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View Diary: Sunday Train: Steel Interstates & An America That Can Do Big Things (48 comments)

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  •  Long term funding needs early success (1+ / 0-)
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    ColoTim

    I can see the benefit of starting off in friendly territory. Anything that needs state or community buy-in to build will need a public that understands its benefits. Over large blocks of our country, public opinion is pretty much dictated by Fox news and megachurches, neither of those are likely to break from the oil industry's party line. I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for a Sunday sermon on rolling resistance, or a Fox and Friends session on thermodynamics. So, I can see the resignation to having to go it alone.

    On the other hand, national funding isn't going anywhere without at least grudging acceptance from the old South. Traitors or not, they've been (officially, anyway) Reconstructed. So, whether or not they share our interests, they do share in the vote.

    Could a consortium of northern states do it without the South? Maybe a few successful long-haul routes in the North, funded by those states, would soften the resistance, make businesses of the South demand a national network to help them compete.

    Modern hardware would open up routes that were impractical in the 1860's, so it could skip corners of states that didn't want to contribute, too. Being able to go from Redding, CA to Twin Falls, ID (for example) without stopping gives you a lot more leverage negotiating with Utah and Nevada than anyone had when they needed to plan frequent water stops.

    Why is there a Confederate Flag flying in Afghanistan?

    by chimpy on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 11:34:48 AM PDT

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    •  What state or community buy-in are you ... (1+ / 0-)
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      chimpy

      ... envisioning?

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 12:32:04 PM PDT

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      •  Various kinds of cost-sharing (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MPociask

        First there would be the basics of cooperation, like allowing an out-of-state interest to buy up large rights of way, or making reasonable compromises on environmental impact studies. A trucks-only lobby might get behind an astroturf campaign to keep rail traffic out of towns at key passes. They might argue that construction would impact traffic, and operation would cause noise, and there may or may not be enough educated members of the public to counter them.

        Above that would be preferential tax status of the right of way, perhaps keeping its assessment at current levels through some period of its future growth, or letting the system share power through its whole length without taxing it at each state line.

        Best-case would be that states compete to get the benefits by sharing the cost of rails, service yards and freight transfer facilities. A state might lease a stretch free of charge in exchange for placement of a transfer station. Or, it might give land for a power station if it's combined with a jobs-rich maintenance yard.

        With the choices afforded by the range of modern systems, you could get states competing to host the first alignments. Our hope is that their success helps sell the other states on a truly national system. Their expectation would be that they get the first benefit and the best eventual connectivity.

        Why is there a Confederate Flag flying in Afghanistan?

        by chimpy on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 01:27:02 PM PDT

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        •  We are talking about existing rail ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... corridors, here ~ indeed, existing STRACNET rail corridors. And primarily talking about works within existing rail right of way. You may be thinking about projects like Express HSR, where existing rail alignments generally have curves with too small a curve radius to host the HSR effectively.

          And a state by state strategy is more for passenger rail corridor routes ~ the focus here is on freight hauls of 1,000 to 2,000 miles, and the freight markets that we are trying to displace can be seen by looking at long haul trucking traffic densities. In this context, a state by state strategy does not seem very appropriate.

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          by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 03:40:29 PM PDT

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    •  One problem with a consoirtium of ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... northern states versus a consortium of southern states doing a pilot project is that the political boundary line in question is the divide between states with a larger urban population share and states with a larger rural population share.

      And if Pennsylvania, Virginia and Tennessee is on the wrong side of that dividing line, then Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois is as well.

      The other problem is that seeing to the need to transport freight for 1,000 miles or 2,000 miles is well beyond the natural transport responsibility of any particular state ~ even California or Texas. Its a fundamentally Federal responsibility to see to the transport needs of interstate commerce.

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 04:51:16 PM PDT

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      •  I think, to get the South on board, ... (0+ / 0-)

        ... there has to be a realistic threat that they'll get left behind otherwise. That might mean building a workable plan that goes around Congress and outside of 150-year old alignments.

        Why is there a Confederate Flag flying in Afghanistan?

        by chimpy on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 05:51:04 PM PDT

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        •  That suggests that your answer to ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... the implicit question in the title is that An America That Can Do Big Things lies only in the past. We can only do things that we can sneak around the back way, but can no longer do the things that are (1) urgent priorities and (2) require actual national programs to accomplish.

          I do not understand the fixation on states. If a majority of Louisville comes to support it, that's support, even if they are a city in a "red" state. If a majority of Memphis comes to support it, that's support, even if they are in a city in a "red" state. If a majority of Indianapolis comes to support it, that's support, even if they are a city in a "red" state.

          And it would be a serious mistake to assume that the current political status quo is fixed and immutable over a time scale of decades. Demographic trends suggest that Texas and Georgia are going to flip.

          And it would be a serious mistake to assume that the present political tactic of fighting intercity passenger rail improvements in order to deny Democrats political victories from the Stimulus projects has much political impetus once it is determined whether President Obama has been defeated or re-elected. North Carolina pursued higher speed intercity passenger rail even though they have not quite yet flipped, because it is a service that benefits both large cities and small towns along the corridor. One reason Illinois has been so aggressive in pursuing intercity rail is that crosses the divide between upstate and downstate Illinois.

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          by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 06:19:29 PM PDT

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          •  Maybe it can't do the same great things, ... (0+ / 0-)

            over again on the same routes. Maybe it can, and the possibility of an alternative is enough to get the holdouts on board.

            There aren't that many Americans who hate rail. There aren't even that many who would oppose it when given cost/benefit comparisons to other modes. But there are many who respond to GOP marketing. It doesn't take many Senate seats to gum up the works for everyone. And, on the scale of multinational corporations, it doesn't take much money to secure the votes of those states with either small populations or a preexisting bias toward conservative brand identity.

            Maybe they're against rail based on lobbying and campaign dollars that will dry up only when the oil does. Maybe having to share their schools with black kids soured them on the whole idea of shared infrastructure. Maybe they're really against rail on principle, and they'll never get on board anyway.

            But, maybe some are just holding out for a better deal. Those are the ones who'll snap to when they see it happening with or without them. And maybe that's enough.

            Why is there a Confederate Flag flying in Afghanistan?

            by chimpy on Tue Jun 05, 2012 at 09:35:20 AM PDT

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        •  A substantial benefit to ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... Southern states is the improved state of their Interstate Highways.

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          by BruceMcF on Tue Jun 05, 2012 at 06:23:53 AM PDT

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