Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My Holiday Wish List for Barack Obama

Dear President-Elect Obama:

Your election has for a number of reasons made me bullish on the prospects for revitalizing America's passenger rail network at all levels. First, I know you and Vice President-Elect are strong advocates. Second, you are emphasizing renewed investment in America's infrastructure as integral to your strategy for revitalizing our sluggish economy.

You have expressed a desire to fund projects that are "shovel ready" in order to put as many people back to work as quickly as possible. The highway lobby has no shortage of these. they have identified over 5,000 such projects and say they would create 1.8 million jobs.

But "shovel ready" should be only one criteria used to decide what gets funded. Sustainability, environmental impact and energy consumption should also be taken into account. That's why public transportation projects need to play an important role in the mix. As an editorial in today's Washington Post points out, the American people are clamoring for public transportation. They are using it in increasing number while they are driving less. In the fall election, voters passed an astounding 70 percent of ballot initiatives to raise taxes to pay for transit.

Creating a national transportation policy that supports and funds public transportation, including intercity and high-speed rail, on the same footing as highway projects would be an important milestone. It would truly represent "change we can believe in." With that in mind, I have prepared a list of public transportation goals I'd like to see accomplished during your first term:

High speed rail
  • A full funding agreement and construction underway on the first phase of the California High-Speed Rail Line.
  • 110 mph operations on significant portions of Amtrak's Chicago - St. Louis and Chicago - Detroit and Cascadia corridors.
  • A full funding agreement and construction underway on the Southeast High-Speed Rail line between Washington and Charlotte.
  • A full funding agreement and construction underway for several major projects along Amtrak's Northeast Corridor such as replacement of the Portal Bridge between New York and Newark and new, faster tunnels in Baltimore.
  • Completion of rehabilitation and remedial safety improvements in the Hudson and East River Tunnels.

In addition, to the aforementioned corridor projects:
  • Elimination of Amtrak's bad order equipment backlog so its passenger car fleet can be brought to maximum capacity.
  • A order for a new generation of passenger cars to replace aging Amfleet and Horizon equipment as well as the remaining Heritage dining cars.
  • More sleeping cars for long distance trains.
  • New services in partnership with states, such as Chicago - Quad Cities, Chicago - Dubuque, Kansas City - Fort Worth, Washington - Lynchburg, Cleveland - Cincinnati
  • Restored service between New Orleans and Jacksonville.
  • Restored service from Los Angeles to Las Vegas
  • Rerouting the Sunset Limited through Phoenix
  • Daily operation of the Sunset Limited and Cardinal
  • Restoration of through service on the Inland Route between New Haven and Boston via Springfield
Regional / Commuter
  • New services:
    • New York - Poconos
    • New York - Lehigh Valley
    • New York - Atlantic City
    • Boston - Fall River / New Bedford
    • Boston - Concord, NH
    • Philadelphia - Lehigh Valley
    • Philadelphia - Reading
    • Atlanta - Macon
    • Atlanta - Athens
    • Los Angeles - Palm Springs
    • Phoenix - Tucson
  • Full funding and construction underway on several major capital projects:
    • Long Island Rail Road's East Side Access
    • Long Island Rail Road third track between Floral Park and Hicksville
    • NJ Transit new Hudson River Tunnels provided they connect to Penn Station
    • New York's Second Avenue Subway

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