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Sunday, April 26, 2015

American "putt-putt" trains need upgrading American Jobs Act

Superstorm Sandy most vividly demonstrated the need for resilient and redundant (Northeast Corridor) infrastructure. Tunnel flooding under the Hudson and East Rivers caused hundreds of millions of $$$ dollars in damage. Without additional capacity between New York and New Jersey, future closures for those repairs could reduce capacity by as much as 75%. The Plan accounts for fixing damaged assets while building to protect assets at risk. These projects will improve reliability, reduce the severity of service impacts during emergencies, and reduce the costs of recovering from future disasters.

Although I'm not an expert on President Obama's proposed American Jobs Act, I'm pretty sure there's appropriations included to improve our deteriorating US train system.  

As a matter of fact, anything, at all, would improve our nation's putt-putt trains.  Here's an interesting article from The National Journal about projects in the wings.  Maybe Apple stock holders can create a futures account, for the purpose of investing invest in American train systems.  

Honestly? If I had the capital, it's where my money would be looking, to bring about a solid return on investment. Obviously, however, my mythical investment will need to wait until Republicans, who are blocking mass transportation projects with their stupid sequester, are eventually thrown out of office.

Eight Critical Rail Projects from The National Journal

A major rail advisory commission presents a sobering new wish list for the Northeast Corridor over the next five years.

April 22, 2015 There's a new report out from the Northeast Corridor advisory commission, established by Congress to help improve the most critical stretch of rail in the United States, and it isn't pretty. The commission—made up of officials from states, the U.S. Transportation Department, Amtrak, and commuter-rail agencies—has outlined a "first-of-its-kind" coordinated five-year plan for major projects between Washington and Boston via New York. It's effectively a construction wish list for 2016-2020:

The Northeast Corridor is at an historic turning point. 

The decades since the NEC was placed in public hands have been marked by record-breaking ridership growth — and insufficient capital investment. However, unprecedented collaboration is underway to take responsibility for this vital asset and position the country for a globally competitive economic future. The NEC Five-Year Capital Plan is a united strategy to reverse decades of deterioration and rebuild the nation’s busiest passenger railroad.

The NEC Five-Year Capital Plan – if fully funded – would stabilize a national asset that carries 750,000 trips per day. Decades of federal under-investment mean many assets operate today beyond their useful life – everything from rail and power lines to bridges and tunnels – increasing costly service unreliability every day. The loss of service on the NEC for a single day could cost the country $100 million in added congestion and lost productivity.

Seven million jobs, or one out of three jobs in the NEC Region, are within 5 miles of an NEC station. That proportion may grow as billions of dollars of real estate development projects have recently been completed or are under construction within walking distance of stations like Washington, Philadelphia, Newark, New York and Boston. (Julie's note- this investment would improve Maine's economy too, at least in Southern Maine, where many commuters would likely move if there was reliable train service into northern Massachusetts, especially to Boston.)

Much of the NEC we know today was built by private railroads before the 20th century and passengers rely on 100+ year old infrastructure. The largest and most critical of these assets make up the major project backlog: ten movable bridges, two sets of tunnels, and other major structures that date back as far as 1873. These assets will continue to malfunction and cause delays throughout the NEC until they are replaced.

The NEC Five-Year Capital Plan is a first-of-its-kind joint effort among eight states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Amtrak, eight commuter rail agencies, and other stakeholders to integrate the infrastructure investments required over the next five years to reverse decades of deterioration and modernize our shared national asset for future economic growth.

The individual plans of four infrastructure owners and nine passenger rail operators are the basis of the NEC Five-Year Capital Plan. It integrates all types of capital investment, from swapping old rail ties for new, to replacing vital bridges and tunnels. This first-ever region-wide plan reflects unprecedented collaboration in setting mutual goals, sharing information, and coordinating investment.

NEC infrastructure is the beneficiary of investment from many different federal, state, and local sources. However, aggregate funding levels from these traditional sources are far below those required to stabilize infrastructure conditions and prepare the Corridor for the future. The NEC Five-Year Capital Plan identifies these funding gaps and defines how additional resources would build a stronger railroad.

If fully funded, the NEC five year capital plan would create jobs across the country while rebuilding the nation’s most important passenger railroad to promote economic development, grow ridership, and increase resiliency to extreme weather events. (In fact, 35,500 jobs per year, reports the National Journal.)

The NEC carries a workforce that contributes $50 billion each year to the United States gross domestic product. Seven million jobs, or one out of three jobs in the NEC Region, are within 5 miles of an NEC station. The Plan will support these key economic markets with infrastructure, service, and station facility upgrades while putting thousands of people to work.

The NEC is a more than century-old railroad, still hand-operated in places with levers and cranks. The backlog of assets operating well beyond their useful life is staggering and infrastructure components are failing at increasing rates. Loss of the NEC for even just a day would cost nearly $100 million in congestion and productivity losses. The Plan will make progress toward reducing this backlog over five years.

The investment required just to preserve today’s NEC service is immense; but the NEC must also prepare for the future. Recent history demonstrates the need to anticipate extreme weather events and growth in ridership. The Plan addresses these trends with infrastructure projects that will reduce vulnerability to changes in temperature, protect against flooding, and add capacity where needed to maintain and grow service.

(Julie's note- the only fathomable reason why the NEC projects are underfunded, in my opinion, is because there's not enough graft and corruption for Republicans to spread around, in states outside of New England, to attract their votes in support of the funding.)

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