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Archive for Sunday, January 1, 2012

Midwest officials explore passenger rail expansion

January 1, 2012

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— Expanding passenger rail service through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas would cost the federal and state governments hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a recently released study that looked at several proposals for the region.

One option it examined would provide nighttime passenger train service between Fort Worth, Texas, and Newton, Kansas. Another would establish daytime service between Fort Worth and Kansas City. Both options would use an existing stretch of Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks that pass through Lawrence, Topeka and Wichita in Kansas as well as Oklahoma City.

The analysis released earlier this month had to be completed to apply for federal funding. It follows up on a feasibility study completed by Amtrak in March 2010 and looks at such things as the route schedule and the infrastructure cost.

Passenger rail backer Mark Corriston said Congress could agree to pay up to 80 percent of the cost under the Passenger Rail Investment Act.

“The price tag isn’t much at all,” said Corriston, secretary of the Northern Flyer Alliance, a nonprofit that lobbies for passenger rail development for 65 communities between Kansas City and Fort Worth. “If you take 80 percent of the costs off the total development, which would be split between three states, it’s not a very large burden for the state to support to develop this.”

Dennis Slimmer, chief of transportation planning for the Kansas Department of Transportation, said the agency would present the study to the Kansas Legislature during its upcoming session. The $500,000 passenger rail study was done with a $250,000 federal grant and matching money from the transportation departments in Kansas and Oklahoma. Transportation agencies in Texas and Missouri provided information used to complete the study but no funding.

“The Legislature will determine what happens with this next,” Slimmer said. “I don’t know what the chances are. Realistically, we will have to get federal funding, but there is no guarantee for that.”

The expanded service would require the construction of more stretches of double track and other upgrades, in part to ensure that passenger trains wouldn’t stall freight trains. Those infrastructure improvements would cost $132.5 million for the nighttime service and $368.2 million for the daytime service. To do both projects would cost only $403 million because some of the improvements needed for the daytime service are required for the nighttime service, too.

Night service also would require the $4 million purchase of an additional coach car, and day service would require buying two train sets, a spare locomotive and coach and food service cars at a cost of $68 million.

The participating states would share an annual operating subsidy of $4.4 million for night service and $10 million for day service. That would be on top of the money Texas and Oklahoma already pay to subsidize a train called the Heartland Flyer.

The nighttime option would essentially expand the route of the Heartland Flyer, which travels south from Oklahoma City in the morning hours and returns in the evening, with an afternoon layover in Fort Worth. With the expansion, the route would start and end in Newton in the early morning hours. From Newton, travelers could catch Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, which travels back and forth from Chicago to Los Angeles, passing through Kansas City along the way.

The standalone daytime service between Kansas City and Fort Worth would provide a second daily train in each direction on the stretch of track between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth. The study said travel time between Kansas City and Fort Worth would be 12 hours and 20 minutes.

Under the daytime plan, stations and stops also could be added in the Kansas cities of Wichita, Shawnee, Emporia, Strong City and Arkansas City, and the Oklahoma communities of Ponca City, Perry, Guthrie and Edmond. The plan also proposes additional stops in Davis, Okla., and in the Krum and Denton area in Texas. The communities would bear the cost of adding the stations, with the possible help of grant money.

“We haven’t heard a lot in the way of pushback from folks but we know that once they start talking about real dollars people will start being more serious in their analysis of whether it is really one of the highest priorities or not,” Slimmer said. “It would be nice if it was because I think a lot of people would like to be able to ride the train.”

Comments

Flap Doodle 2 years, 3 months ago

In other choo-choo news: "When the California legislature undertook the most expensive public-works project in American history, they also created an independent review board to ensure that the LA-to-San Francisco high-speed rail project would have solid financial footing. Perhaps they intended this panel to be a public-relations rubber stamp, but if so, it just proves that their miscalculations weren’t limited to cost projections. Yesterday, the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group sent a “scathing” letter to the political leadership in Sacramento, calling the project’s finances and costs “fundamentally flaw[ed]” (via Andrew Malcolm)..." http://hotair.com/archives/2012/01/04/california-panel-declares-high-speed-rail-project-not-financially-feasible/

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Mike Ford 2 years, 3 months ago

not used to hearing intelligent comments are you phoenixman????

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Jeff Goodrick 2 years, 3 months ago

Where trains make sense is not going to major aircenters but to small towns. I run amtrak from lawrence to garden city for $ 50. To fly there its $ 230 by way of denver. You can drive it for $50 but you sleep on the train. What Amtrak needs to do is forget about the major cities and just service the small towns. Fly to Wichita is $ 200 through KCI. Lawrence to Wichita would be about $30 and sleep while you travel.

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Mike Ford 2 years, 3 months ago

to dispel the nonsense repeated by the senseless....My wife and I rode from Union Station to Chicago and back on October 2-5 2010. We purchased two tickets for $240 round trip for both of us in June 2010. We rode up took the L trains and the Metras back and forth from downtown to our motel out on N Milwaukee Avenue. We did the museums, the Navy Pier, Lincoln Park excedera. All of this cost $700 with motels, food, site seeing and travel in Chicago, which I saved up for at the time and paid cash. We go to OKC Thunder games which make the Southwest Chief to Heartland Flyer trip appealing. The Heartland Flyer Station is a couple blocks east of the OKC Thunder arena. We walk under the AMTRAK bridge to the game. It is a shame that the most uninformed people speak against rail on here. After all their ancestors stole Indian lands for the rail lines that are now mostly abandoned. Anyone watched the AMC show "Hell on Wheels" recently??? Americans learn their history from tv shows right??? My father rode from Kenora Ontario to Toronto to Montreal and Quebec City then to Ottawa to Toronto and Windsor on VIA rail which is Canada's AMTRAK. He rode from Detroit to KC on AMTRAK. The Kenora to Windsor Trip ran $475 and the Detroit to KC run cost $85. My father is 66 years old so senior discounts kicked in. You can pretty much go anywhere on the train in Canada which is why they think of us as a bunch of fox watching hillbillies. Ignorance is bliss I guess. I've rode out west down south and to the east on AMTRAK but dimwits speak the loudest these days I guess.

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FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 3 months ago

From January to March of 2008, there have been a record number of railroad accidents. These accidents have injured almost 2,000 people and killed nearly 200 people. More than half of these railroad accidents have been caused by trespassers on railroad property and rights-of-way, and more than 60 percent of the injuries have been suffered by railroad employees.

http://www.totalinjury.com/motor-vehicle/train-accident/default.aspx

60% by the Union? Are these hardworking Union employees like the auto union at lunch breaks?

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catfishturkeyhunter 2 years, 3 months ago

I frankly don't understand why there isnt a direct line from Kansas City to Denver... Those tickets would sell like hot cakes..

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Scott Morgan 2 years, 3 months ago

imastinker, I agree, can't ever remember the price of traveling west on a train with car. We got a quote and never thought about it again. There is something to having a car packed for a couple week road trip and starting 1000 miles away. Sit back, when the destination arrives drive off in your own car.

back in the day 1970s I used to take the train from Chicago to KC for pennies of the cost of an airline ticket. Thinking something like 15 bucks a ticket.

Anybody know the cost of taking the train from DC to NY, or NY to Miami. Lots of service on these lines.

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Phoenixman 2 years, 3 months ago

Railroads will become viable again when unions are no longer involved with them. Let the market run them and you'll see a new boom in rail travel. Government and labor out, success will soon follow.

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imastinker 2 years, 3 months ago

Last summer we vacationed in California. I priced a train ticket for our family and her brother that came with us (three adults, three kids, one lap baby). I was thinking about what fun it would be to go through the mountians, and how we would save money by not needing a hotel if we drive.

It came to $2500 for the six tickets - and $4000 if we got a bedroom. Plane tickets were $300 apiece, or $1800 (the baby is free), and we drove it for about $1000 including hotels.

How is rail a viable option if it costs as much or more than flying and takes three times as long?

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Scott Morgan 2 years, 3 months ago

BTW....We in the Midwest are getting hosed and actually supporting the East and West coast passenger train services.

Isn't it time for some true rail service here in flyover country?

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Flap Doodle 2 years, 3 months ago

Those super high speed trains are working out so well for China, except when they go off the rails.

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jhawkinsf 2 years, 3 months ago

Rail transportation sounds like a good idea. I like the notion. But a few words of caution.
Obviously, we are living through tough economic times. And while we do indeed subsidize other forms of transportation, now may be a time when we need to be selective. Today we can subsidize air travel, when the economy improves significantly, we can subsidize rail. The second word of caution is how we tend to compare rail here to rail in countries like Japan or European countries. A trip across Japan or Germany as an example, would take much less time than a trip across the U.S. Any rail service here would have to exclude business trips other than those that could include significant leisure time as well.
The only rail service that would make sense would be for those short stops, the K.C. to St. Louis or Dallas to Houston. Those could compete with air. But only if the rail stations are located near where the business is to be conducted. A San Francisco to L.A. service would not work if once the passenger arrives in downtown L.A. they would then have to get on the "105" to the "405" to the "605" and exit at Huntington Beach, turn left at the second light go 1.5 miles, well, you get the point.

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FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 3 months ago

If it were profitable it would have already been done. but....

Why not pass it before you read it. Put the post office in charge. Offer cash for clunkers to stimulate the transfomation from privacy to cattle cars. Oh, heck with that.
Force everyone to ride it. Make the 1% pay for it.

Occupie

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kusp8 2 years, 3 months ago

I'm all for alternate means of travel between the KC/OKC/DFW areas, but if the state governments are going to have to subsidize it what's the point?

How about installing high speed rail with stops in KC, Wichita, OKC, and DFW? I'd like to see some numbers on if this would be revenue neutral to revenue generating within a reasonable time.

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budman 2 years, 3 months ago

God Amtrack is such a waste of money, with the price of the tickets being so high you might as well fly. Seriously, how would this make any economical sense in the midwest.

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none2 2 years, 3 months ago

Either the AP did a poor job of writing this up, the plans have changed since they were first evaluated, or someone is being dishonest about the difference between the daytime vs night time alternatives.

Here are two of the original alternatives:

http://northernflyeralliance.org/nfa-supports-alternatives-1-3-passenger-rail-expansion/

The difference was only TWO locations: Emporia & Strong City added to the daytime run. Shawnee was never part of the proposal.That is the total difference in stops, period.

If the night time run were chosen, Emporia & Strong City wouldn't even be part of the Nothern Flyer. that area would be part of the Southwest Chief train (transfer from NothernFlyer to SW Chief). If Amtrak chose to modify the SW Chief route, they could add Emporia (which they had until the 90's), and they could choose to add Strong City.

Somebody needs to set the record straight to the AP.

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