Thursday, June 22, 2006

MoDOT Thinking About More Rail

Articles in several Missouri newspapers and appearing on the Web attest to the sincerity of Missouri DOT and Amtrak endeavors to bring Passenger Rail Service to Springfield, MO, after a hiatus of almost 40 years. (They've got us doing it now! That's not a hiatus, that's outright termination of service! That's pre-Amtrak era!) See this link.

So what's wrong with bringing service back to Springfield? Nothing if, like us, you want to see Passenger Rail established, re-established and growing in every corner of the United States.

Amtrak, despite it's ever-present financial woes and dependence on taxpayer dollars to support every route mile, has the right idea in trying to establish routes that didn't even exist when Amtrak was born. The demographics have changed mightily since then, and to open only routes that return us to 1971 misses the big picture.

The arguments in favor of establishing this Passenger Rail route are many. The route goes through some beautiful scenic areas. The auto traffic on parallel Interstate 44 is horrendous, so anything should be done to put some of those passengers on the rails is good. Also, Springfield is close to Branson, Missouri. Branson wasn't even thought of in the context of tourism when the last passenger train left Springfield, MO. Now, the music halls of Branson could be a day trip or an overnight destination for thousands of St. Louis Area residents. It makes one question why MoDOT is not also thinking about Kansas City - Springfield. Unfortunately, it looks like the only existing tracks to Branson come up from the south. But maybe some tour operator will see the wisdom in light rail or even Maglev to Branson from Springfield.

Now the bad part. The WTBAW part. (What The Bush Administration Wants) The state would have to foot the full subsidy for the St. Louis - Springfield service. This may or may not happen, but it is politically difficult, nonetheless.

The worst part? The track needed for this service may need significant improvements, though described as "in good shape," by MoDOT. More subsidy.

Let's hope the people of Missouri are serious about Passenger Rail. We would like to ride this one some day.

© 2006 - C. A. Turek - mistertrains@gmail.com
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