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Digest: Texas high speed rail opponents file suit against FRA

By | April 15, 2021

News Wire Digest for April 15: Downeaster sets May 3 return to pre-COVID service levels; Senator says federal bailout unlikely for Honolulu rail project

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Opponents sue FRA over decisions on Texas Central high speed project

Texas_Central_Logo_2Texans Against High Speed Rail, six Texas counties, and 10 individual landowners have filed suit against the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration over the proposed Texas Central high speed project between Dallas and Houston, seeking to void the FRA’s Rule of Particular Applicability — which would allow use of Japanese Shinkansen high speed equipment and operating rules — as well as the Record of Decision approving the Rule of Particular Applicability and the project’s Environmental Impact Statement. Alternate request include voiding of the Recofd of Decision and Environmental Impact Statement, or preventing the DOT and FRA from taking any action regarding environmental assessment until Texas Central files a full application to the Surface Transportation Board. The 91-page filing in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Waco Division, alleges a long list of improper actions by the FRA, mostly regarding the National Environmental Policy Act, but also that the FRA acted unconstitutionally by exceeding its authority. The full suit is available here.

Downeaster expands to five daily round trips on May 3

Amtrak Downeaster service will increase and introduce a new schedule as of May 3, the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority has announced. The new schedule will restore service to its pre-COVID-19 level of five round trips daily (up from the current four), while also making weekday and weekend schedules the same. Seasonal service to Old Orchard Beach, Maine, will also resume. The new schedule includes a mid-morning departure from Brunswick, Maine, as well as a mid-afternoon departure from Boston. “Passengers have requested more mid-day trains for years, Natalie Bogart, marketing director at NNEPRA, said in a press release. “Given the recent changes in travel patterns, the timing is now right for us to introduce a new 10:20 a.m. southbound train from Brunswick and a 3 p.m. northbound from Boston.” Schedules and other information are available at the Downeaster website.

Senator says federal help unlikely for troubled Honolulu rail transit project

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, sees little likelihood of federal funding to help close the deficit faced by Honolulu’s much-delayed, over-budget rail transit system. Honolulu Civil Beat reports Schatz said that, if the local agencies involved continue making progress on the project — which was supposed to be operational in January 2020 but now isn’t expected to be completed for another decade — “all of the federal funding previously committed will be made available, but not a penny more.” That has not kept Honolulu Mayor Rick Biangiardi, City Council Chairman Tommy Waters and Lori Kahikina, interim executive director of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, from sending Hawaii’s congressional delegation a letter asking them to help obtain an additional $800 million in federal funding.

5 thoughts on “Digest: Texas high speed rail opponents file suit against FRA

  1. Unbelievable! The first hint of sanity out of the Kamala Harris presidency, that they won’t bail out Hawaii. Rest assured, though, America’s second worst rail boondoggle, CalHSR, will be fully funded.

  2. Charles, I fear you are correct regarding CAHSR. Moving the subject across the country, I fail to find on the Downeaster website the provided link took me to, a train schedules page. On a more global observation regarding that service, let’s remember this is 5 trains daily in each direction over 24 hours. Ain’t much. But Patricia Quinn and her associates at NNEPRA will tell us with straight faces that they want to “grow the business”. But they won’t tell us how. They operate pint-sized trains-most consists are 3 coaches and a Business Class/Cafe. They may have on eq set with 4 coaches. That’s fine if there is a train every hour, every two hours at the least. But not for 5 trains in 24 hours. But ME has no plans to acquire their own locomotives and cars, hire, train, qualify, license additional crews, and do the mainline track capacity expansions necessary to increase frequencies. They are completely captive to what eq and crews Stephen Gardner and the boyzz in DC want to give them. And the competition, Concord Trailways goes to Logan and Boston South Station for those not traveling to Boston but through Boston. That’s a huge advantage. So how, pray tell, can NNEPRA credibly claim the want to “grow the business”? Hey guys, if you want to be credible do one of two things: Either go big…or just go home.

    1. MARK – You got something when you talk about buses direct to Logan. That’s the thing about rubber – everywhere to everywhere – as opposed to fixed rail transit. Massachusetts was the first to figure it out with the construction of Route 128, the highway to nowhere which became the highway to everywhere. I haven’t live in Mass for more than half a century, but I do drive to the Milwaukee airport without going through Milwaukee. Like everyone else I drive the Bypass. Want to hear something frightening? At the Zoo Interchange in the west suburbs of Milwaukee, IH 94, direct to downtown is two lanes. IH41, part of the Bypass around Milwaukee, is three lanes.

      Here’s something else about Logan. In the 1980’s, I was real big on NARP, real big on Amtrak. Arriving at Logan Airport, I saw a car with a Vermont license plate. Vermont is nowhere near Logan — but people will drive that distance because Logan is where they are going, no train or combination of trains competes on that route. I had a revelation at that instant: – trains are a niche service in a limited market. Cars on the other hand get you where you are going when you want to get there.

      I still like trains – almost always at Logan I take MBTA Blue Line or Silver Line, almost never by highway. It’s just that I know trains are a small part of USA transportation.

      1. The is not a single US airport — zero, zip, nada — that has a mainline passenger rail station that is integrated into the terminal. In Zurich or Geneva, you can grab an intercity train right past baggage claim. It is impossible to do that in the US There are many half-baked links such as EWR, BWI, MIA, etc., but require riding transit to the train.

        It is a very intentional investment decision whether or not to integrate rail with airports. In the US, the decision has been made NOT to tie rail with airports.

        Like any sort of world class infrastructure, the US is a serious laggard and has more in common with third world countries.

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