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Author Topic: Stimulus Plan and Amtrak
palmland
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Here is the House version of the economic stimulus plan that was posted over at another site:

http://appropriations.house.gov/pdf/RecoveryBill01-15-09.pdf

On page 219 it talks about Amtrak. My interpretation is that it doesn't provide new funding, rather just funds $800 million of the recently passed Amtrak/Rail Safety bill - which I believe authorized more than that. Maybe someone else can see more in it.

But some funding is better than none and perhaps the Senate will make changes.

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Gilbert B Norman
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I'm confident that Amtrak will get its share of infrastructure stimulus. Amtrak has enough ROW - the NE Corridor - that can dearly use such. The projects are what is called "shovel ready' as Amtrak Engineering certainly has their wish list ready to go that have not moved forth in the past account lack of funding.

One that I would hope is "on the list' is constant tension caternary on the PRR. Such a project would benefit both Amtrak and commuter agency services and would enable 150mph Acela operation over some segments such as Trenton New Brunswick.

I'm mindful that 150mph over the Pennsy would be little more than a Disneyland ride, but at least the ride would be where the people along with the "biggedties" that find their way on to Acela happen to be. The present 'ride' is experienced by quite few of the total Acela ridership.

Such a project is certainly "shovel ready' and involves employing workers at "uh not exactly' Wally World rates of pay.

Now what I highly doubt will occur are any publicly funded improvements to Class I ROW's for the sole purpose of adding capacity so that more LD passenger trains can be handled i.e. "two a day' on any LD route. Now I know that the NARP disciples around here strongly disagree with my thoughts on LD's (they should have been gone on A-Day if not a lot sooner), but any such initiative would represent a squander of funds - something that President Obama has pledged not to have occur (fact and pledges DO though have a way of differing from one another). Secondly, I highly doubt if the class I industry would "welcome' any such "taking' of their property.

However, if roads with "shovel ready' major improvements to benefit the flow of freight traffic that are now curtailed account the recession (I have inquired over at other Forums if UP's Sunset Route and BNSF's Abo Canyon are still moving forth), I think that stimulus loans, such as the Hoover administration Reconstruction Finance (RFC) would represent money well spent on the part of both the Government and the roads.

Finally and off-rail, I have long held that Hoover administration policies would have eventually got us out of the Depression (some hold that nothing FDR did got us out but rather WWII); the only problem of course that there would likely have been a Revolution along the way.

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yukon11
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I agree, Mr. Norman, that increasing the number of LD trains, for the most, would be a squandering of funds. Stimuation of Amtrak's infastructure, I think, is probably top priority. I would also like Amtrak to think about re-establishing the old dining car service with freshly prepared meals. I would love to see "2 a day" trains on some LD routes, but I realize that it just isn't going to happen.

I used to think that Hoover would have eventually gotten us out of the depression if he was re-elected. People still cling to the idea free markets were a major cause of the depression. Hoover's policies wern't much better than Roosevelt's. Hooever's 1932 Revenue Act only made things worse. FDR made plenty of mistakes, also. He did not really decrease unemployment..it remained high until WWII.

Richard

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notelvis
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One freight only route not yet mentioned in this thread that might be a candidate for traffic flow improvements is the Norfolk Southern's former SR and N&W route through the Shendoah Valley parallel to I-81.

I-81 travels through very hilly, mostly rural terrain and is very popular with the semi's looking to avoid city congestion and tolls on I-95. One study reported that nearly one in three vehicles on I-81 is an 18-wheeler now and the state of Virginia would really like to get some of those containers off the interstate.

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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amtraxmaniac
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How about rolling stock that isn't 30 years old? I don't believe frequency of LD's needs to be addressed, as much as reliability. More modern equipment might help.

And now off on my socialist rant...giving the class I's money to add capacity is of mutual benefit to both Amtrak and the class I. I cannot think of any other reason they (class I's) would thumb their nose at federal dollars except a contempt for Amtrak and the traveling public. If throwing money at them doesn't get them to go along, maybe eminent domain will.

We have the worst national rail system in the industrialized world. That is simply unacceptable.

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reggierail
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quote:
Originally posted by amtraxmaniac:
We have the worst national rail system in the industrialized world. That is simply unacceptable.

Nothing new about that. Been that way since Amtrak took over passenger rail and for many years before that.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Hello again Mr. Atwell, it has been an almost five year hiatus since your last posting.

Patrick, be assured that European railroads are in absolute envy of our railroads. Our roads think nothing of a 5000 ton train, and trains of 20000 tons have been operated in the past, although a train of that weight and length is likely unreasonable and impractical.

"Over there', freight trains weigh little more then does a passenger train. A 1000 ton train to Europeans is a "big one".

Now somehow I think your comment was directed towards passenger trains. If our two North American neighbors are any measuring block, I have to say your statement is unfounded. While I accept on the strength of many comments made here that VIA offers a superior customer and on-board service product to that of Amtrak's, VIA's system barely holds a candle in scope with that of Amtrak.

Mexico? for all intent and purpose, the passenger train is extinct.

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amtraxmaniac
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Mexico has a BARELY functioning democracy that is in danger of failing and the country falling into revolution and Canada's population is incredibly sparse compared to the United States: a poor comparison GBN. And yes, I was referring to passenger service,not freight.

And, reggie, its been that way since Amtrak took it over because the federal government has starved it to death, not because its not viable (with some initial investments). If NASA was so poorly funded people would be labeling it a failure too. Its not about the merit of a service, its about special interest dollars. The airline and auto industry have the money to line public official's pockets. The railroad industry doesn't.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Well Patrick, while this fellow who posts @ Railroad.net using the handle "ne plus ultra" likely does not have me on any of his "buddy lists', you could well be on such:

Gilbert B Norman wrote:
It is no wonder that when both KCS and UP made substantial investments in the Mexican rail system as part of their privatization initiative, they simply laid down a precondition; the passenger trains WILL be gone and "Don't even THINK about a MEXTRAK".
-------------------------------------------
Well this is certainly charming naivete - to hold up as exemplary a privatization agreement in Mexico under the PRI in the 90's.

Are you aware that the world's richest man now resides in the world's 14th largest economy, and doesn't even have many interests outside Mexico? He had the great good fortune to be friends with PRIistas when it came time to privatize the phone company.

That the president who initiated the privatization wave is widely acknowledged to have stolen his election? That the President in control when the railroad agreement was signed only took power after both the nominated candidate and the head of the party were assassinated in the months running up to the election?

Mexico in the 90's as a model for the terms of agreement between governments and corporations. What next? -- That we can learn what regulation environment corporations can reasonably expect based on the privatization experience of Yeltsin's Russia? Pinochet's Chile?

I'm sure they said don't even think of a Mextrax. Why wouldn't you, in a country where you could write your own ticket? Lots of American companies said don't even think of stricter pollution control to the Mexican government. Others said don't even think about enforcing labor laws against us. It's not worth mentioning such an agreement in the debate at a public forum in a democracy.

-----------------------
Suffice to say, he is now out in Wash to "be there for the most historic event of his life". I'll be quite happy to check in on it from my HDTV - and @ 73dg in my living room.

Finally, Patrick notes that Mexico has a barely functioning economy. That is why they sought out private investment in their rail system. Mexico has expectations of developing maritime ports, such as at Punta Colonel, BC, that will provide efficient cargo handling and distribution capacity. Reliable rail service is certainly a factor enabling any such ports to be competitive with existing, and until the current Recession/Depression took hold, overloaded US facilities.

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Ocala Mike
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Gil, you keep your thermostat at 73 degrees in the winter? Don't you know that under the "new" New Deal it will be against the law to have it higher than 68 degrees? Oh, wait, I think Cook County gets an exemption on that!

"The king is dead, long live the king!"

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Ocala Mike

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Henry Kisor
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Ocala Mike, GBN lives in Du Page County, a Republican businessman's bastion surrounded by working-class Democratic Illinois. People who live in Du Page have the means to heat their houses at 73 degrees while we frozen-nosed, icy-toed Cook Countyites are lucky to afford 65, let alone 68. Du Pagers burn ten-dollar bills in their furnaces while the rest of us have to make do with peat and buffalo chips on sale at Wally World.
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Ocala Mike
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Ah, yes, Du Page County, light-years away from the rabble in the "City of the Big Shoulders". Speaking of Wally World, I went there today to buy groceries, and noticed that I did not save an appreciable amount over what I would have spent at Publix (the large southern grocery chain where I usually shop). I also noticed they were pushing Wal-Mart credit cards, so I guess instead of soup kitchens, we'll just be able to charge our vittles until eventually they move the US Capitol to Bentonville, AR.

--------------------
Ocala Mike

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Gilbert B Norman
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....and I'm sure, Mr. Kisor, it comes as no surprise to learn that the plurality in my voting Precinct was 82-18 for "guess who".

Finally $10 bills and many more as well go TO NICOR (Peoples up your way); and not come from them.

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Henry Kisor
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I be dog! A Du Page precinct went Democratic? (If that's what you mean in your tantalizing riposte.) Maybe there IS hope for the country after all!

Off I go to Walmart for another pickupload of buffalo chips. Shall I save you a few?

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Gilbert B Norman
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Don't think so, Mr. K

But to continue off topic and rails, I was 19 when JFK was inaugurated; sure there was excitment as an Irish-Roman Catholic president back then broke as much ground as does an African-American today (prior to JFK you had to be WASP and 50+ in order to even think about being President).

But the excitement does not appear to be what it is today. For example, the one gal I know down at the Coffee House who is an Obama supporter is prepared to ride overnight on a BUS (she couldn't get on Amtrak Coach) simply to stand with her two college age kids on The Mall for the inauguration. As I noted 73dg and the HDTV will suffice quite well for me - and even if the other guy and gal had won (which after awaking the morning of Sep 15 and turning on the tube in a hotel room - I was out of town for a family wedding - I knew was a no way) .

But finally, let it be noted that in now some 53 hours from this posting, I stand beside Kathy (from the "coffee house with a view") and the obvious overwhelming plurality around here and say "I am an American and you are my President".

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amtraxmaniac
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The government in Mexico is corrupt. What honest folk remain in Mexico are being blown to pieces by the drug cartels. I wouldn't exactly call that progress.

The cartels call the shots in Mexico; sort of how corporations (ie; Union Pacific)run America without regard for the public good.

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zephyr
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quote:
Originally posted by amtraxmaniac:
The cartels call the shots in Mexico; sort of how corporations (ie; Union Pacific)run America without regard for the public good.

Right on, dude. UP sucks. They have absolutely no regard for the public good. I've never received any stimulus money from You-Pee. Have you? No, they're too busy messin' with our beloved Amtrak to bother with our entitlements.

I've had enough. I swear, it's time to revolt. It's time to nationalize. It's way past time.

We the people own those tracks. They're rightfully ours. Let's take them.

In your face, Ayn Rand.

We're entitled.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Zephyr, in view of your well established history of informative postings made here and always presented in a mature and respectful manner, I will ignore your immediate posting.

As for Patrick, his handle says it all; maybe a $12B annual appropriation earmarked for LD's would suffice. The Class I's would get to run freights over their investor-owned 143K mile system only when and where an 'Amtrak Czar' (appointed based on rail travel and railfan credentials) decides they may. Any Class I CEO that does not 'run 'em on time"? well for first offense he can jolly well go join George Ryan and Jeff Skilling for a while; and have new roommates Bernie Madoff and Rod Blag (however it is spelt). Second offense? time for "GP" at San Quentin. "Substantive due process" for any of the above? about the same as a Gitmo detainee enjoys.

disclaimer; hold position in UNP

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zephyr
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Gilbert, don't you think for a moment that my plan is limited to just You-Pee. It's high time that the government (we the people) take over all forms of transportation. In this time of crisis upon crisis (financial, energy, global warming, and on and on), it's time for big thinking.

Take air travel. Why do we need so many profit gouging corp's flying so many pretty painted planes to so many places? Connect the dots, people. We don't. Nationalize them. Eliminate unneeded capacity (which, I dare say, is most of it). Merge the remainder into an effeciently run government airline (on the Amtrak model).

And cars? Jeez, the number of motor vehicles in this country exceeds the population. What a waste. We should form a Car Repossession and Allocation Program (CRAP). Confiscate all motor vehicles; gid rid of the 90% we don't need; and allocate the remainder around the country based on a government needs assessment study.

In the unlikely event someone thinks they need a car, they can submit an application and financial statement to CRAP. Highly trained auditors would review the applications. Evaluation would be based on worthiness of travel and the absence of public transportation and bicycle alternatives. If approved, a fee would be assessed based on ability to pay (the poorest among us would actually be paid to drive).

We are at a critical period in history. It is time for we, the people, to take control of our destiny. If not for us, then for our children.

Public rail and bus transportation is the only answer. Cars and planes are so yesterday.

Think big, people.

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Gilbert B Norman
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OK Mr. Zephyr, it is a free country (free even to the extent I noticed on NBC someone standing along Penna Ave in sight of the Bush/Obama motorcade holding a sign saying "Arrest Bush") and a forum open to all views.

I respect your right to say it, and at one time wore a uniform and took an oath to defend your right to do so.

Aside from the obvious that I disagree with the nationalization of any basic industry, and I sincerely hope that during the Obama administration's first term, those industries that have effectively been nationalized, namely commercial and investment banks, to some extent insurance, and to a lesser extent autos, will be returned to the private sector. However at this time, railroads have neither sought any kind of bailout nor have yet to be considered in any nationalization initiative. This is unlike the "Dark Ages" when I was employed within the industry (1970-81), when one third of the mileage was either in or would enter Bankruptcy Proceedings. Presently the industry has inherent resources (physical and human) to discharge their responsibility to the economy, even when such returns to 2007 levels of activity and while earning an adequate return on their stakeholder's investment. That responsibility is simply and succinctly to handle freight traffic in an economic and efficient manner. If such capacity 'breaks down" as it did during WWI, and was showing signs of such, especially in the North Central region during my years within, then so be it; a nationalization initiative may be the only recourse. However, an initatiive arising from as petty and inconsequential an issue regarding an unwillingness or inability to handle additional passenger trains, is simply absurd.

Finally regarding autos, all too many of those who show up at the Fire or School house on "that Tuesday in November" hold, even if apparently you do not, "Le voiture c'est moi".

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PullmanCo
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And I thought Swift was the master of the "Modest Proposal"...
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zephyr
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When I'm misunderstood by two of my favorites around here (the two gents posting just north of here), then I have done a very poor job communicating. I sincerely apologize.

And I ask that all of you who totally agree with my proposals to stop sending me private messages suggesting I run for a political office. Though I have a reputation of always being completely serious, I fell out of character temporarily. Just a momentary lapse.

The eminent domain & nationalization talk pops up here and there. As does demonizing selected enterprises (UP shares the hate with Walmart, ExxonMobil, and others). I used to dismiss it as just sophmoric jibberish. But it's starting to annoy me. Far too many seem to be taking it seriously. A sign of the times?

I thought I'd vent by posting something along the generic socialist siren song lines (you know, vote for me, I've got a great idee, and it'll be absolutely free, a shady tree for you and me).

It so easy to do the nationalization sing-song. You just out the villain (UP), touch on a few buzz-words (global warming), and point out the righteousness of your cause (it's for the children and we're saving the planet). Logic is such a needless bother.

Would y'all mind if I go off on a socialist rant from time to time? Just as a release from being the always serious real me?

I would promise to come up with better acronyms than CRAP.

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TwinStarRocket
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So now Zephyr claims some of his posts may have been "tongue in cheek", after all of us zip-fivers have already had to pay for drum therapy for the inferiority complexes he gave us.
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zephyr
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Mr. Rocket, please continue on with the drum therapy.

Scientific studies have shown it may help. Maybe not with your complexes, but the physical activity may help you survive the Arctic winter.

As for the rest of you, please stop the private messaging. I beg you. The CRAP idea is not really under serious consideration by the government. For you righties, they're not going to take away your beloved SUV's. For you lefties, the CRAP idea is just that.

Jeez.

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George Harris
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Zephyr:

Love your CRAP program. Wonderful acronym. The possibilities should send all people that consider government control the solution into ecstasies. Maybe as an intermediate step we go for the Singapore model. A limited number of certificates allowing a person to buy a car are authorized every year and then auctioned.

Adding to this is a fairly high annual tax on cars that increases as the car ages. After a car is 10 years old it becomes unsustainable for all but the extremely wealthy.

Think of the possibilities. The auction income could wipe out the deficit, and without the potential for addictive behavior that government sponsored casinos leave us open to. The tax will drive all clunkers off the road. People, all but the wealthy and celebrities of course, will be force to walk ride busses, Amtrak etc. The reduction in traffic could result in the end of highway construction, anywhere. No more sprawling development. Everyone must live in high rises close to work because you cannot afford to do anything else. So much easier to control people that way.

Next step, rewrite the laws on slander and libel so that if you criticise a government program or official you can be sued into banruptcy.

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zephyr
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Wonderful ideas, George.

You got me thinkin' maybe I dropped the CRAP idea too quickly. The world's just so unfair, and we all must work hard to make things better.

Take Amtrak. How many times have you seen poor young families with children sweating it out in coach, while the sleepers are filled with rich fat cats? Sadly, we see it all the time, don't we?

Well, we could have something like a CRAP program for Amtrak. Call it, say, the Sleeper Utilization Control System (SUCS).

Like CRAP, people would submit applications and the obligatory financial statements to the Amtrak SUCS Department. Highest priority for sleeper assignments would be given to the most needy and deserving among us.

Need would replace bucks as the ticket to first class. I dare anyone to find the slightest hole in that logic.

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mr williams
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Would the first Act of the CRAP program be to rename the California Zephyr the "Comrade Zephyr"? [Big Grin]
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George Harris
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Zyphyr:

The truly scarey part is there are probably people out there that really do think these things are good ideas.

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Gilbert B Norman
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In an effort to redirect the discussion at the topic to the originator, Mr. Palmland's, intent, we should note that unlike RSIA 08, and the tack on PRIIA 08, ARRA 09 is an appropriation Bill, which if enacted by President Obama, means there is $$$ to spend.

I would like to think that Amtrak Engineering has projects, in President Obama's words (and I'm sure every possible recipient agency has been directed by the White House to compile a listing of such), "shovel ready" should the $800M noted in the House version be enacted.

Finally, be sure to keep an eye upon amounts appropriated to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) as the legislation moves forth, for that agency potentially has funds available for both infrastructure and equipment to any Local agency sponsoring any kind of mass transit, which includes intercity rail, project.

Posts: 9388 | From: Clarendon Hills, IL USA (BNSF Chicago Sub MP 18.71) | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Henry Kisor
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RSIA 08? PRIIA 08? ARRA 09? Could you spell those out for us non-cognoscenti, please? Thanks.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008

Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (tack on means that PRIIA was combined with RSIA 08 as Division B and presented to President Bush for enactment as such)

American Reinvestment and Revocery Act of 2009

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Henry Kisor
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Thank you, GBN!
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Dakguy201
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Assuming the $800 mil survives in the Senate (which may be a stretch), what do you spend it on? I believe the House legislation specifically prohibits using it to defray operating expenses, but it is silent beyond that. Mr. Norman would upgrade the catenary in the Northeast Corridor, which certainly needs doing, but what about the rest of the country?

Further assuming that some portion of the money puts back in service the 40 odd Superliners awaiting rebuilding, where do you utilize those cars?

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CG96
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One answer to DakGuy's question is to put the rebuilt Superliners out on the existing routes, where there is plenty of demand for them. Also, put more single level sleepers and coaches on the orutes that employ those cars.

--------------------
"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one corner of the Earth all one's life."

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notelvis
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quote:
Originally posted by CG96:
One answer to DakGuy's question is to put the rebuilt Superliners out on the existing routes, where there is plenty of demand for them. Also, put more single level sleepers and coaches on the orutes that employ those cars.

I agree re: the Superliners but the time is nearing for 'gasp' NEW single-level rolling stock. The diners are well-past retirement age and the Viewliner sleepers of a rolling demonstration project for creative duct tape application.

In al seriousness, counting on the existing Viewliner fleet to expand sleeper capacity in single-level country is likely not going to bring good result.

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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Gilbert B Norman
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From The New York Times (to be printed tomorrow):

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/06/us/politics/06stimulus.html

Brief passage:

WASHINGTON — Anxious over the ballooning size of the proposed economic stimulus package, now at more than $900 billion, lawmakers in both parties are working on a last-minute plan to strip $200 billion from the bill.

The effort is being led by two centrist senators — Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, and Susan Collins, Republican of Maine.

Among the initiatives that could be cut are $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, $14 million for cyber security research by the Homeland Security Department, $1 billion for the National Science Foundation, $400 million for research and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, $850 million for Amtrak and $400 million for climate change research. But so far, none of the suggestions come close to being enough to shrink the package on the scale proposed.


It appears that Amtrak will have to wait for the "spending bills' to be enacted and the enhanced guidelines authorized by PRIIA '08.

This Stimulus legislation is intended to identify projects that would create jobs - quickly AND visibly. While in this "car hating' community here, I realize to mention such is blasphemy, highway construction projects ARE visible, especially when you are navigating a construction zone - with an 18 wheeler behind you "not exactly' happy with any adherence on your part to the reduced speed limits - $375 minimum fine, speed photo enforced, hit a worker 14 years in jail...etc notwithstanding. While I hold that there are numerous "shovel ready' projects about Amtrak's own properties that could be considered "stimulus', that the President's own party seems to have porked up the Bill with funding for National Endowment for the Arts as well as in all likelihood studies on secs lives of the aardvark is jeopardizing the entire intent of such and could well result in a Senate filibuster unless the President gets some moderate Republicans on board. He is trying to reach out, but he knows that compromises must be made - and this Times article is indicative of those that will have to be made.

While I still hold that "there will be something' for passenger rail infrastructure within the enacted legislation, new Amtrak train service to Jerkwater Junction, as well as new equipment for such, will have to wait.

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RR4me
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Well, I guess La Grange, CA, pop. 250 (elev. 250 ft) will just have to wait for its Amtak station!
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sojourner
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EVeryone should call the White House or their senators now and demand the money be left in for Amtrak. If it doesn't come now, i feel certain we'll never get it. And it will help provide jobs, building new train cars, etc etc.

If you are not an American voter, I suggest write to local papers and tell them how Amtrak encourages you to come here and spent your travel dollars.

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palmland
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I suspect if this happens, deals will have been cut such as - if we (Democrats) remove our favorite pork from the stimulus, we expect support from you (Republicans) when we ask for funding as a part of other legislation. For instance, funding of the RSIA/PRIIA that was authorized last fall but not funded, as noted by Mr Norman.
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