Saturday, December 24, 2011

When Democrats are willing to confront the realities and the truths about High-Speed Rail

It's good to know that there are other Democrats that have reservations about High-Speed Rail. The high-speed rail program's supporters are permeated with an obsession that ignores so many realities it's hard to know where to begin.

There are no high-speed rail industries in the United States. Why wouldn't we want to create a demand for the kinds of rail manufacturing products that can be deployed in our current rail environment and its evolutionary upgrade process?

Instead, what's going on now will result in massive purchases overseas to create rail components and rolling stock to use in the California high-speed rail project. Thats a double mistake. It's no way to upgrade an inadequate passenger rail system (Amtrak), and it's no way to create new American rail industries.

Why is it not yet understood (unless it is and ignored) that rail development is evolutionary and incremental, as it has been in many other nations, leading to high-speed rail only if there is already a passenger rail basis?

It is a tragic flaw in the American character that improvement is insufficient.  We are nothing, we are told to believe, unless we are the best, the Numero Uno, leading culture and nation.  We can't just have a better passenger rail system than we have now. That's not good enough.
How pretentious.

We are being promised that we will have a better-than-anyone-else passenger rail system -- an entire system -- by building this high speed train in California. What a child-like fantasy!  What a bed-time fairy tale we are being told!

And what courage it takes for a Democrat to stand up and acknowledge that.  We are rocketing down a steep mountain rail corridor with no brakes.  We have no idea how to pay for the most expensive infrastructure project ever conceived in the USA. Are we out of our minds? 

Or, are we so obsessed with greed and self-advancement, so determined to exploit the voters and tax payers, so besotted with the opportunity to become filthy rich by pushing this hopeless project on the rest of this country; that nothing will stop of us from proceeding with this scam, consuming the few billions we have already extracted from the budgeting system, and not giving a damn whether it makes sense or not, can be completed or not, is sheer waste or not, that we won't quit until it is far too late?

Any Senator or Congressman, Assemblyman or State Senator, County Supervisor, or City Council person who begins  acknowledge that reality, is worthy of a Congressional medal for putting the truth to the voters before personal ambition.
Published: December 10, 2011 12:01 AM EST
Updated: December 9, 2011 11:33 PM EST
Sen. Casey urges slower speeds for high-speed rail contracts
By JOHN GUERRIERO, Erie Times-News

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is urging a federal agency to slow it down when it comes to speed requirements for companies bidding to build high-speed rail locomotives.

Casey's office said a lower minimum speed -- from 125 mph to 110 mph -- would allow most U.S. companies, including GE Transportation, to bid on contracts that otherwise might go to foreign companies.

Casey, D-Pa., urged the lower-speed contract parameters in a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Most American companies do not yet build a 125-mph locomotive.

Casey wrote specifically about an upcoming contract for 33 high-speed passenger train locomotives on railroad tracks in Illinois, but his comments apply generally to high-speed rail contracts in the U.S.

The Illinois contract has not yet been put out for bids, but the federal department sets the contract specifications because the agency has regulatory control, said Casey's spokesman, John Rizzo.

In the letter, Casey said, "It is critical that state DOTs and public authorities have the flexibility to procure locomotives that best suit their needs and implement their respective rail plans.

"Given the department's important role in this matter, I respectfully request that the locomotive (contract parameters) allow for full and fair consideration of passenger locomotives from all U.S. manufacturers that are reasonably expected to attain speeds of at least 110 miles per hour (mph) and therefore meet the statutory definition of high-speed rail,'' Casey wrote.

Casey said that a federal Next Generation Equipment Committee considered equipment specifications that would have included 110 mph, but ultimately settled on a 125 mph standard.

"It troubles me that some advanced technology U.S. manufactured locomotives may be excluded from this procurement due to a difference of 15 mph. Furthermore, I am concerned that states cannot support the necessary infrastructure to sustain speeds of 125 mph without taking on significant additional costs,'' he said.

Rizzo said the difference between 125 mph and 110 mph would cut only minutes off a train trip between Chicago and St. Louis.

Stephan Koller, spokesman for Lawrence Park Township-based GE Transportation, said in a statement that the company appreciates Casey's support of high-speed passenger locomotives reaching speeds of at least 110 mph.

The company is developing a higher-speed passenger locomotive with partner Motive Power Inc., of Boise, Idaho, and will supply 20 of them to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in 2012-13, Koller said.

"Higher-speed passenger locomotives run on America's existing rail infrastructure and, thereby, represent a cost-effective way to serve America's rail traveling public,'' he said.

These locomotives, he said, sustain well-paying manufacturing jobs in Erie and across the U.S. The average passenger train now travels 79 mph, so a jump to 110 mph is significant, Koller said.

JOHN GUERRIERO can be reached at 870-1690 or by e-mail.

Copyright 2011 The Erie Times-News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. 

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