Thursday, July 27, 2006

Maine Plans Far, Far Ahead

Give the people in the lakes region near Portland, ME, some credit. They are thinking and talking about Passenger Rail.

This link is to an article that describes the kind of thinking that has been going on since 2001. The most ambitious plans would include revival of the entire old Mountain Divison into New Hampshire and eventual connection with White River Junction, VT.

The area is growing and luring more tourists, and Passenger Rail would be no worse an idea in a relatively sparse population than it is in New Mexico. (The jury is still out on Rail Runner ridership - we haven't seen any real statistics and the ride is still truncated and free.) But in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, it is much further in the future.

The article rightly points out that government policy has hamstrung the area as far as transportation options. Right now it's "highway or nothing." Expand the scope of this statement and it applies to many, many parts of the United States, both populated and not. Whole segments of the country are "highway or nothing" for passenger travel. Thank God for short lines, or this would be more true for freight/cargo as well.

An aside: We refer to freight railroading. But freight railroads carry cargo. Freight is what you pay to move cargo. Nonetheless, the terms are used more or less interchangably. This writer is an old cargo surveyor. That's a professional who determines suitability for transit in terms of risk of loss or damage, and also who determines damage in the event of accidental loss. We never surveyed freight, only cargo.

In our opinion, shifting us into options where Passenger Rail becomes the primary carrier of surface passengers would be tax dollars well-spent. The people of southwestern Maine are thinking ahead. We have only two words of advice: Revamp nothing! Build for Next Generation Rail!

© 2006 - C. A. Turek -
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