June 19, 2024

Reporting from FRA and BSPRA Meetings in Missoula

Gary Wirt and Charlie Hamilton traveled to Missoula to represent AAWA and other rail advocacy organizations to provide feedback to the Federal Railroad Administration's Long Distance Service Study during the fourth of four meetings on June 6. Gary and Charlie reported on our activities to the AAWA General Meeting on June 15. See the recording linked here.

At their previous meeting, the FRA had already announced their "Proposed Network of Recommended Routes."

In the Greater Northwest, the FRA proposes:

  • Denver - Houston
  • Los Angeles - Denver
  • Seattle - Denver
  • Denver - Minneapolis/St. Paul
  • Seattle - Chicago
  • El Paso - Billings

New Information in FRA Meeting 4

FRA has begun to calculate how much equipment would be needed to operate the services on the proposed network. They began by estimating what cars would be needed (the consist) for one- and two-night runs. The FRA then listed the needed consist per proposed route. The FRA calculates that

  • Seattle - Denver (Pioneer, a 2-night route) would need 5 consists
  • Seattle - Chicago (North Coast Hiawatha, a 2-night route) would need 7 consists

New details on Seattle-Denver (Pioneer) route

New details on Seattle-Chicago (North Coast Hiawatha) route

New details on Denver-Minneapolis/St. Paul route

All proposed new long-distance routes are feasible and defensible, and are likely to perform similarly to existing long-distance routes.

The concept of expanded passenger rail has continued to gain widespread attention and support. The project team received over 47,000 comments in reaction to their proposed network, with 99% supportive of passenger rail. (It appears that there were letter-writing campaigns in specific places, so the areas generating the most response may not be statistically significant.)

The construction activities alone would yield billions of dollars of economic benefits in addition to the on-going direct and indirect economic benefits once the services are operating. The economic stimulus could very well rival building of the US Interstate Highways or the Missouri River Dams.

In the 1970s, Congress bailed out the Northeast Corridor and northeastern United States railroad network. There has not been a better time since, in the 53-plus years of Amtrak, to call for Federal investment in our railroads. It is up to us to make sure Congress works to enact these essential rail services.

The FRA will present their recommendations to Congress later in the year. The next step will be for all of us to convince Congress to pay for these important improvement to our passenger rail network. The federal dollar will go much further, and be more meaningful at creating lasting sustainable opportunities, being spent on an expanded long distance passenger rail network in rural America.

"People live here!" It's time that we demand the Federal investment long denied us! 

Big Sky Passenger Rail Meeting

We also participated in the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority's annual meeting on June 7.

Spokane Summit Preview

We also stopped by the Spokane Central Library to preview the facilities we'll be using for the Summit in October. We'll be using two combined rooms. See details here.

Let's Make This Happen!

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