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Day 1140: Of Monorails And Mass Transit

The Capital Times: Madison could have Amtrak within 3 years, DOT says

… With bipartisan, veto-proof support, Congress last week passed legislation that could finally put a Chicago-Madison-Milwaukee high-speed passenger Amtrak rail in place. The bill authorizes $3.4 billion in grants to fund rail corridors across the country. White House officials say President George W. Bush, never a big supporter of Amtrak, will sign the legislation.

“This is a huge victory because Congress is acknowledging we’ve got to move toward a world-class mass transit system in this country, said state Department of Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi.

No matter what I think of Tommy Thompson and the kickbacks he is rumored to have received from transportation contractors, Wisconsin has some of the best roads in the nation. Check this out:

The push for an Amtrak service linking Chicago, Madison and Milwaukee began about 10 years ago, when then Gov. Tommy Thompson, who also served as co-chairman of Amtrak, tried to get the ball rolling with a Midwest rail initiative. But the plan dropped off the map, and Amtrak has suffered from Congressional neglect.

Adulthood has brought me to the disgusting, yet realistic, conclusion that some government graft is pardonable if the end result is taxpayers getting what they paid for.

On reading this, I wondered why such a concept has not been signed off on for this region.  Forget the congestion on I-10 and never-ending construction, how about a train which connects all major Gulf Coast cities?  Almost immediately, Oyster dashed my hopes to the ground (guess he was in a “singlehandedly bringing down” kinda mood today).

Or, how about this? Instead of a modern airport connected by high speed rail, what if we build a centralized regional stable filled with thousands of really fast flying unicorns?

[Apologies for the sarcastic pessimism, but if we can’t build a single prefab cottage three years after an epic disaster … I’m not holding out much hope for supertrains flying over the swamps, pressing N.O and Red Baton closer together. But it’s pretty to think so.]

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2 comments… add one
  • John October 11, 2008, 6:27 AM

    I would be happy if there was even just reasonable Amtrak service. You can take an Amtrak train from Houston to New Orleans, and that ought to be a great alternative to driving or flying. Except that it takes almost 10 hours, costs $150 round trip, and only runs three days a week. And then they conclude that there isn’t a market for train service.

    How would we know? There really isn’t any now.

  • Blair Tyson October 11, 2008, 9:58 AM

    Amtrak, fine. High speed, not so fine. The costs associated with high speed rail are an order of magnitude higher than conventional rail. The high costs come from things like the elimination of at-grade crossings and the necessity for much higher grade trackage separate from existing rails used for both passenger and freight.

    So why can France do it? It is a matter of national image and cost be damned. If we are going to spend 3.4 billion on Amtrak it should be used to bring the (admittedly poor) existing system up to par.

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