Amtrak’s plan for Northeast Corridor Improvements.

My local paper had this article in it the other day.

The “Preferred Alternative: A Vision for Growth of the Northeast Corridor,” as laid out at www.necfuture.com, shows tunnels, trenches, embankments and “aerial structures” carving new routes through the highly developed corridor.

Those and other improvements, from Washington, D.C., to Boston, would boost capacity and shorten travel times, the FRA said.

But, local officials and one commuter advocate aren’t swooning over the plan, which could entail extensive property seizures and massive construction in densely populated communities.

“Be careful what you wish,” said Jim Cameron, founder of the Commuter Action Group, which represents Metro-North Railroad and Shore Line East riders. “If the state basically said to the Federal Railroad Administration, ‘We endorse going along the coast,’ now they’re going to have to look at the consequences of this realignment, because it’s massive disruption in some of the most affluent communities in the state.”

Cameron said an inland route following Interstate 84 would achieve “true world-class high-speed rail” without disrupting densely populated coastal communities.

According to the FRA, the Preferred Alternative would increase the number of trains and improve performance along the Northeast Corridor. The number of trains running daily from Penn Station to Boston, for example, would increase from 19 to 94. The travel time would decrease from three hours and 30 minutes to two hours and 45 minutes.

To boost capacity and improve performance between New York City and Boston, the FRA has recommended improvements to the existing line and adding several new segments. Among the latter would be new two-track segment, beginning west of the New Rochelle station and continuing into Fairfield County. The segment would allow for more trains to operate between New York and Boston and allow express trains to pass local or freight trains, the FRA said.

http://www.thehour.com/news/article/Plan-would-carve-new-rail-lines-10807227.php

Here’s the NEC Future site

http://www.necfuture.com/

Here is the page for the “preferred alternative.”

http://www.necfuture.com/alternatives/

They hid the more or less detailed map in the Enivronmental Impact Statement, but here it is.

http://www.necfuture.com/pdfs/feis/appendix/app_aa.pdf

One thing that I see is that the people who wrote this up probably did it with the map in hand and haven’t really seen the area, at least in my neighborhood.  Now the map shows RTE 95 as being relatively straight and flat.  As somebody who has traversed that stretch of  RTE 95 thousands of times, it’s neither.  That stretch is scary enough at 65, let alone at 150 mph+ . The fact is that coastal Ct through Fairfield and New Haven Counties is mostly ridge and valleys all running North and South.  The Original New Haven Line(now Metro North’s New Haven Line) ran as close to the coast as possible and even then is mostly cuts and embankments.  Along with curves, lots of them.  Those curves have been the bane of the railroad’s existence since it was laid out back in the 1850’s

Still the RTE 95 route is even worse.  What interesting is that according to the NEC Future website, most of the route through Fairfield County will be “aerial structures.” That’s especially true of the route through Greenwich and Stamford.  Which tells me that these people are either not serious about actual improvements to the NEC or really want to stick it to a bunch of wealth and well connected people with lots of clout. Because I know what Aerial structures for high speed trains means.

Here’s a picture of the Tohoku Shinkansen structure near Omiya Station.

DSC_3040

The is typical aerial structure high speed railbed in Japan.  It’s also something that would never fly in here in CT.  Even out in the eastern part of the state, the opposition is stiff and in Fairfield County the opposition would be incredible.

http://www.theday.com/article/20160722/NWS01/160729742

The funny thing to me is that the “preferred alternative” didn’t eve address the biggest opportunity for real improvement, a tunnel through east Bridgeport to eliminate the 35 MPH Jenkins curve.  Right now the tunnel and a new station could be built relatively cheaply because East Bridgeport is mostly empty lots with various and sundry development plans that have gone awry.  Yet the rout through Bridgeport, with it’s 19th Century  roadway is kept intact while the route messes around in Greenwich and Stamford real estate.   Which tells me that the whole thing can’t really be taken seriously. Which is a shame because the improvements are really needed and all this did was waste money that could have been spent on other things that Amtrak needs or even better, not spent at all.

DSC_4794

The Law Of Unintended Consequences Hits Biofuels

This should be a shock to nobody but the Greens.

http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-07-27/as-corn-devours-u-s-prairies-greens-reconsider-biofuel-mandate

Ever since the beginning of the ethanol mandate it was obvious to anybody with eyes to see that the whole thing was a boondoggle and a huge waste for everybody except ADM.  What the Greens failed to understand is that if you prop up corn prices by buying, distilling and burning massive amounts of corn whisky in cars, two things are going to happen.  One the price is going to go up, making things like cow feed and other uses of corn more expensive  and 2. farmer are going to, without restraints, plant ever larger amounts of corn, which will 1. push out other crops like wheat and 2. require more land use to plant even more corn.  Which is why you can now go from Eastern Colorado to Western NY and essentially see nothing but corn.  Millions of acres of corn, across the country, grown to burn.  Somehow this was supposed to be environmentally friendly?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn_ethanol

There’s something insane about using food crops for fuel.  Especially since growing the food crops and getting the product takes more fuel than you get back as heating value energy in vehicles.

Should We Use Food Crops For Food, Not Fuel?

The fact is that grain alcohol has a low heating value and lower flame temperatures than most of the other carbon fuels.  It’s not really a good fuel.  In fact, the only reason it’s used at all is it’s green stamp of renewability.  Is a fuel renewable though if, as more than likely, the system to grow, harvest, process and transport the fuel would collapse if energy could not be drawn from other sources.  Of course the other energy uses are typically invisible to the average Green who only sees the E10 sign at the gas pump and feels better about it.  I tend to look at that E10 symbol differently.  I see 100 car train loaded with corn in covered hoppers the same size as houses, pulled by locomotives, trains that go to huge grain elevators to be transferred to barges that stop at refining plants that distill the corn. Then I see yet more trains of huge tank cars, rolling across the country to oil refineries with the ethanol ration because you can’t ship ethanol in a pipeline.  All that to get my 10 gallons of gas diluted and make my car have higher gas usage due to the decrease in gas mileage.  When you see that E10 symbol, think of trains like these.

And of course some of the other unintended consequences, like a lot more burning cars on the road thanks to ethanol’s other bad habits