Posts Tagged ‘rapid rail’

Josh McKoon: “High speed rail will be the interstate of the 21st century.”

June 18, 2009

One of the great tragedies of the do-nothing Georgia legislature is that it did nothing about a state transportation plan again in the last legislative session.  Nothing in face of a monumental transportation problem, especially in the Atlanta area is incredibly irresponsible, in my book. Nothing means the same old same old in dealing with the problem.  Nothing means continuing to spend hundreds of millions on widening lanes even though that simply is not going to solve the problem, especially on the long haul.

Josh McKoon announces for Ga. Sen. Dist. 29, Government Center, Columbus, GA

Josh McKoon announces for Ga. Sen. Dist. 29, Government Center, Columbus, GA, Courtesy: Josh McKoon

Josh McKoon  says that is one of the issues on which he will concentrate if elected to fill Seth Harp’s Georgia Senate District 29 seat, the one Seth Harp is giving up so he can run for state insurance commissioner.  I am glad to hear that Josh plans to squarely face the transportation problem  because he will probably be District 29’s next senator.  29 is a strongly Republican district and Josh got a lot of publicity as chairman of the Muscogee Republican Party, and for his fight as an attorney for the group taking action against the city of Columbus to force it to spend SPLOST money to build a park in back on the new library.  

Sam Rawls, Josh McKoon, Government Center, Columbus, GA

Sam Rawls, Josh McKoon, Government Center, Columbus, GA

Josh sent me a few pictures of his announcement kickoff, which, as you can see, I’m using.

Josh McKoon, Georgia state Sen. Seth Harp, (R) Dist. 29, Government Center, Columbus, GA (Courtesy: John McKoon)

Josh McKoon, Georgia state Sen. Seth Harp, (R) Dist. 29, Government Center, Columbus, GA , Photo Courtesy: Josh McKoon

We’ll get into the insurance commissioner’s race later. There’s a lot I don’t know about it. I’m going to study up on it to decide what to ask about it.  Insurance plays one heck of a role in our lives.  Just look at the health care mess.  We’ll definitely be looking into it.

While, I’m having to work on the insurance commissioner questions,  I don’t have the same problem with the issues that Josh McKoon faces if he gets elected.   We are talking transportation,  water allocation, health care,  energy,  election reform,  to mention a few. 

I decided that I would concentrate on one issue in the upcoming state election one at a time on this blog.  That’s why when I thanked Josh for the pics, I asked hin for his position on transportation.  He said some things that I wanted to hear.  Here is the email he sent me in response to my question.

Josh McKoon: “Thanks for your e-mail.  I said in my speech announcing my candidacy last week that high speed rail transit linking our cities will be the interstate of the 21st century.  We need transportation solutions now and I will be supporting all of our alternate means of transit, including rail.

” Of course roads will continue to be important and funding for road projects will continue to be an issue going forward.  One proposal I have made to insure a steadier and larger revenue stream for all transportation projects is to dedicate the revenues from the unit tax on motor fuel for transportation projects only.  Currently those funds go into general appropriations and can be spent on pork projects.  We need to make sure transportation funds go for transportation needs.

 “We must confront the transportation issue now both as to passenger and cargo traffic.  A robust transportation infrastructure is the key to our continued economic growth and if we continue to rest upon infrastructure investments made in the 1960s and 70s we will see our growth choked off by an inability to move people and goods efficiently around and through our state. 

“Please let me know if you have any follow up questions. 

Regards, 

Josh”

Anybody have any follow-up questions.  If so,just click the “comment” button and ask it.  I’ll make sure Josh gets it.

Rail Transit Can No Longer Be Ignored by Georgia Legislators

April 20, 2009

For a lot of my childhood, I lived a block  from the Central of Georgia Depot on 6th Avenue in Columbus.  That depot was a very busy place, especially during World War two.  Not only were there major passenger trains like the Seminole and the City of Miami, which connected Chicago to Florida,  that made a stop in Columbus, but local passenger trains to Macon,  Montgomery, and Atlanta.  During the war,  my mother and I went by train from Columbus to Joplin, Missouri to visit with my brother who would soon be sent to England and Germany.  I was about 13-years-old at the time.   Railroads put every passenger car they had into service,  including some very old ones,  and the train that took us from Birmingham to Springfield, Missouri was so long it was pulled by not one, but two steam engines. 

After the war,  the emphasis  on automobiles and highways,  and the rapid growth of airlines, just about killed the passenger train business.   Well, for those who believe there are cycles to history, the train cycle is here.  Trains are the most economical and fuel efficient way to transport masses of people.  Finally, national leaders, including Presdient Obama,  are recognising this. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Sunday,  “President Barack Obama announced plans Thursday for a national high-speed rail network that would include lines crisscrossing Georgia connected through a hub in Atlanta.

“The plan would create a European-like system with trains that could run at more than 100 mph. Obama is pledging $8 billion toward development of the system as part of the economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

Finland Passenger Train Car (Courtesy: Jonic)

Finland Passenger Train Car, upper deck (Courtesy: Jonic, Wikipedia)

Our leaders at the Georgia state capitol, however,  have been in love with highways and cars to the extent they, for the most part, ignored rail,  and critics say this could  hamper Georgia in taking advantage of the federal funding for rapid rail.

The legilsature left the Marta system in Atlanta hanging out to dry by not taking action that would allow the system, which is more popular than ever,  to use funds it already has to keep it up and running.  There is a 40-year-old state law that says Marta can’t spend reserve funds on operating expenses.  That made sense 40 years ago when Marta first started, but now that it is a mature system, it makes no sense at all.

As I reported earlier, Columbus Representative Calvin Smyre and State Senators Seth Harp and Ed Harbison say that situation will have to be faced and corrected when the legislature goes into a predicted special session in July to come up with a new budget.  Let’s hope they and other legislators come to grips with this problem because it is critical.

Georgia Transportation Folks, The Way You’re Doing It Now Doesn’t Work

December 1, 2008

  Why oh why doesn’t the Georgia legislature stop stalling development of commuter trains in the state?  My Friday night nightmare trip on rainy I-85 from Atlanta to Columbus made me once again reflect on how frustrated I get over the never-ending lane construction on I-85, and how difficult it is to get politicians to accept inevitable change. Trains are coming back because there are simply too many automobiles clogging the highways. The solution is not to continue to pour millions and millions of tons of more concrete and asphalt. The solution is mass transit.

  They learned this a very long time ago in New York City, London, Paris, Berlin and other major cities in the world. Atlanta is working on it, but is a long ways from providing enough mass transit service to come near to solving the problems of gridlock.

Wikipedia)

Baltimore-Washington International commuter Train (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

  The highway arteries leading in and out of densely populated areas are a part of the problem and that can only be solved with commuter trains. Every time I drive to Atlanta on I-85 I reflect on the astronomical costs and unsafe travel conditions caused by construction for adding more lanes. Running two rail lines up the center of I-85 would seem a lot simpler, less costly and saner policy.

  The state does have a plan to develop rail transportation, but the legislature won’t fund it. They talk about it, but when it actually comes to switching funding priorities, they back off. Why? So far, I haven’t seen a good answer to that question. I did read where Governor Sonny Perdue is backing implementation of a the Lovejoy to Atlanta commuter train because it is practical to get it up and running on existing tracks soon.  But, I’ll believe something is actually being done when I see it.

A Drive Through Hell Friday Night Really Brought Home the Need for New Transportation Leadership in Georgia

November 29, 2008

  The trip up to Cumming Thanksgiving morning was, fortunately, uneventful. Heavy traffic, but no delays, even through the construction obstacle course the state continues to operate endlessly, but I cannot say the same thing for coming back Friday night. That was like a ride through hell. 

  Instead of continually adding lanes at billions of dollars expense, which is stupid, because all that does is encourage more cars to fill up the lanes, it would be nice if the highway department would concentrate on safety features on the ones we have. You know, things like repainting lane lines, and dotting them with reflectors so you can see them at night. Lines one can see at night when it’s raining would be very helpful. There were times when I couldn’t see the lines because they were so dull and dim, and the glare from the lights reflecting on a wet highway surface added to the problem.  We are talking six lanes of crazy Atlanta drivers on a rainy, slippery surface,  at night, and not being able to see the lane lines! Insanity!

  The construction obstacle course along the stretch that spans the Newnan and Grantville exits, really became a challenge Friday night. Two small lanes, walled in on each side by concrete barriers and idiots who slow down for nothing and come screaming by in their monster SUV’s and pickup trucks, make it a nightmare. Rain, glare from headlights, barriers that eliminate emergency lanes, and those idiots I just mentioned and you have to wonder why there aren’t more wrecks than there are. I was afraid I was going to sideswife one of those concrete barriers at any moment, and guess what, I did. As a monster truck came whizzing by, I moved over a little too far and learned there is a buffer that gives a little when you hit it so you don’t hit the actual concrete. Scared the hell out of me, though.  

  The best stretch of road was on I-185. The surface was smooth, and dark asphalt didn’t reflect headlights, the white lines were bright and contained adequate reflectors. It was the only decent Interstate section betweeen Columbus and Atlanta.  

  Somebody in Atlanta is crazy. Well, I’m sure it’s not just one person, but whoever is running the highway show seems to be stuck in the past. Just keep adding lanes and highways is their solution. Hey, that’s the way we’ve always done it. Detroit and the contractors who build the roads love it, but, as we have seen, Detroit lives in the past. Look how long it has taken them to start building cars that get high gas mileage and cut down down on air pollution. Hey, selling the monster SUVs and trucks worked a couple of years ago so why change until … it’s too late? Ever heard staying ahead of the curve, Detroit?

  Point is, highway pols,  stop adding lanes and make the ones you have safe, and start putting down rails. It’s the future. It’s going to have to be done.  Switch those billions from concrete to rails. Actually, they should be cheaper to lay than all of those millions of tons of concrete you’re pouring into road beds.  Look to places that have faced this problem a long, long time ago. Places like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut where commuters ride to work and home everyday on trains. A rapid rail line between Columbus and Atlanta would have people living in Columbus Commuting to Atlanta just as people who live in Connecticut commute to New York City.

  Barring a catastrophe like a plague, population is going to continue its rapid rate of increase. You can’t just keep adding cars and highways.  Yes, it will require people to change their habits. But, it can be done. It has to be done.  It’s going to be done.  Change is inevitable. In order to made it positive, get ahead of the curve, transportation honchos in Atlanta. Better yet, put some forward looking people in those positions of power. NOW!