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Resurrecting Rail Travel






The first rail section of the California high-speed electrical-powered train route, aka the "backbone," is from Merced to Bakersfield. The California High-Speed Rail Authority reportedly has about $6 billion available to build the backbone, $3 billion of which are federal stimulus and transportation funds. A federal mandate requires the government money be spent, and the backbone "largely completed" by Sept. 30, 2017.


Not since the mid-19th century have railroads been so prominent in the news. Back then it was the wonder of the First Transcontinental Railroad, a 1,907 mile railroad line built between 1863 and 1869 to connect San Francisco to the existing Eastern rail network at Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Between 1945 and 1964, noncommuter rail passenger travel in the U.S. declined 84 percent. And in 1968, when Pennsylvania Railroad merged with rival New York Central, it was clear the glory days of noncommuter railroading were definitely over.

Now, however, more and more areas of the U.S. have plans to take more cars off the highways and move more people via rail:

Brownsville, Texas hasn't had passenger rail service for more than 40 years, but the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study is evaluating passenger rail service for the 850-mile corridor from Oklahoma City to south Texas www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/projects/studies/statewide/texas-oklahoma-rail.html. The I-35 corridor, which runs clear across the state in a northeasterly fashion from Laredo near the Mexican border to Gainesville where it crosses into Oklahoma, is a particularly congested route.

On April 22, 2013, the Bellevue, Wash. City Council approved a route to extend its Link light-rail trains more than four years after voters approved higher sales taxes to build three suburban lines. The East Link, anticipated to cost $2.8 billion, is anticipated for completing by 2023. The new light rail would go from Seattle across Lake Washington on Interstate 90, through Bellevue and on to the Overlake Transit Center in Redmond http://www.ci.bellevue.wa.us/light-rail.htm.

In 2012, the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) committed to a six-year, $1.55 billion spending agreement for a 20-mile rail system in Honolulu County, Oahu, from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center. The project will receive $14 million less from FTA this year because of budget sequestration cuts. FTA asserts the cut will be made up.

The biggest headline rail story in the U.S. is the California High-Speed Rail Authority's development of electrically-powered high-speed trains running from San Francisco to Los Angeles/Anaheim via the Central Valley, and later to Sacramento and San Diego www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov.

The first section of the route to be built, the "backbone," is from Merced to Bakersfield. The rail authority reportedly has about $6 billion available to build the backbone, $3 billion of which are federal stimulus and transportation funds. A federal mandate requires the government money be spent, and the backbone "largely completed" by Sept. 30, 2017. Note: Agriculture interests in Madera and Merced counties just dropped their environmental lawsuit concerning lands within the backbone section.

The L.A. to San Francisco run is expected to take about 2 hours and 40 minutes, with train speeds of up to 220 mph. If fully realized, the project would comprise 800 miles of track and up to 24 stations.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is also working with regional partners to implement statewide rail modernization, a plan that will invest billions of dollars in local and regional rail lines.








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November 19, 2019, 10:25 pm PDT

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