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View Diary: Sunday Train: Putting Steel into the Amtrak Long Distance Backbone (87 comments)

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  •  Public Financing Private Profits King Coal (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Zornorph, Creosote

    From Comments:

    The benefits of longer trains cannot be realized without significant investment in supporting infrastructure. This includes longer sidings, more and longer storage tracks for train building in terminals and yards, and adjusting operations to account for the time it takes longer trains to clear grade crossings, sidings where passage can occur (between slower vs faster trains, as well as trains in single mainline areas, such as ours, going in opposite directions) and entry and egress locations at terminals. In addition, the use of longer and heavier trains will mean more, and more frequent, track maintenance, which also affects operational capacity, particularly in single track areas.

    Over the past couple of decades, taxpayers have paid BNSF well over a billion dollars for rail capacity improvements; nearly all of those funds targeted improving passenger rail service, including the amount of passenger service offered, and improving on-time performance. Under the American Rehabilitation and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) alone, Washington received federal allocations totaling $781 million, al for high speed passenger rail–but the improvements help provide BNSF the capacity to handle the proposed coal traffic–and even then, at the cost of current freight and passenger rail capacity.

    Shouldn’t we expect at least a refund from BNSF, if they are not going to provide us what we paid them for?

    The routing of the coal train traffic usually always follows Amtrak.  That is how taxpayers line Buffett's pockets.  Simply put they pay to repair the rails.
    •  You have that reversed ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fiercefilms, elfling, Larsstephens

      ... Amtrak is following the route of the long haul heavy freight, not the other way around.

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 07:27:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Amtrak finances Coal Transport (0+ / 0-)

        BNSF/Buffett do not pay when taxpayer funding is available.  That determines how the coal trains are routed.  It's especially true when coal trains 24/7 are shoe horned onto a route built for Amtrak by taxpayers...

        •  Yes, that is exactly what I am ... (7+ / 0-)

          ... BS on, the insane claim that there is a single long distance corridor "paid for" by Amtrak. Amtrak trackage fees are a miniscule portion of the revenues of a Class I railroad.

          Its a fine story to tell, but throwing around numbers does not imply that the numbrs add up. Amtrak routes are shoehorned onto the long distance routes that exist to haul long haul freight. If the Class I railroads had their way, Amtrak long distance trains would simply be cancelled.

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          by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 08:30:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

            •  No, Amtrak was not there ... (9+ / 0-)

              ... before the Great Northern was there. Amtrak was formed in 1971. The Great Northern was completed in 1893.


              Great Northern: Wikipedia

              The Great Northern Railway (reporting mark GN), running from Saint Paul, Minnesota, to Seattle, Washington — more than 1,700 miles (2,736 km) — was the creation of the 19th century railroad tycoon James J. Hill and was developed from the Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad. The Great Northern's route was the northernmost transcontinental railroad route in the United States. It was completed on January 6, 1893, at Scenic, Washington.

              The Great Northern was the only privately funded, and successfully built, transcontinental railroad in United States history. No federal land grants were used during its construction, unlike every other transcontinental railroad built. It was one of the few transcontinental railroads to avoid receivership following the Panic of 1893.

              The Great Northern Railway also fell victim to the deadliest avalanche in United States history, at the site of the now non-existent town of Wellington, Washington (later renamed, due to the disaster, to Tye, Washington).

              At the end of 1967 GN operated 8282 route-miles, not including class II subsidiaries MA&CR (3 miles) and PC (32 miles).

              Your argument is that spending public money on current bottlenecks to passenger service ~ in your particular example, the money is spent building a bypass for the Cascade Corridor to take to avoid the route used by heavy freight ~ coal, timber, wheat ~ taken to the port of Seattle ~ is a subsidy to the freight railroad.

              However: the heavy freight does not run on the bypass, the passenger trains do.

              And if the bypass is not built, the heavy freight continues to go through. The difference is that the passenger trains are stuck in a siding going nowhere, waiting for the freight train to pass.

              Now, not completing the bypass might slow down the heavy freight trains a bit, but the whole point of the heavy freight ghetto that railroads were forced into by the massive subsidies to truck freight since the 1930's is that lumps of coal do not much mind waiting an hour or two. They are, after all, lumps of coal, and if they are not waiting at that bottleneck, they will be waiting for the coal loader, or be dumped into a big pile of coal and wait there to be loaded into the bulk carriers.

              And that is not Amtrak spending. The Cascades Corridor is operated by Amtrak, but the service is subsidized and the trains are owned by Washington State and Oregon, and the funding for the bypass was an application by Washington State. Amtrak funding for trackwork goes to the Northeast Corridor, that is publicly owned, where freight railroads have to pay the public for the right to use the corridor, and mostly late at night because the corridor is being used during the train for various intercity and commuter passenger trains.

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              by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 09:18:20 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Do you know more about WA routes? (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Creosote

                We feel we are getting the shaft as Obama's Clean Coal Export policy is implemented here in Bellingham WA.  We are looking at about 24-25 coal trains/day.  Please provide any insights on that.  You seem very knowledgeable.
                My first job was with the Great Northern as a extra board switchman.  We did have passenger service then, in 1964.

                •  You had passenger service in 1964 ... (4+ / 0-)

                  ... because it was a regulatory requirement on the railways. When Amtrak was formed in 1971, those private railways that signed the agreement were relieved of those responsibilities in return for Amtrak having trackage rights on what had been their passenger routes. That's why Amtrak originally ran the Empire Builder.

                  I do not know much off the top of my head about rail in East Washington along the Great Northern alignment, as the dominant flow of truck freight heads off in a more southwesterly direction, which is why the Steel Interstate from Seattle and Portland connects east/west via Salt Lake City in that Steel Interstate map.

                  But I have a Sunday Train coming up on placing carbon taxes on coal exports to help find electrical transport, so I'll have it look at the Coal Export policy itself before then.

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                  by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 10:51:35 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

    •  Ntocie the shell game in the last ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      spacecadet1, Larsstephens

      ... part of this argument:

      ... and even then, at the cost of current freight and passenger rail capacity.

      Shouldn’t we expect at least a refund from BNSF, if they are not going to provide us what we paid them for?

      The Cascade Corridor runs north and south. The Great Northern route runes east and west. Its not as if coal being exported to China from Montana goes to Seattle and then is sent down to California to leave out of Oakland or Long Beach ~ it goes out of the Port of Seattle. It crosses the Cascade Corridor.

      If the Cascades Corridor gains the service frequency and improved on-time performance Washington State projected in their application for funds, then they got what they paid for.

      Delays to the Empire Corridor due to coal trains to the port of Seattle does not affect that, since what the state of Washington paid for was improved north-to-south service frequency and better on time performance.

      The semantic shell game here is:

      • Cascade Corridor = passenger rail
      • The Empire Builder = passenger rail
      • Paying to improve the Cascade corridor = paying to improve passenger rail
      • Freight interference with the Empire Builder on tracks built for, and maintained by, revenues from freight hauling is "not improved passenger rail
      • So we paid for improved passenger rail (over here, where we will be getting it), and did not receive it (over there, where we did not pay for it).

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 10:13:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Coal not exported from Seattle (0+ / 0-)

        Coal exports are currently only at White Rock, BC.  Read up on how the trains are routed.  I don't know about the "semantic shell games" but you do seem very informed on this.  Are you a consultant or engineer?

        Powder River Routing

        •  Just a regional economist ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Larsstephens

          ... I've been writing the Sunday Train for a few years now, which is a lot of weekends spent picking up this and that about trains and other potentially sustainable transport and sharing it around.

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          by BruceMcF on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 10:52:41 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Communitywise Bellingham (0+ / 0-)

            Communitywise Bellingham is one part of my community's response to Obama/Buffett/Gates assault.  It is 100% local ad hoc put together to push back against the corporate moguls.  Check it out and see what they have done with zero support from those who should be.  Much of the funding comes from a recycled building materials operation and store.
            Like Ken Kesey wrote in Sometimes a Great Notion, "Never give an inch!"

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