Dodd Promoting Rail Line

Sen. Chris Dodd is getting behind the planned Springfield-Hartford-New Haven commuter rail line in a big way, citing the potential public transit corridor as vital to smart growth in the Connecticut Valley.

Starting commuter and high-speed train service along the route “will create new transit villages, get people off the roads, and revitalize our regional economy,” Dodd said as he convened a Senate banking committee hearing in Washington.
[…]
“It’s a strategic investment in our economy, our environment, and our quality of life,” Dodd said. “We’ve already begun to make progress in Connecticut — and we can do more across the country.” (Stacom)

Dodd’s help will be instrumental in moving this project along. The Obama administration is very interested in funding public transportation, and there is definitely a political incentive for them to push for expanded commuter and high-speed rail in Connecticut.

The project may even qualify for federal stimulus dollars. From a release sent out by Dodd today:

Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, welcomed news that the Tri-City Corridor project could qualify for federal grant funding under new guidelines announced today by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Under these guidelines, states and regions may now apply for the $8 billion in grants for high speed rail projects provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
[…]
“Today’s announcement provides an extraordinary opportunity for the state of Connecticut to be a part of President Obama’s vision for high-speed rail,” said Dodd. “The development of the Tri-City Corridor is one of my top priorities and I am going to work with leaders in my state, Secretary LaHood, and President Obama to get it done.”

It’s nice when he’s inspired, isn’t it? Nothing like running for one’s political life to focus the mind.

There are still plenty of hurdles to overcome, including exhaustive environmental and financial studies, but hopefully, if all goes well, Connecticut will receive federal dollars for the project, and we might actually see some construction over the next five years or so. We’ll see.

By the way, I don’t know when our little commuter rail project suddenly got “high-speed” added to it, but I’m in favor. If the travel time between Springfield, Hartford and New Haven is low, more people will ride and the impact of the service will be much better.

Source
Stacom, Don. “Dodd: Commuter Train Key To ‘Smart Growth’ Development In Connecticut.” Hartford Courant 17 June, 2009.

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11 responses to “Dodd Promoting Rail Line

  1. AndersonScooper

    Something like this, if done properly, could get the urban centers of Springfield, Hartford, and New Haven, to be absolutely booming.

    The devil is in the details.

  2. Something like this, if done properly, could get the urban centers of Springfield, Hartford, and New Haven, to be absolutely booming.

    Not without a reason to go to each place. Right now, it’s too expensive to develop anything of note in any of those cities.

    Think about it: why would you, as a New Haven resident, hop on that train and go to Hartford or, gasp, Springfield? The Basketball Hall of Fame? Maybe once… but you can’t go there every day. The Science Center? Same thing. Nice place, but you can’t go all the time. Bradley Airport? Hopefully more people from New Haven/Fairfield would use the train and fly out of there more often, but how much traffic is that?

    Honestly, ask yourself why you (a train supporter) would ride this train: there are only so many UConn games, concerts at the Meadows, good restaurants in Hartford, etc., and not nearly enough to make this affordable.

    Plus, without literally dozens of billions of dollars in electrification improvements, the trains won’t be able to exceed about 60-70 mph, so it’s not like this train line will be a faster route between these cities. Also, every legislator with a town on the line will probably demand a “high-speed” train stop in his or her town (and Worcester will demand a realignment there, too) so that will slow things down immeasurably.

    The only way making this line “high-speed” could work would be to cut out Amtrak service to the intermediate towns (all but New Haven, Hartford and Springfield), allow Acelas to pass through, and also stretch the New Haven Line up to Springfield. That way, people who want high-speed could take Acela, and people who want local service could take the new Metro North. Of course, I won’t even fathom a guess as to how much that combination would cost, or how we would pay for it. We would literally have to shred downtown Meriden and Wallingford.

    This is a great idea in the abstract, but the devil isn’t in the details, it’s in the cost. Right now, with absolutely no demand for getting from City A to City B or City C, this has all the makings of a billion dollar boondoggle. Metro North works, despite its hot, stinky cars, because there’s a demand for it — and you can’t synthesize demand. It’s either there or it isn’t.

  3. On April 2, Dodd voted against revealing the names of the banks that received $10 trillion in money that grew on The Federal Reserve Money Tree over the past twelve months.

    On May 6, Dodd promised Jane Hamsher that he would (repent from his previous opposition to transparency and good government and) ask Bernanke for those names.

    On June 17, has Dodd yet asked for those names? Or did he lie to Jane Hamsher?

    GC, I know you’re big on the trains. But why Dems would tolerate Dodd’s behavior, then allow people like my Congressman (Chris Murphy) to vote to expand the war… is beyond me.

    Scoop… you call Ron Paul “kooky.” I know a lot of people do. But he actually voted his conscience today. He voted against the war funding bill because he opposes the war… the IMF thing is wrong, but tangential.

    Seriously… why do you libs tolerate this? It makes no sense to me.

  4. Delauro, Larson & Murphy:

    1) pro-bailout
    2) pro-war
    3) anti-transparency
    4) anti-good government

    (3 & 4 relate to their failure to cosponsor Ron Paul’s Audit the Fed bill… which is cosponsored by libs, such as Alan Grayson and Dennis Kucinich.)

    I’m not going to think for a second that the 1st & 3rd go GOP. But can’t you guys/gals find some Dems who will be the complete opposite of these three… and make yourselves even happier?

    Dem primaries, anyone?

  5. Sorry for going so far OT, GC. But I’m just disgusted with the whole Political Class. The war funding vote was a testament to how far the 2006 & 2008 Dem freshmen classes have come in a very short time.

    And Ron Paul is kooky?!

    From my perspective, it’s kooky to support these incumbents.

  6. Seems to me that Jack Dobb has it right. Many of us in Connecticut have one car per adult in the household. We have already bought the car and paid the insurance and taxes. Why would we take that car to say, a New Haven train station, pay to park (if you can get a convenient spot) and then wait for a train, when you could be in Meriden by that point in your car. I-91 simply doesn’t have enough traffic to justify this.

    More generally, it just seems too late for mass traffic outside of the New York corridor. The houses have been built along spokes everywhere. Again, the cars have been bought. Would $8 gas change things.? Maybe, but I don’t even think that would do it.

    People would take this train once, as a lark, to see what it’s like. And then they will realize that having paid for the convenience of a car, they might as well use it.

  7. It’s too bad that this is being added to the pile of political bones being thrown Dodd’s way. He’ll have quite a few by election time. Too bad for him that it probably won’t help his reelection! Too much damage.

    91 locks up almost daily, and would benefit greatly from a Springfield/Hartford/New Haven line. And people will use it for commuting to work once gas gets back to the $4 a gallon range. Which it will- and we should prepare for that day.

  8. Sen. Chris Dodd is getting behind the planned Springfield-Hartford-New Haven commuter rail line in a big way, citing the potential public transit corridor as vital to smart growth in the Connecticut Valley.

    What’s the difference between smart growth and stupid growth in the valley, and is there too much stupid growth now? How will Dodd’s trains fix the problem?

  9. primusinterpares

    The only way making this line “high-speed” could work would be to cut out Amtrak service to the intermediate towns (all but New Haven, Hartford and Springfield), allow Acelas to pass through, and also stretch the New Haven Line up to Springfield. That way, people who want high-speed could take Acela, and people who want local service could take the new Metro North. Of course, I won’t even fathom a guess as to how much that combination would cost, or how we would pay for it. We would literally have to shred downtown Meriden and Wallingford.

    That’s what they’re planning on doing: http://www.fra.dot.gov/Downloads/Final%20FRA%20HSR%20Strat%20Plan.pdf

    I think the people in this forum were confused when Dodd commented, what he meant was high speed AND commuter rail corridor… not a high speed commuter rail corridor. The high speed train from DC to Boston will run through New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield. Though likely will not stop in all three. The problem is the number of tracks-so that trains can pass each other-and the degrees of the turns so that high speed trains don’t derail. Expensive, yes but is it worth it? I would argue the following:

    If you’ve ever been to Europe trains essentially have three levels there’s the commuter trains, regional trains, and the EuroStar High Speed Trains. If you’ve lived in a city between Richmond, Virginia and Boston, Mass you would probably be familiar with this sort of arrangement. Virginia has the VRE and DC Metro, Maryland has MARC and DC Metro,Pennsylvania has SEPTA, New Jersey has NJTransit, New York has MTA’s Harlem & Hudson Lines, and the LIRR, Massachusetts has the MBTA Commuter lines. They all have Amtrak Regional Service and Acela High Speed limited stop service.

    Lets look at the only states on this line without commuter rail of their own… Connecticut and Rhode Island. I think what we can say about all of the other states is that each has a functioning major city and metro area. DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark, New York, Boston. Each of those metro areas also has an international airport that is served by at least commuter rail service. Connecticut and Rhode Island on the other hand have second tier cities served by underused airports (except for southwest) with no rail connection to the cities they serve. The cities also have no light rail, subway, trams or any other kind of efficient or attractive mass transit options once you do reach the city. Hartford and New Haven were bustling cities in the age of rail. Interstate highways (which i’ll remind you would not have paid for themselves when they were first built) have restructured the New England landscape in such a profound way that they have killed our once wealthy, vibrant, beautiful cities, caused the development of our farms into cookie cutter colonials on 1/4 acre lots and essentially the reduction of Connecticut’s economy to businesses trying to escape New York taxes, or because of their historic presence here from a bygone era. In essence, all the major industries in Connecticut are here not because they want to be here but because we’re near New York, or because they’ve always been here and its not bad enough to move yet.

    I think the evidence is demonstrable that in the modern era you don’t wait for the city to grow before building the infrastructure to support it, you build the infrastructure so that people come to your city and it grows. In a world where you can locate your company in any city in the world, cities and states compete against each other. In essence, whichever state greases the wheels of capitalism best will see growth.

  10. The cities also have no light rail, subway, trams or any other kind of efficient or attractive mass transit options once you do reach the city.

    These towns all have bus systems. Seriously, why do people who advocate more public transit hate buses so much?

    Hartford and New Haven were bustling cities in the age of rail. Interstate highways (which i’ll remind you would not have paid for themselves when they were first built) have restructured the New England landscape in such a profound way that they have killed our once wealthy, vibrant, beautiful cities, caused the development of our farms into cookie cutter colonials on 1/4 acre lots and essentially the reduction of Connecticut’s economy to businesses trying to escape New York taxes, or because of their historic presence here from a bygone era. In essence, all the major industries in Connecticut are here not because they want to be here but because we’re near New York, or because they’ve always been here and its not bad enough to move yet.

    Once you have a family, urban living isn’t much fun: that’s why the suburbs exist. People like having a small yard for the children. People like being able to readily find parking. I for one would much rather live in a suburb than in a city.

    Farms are for the most part not practical here. Land is a lot more expensive here than it is in Wisconsin or Nebraska or Kansas. So if you are a farmer here, you’ve got to pay a lot more for your mortgage. If we didn’t make farms into housing, housing would be even more expensive. If we want affordable housing, we’ve got to build more houses.

  11. primusinterpares

    These towns all have bus systems. Seriously, why do people who advocate more public transit hate buses so much?

    Ever the reliable defender of limited access highways and suburban sprawl I commend you for your resilience, gmr. We are often on the same side of issues however the transportation one seems to be a perennial favorite debate of ours. But to answer your question, its not that buses aren’t good for some things, but inner city mass transit is not one of them. For starters, they are subject to traffic delays and so for the commuter, completely self defeating. Let me use an example:

    When I lived in Washington I lived on Capitol Hill near Union Station and the Senate Office Buildings. Lets say I wanted to go to Georgetown on a friday evening. Here’s how the thought process of an urbanite would go: I will probably be drinking, and traffic will be a nightmare (an hour probably) – so driving is out. Well the closest option is the bus stop on the corner, of course the problem is that after work it’s rush hour and so the bus will be standing room only, hot, slow (rush hour traffic, frequent stops, and I’ll have to transfer), and if its hot or raining I’ll be standing in it – cost is $1, time is about 45 minutes. The other option is the metro, which is a few blocks away and at that time has cars added to it to increase capacity and runs more frequently. The metro stop is inside, runs on a reliable schedule that is not subject to traffic or lights, I might even get a seat, its well air-conditioned and will only take 20 minutes for a cost of $1.65. Then the third option is walking. Walking would take me about an hour, yes the same as driving believe it or not however a 1 hour walk clear across town, while free, is certainly not desirable in all conditions so maybe if it is a nice night but I think the clear advantage goes to rail.

    So, in the process of that example we see most of why buses are a bad solution to inner city transit. They are self defeating for rush hour travel because they are usually slower than any other form of travel. Thus, for people commuting from the outer neighborhoods or from outside the city you may as well drive and deal with the traffic yourself and for those living downtown, you may as well walk and save the dollar. In addition, buses are an unpredictable cost to the city because of the fluctuating cost of fuel and are unable to be expanded or contracted to deal with hourly difference in usage. Trains also last longer. The only problem with rail is up front cost, and thanks to the flawed city planning of the 50’s-80’s the rails that were once in place have been removed or poorly kept because of the massive federal government program to build highways.

    Once you have a family, urban living isn’t much fun: that’s why the suburbs exist. People like having a small yard for the children. People like being able to readily find parking. I for one would much rather live in a suburb than in a city.

    First of all I’m not sure what you mean by urban living. I assume by your tone you assume urban living to be inconvenient, however I will offer that in fact most of the places you consider suburbs are in fact poorly planned urban cities. Urban does not mean gotham, urban simply means high density of people and business. If you think of a city before skyscrapers they were essentially better planned versions of the suburbs we live in today and many of our cities are learning that the skyskrapers of Manhattan look nice from a distance but make for crappy living conditions on the ground. However, most cities are not like this. Most cities, particularly in New England, have great housing stock with larger lots where wealthy residents once lived and took trolleys to work downtown.

    If you study urban policy and development you will quickly realize that (wealthy and middle class) people did NOT move the the “suburbs” because the city is inconvenient for raising a family. Look at areas like Hillhouse Ave in New Haven or around the Mark Twain House in Hartford or Iranistan Ave in Bridgeport. These areas have homes that are more beautiful with as much land as the suburbs and are more conveniently located and than the suburbs. The reason the suburbs exist is because after the highways were built it was briefly the same amount of time to get from downtown hartford to farmington ave as it did to get to a surrounding town. Able to get more land for their money and thinking they could enjoy a country lifestyle with a city payroll and no difference in commute thanks to the highway wealthy and middle class left the city to make an investment in the newly expanded city area. In essence what the interstates do today is what avenues did 100 years ago but on an astronomically larger scale. This creates other social issues that any conservative should deplore if for no other reason but the fact that it causes the people to have to subsidize housing for the poor, pay for law enforcement in bad areas that would not otherwise be crime ridden and provides for the creation of concentrated populations of poor who because their cities can’t sustain themselves due to the lack of income diversity have no other recourse but to elect socialists to raise taxes on the national and state levels.

    Farms are for the most part not practical here. Land is a lot more expensive here than it is in Wisconsin or Nebraska or Kansas. So if you are a farmer here, you’ve got to pay a lot more for your mortgage. If we didn’t make farms into housing, housing would be even more expensive. If we want affordable housing, we’ve got to build more houses.

    You say farms are not practical because land is more valuable here than in the mid-west. But WHY? There are scale issues to consider such that our farms are older and so are not as big because we did not have the ability to farm the vast tracts of land they do in the mid-west. Farm subsidies that reward producers who are already profitable are another problem. But the main problem is irresponsible development. We are a small state that should manage resources wisely. Once land is developed it does not get undeveloped. Once a farm is lost to 100 homes it is never parceled back together. To permit unfettered sprawl across our most vital resource is a crime against any generation to come after ours. That means that planning must be done effectively with the highest densities of housing near commercial areas which in turn are near transit areas such as train stations and highway exits. Farms don’t die because they’re too expensive its because there’s cheap land that can be subdivided for a higher profit than building in town. While I have no problem with profits, I do believe when it comes to land use more than anything else it is not simply the individual who owns the land who stands to see a loss in its mismanagement but the community as a whole. Affordable housing is important but if a couple needs to rent for a few years and save up to buy a house its not the end of the world and it’s Barney Frank’s desire that everybody own their own home that helped to create the mess we’re in today. Home ownership is nice but renting, contrary to popular belief is not throwing money out the window. If you were renting instead of buying for the past few years you look pretty smart in most parts of the union right now and you probably have a less debt than your over leveraged home-owning counterpart. Also young people are increasingly waiting to get married anyway and seem to prefer condos and apartment living anyway. Why shouldn’t Connecticut be taking advantage of the demographic shifts that have been driving our young highly educated adults to boston, new york, washington, and chicago? Closed minded short-sightedness is really the only answer.

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