What’s Happening in the World of Railroads


Connecticut’s residential coastline is two worlds, the one of newcomer millionaires and one whose wealth and New England roots span generations. Now, their differences over a rail route threaten to gum up plans for the U.S. Northeast’s fastest-ever trains.

About 30 miles from Manhattan, hedge funds such as Bridgewater Associates and Tudor Investment Corp. and Fortune 500 companies help make Stamford the busiest station in the wealthiest state for Amtrak’s Acela Express. Boardings are 47 percent lower toward the east, where century-old estates overlook the Long Island Sound and the Ivy League’s Yale University has educated scholars for 300 years.

With the national railroad preparing for even faster Acela service between Boston and Washington, however, some of those towns are in the cross-hairs of a Federal Railroad Administration proposal for a 50-mile (80-kilometer) bypass designed to reduce curves and choke points. The plan, one of three under consideration, was so unpopular among residents that a group of lawmakers, including Democratic U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, last month threatened to tie themselves to the tracks.

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The small train station in Buffalo, New York’s second-biggest city, hidden beneath a four lane overpass, is closed. Rains caused the ceiling to collapse in the shoe box-sized station.

While trains still stop on Exchange Street, it’s not clear when the station will reopen.

But the closing has reopened the demand for a modern train station in downtown Buffalo.
After all, millions of dollars have been spent building or renovating stations along the line from Albany to Niagara Falls.

Central Terminal fans also see advantages in returning passenger rail service to the inactive art deco building.

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Travelers taking Amtrak’s Adirondack service, which runs from Albany, New York, to Montreal, Canada, can now take in the breathtaking fall foliage of upstate New York aboard the company’s famed Great Dome car.

The historic Great Dome car will return for six weeks, from September 29 to November 1, allowing customers to gaze at panoramic views of everything from glistening lakes to a kaleidoscope of leaves on all sides of the car’s upper level.

amtrak_dome

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A $2 billion expansion of San Diego’s trolley system from the Mexican border to UC-San Diego, the biggest public transit project in city history, is expected to bring 14,000 jobs, 21,000 new daily riders and ease traffic and pollution in California’s second-largest city.

The federal government last week committed $1 billion to the Mid-Coast Trolley expansion. Half of the money for the project was raised through a regional half-cent sales tax in San Diego called TransNet. Voters approved the tax in 1987 for transportation projects in the Southern California county known for crumbling roads and deferred infrastructure maintenance.

san-diego-trolley-expasion

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Since 1990, L.A. has seen its rail network go from 0 to 100 miles of coverage. Not only has the boom changed traveling patterns in the County, it’s also affected land use. Metro also actively works to develop parcels they own near rail stations, hoping to make some green from developers and encourage dense, mixed-use projects near their stations, which ostensibly boost ridership. Twenty-six years after rail arrived in modern L.A., transit-oriented development has been a very mixed bag—neighborhoods and cities like Hollywood and Culver City have blossomed, but South L.A. and Boyle Heights have seen nominal growth near their stations.

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