Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby electricron » Fri Dec 30, 2016 7:20 pm

Perhttps://ballotpedia.org/Maine_state_ ... d_finances
Recent State of Maine budgets:
Total spending (state and federal funds): = $7.6 billion (estimated for 2015)
Total state tax collections: = $3.8 billion (2014)
Total Federal aid = $2.8 billion

How State of Maine collects revenues:
Property taxes = 0.9%
Sales taxes = 49.7%
Licenses = 6.6%
Income taxes = 41.5%
Other taxes = 1.3%
How State of Maine budget is allocated:
K-12 Education = 17%
Higher Education =3.5%
Public Assistance = 2.1%
Medicaid = 34.4%
Corrections = 2%
Transportation = 7.8%
Other = 33.2%
Other includes Source: National Association of State Budget Officers
Note**: "Other" expenditures include "
Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), institutional and community care for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled, public health programs, employer contributions to pensions and health benefits, economic development, environmental projects, state police, parks and recreation, housing and general aid to local governments.

The statistic important to this discussion is transportation. 7.8% of 7.6 billion is just $593 million.
The State of Maine doesn't have a $billion to allocate on rail projects.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby FCM2829 » Fri Dec 30, 2016 7:48 pm

The statistic important to this discussion is transportation. 7.8% of 7.6 billion is just $593 million.
The State of Maine doesn't have a $billion to allocate on rail projects.


Uh, who used the b-word?
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby east point » Fri Dec 30, 2016 10:26 pm

If NNE buys its own cars it will be able to do all but the heaviest overhauls at its new Maintenance facility in Brunswick. Cannot believe anyone has not mentioned that.

As far as what equipment capabilities we can almost bet the farm it will be single level - NEC compatible including 125 MPH - compatible with Viewliners, Amfleets, ACS-64s. That is because of Downeaster 's long term desire to run thru trains to at least NYP. As far as who builds it ? Today there are only 2 possibilities although maybe others later. 1. CAF V-2s but very unlikely after their Amtrak fiasco. 2. Siemens Brightline type cars but equipped with standard tight lock couplers.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby gokeefe » Fri Dec 30, 2016 11:30 pm

east point wrote:If NNE buys its own cars it will be able to do all but the heaviest overhauls at its new Maintenance facility in Brunswick. Cannot believe anyone has not mentioned that.


The silence should be telling. The facility is specifically not designed for heavy maintenance not can it be easily converted to such. There are no inspection pits nor is there a machine shop or any overhead lift capacity.

The neighborhood opposition made this exact same claim and it was false.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sat Dec 31, 2016 7:43 am

gokeefe wrote:
F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:But if they want to join the big time as a frequent corridor route, they're going to have to act the part by joining the adults at the planning table.


They are more than capable and up to the task. More often than not they are the ones leading the conversation across the industry. David Fink, President of Pan Am Railways spoke in very high regard of Patricia at the annual meeting of TrainRiders Northeast and made it clear that he feels she is extremely competent.


Stop. Let's please not--again in these threads--whitewash their very ample room for improvement. It hasn't been an unbroken 15 years of nothing but rainbows and ice cream-farting unicorns, despite the duly-acknowledged kudos for punching well above their weight. They've had their share of unacceptable brainfarts like the 2015 service meltdown caused by delayed tie replacement NNEPRA knew since 2001 when had to be scheduled. And continuing underperformance of the Brunswick extension beyond which is explainable by the delays in the layover facility. And lots of messaging control issues with TRNE running its mouth about every foamer fantasy except strengthening the BOS-POR trunk, and undercutting NNEPRA's base priorities in the process.

My whole point was that "competent" can't be measured in a Maine-centric vacuum when the toughened competition for resources is national. And that's where I think the disconnect is: how Mainer advocates view it from the inside of a very small state, vs. how everyone else proportionally views Maine and what kind of "WOW!" performance it takes for tiny, tiny Maine to take and retain attention nationally. So many other state-sponsored routes and proposals--including a bumper crop within 200-mile radius of Portland--have braintrusts who've sharpened their acumen and gotten brutally more competitive for resources. The field of "competents" is a fast-moving target graded on a curve. Many of those routes competing for attention serve much denser continuous population, or have staked themselves to daring to punch even higher above their weight at lower cost (see VT) than Maine did. The bandwidth the Downeaster has enjoyed for 15 years in external-to-Maine access to resources is not a constant just because they were very early adopters who made good. Maine is demographically tiny; that fact of life means their 'incumbent' route status means very little nationally for retaining federal investment proportional to the last 15 years going forward when there's much bigger fish now fighting harder for attention. Things like the 2015 service meltdown hurt those chances badly. State of New York might be able to get away with that if the Empire crapped the bed for weeks at a time by doing its customer service mea culpas and redoubling efforts to reestablish confidence amid that cutthroat competition for resources. But those are mistakes tiny Maine can't afford to make; stubbing their big toe for any reason hurts their national bandwidth badly. And they don't get that bandwidth back just by being incrementally more competent. They have to literally overpower the field of much bigger players.

That's not a criticism of the current regime. That's simply a reflection of how much the nation has changed in 15 years in terms of PRIAA-route planning momentum. There's 20 more states elbowing for attention, and Maine demographically is what it is. It's no longer useful to benchmark their performance from the inside-looking-in based on how Mainers feel about their braintrust's performance. That statements means little to nothing amidst the din of PRIAA hard-sell jobs nationally. What are they doing today and tomorrow to turn heads outside of Maine? If they want a second 15 years of outsized investment relative to their size, it won't be from riding the first 15 years' coattails with slow/graceful evolution through experience. It'll be from finding whole other leaps-and-bounds gears. "Solid B+" doesn't mean what it did in the 'aughts decade when the class has now tripled in size and the grading curve has moved up to "solid B+" as the norm. It proportionately takes a 90th-percentile "A" to accomplish in the next 15 years the feats the DE accomplished in the previous 15.


Circling back to topic...yes, some 5-Year Plan budget numbers on how exactly they plan to fund that PTC install that gives them their 7th+ frequencies would be a pretty good show of outfoxing the PRIAA field right about now. A lot of other states' proposals are staring at the same fiscal cliff with that PTC frequency trigger on their non- Class I route miles currently exempt from the 2020 mandate. It kind of matters a lot for their chances of federal help with that install if they can present a detailed financing plan maximal number of years in advance that shows "We got this" re: that PTC fiscal cliff. Because that frequency trigger is a brand new challenge passenger interests haven't had to contend with before, bigger states are going to struggle with the learning curve of planning that expense further out and having their schedule expansions survive the gauntlet of public critique on ROI for that expense. Maine would outslug the field of much bigger states in leaps-and-bounds if it again took on the role of early adopter by kicking off this 7th freq./PTC extravaganza today(ish) instead of 2 years from now. Show the math, show cleanly how they're going to raise the math, make the "We got this" case now for federal contributions to that funding plan instead of waiting for deadline pressure like most other states will. That's exactly the sort of leaps-and-bounds show of intrepid planning that they need to keep attention for themselves as a small state in the next decade. Don't underestimate the challenge--or the opportunity--here. Early action on the finance plan for that 7th freq. PTC is a bona fide "magnificent bastarding" of the competition if they're up to the challenge.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby gokeefe » Sat Dec 31, 2016 11:59 am

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:Stop. Let's please not--again in these threads--whitewash their very ample room for improvement. It hasn't been an unbroken 15 years of nothing but rainbows and ice cream-farting unicorns, despite the duly-acknowledged kudos for punching well above their weight. They've had their share of unacceptable brainfarts like the 2015 service meltdown caused by delayed tie replacement NNEPRA knew since 2001 when had to be scheduled.


That's worth addressing directly as well since a public statement, not yet reported in the media, has been made regarding this situation.

During her presentation at the annual meeting of TrainRiders Northeast Ms. Quinn addressed the 2015 situation with aplomb and simply described it as "things got a little rough" and had a slide showing heavy surf along a beach. The slide made for a good chuckle but what came after her presentation was the real surprise.

Mr. Fink addressed the 2015 situation head on and said that he had ordered the project to be executed in a single season despite being told not to do so by everyone in his company. He made it very clear that the decision to try and accomplish this project without a major train outage and on such a tight timeline was his and his alone and he apologized to everyone in the room and NNEPRA in particular for it. It was a startling moment of clarity. I will allow that fact to sink in.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby FCM2829 » Sat Dec 31, 2016 1:49 pm

And lots of messaging control issues with TRNE running its mouth about every foamer fantasy except strengthening the BOS-POR trunk, and undercutting NNEPRA's base priorities in the process.


Which foamer fantasies are we talking about here?
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby Renegade334 » Wed Jan 04, 2017 2:57 pm

Would it be worth the time, effort, and money to reduce the amount of street crossings that occur in NH? Or is it more worth to do other types of rail upgrades? I feel like NH is the weak link in the POR - BOS line.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby MEC407 » Wed Jan 04, 2017 4:04 pm

There are very few scenarios in which highway-rail grade crossing elimination isn't worthwhile. Railroads are in favor of this 99% of the time (as long as they don't have to front the cost). Residents want increased safety and less noise but they often balk when they found out how much it costs to eliminate an at-grade crossing and replace it with, for example, an underpass or an overpass; and some at-grade crossings are simply impossible to eliminate due to terrain or due to stranding homes/businesses on a certain side of the tracks with no other means of egress.

Thinking about the at-grade crossings I'm familiar with between Plaistow and Portland, there aren't many that jump out at me as being easy targets for elimination. The easy ones were already picked off a long time ago — these are all the places where the roadway is carried over the railroad by a bridge, or the railroad is carried over the roadway by a bridge.

There might be a few areas where crossing consolidation could be feasible, such as Old Orchard Beach, but I'm not quite as intimately familiar with the NH stretch.

In the case of OOB, passenger trains would be very unlikely to see a speed boost from crossing consolidation/elimination because they already have to slow down through there, either to make the station stop or because the place is absolutely crawling with pedestrians during the summer months and the railroad comes within feet or inches of places where huge numbers of pedestrians congregate.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby gokeefe » Wed Jan 04, 2017 8:17 pm

I was down in Old Orchard Beach several times this past summer and drove crossing to crossing more than once. There do not appear to be any good options for closure and the current gaps are about as far apart for comfort as I think public safety and fire departments in particular could or would tolerate. On the other hand I do think Old Orchard is rapidly rising as an obvious candidate for a year round station.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby Renegade334 » Thu Jan 05, 2017 9:11 am

In NH there are 19 road crossings. Of these 10 look viable for separation.

Rollinsford, NH:
Church Street - Looks like this could be grade separated

Dover, NH:
Central Ave - No point in separating this as it is already slowing down to get to Dover Station
3rd Street/Chestnut Street - Same as above

Madbury, NH:
This appears to be a Driveway off of NH-155, so doubt much can be done here

Newmarket, NH:
Elm Street - Don't know much about the process to know if this is a candidate. But I would love to see this go.
Exeter Rd/108 - Don't see how this one is possible, but would be great if possible. I used to live in Newmarket and it would help with congestion a lot

Newfields, NH:
Swamscott Road - Would be great to eliminate this as it is double track and could help with eventual more round trips on DE

Exeter, NH:
Salem St - Don't know much about this area. Park Street which has a separation via a bridge is right next to Salem St. Hopefully possible
Main Street - No point as far as I see it since the train is slowing to come into Exeter Station
Front Street - Same as above
Powder Mill Rd - This is definitely a candidate for separation. There is nothing around it for miles and could help increase speed after Exeter Station

East Kingston, NH:
Sanborn Road - Dont know enough, but it seems possible we could put a bridge that goes over the track?
Depot Rd/NH-107 - Not sure it this would be worth the time and money.

Kingston, NH:
New Boston Rd

Newton, NH:
Heath St - Looks possible that we could replicate Pond St bridge that is close by
Bartlett St - Looks like this road becomes someones driveway. Not sure what we could do here
W Main St - Unfortunately I dont think there is much that can be done here
Crane Crossing Rd - One of the easier projects that can be done

Plaistow, NH:
Main St/NH-121-A - Have this road go under the train tracks.

Thoughts?
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby FCM2829 » Thu Jan 05, 2017 9:48 am

Not sure which of these candidates would be suitable, but are some worth considering crossing protection upgrades as opposed to grade separation? Things like four quadrant gates, +\or barrier gates? How about tie-ins with traffic signals where applicable? Grade separations are notoriously expensive, and would require a sea change from NHDOT in terms of their thinking about funding for passenger rail improvements. That said, there is a road involved, so maybe...
Last edited by Jeff Smith on Thu Jan 05, 2017 10:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Removed quote of immediately preceding post
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby gokeefe » Thu Jan 05, 2017 10:42 am

It isn't necessarily a "passenger" improvement. It's a safety upgrade that benefits all services. The big question for the safety side is what the accident rate is at any given site. I don't think it's out of the question in New Hampshire as this type of work is actually considered a highway improvement.
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby Renegade334 » Thu Jan 05, 2017 11:10 am

So would installing grade separation and/or upgrading crossing protection have the similar effects on increasing speed? Sorry...really new to transit but extremely obsessed. hahaha
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Re: Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

Postby MEC407 » Thu Jan 05, 2017 11:18 am

Renegade334 wrote:So would installing grade separation and/or upgrading crossing protection have the similar effects on increasing speed? Sorry...really new to transit but extremely obsessed. hahaha


It depends on the particular crossing. There are several crossings where the Downeaster happily cruises through at 70+ MPH. For those crossings or similar crossings, grade separation likely would have no positive effect on train speeds. It all depends on terrain, traffic, sight lines / visibility, protection equipment (although this is all pretty much the same at the vast majority of crossings since the 2001 initial rehab), accident history, etc.
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