Fast Rail Blocked by Public Sector, Boosted by Private

In Florida, where the conservative governor famously scuttled a government-subsidized high-speed passenger rail line, a private railroad company is pushing ahead with plans to zip travelers from Orlando to Miami on its tracks at a profit.

In the Upper Midwest, where the conservative Wisconsin governor derailed a key link for fast passenger trains from the Twin Cities to Chicago, a foreign business consortium has seriously studied bullet service in the same well-traveled corridor.

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States Remain Bullish on High-Speed Rail

(NAPSI)—America’s high-speed rail program is experiencing the best of times. Congress has appropriated more than $10 billion for the effort in the past three years. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia are advancing numerous projects. And about 62 percent of Americans say they would use high-speed rail service between U.S. metro areas, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Despite the revitalizing benefits of high-speed rail, such as job creation, greater mobility, convenience and energy savings, the mode has been marginalized as a partisan issue. In July, Congress passed MAP-21, a two-year transportation authorization bill that doesn’t mention high-speed rail. Still, there has been an unprecedented amount of high-speed rail activity at the state level:

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Commissioner: Zip Rail would benefit the area

Area officials are envisioning a day when a Stewartville or area residents will be able to ride a train from Rochester to the Twin Cities in less than an hour.

The high-speed Zip Rail train would benefit Olmsted County and the state of Minnesota in many ways, Olmsted County Commissioner Ken Brown told the Stewartville City Council at a meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 15.

The train would provide another option for travelers, visitors and patients; support movement of passengers and goods, and capitalize on the high-growth corridor between Rochester and the Twin Cities, Brown said.

A Zip Rail train would provide an alternative to driving or flying to the Twin Cities, he said.

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GOP platform calls for ending Amtrak subsidy, high-speed rail funding

Yesterday at their national convention in Tampa, Fla., Republicans approved a party platform that calls for ending federal funding for Amtrak and high-speed rail, and allocating more federal transportation dollars for highway projects instead of other transportation options, such as public transit, bicycling and pedestrian programs, according to national news reports.

The platform includes many measures that Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee pushed for during negotiations on the new, two-year $105 billion transportation bill that was enacted earlier this summer, news reports stated.

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Need train capacity for frac, but bridge fine for added truck traffic

The Winona City Planning Commission closed out the fifth month of the frac sand moratorium study on Monday. Representatives of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) and Wisconsin Department of Transportation (Wis/DOT) attended, and discussed current and future traffic impact.

The current amount of sand coming to Winona, Assistant City Planner Carlos Espinosa said, puts Winona at or near capacity for rail car storage. If this issue isn’t addressed soon, he said, truck traffic numbers are likely to significantly increase in the city.

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How the Private Sector Just Might Revive Intercity Passenger Rail in the US

For those following the intense debate over intercity passenger rail in the US, the following recent news items might have a few planners scratching their heads:

1.       A private company, Florida East Coast Industries (FECI), has launched a $1 billion privately funded effort to create a conventional rail service between Miami, Florida and Orlando;

2.       Transit skeptic Wendell Cox acknowledges that a high-speed rail line connecting Houston to Dallas might actually work.

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High-Speed Rail Investment in U.S. Would Result in $26.4 Billion Net Benefits by 2040

While critics of implementing a high-speed rail program in America say the U.S. cannot afford to build it, new information released today shows that the net benefits to investment far exceed the cost.  The report titled “Opportunity Cost of Inaction: High-Speed Rail and High Performance Passenger Rail Service” was released [last week] at a Congressional briefing by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).  It shows that building a high-speed rail program in the U.S. results in $26.4 billion in net benefits over the next 40 years.

The Public Money Behind Road, Rail and Air Travel

A common theme of U.S. political dialogue is that while highways are sustained by tolls and gas taxes, trains and other mass-transit systems are heavily subsidized by the government through tax revenue.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Federal, state and local governments have subsidized all modes of transportation since the birth of the nation. Tolls and dedicated taxes such as the gas tax have paid for only a small portion of our nation’s road system. In the past century, road and air transportation have received more government money than rail.

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Anoka County pulls out of Duluth/Twin Cities passenger train planning alliance

Anoka County’s surprise decision to withdraw from the planning process for returning passenger rail service between Duluth and Minneapolis may hurt the project’s chances, some say.

Others don’t think it matters.

The Anoka County Regional Rail Authority contributes 15 percent of the budget for the Northern Lights Express alliance, the planning group working to establish the train line. Tuesday’s 4-3 vote to pull out came as a majority of commissioners decided to concentrate on the North Star commuter rail line.

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Bringing High-Speed Rail to America

The US High Speed Rail Association held the first day of its High Speed Rail Conference: “Brining High Speed Rail to America” in San Francisco Wednesday, May 23. The day before the conference, there were transportation tours available. Tours included the Siemens manufacturing plant, the Transbay Center construction site and BART’s Command and Control Center.

Experienced high-speed rail experts met with business and political leaders to discuss challenges and opportunities of bringing high-speed rail to the United States. The conference was held at Autodesk, a leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software.

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