Promoting passenger trains as a transportation alternative in Florida since 1983.  We are citizens who advocate for Amtrak, commuter rail, intercity rail and transit for Florida's future.

The Silver Rail Blog

  • 29 Oct 2009 10:10 AM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    The following post is courtesy of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association's Emy Louie.

    Both NARP and FCRP were represented at this conference, held last Thursday and Friday at the J.W. Marriott in Washington, DC.

    --Jackson McQuigg

    #  #  #

    Observations from the U.S. High Speed Rail Association's Inaugural Conference

    Amongst an internationally diverse and speculative crowd, national leaders in both the public and private sectors from United States and international leaders of high speed rail systems convened to lead the United States into the era of high speed rail. Financing, building the first high speed rail line, speed and historical government precedents were the highlights of the conference.

    Financing High Speed Rail was one of the hottest topics at the conference. The first most important action to bring high-speed rail to America is to create a national infrastructure bank, said Mayor John Robert Smith from Reconnected America. "Sustained funding" for a "transportation trust fund" is the one thing we need to do. It should not be a once or twice appropriation measure. J D Stokes from SE3 echoed the same sentiment and said that there should be a "one infrastructure bank." In regards to the 8 billion dollars allocated for high-speed rail in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell was not satisfied with a meager amount and said it is a "drop in the bucket" and "we got to get serious" and address it at a level to make things happen.

    Further discussion about financing of High Speed Rail started to run in circles, but Rick Harnish from Midwest high Speed Rail said it best and drew a line in the sand in a response to financing high speed rail and said, "It's not worth that discussion until it's being discussed with other modes" of transportation. Rick Harnish responded in a similar way when Jackson McQuigg from National Association for Railroad Passengers, who was in the audience, asked Harnish about how rail passenger advocacy efforts should be conducted. Harnish replied that there were no discussions of costs for federal highway spending in the 1950s implying that there was a successful national effort to build highways regardless of the cost of highways.

    The second most important action item, gleaned from the conference, is to build the first high speed rail line as stated by Jean-Pierre Loubinoux from the International Union of Railways. The first line is the start of a national high-speed rail network.

    Another notable topic was speed, which was set straight by several elected officials. Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell said, "There is danger in putting pockets of money into mid speed rail". In addition, U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson from Texas said, "Speed up Amtrak...I don't believe in that."

    Despite the history of attempts to bring high-speed rail to the US, U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson from Texas seemed hopeful and said, "I think we are very prime for high speed rail!" Further optimism was drawn from successful government projects in the past. They include the Erie Canal as mentioned by Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell and U.S. Congressman Paul Tonko from New York. Norman Anderson by CG/LA said NASA is also good example of government efforts.

    This conference was dramatically different from other rail conferences in the United State because of the presence of an international crowd of high-speed rail experts and related companies. During a conference luncheon, U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown from Florida was flabbergasted when she asked, "Who in this room have ridden high speed rail?" Almost all arms in the room were raised! Japanese, German, Dutch, Korean, Spanish could be heard amongst attendees as representatives from Spain, United Kingdom, France, Korea and Japan attempted to impress the attendees with their presentations of high speed rail systems already existing in their own countries.

    There was a feeling of hope and speculation in the air as private high-speed rail companies figure out how to do business with United States.

    I asked an exhibition company from the United Kingdom, "Would you exhibit at our next conference?"

    He said, "Yes, if there is a market for high-speed rail in the United States."

    Isn't that the big question? --Emy Louie

  • 28 Oct 2009 10:26 AM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    This editorial from the Miami Herald correctly points out that the Legislature's inaction on Tri-Rail funding could come at a very high cost-- literally-- to Florida's taxpayers.

    http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/editorials/story/1301611.html

    It's high time to find a permanent source of funding for Tri-Rail.

    --Jackson McQuigg

  • 20 Oct 2009 1:06 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    As the Palm Beach Post reports, various passenger rail projects around the state vying for stiumulus funds, such as the proposed Amtrak service on the Florida East Coast Railway, sets up some intra-state competition for passenger rail dollars.

    Florida cities competing with one another or rail service? We haven't seen that in a long while! 

    http://www.palmbeachpost.com/localnews/content/local_news/epaper/2009/10/19/1019train.html

    --Jackson McQuigg

  • 20 Oct 2009 12:59 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    Recently, US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood told Florida officials that it could forget about receiving stimulus funds for high-speed rail unless the state funded the SunRail system and found a permanent source of funding for Tri-Rail.

    Did Florida listen? Apparently so, according to the Tampa Tribune. A special session of the Florida Legislature might be on the way:

    http://www2.tbo.com/content/2009/oct/20/na-december-session-onrailbid-proposed/

    --Jackson McQuigg

  • 17 Oct 2009 4:18 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    Kudos to FCRP and SMART member Jerry Sullivan for continuing the fight to bring Amtrak service back to the rails between New Orleans and Florida.

    Jerry was quoted in the Florida Times-Union on the occasion of a SMART (Sunset Marketing and Revitalization Team) meeting held in Jacksonville today: http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2009-10-17/story/future_of_sunset_limited_train_service_through_jacksonville_unclear

    You can also hear from Jerry at FCRP's Fall Members Luncheon and Meeting, to be held in Jacksonville on November 7.

    Let's keep this fight alive! Contact your Member of Congress and Florida's US Senators today!

    --Jackson McQuigg

  • 12 Oct 2009 3:49 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    Given the recession and new competition for passengers Amtrak is faced with in the Northeast Corridor from companies like BoltBus, this AP story is welcome news:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091012/ap_on_go_ot/us_amtrak_ridership_2

    --Jackson McQuigg

  • 10 Oct 2009 5:16 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was very clear to audiences in Central Florida on Monday of this past week.

    If it is to get any funds for high-speed or other rail projects, Florida must act now to demonstrate it is serious about passenger rail by funding SunRail, the Central Florida commuter rail system.

    From the Orlando Sentinel's Central Florida Political Pulse Blog:

    http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_politics/2009/10/by-dan-tracy-sentinel-staff-writer--us-transportation-secretary-ray-lahood-had-a-simple-message-monday-for-the-florida-sen.h

    --Jackson McQuigg

  • 09 Oct 2009 9:43 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    The Florida Today newspaper on the Space Coast reports that adding Amtrak service along the Florida East Coast Railway has another benefit besides increased mobility for Floridians: jobs.

    http://www.floridatoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2009910060313

    --Jackson McQuigg

  • 03 Oct 2009 12:35 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    This week, FCRP cosigned a letter from the National Association of Railroad Passengers protesting New Jersey Transit plans to construct new tunnels under New York's Hudson River.

    The new tunnels will be dead-end bores which connect only to a new, deep-cavern station under 34th Street in New York. They will not connect to Penn Station, making them of marginal utility-- and of zero utility to Amtrak trains serving the region, including the New York-Florida trains.

    FCRP and NARP believe that any new tunnels under the Hudson should connect to Penn Station, making them of greater usefulness to all railroad passengers.

    NARP's letter can be found here: http://www.narprail.org/cms/index.php/resources/more/narp_letter_to_the_fta_regarding_the_new_hudson_river_tunnel/

    --Jackson McQuigg

  • 03 Oct 2009 10:54 AM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/editorials/story/1264277.html

    This editorial from the Miami Herald links high-speed rail and Tri-Rail, arguing that if Florida expects to get Federal stimulus funds for high-speed rail, then the Legislature must step up to the plate.

    It is time, the Herald says, to find a permanent source of funding for Tri-Rail.

    --Jackson McQuigg

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