$66 billion for Amtrak

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jis

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That this even happened at all in today's political environment is remarkable. Sure, it would have been awesome to get [insert your number here] billion more for Amtrak, but think of where we were before today. Before Jan. 20. Let's rejoice that this is the biggest capital infusion, by far, in Amtrak's history. And there is still potential for more in the regular appropriations. After it's signed sealed and deliver, let's just hope Amtrak uses it wisely.
Yes it is a good step, but let us not quite count our chicken yet, just because the eggs have been moved to a better hatchery. So far it is just a proposed capital infusion bill that the Senate has agreed to discuss, and if the stars remain aligned they might even vote it out. But even then there is no infusion. The House will have a go at either this bill to amend or start with a different bill and pass it , and then there will be a conference to reconcile differences, producing a third bill that then will hopefully pass both houses etc. before the President signs it and then there will be infusion.
 

Dakota 400

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The House will have a go at either this bill to amend or start with a different bill and pass it , and then there will be a conference to reconcile differences, producing a third bill that then will hopefully pass both houses etc. before the President signs it and then there will be infusion.
There is a potential wild card in this deck and that is the President himself. I have read a couple of reports that the President wants the House to seriously consider whatever Bill comes out of the Senate and avoid the tinkering that might lead to a Conference Committee. If the President and the Speaker--and this is a very big if, I think--can keep all of their Party's members in the House "in line" and accept whatever the Senate passes, then maybe a third Bill won't need to happen.

I have heard one very progressive Democratic member of the House of the wing of the Party of which she is a part say that their primary goal is for the President to be successful. If so, does her colleagues agree with her? Will they follow the leadership of the President?
 
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Willbridge

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Actually it is $16 B + $12 B = $28 B. After taking the NEC set aside, there is $12B left in the intercity line.

Frankly I consider the ConnectUS to be more of a marketing document than a credible plan for anything. It is meant to provide the one picture on a tripod behind Stephen Gardner while he yammers on about pie in the sky possibilities, like he did in Atlanta, and now in Phoenix. I wonder what UP and Arizona have to say about all this as they are going to be the Custodians of it shoveling money at Amtrak as Gardner hopes. 🤷‍♂️
UP speaks: Better As Partners
 

Cal

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There must be something in particular that they are concerned may happen. What parts of Amtrak's 2035 map would happen on UP lines?
Service to Las Vegas, the Coachella Valley, Phoenix, expanded Surfliner service north of LA, and enhanced service in the MIdwest
 

me_little_me

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It seems UP's idea of being "Partners" is that Amtrak find government money to pay for all the improvements - and many of the improvements needed are because of PSR and similar changes in the way the Class 1s operate.

Their complaint about the STB conveniently fails to note that the reason for the push is that the Class 1s have consistently and repeatedly failed to live up to their original agreement to divest themselves of passenger services only with the condition that they give passenger rail priority.

The government, of course, could have made all those past grants in recent years conditional on the Class 1s paying a "fee" for any portion of the grant that benefits the Class 1s until such time as the government recovers its grant money . If a grant allows not only passenger service to speed up by paying for a crossing, but saves the Class 1 money on its freight operations, the Class 1 should pay back, say, half their savings to the government until the portion of the grant that benefits them is paid back. The Class 1s conveniently forget that they gain from government grant money to help passenger service speed up. And that includes all the eliminated crossings which allow trains to run faster or not slow down for crossings they used to have to be aware of in the past.
 

Willbridge

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Years ago the Southern Pacific drew predictable laughter when they complained about all the government money going into the Santa Fe San Joaquin line.
 

Rover

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Money for the NEC... that was expected.

But what I don't see is real money for real improvements in service to the Long Haul lines west of Mississippi. Read service to mean issues with freight congestion...

What is this bill??? ... Every city gets a (High Speed) "Train to nowhere???"
 

PaTrainFan

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We'll find out today what is in the bill. The 2,700 page text was finally completed last night so we'll see how the Republicans, even those who voted for it in the first round, start nitpicking the details.
 

Tlcooper93

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Money for the NEC... that was expected.

But what I don't see is real money for real improvements in service to the Long Haul lines west of Mississippi. Read service to mean issues with freight congestion...

What is this bill??? ... Every city gets a (High Speed) "Train to nowhere???"
The left's obsession with true HSR (225mph) is going to take its toll on progress. I appreciate their enthusiasm, but they really have no understanding about just how unnecessary, and difficult it will be to implement it, even on a small scale.
Instead, there should be an obsession and universal push toward's the electrification of as many lines and tracks as possible, both Amtrak, and otherwise.

In principle I agree, but the reality is that most of the people to take the train in this country are on the NEC.
 

jis

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What is this bill??? ... Every city gets a (High Speed) "Train to nowhere???"
In case one is interested in actually seeing what is in the bill instead of just wildly speculating nonsense, a pointer to the Senate Bill STIA 2021 (all 2,700 pages of it) and a discussion of the overall funding proposals at this point from the RPA can be found at:


And for those interested in what is there for Long Distance Expansion program take a look at:

 
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PaTrainFan

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The left's obsession with true HSR (225mph) is going to take its toll on progress. I appreciate their enthusiasm, but they really have no understanding about just how unnecessary, and difficult it will be to implement it, even on a small scale.
Instead, there should be an obsession and universal push toward's the electrification of as many lines and tracks as possible, both Amtrak, and otherwise.

In principle I agree, but the reality is that most of the people to take the train in this country are on the NEC.
I agree with this, and speaking as one who is just slightly left of center. "Higher speed" rail is the best opportunity for success. Improving infrastructure so we can at least get trains reliabiliy, predictably on time to compete with highways will have the greatest impact.
 

west point

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Getting rid of all the slow sections would be a good first step. Maybe get the FRA to allow 90 MPH on class 4 track that has PTC ?
The new ALCs should be able to meet that speed. As well that MAX speed would allow Amtrak trains to pass same direction mega freights faster.
 

Ziv

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I agree w TLCooper that the novelty factor of 220+ mph service can really make the move to improve the US rail network even harder than it needs to be. CAHSR required a 220mph top speed and that made the selection process even harder than it would have been if the requirement had been a still rather fast 200mph. If and when the CAHSR actually has an LA to San Fran service in place it will have taken decades longer than it should have taken and it will have cost Billions of dollars more than it could have if the powers that be had opted for a 200mph top speed.
PA Train Fan comment on "Higher Speed Rail" needing to achieve reliability as much as having a very high top speed is important too. Trains shouldn't be driven by a fan factor, or a novelty factor. They should be fast enough and reliable enough to be an every day occurrence that people can count on. And that may be 90mph for a good deal of the SWC, EB and CZ routes for the next couple decades.
Finally, I agree with West Point on the importance of speeding up currently slow sections. Going slow for even a short distance subtracts much of the benefit of going fast for a longer one. One way to reduce the amount of slow sections may be finding a way for Amtrak to pay for sections of new track, whether it is double tracking a single track section, or probably more likely now, triple tracking a currently double tracked section. But the critical part is that Amtrak needs to maintain some sort of control over the tracks so that it can use the possibility of the host freight railroad getting access to the new track when the Amtrak trains aren't using it to improve the host railroads throughput, and hopefully thereby improving the host railroads priority for passenger rail trains vs the freight trains. Getting the STB to light a fire under the host railroads is critical, but having a few "carrots" to go along with the STB legal "stick" might make it work a bit better. One big problem with the desire to build additional trackage is that there simply may not be room for it in many of the places that would benefit the most from it, but if it is possible in some areas, it may be worth exploring Amtrak financed improvements if Amtrak can get better priority on the improved section and concessions for the use of said improvements.

The left's obsession with true HSR (225mph) is going to take its toll on progress. I appreciate their enthusiasm, but they really have no understanding about just how unnecessary, and difficult it will be to implement it, even on a small scale.
Instead, there should be an obsession and universal push toward's the electrification of as many lines and tracks as possible, both Amtrak, and otherwise.

In principle I agree, but the reality is that most of the people to take the train in this country are on the NEC.
 

George Harris

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1. Take West Point's first point: "Getting rid of all the slow sections would be a good first step. Yes!! Yes!! Yes!!
There are many. many examples of 79 mph speed limit railroads with several miles of 30 mph or less into major cities, sometimes with a couple of 10 mph sections. Simple arithmetic: 1 mile at 10 mph takes 6 minutes. 1 mile at 60 mph takes 1 minute. Every mile of 10 mph track you can upgrade will save several minutes, as there is slowing and acceleration times to be added. Years ago one of the writers on this subject in the Railway Gazette International stated, "The best way to go fast is to avoid going slow." Some of the Brits I know refer to this sort of thing as a pronouncement by the Bureau of the Blooming Obvious. I can think of several examples in Amtrak schedules, such as on the Texas Eagle route look at the length of 25 mph limit out St. Louis. Worse is the round about slow speed trek into and out of San Antonio. Many terminals have strings of 10 mph to 15 mph turnouts in and out. There are AREMA standard turnouts, nothing exotic that can be run at 25 to 40 mph. Yes, it would make for a longer ladder, but if you have the space, use it.
2. If you are laying out a new HSR, do go for 220 mph or even more. Although right now anything above around 186 mph (that is 300 km/hr) seems near irrational, that may not be true in the future. Remember, when the Japanese started building the Shinkansen lines, 200 km/hr (124 mph) seemed like the edge of the planet so far as speed on rails is concerned. Obviously that is no longer true. For example the Taiwan High Speed Rail was opened and runs as a 300 km/hr operation, but everything alignment related can safely and easily go to 350 km/hr, that is 217 mph for those wanting their information in normal units. If new alignment, set your curves and spirals, and vertical curves for 250 mph at least. You can always open with a lower speed limit. Having a 250 mph alignment does not keep you from having a speed limit of 125 mph when opening. Two important points: Be as straight as possible. A straight line has no speed limit. Remember, the Roman roads are where they were built over 2,000 years ago. What ever you build, you will be stuck with from now on, so don't fold to pressure and insert doglegs in alignment that in 10 to 20 to 30 years or more have people looking and say, "why did they ever do that? It makes no sense."
 

George Harris

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When I see these improvement projects on the NEC that get you 50 mph instead of 30 mph and add zero to 6 inches of clearance, I simply cringe and want to shake someone and say if you are going to do it at all, do it well. ANYTHING you do anywhere alignment related should be done with the eye of at least 100 mph, and more if at all practical. If you are going to improve some of these tight clearance and track spacing locations, go for the best you can get as if for a new line instead of the least you can get by with using what you have now.
 

west point

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Slow sections also have the effect of having to slow 1 - 2 miles before the section and then speeding up after leaving the slow section. So a 1 mile slow section of 30 MPH bracketed by 90 MPH sections have a net effect of 1 mile 30 and 2 - 3 miles at average ~ 60 mph. How much time has been lost ??5
 

George Harris

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I agree w TLCooper that the novelty factor of 220+ mph service can really make the move to improve the US rail network even harder than it needs to be. CAHSR required a 220mph top speed and that made the selection process even harder than it would have been if the requirement had been a still rather fast 200mph. If and when the CAHSR actually has an LA to San Fran service in place it will have taken decades longer than it should have taken and it will have cost Billions of dollars more than it could have if the powers that be had opted for a 200mph top speed.
This statement about the CAHSR and 220 mph is simply not true. The killer is and was politics. If the state was truly committed to getting this thing built in a timely manner and not waste years yielding to every little issue real and imaginary brought up by every anti anything group and NIMBY group we would be riding the trains end to end by now. It would not have mattered if the design speed was 220 mph, 200 mph, 90 mph or 300 mph all these roadblocks would still be there. Go to their web site and read the design standards and some of the issues raised. By the way, they are not going to try to run 220 mph or even 200 mph between San Jose and San Francisco, anyway. I think the number there is going to be 110 mph or even less.
 

George Harris

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Getting rid of all the slow sections would be a good first step. Maybe get the FRA to allow 90 MPH on class 4 track that has PTC ?
I don't think you are understanding what "Class 4 track" means. These classes are track maintenance minimum standards. What you may be thinking of is the signal and train control speed limits that requires the speed limit for passenger trains be less than 80 mph without certain additional forms of train control. That is why there are many miles of main line that have 79 mph passenger train speed limits.

If you are riding on a track that just barely meets Class 4 standards, details of which can be found in www.ecfr.gov and ask for CHAPTER II—FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION · PART 213—TRACK SAFETY STANDARDS, look at the details so far as track is concerned. Note these are SAFETY standards. A track just meeting these standards, if you are running on it at 79 mph, the ride quality is best described as sit down and hang on. A comfortable ride requires track to be at far better than minimum standards for safety. In general, most railroads will maintain main line tracks to well above these legally required minimums.

Further down in these FRA standards you can find track standards that allow 90 mph or 110 mph. If you want to go faster than these you go here. Further, if the railroad allows container and piggyback trains to run 70 mph, the track already must meet Class 5 standards, as the freight limit on Class 4 is 60 mph. Despite Class 5 allowing 80 mph freight trains, so far as I know no one does that. Generally premium freights may be allowed 70 mph but no more. This by the way is why the Autotrain is limited to 70 mph. With the auto carriers it is effectively a priority freight train operationally.
 
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George Harris

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Here are the speeds allowed on the various track classes. [In miles per hour]

Over track that meets all of the requirements prescribed in this part for -The maximum allowable operating speed for freight trains is -The maximum allowable operating speed for passenger trains is -
Excepted track
10​
N/A​
Class 1 track
10​
15​
Class 2 track
25​
30​
Class 3 track
40​
60​
Class 4 track
60​
80​
Class 5 track
80​
90​
 

Lonestar648

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Though the Senate plans a bi-partisan vote this week, there are many in the House who want to make major additions to the Bill. The key here is that the Senate got a Bi-partisan bill written, so any major additions by the House would totally kill what the Senate has managed to put together. The Senate’s version May win in the end but will that be this year. Nothing will be discussed until Fall when Congress reconvenes. I am just sitting here with my fingers and toes crossed that first we get the bill, and second Amtrak comes through the process will enough money for the needed fleet replacements and some expansions. Until the bill heads to the WH, we will not know how Amtrak comes out in the end. What special clauses are added, etc.
 

MARC Rider

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The overall big strategy on this bill is that Congress will pass a more limited "nuts and bolts" infrastructure bill (this one) that's "bipartisan" (or at least has enough Republican votes to prevent a filibuster.) Then they will include additional funding for stuff no Republican would vote for as part of a reconciliation bill, which can pass with a simple majority. Thus, while the House might vote for a more expansive "nuts and bolts" bill, they're probably inclined to support whatever the Senate approves on that one. All of the Democrats are very interested in giving the President a "win" and having this bill pass successfully. Any demands for additional funding on this bill would be nothing more than posturing, and those doing it will probably, in the end, settle for whatever they can get from the Senate. I haven't heard whether they have any plans for more passenger rail funding in the reconciliation bill or not; my understanding is that they're planning a lot of spending that on stuff like education, child care, etc. that one doesn't normally think of as "infrastructure."
 

neroden

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This statement about the CAHSR and 220 mph is simply not true. The killer is and was politics.
I would add lack of expertise in house, leading to getting cheated. The first contractor hired by CAHSR was the infamous Tutor Perini, known for chiseling its clients on change orders while doing inferior work. To their credit they have wised up and are hiring better contractors now.
 
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