Posts Tagged ‘John Kasich’

Youth will be served by robust Ohio passenger rail

On Dec. 27, engineer James Shoemaker nudged the throttle of his state-owned, 3,000-horsepower locomotive, City of Asheville, to 79 mph on tracks owned and improved by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Behind Shoemaker were 286 passengers on the midday Piedmont run that was added in 2010 by NCDOT.


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Amtrak, 15 states get $2 billion that Florida lost

Amtrak and rail projects in 15 states are being awarded the $2 billion that Florida lost after the governor canceled plans for high-speed train service, the Department of Transportation said Monday.

The largest share of the money — nearly $800 million — will be used to upgrade train speeds from 135 mph to 160 mph on critical segments of the heavily traveled Northeast corridor, the department said in a statement..

Another $404 million will go to expand high-speed rail service in the Midwest, including newly constructed segments of 110-mph track between Detroit and Chicago that are expected to save passengers 30 minutes in travel time.


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State seeks money for Hiawatha upgrade

$150 million is sought for Milwaukee-Chicago route


Less than four months after losing nearly all of an $810 million grant, Wisconsin is again seeking federal high-speed rail money – this time to upgrade the existing Milwaukee-to-Chicago passenger line.

Gov. Scott Walker’s administration announced Tuesday that the state will seek at least $150 million to add equipment and facilities for Amtrak’s Hiawatha line.

Walker said the money would be used to upgrade service on the Hiawatha line, as a step toward increasing the speed of the trains to nearly 110 mph and reducing the trip time from 90 minutes to one hour. If the improved service draws more riders, the number of round trips could be increased, he said during a news conference in the Milwaukee Intermodal Station.

The governor said he expected Illinois, Michigan and Missouri would join in the application for the federal dollars, part of the $8 billion rail element of President Barack Obama’s administration’s stimulus package.

In a bizarre twist, some of the money that Walker now seeks originally was allocated for the Milwaukee-to-Madison route he previously turned down. That money is available because a fellow Republican governor rejected it as well.

Walker said the money would allow Wisconsin to buy two more train sets and eight locomotives and to build a maintenance facility for that equipment and two train sets now under construction.

But speeding up the trains would require additional track improvements in future years, said Reggie Newson, executive assistant to state Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb.

The locomotives, train sets and maintenance base would have been covered by the earlier $810 million grant. But the maintenance base, originally envisioned as a $52 million facility in Madison, now would be a $60 million facility at the Talgo Inc. train plant in the Century City complex on Milwaukee’s north side.


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Group urges Gov. John Kasich to get high-speed rail on track in Ohio

Crain’s Cleveland Business

A group of elected officials and business and community leaders is urging Gov. John Kasich to get high-speed rail on track in Ohio.

The 12-member group, which includes U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan and Betty Sutton — both Democrats — and Cleveland real estate developer Ari Maron, wrote a March 17 letter to the governor asking him to support “an emerging public-private partnership which seeks to pursue the planning and development of rail freight and high-speed rail connecting the Cleveland-Akron-Youngstown-Pittsburgh region.”Gov. Kasich campaigned against and later killed the so-called 3C corridor, a commuter rail line that would have linked Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. The governor took heat for rejecting $400 million in federal money for that project, but he never wavered from his argument that the line would have been a waste of money because it would have resulted in a slow-speed, north-south transportation link with no practical value.

Backers of a Cleveland-to-Pittsburgh line argue there’s significant economic benefit to such a project.


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Elbert: Wisconsin rail money rejection may help Iowa’s plan

Des Moines Register

Iowa passenger rail fans have received an unexpected boost from Minnesota, and the timing couldn’t be better.

Minnesota had been planning a high-speed rail link between the Twin Cities and Chicago that would pass through Madison and Milwaukee, but Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s refusal to accept federal money has, for the time being, taken that option off the table.

Dan Krom, director of Minnesota’s passenger rail program, was quoted by the St. Paul Pioneer Press recently as suggesting an alternative.

Instead of a more direct route through Wisconsin, a train could head south from the Twin Cities to Des Moines and then east to Chicago, Krom said.


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Dollars from Florida’s high-speed rail project up for grabs

The Washington Post

The Obama administration on Friday sent a message to Republican governors who have turned down federal funding for high-speed rail systems, putting $2.4 billion that Florida rejected up for grabs to states that want to invest in the trains.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who won election in November, turned back funding from a high-speed rail line that would have linked Tampa to Orlando, saying he feared the state would be saddled with cost overruns.

Two other newly elected GOP governors – John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin – also rejected high-speed rail funding that had been lobbied for by the governors they replaced.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he would make the $2.4 billion available to other states through a competitive process that would reward those states most likely to move swiftly to put people to work building the rail service.


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Kasich needs lesson in history of high-speed rail service

Recently Gov.-elect John Kasich held a press conference to showcase his appointee to head the Ohio Department of Transportation.

When asked about the Ohio 3C Corridor, a plan that would give passenger rail service to the citizens of Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, he said: “So there’s a train cult. … Part of the feeling in favor of these things are contracts, engineering contracts, construction contracts, snout in the trough. We’re not going to run some program that some train cult wants to support.”

It has been abundantly clear from the start of the campaign that Kasich is anti-rail. What is made clear by this statement is that Kasich is in desperate need of a history lesson.


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Group sees state as a rail stop

So, you’ve probably heard about the debate over plans to build a commuter rail line between Noblesville and Franklin.

But that isn’t the only debate going on about trains in Indiana.

Advocates of a high-speed rail network across the Midwest are gearing up to lobby Gov. Mitch Daniels and lawmakers to help them collect what could be hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers over several years. The money, along with more than $1 billion in federal stimulus dollars, would pay for three stretches of high-speed rail connecting Indiana to other states.

Hoosiers, on trains going about 110 mph, could travel from Indianapolis to Chicago in 2 hours and 41 minutes. Yes, that’s only about 20 minutes less than by car, but minus the traffic headaches and carbon emissions.

In theory, the rail lines would connect to destinations that include Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Madison, Wis.; St. Louis; Detroit; and Minneapolis.

That’s in theory, because two newly elected Republican governors are threatening to return millions of dollars in federal funds for rail, possibly disrupting a major part of the planned Midwest network linking 11 cities within 400 miles of Chicago.

Both Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio are riding a wave of voter opposition to higher taxes, government-backed services and causes supported by President Barack Obama, including high-speed rail.

And so the whole thing may be a long shot, rail advocates admit. But they see little choice but to try.

At stake are about 4,500 new jobs in Indiana, the environment and potentially billions of dollars in economic development.

“Indiana is a follower on high- speed rail,” Roger Sims, president of the Indiana High Speed Rail Association, said Friday during a summit of rail advocates at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Illinois, after applying for and getting $1.1 billion in federal stimulus dollars, is building a high-speed rail line right now. Meanwhile, Wisconsin and Michigan have applied for federal funds and have made their own investments in Amtrak passenger rail.

Indiana hasn’t done nearly that much.

The state invests little in Amtrak and has only one federally funded rail project in the works to clear up congestion on tracks in Northwest Indiana that passenger and freight trains share.

“What priority has Indiana put on high-speed rail?” asked Mark Dobson, president of the Warsaw-Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce, drawing a cynical laugh from the audience at IUPUI. “Right. None. High-speed rail is not a priority in Indiana. It’s not on the radar, and we need it to be.”

In many ways, their efforts — and gripes — mirror those of mass-transit supporters in Central Indiana.

Indianapolis lags far behind other cities when it comes to bus service, too.

Under consideration is a $2.4 billion transit plan that triples the number of buses on the streets and adds commuter rail lines that would run north and south of Indianapolis.

The hope of those backing the plan, a quasi-governmental group called IndyConnect, is to persuade the General Assembly to put a referendum before voters on raising taxes to pay for the plan.

That has been met with lukewarm enthusiasm at best.

Daniels’ spokeswoman, Jane Jankowski, said the governor thinks transit, in general, is an issue worth exploring, but “you have to approach it with care.”

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Friday that he doesn’t know much about plans for high-speed rail but would be willing to listen.

He also said he would be willing to talk about a referendum for Central Indiana’s transit plan. But with the state of the economy and budget deficit, he’s concerned that the state has more pressing financial issues at the moment.

“Is this the priority that the public will go out on a referendum and vote for?” Kenley asked.

Both IndyConnect and the Indiana High Speed Rail Association are counting on support from private business leaders. The association is developing a plan that would show the economic benefits of high-speed rail.

The goal is to get enough support to raise money for three separate high-speed lines and rail cars.

One, at a cost of about $200 million to taxpayers, would connect lines from Chicago to Cleveland. Two others — from Chicago through Indianapolis to Cincinnati, and another along Lake Michigan from Chicago — don’t have a price tag yet.

“We really need businesses to be part of this equation,” Sims said, adding, “We haven’t reached a critical mass yet.”

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Bureau lowers cost to run high-speed rail

JS Online

The state could pay several million dollars less than previously projected to run a planned high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison, based on revised information about the route’s likely revenue and expenses.

But any state or federal money spent on the train line might otherwise go to highways, says a new report obtained by the Journal Sentinel from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Operating costs have played a major role in Governor-elect Scott Walker’s opposition to the route, an extension of Amtrak’s existing Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line. Although a federal stimulus grant would cover the $810 million construction cost, Walker has vowed to kill the project to ensure state taxpayers won’t pick up any operating costs.

Walker transition spokesman Cullen Werwie reiterated that stand Friday, saying, “The Madison-to-Milwaukee train is dead.”

In its application for the stimulus money, the state Department of Transportation set operating costs at $16.5 million a year, partly offset by $9 million a year in fare and concession revenue, leaving taxpayers to cover the remaining $7.5 million.

Those estimates, however, were developed in 2009. Since then, some aspects of the project have changed, including:

Ridership: The original estimate was based on projected first-year ridership of 361,400. But that prediction assumed the Madison station would be built at the Dane County Regional Airport. When state officials switched to a downtown site, they boosted the first-year ridership estimate to 476,400.

Consultants didn’t revise their revenue projection to match the ridership projection before outgoing Gov. Jim Doyle froze the project, in the wake of Walker’s election.

But the original estimate of $8.9 million in ticket revenue comes out to an average fare of $24.73. Using that average, the higher ridership projection would boost revenue by $2.8 million, slicing taxpayer support to $4.7 million.

Rising ridership on the Hiawatha has already cut taxpayer support for that line to $5.2 million in the 2009-’10 fiscal year, down from a projected $5.6 million, the Transportation Department says.

Food service: Consultants estimated revenue from food and beverage sales at $110,000 a year, assuming the same kind of snack cart service that now operates on the Hiawatha. Since then, however, state officials have decided to add a bistro car to each train, but they haven’t calculated how much more revenue that would produce.

Costs: The original cost projections were based on the Hiawatha’s current operating costs. Wisconsin and Illinois have a deal with Amtrak to cover those costs, including fuel costs and charges for using Amtrak-owned trains.

But Wisconsin is buying two new trains from Talgo Inc. for the existing line and planned to buy another two trains, plus locomotives, for the extension to Madison.

“The new Talgo equipment is far more fuel-efficient,” and running state-owned trains would insulate Wisconsin from expected increases in Amtrak rental charges, said Kevin Brubaker, deputy director of the pro-rail Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago.

On the other hand, the state would be responsible for maintaining the trains, and the costs of a maintenance contract with Talgo could eat up the savings from ending the rental charges, the Transportation Department says in its 2011-’13 budget request.

Meanwhile, the Fiscal Bureau report to state Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) addresses a Transportation Department claim that federal aid could cover up to 90% of the cost of the Milwaukee-to-Madison leg, as it does for the Milwaukee-to-Chicago leg.

That’s not extra aid for the train, the report says. It’s a piece of federal aid that already goes to the state.

In some past years, the state covered Hiawatha operating costs with money designated to reduce southeastern Wisconsin traffic congestion and air pollution, said Fred Ammerman, a supervisor in the bureau. In recent years, however, the state has been using part of its highway aid, with federal permission, Ammerman said.

That federal money usually has covered 80% of costs, rising to 90% in years when the train helps travelers avoid freeway construction zones, the report says.

In the federal fiscal year ending Sept. 30, the state’s regular federal highway aid totaled $734 million, not counting earmarks and stimulus grants, Ammerman said. A 90% share of $5.2 million in Hiawatha costs would amount to $4.7 million, or less than 1% of the total. Adding the Milwaukee-to-Madison leg would increase that share to slightly more than 1%.

In other developments:

• In a letter Thursday to President Barack Obama, Walker reiterated his view that Wisconsin should be allowed to use the $810 million for highways. But Obama can’t legally reallocate the money; as Walker has conceded, it would take an act of Congress, and U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, a Fond du Lac Republican, has said that’s unlikely.

• The AFL-CIO lashed out Friday at Walker, Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich and congressional Republicans, saying their opposition to high-speed rail threatens job creation.

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Ohio needs high-speed rail soon

In the 1980s, former state Rep. Arthur Wilkowski of Toledo championed a sales tax increase to fund work on rail beds and other necessities for establishing a high-speed passenger rail system for Ohio. Ohio voters rejected it.

Now we have an opportunity for federal money to establish that corridor, including Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, and eventually Toledo. Gov.-elect John Kasich opposes the idea (“Strickland to stay on track for rest of term,” Nov. 19).

Construction of the rail line would create thousands of jobs, helping to alleviate the state’s high unemployment.

Commuters would get stress-free travel between these cities, as well as others added later. Businesses would improve delivery times for their products.

Highways are increasingly congested and environmentally destructive. It is time to use our tax money wisely, safely, and in a way that supports the environment.

We can no longer afford to dither, depriving people of safe and convenient travel.

William Smith
Potomac Drive

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