edited by Ispolkom, 25 January 2010 - 10:49 AM.





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