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John Thacker

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John Thacker last won the day on February 10 2011

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  1. Interesting article. Always hard to know who was bluffing or not in the negotiations. Interesting demonstration of the power of the purse as well. Another takeaway is that the threats by the new Congress to take away the money if not signed also helped drive the negotiations and the sense of urgency. Today was the deadline for submitting applications for the $2.4B. I'd assume that NCDOT simply updated the previous application and is asking for everything in the previous 5th Frequency and the SEHSR application, but haven't seen anything official.
  2. There was $43 million for station improvements already, and $20 million for the locomotive and coach overhaul for the midday train, so that's most of the difference.
  3. Actually, that's not quite right, according to the planning documents (http://www.sehsr.org...y/chapter6.html), while the Silver Star almost certainly will be routed through the S-Line, it would actually slow down the Silver Meteor slightly to route it on the S-line without substantial upgrades of the S-line south of Raleigh. They didn't even consider routing down the S-line to Raleigh and then going along the NCRR to Selma, as that circuitous route would end up be slowing than either just going down the A-line or S-line, just as the Silver Star is slow now, even with the speed ups on a 110
  4. Exactly. Also, the FRA wants to put only NS, not CSX, on the hook if the projected on-time numbers for the passenger trains don't materialize as projected. The sticking point is NS vs. the FRA. NCDOT, understandably, is a lot more willing to compromise with NS than the FRA, to avoid missing out on that federal money. They had similar delays in WA, but WSDOT, BNSF, and the FRA eventually came to an agreement. The S-line is still key to the entire project's viability; under NCDOT's projections, completing only the Raleigh to Charlotte portions just means greater operating losses. That
  5. It's not clear that the fundamental issue is between NCDOT and NS, rather than with the FRA and the other parties. CSX isn't involved because the current money is only for the Raleigh-Charlotte portion, which is all NS (and NCRR track leased to NS). CSX would be involved in the negotiations for to acquire the S-line between Richmond and Raleigh. NCDOT negotiated an agreement with NS, but the FRA has to ratify it and has so far refused. They've been having three-way negotiations. The sticking point is that most of the money is for capacity improvements that are supposed to reduce delays.
  6. Looks like Florida is rejecting their money as well, based on three reasons: Potential for cost overruns that would be borne solely by the stateOptimistic ridership projectionsIf they do build it but the operating costs are too high and they shut it down, having to return all the federal money I still feel like SEHSR should be in the running, but it's even more of a shame that the EIS still isn't completed.
  7. Even if the NCRR operated the freight, it will still face the same fundamental problem-- the freight rail is profitable, the passenger services not (until SESHR is completed, according to projections), and it's difficult to optimize both track and operations for freight and passenger services simultaneously. NCRR would have the same concerns about disrupting the profitable freight operations that pay for the track upgrades if operating directly.It's a pretty crazy situation with the FRA and the funds, especially because North Carolina and NCRR have been able to reach agreement with NS until t
  8. Well, it's not entirely the Administration's fault, it's also the fault of the Administration's party in Congress, which wrote the bills. The restriction on commuter service was explicitly contained in the stimulus law. There wasn't a majority in Congress for "use a bunch of federal money raised from taxes nationwide to build the best HSR network wherever it may be." Plenty of people, even those considering themselves rail advocates, wanted to make sure that their state had a "fair shot" at the money. This was especially since people viewed it as a "stimulus" law, so they wanted to put t
  9. Actually, the ARC tunnel was ineligible for HSIPR funds. If you look at its Record of Decision (linked), it was approved by the Federal Transit Administration, not the Federal Railroad Administration. If you read the FRA guidelines (linked) for applying for the money, you'll note this: The ARC tunnel's environmental and planning documents indicated that commuter rail was the primary intended beneficiary; hence, it was ineligible for funds under the HSIPR program administered by the FRA. It could only apply for Federal Transit Administration funds, and had already done so. This was
  10. They do, but if you look at their document for NEC upgrades, they still haven't done the Environmental Impact Statements and other planning documents. You can't understand how the HSR money was awarded without understanding the planning process. It takes 7-10 years to do a one or two tier EIS for a major project.The money had to spent well within that time frame, for many reasons, including the legislation specifying, the Administration wanted it to start before the end of the term, and the general desire for "shovel ready" projects-- it isn't much of a stimulus to a recession if you
  11. To be fair, the reason that the NEC didn't get much is that states didn't really apply. And states didn't really apply because states didn't have Environmental Impact Statements sitting around for projects waiting to be funded, and the Feds made it clear that they wanted to fund some projects that could get started before Obama's term was up, not fund projects that wouldn't break ground until a (possibly two-tier) EIS was done in 8 to 10 years. The Feds also made it clear that they had a strong bias in favor of funding "true" high speed rail, even where that means funding fast trains in ar
  12. No, all the studies performed so far have suggested that it wouldn't be an efficient use of money on any NC or VA line because ridership wouldn't increase nearly enough to pay for it. The SEHSR website has a discussion of this listed in its FAQ. It could happen in the future if conditions warrant, but it's not worth doing now at the expense of other priorities. I agree that DC to Richmond/Petersburg improvements should be a high priority especially until the Tier II EIS gets its ROD. Restoring the S-line from Raleigh to Petersburg saves sixty to ninety minutes just from taking a shorter
  13. There's no chance of getting money for the Raleigh station before the planning moves further along. Due to NEPA and the rules for using federal money, a lot of awards are conditioned on what has plans and environmental documentation and approvals ready to go, not what makes the most sense from a larger perspective. Hopefully that oft-delayed final Tier II EIS for SEHSR will come out mid 2011 as currently promised, and we'll get a Record of Decision. The Charlotte upgrades are nice (but expensive), but the real synergies for the project come with linking up to the Northeast Corridor.
  14. The new House Transportation Committee chairman Rep. John Mica (R-FL) is relatively pro-rail (especially for a Republican), but he's been an enormous critic of the HSR selections made so far, because he thinks that money should be going to areas with high density that can support rail-- specifically the NEC but possibly also CA. He's been very down on the Midwestern and other grants that he thinks are wasting lots of money for incremental upgrades routes that still won't be competitive with rail-- and he puts the Orlando to Tampa route in his own state in that same basket, though he thinks a
  15. Sure, but as I said, the Scientific St. and Oakdale Ave grade separations actually are on the Prioritized Capital plan for a cost of $3.5 and $5 million respectively (and actually costing less in incremental dollars because of the $2 million in federal dollars available for a grade separation), and despite the Cox-Hoskins double track being added to those very intersections, NCDOT and NCRR didn't do the grade separations. Given that precedent, I think it's unlikely to expect that any grade separations not in the prioritized capital plan be performed right now.
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