Will he stay or won't he? The question of whether U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will serve in his current role during President Obama's second term has been attracting a lot of attention in recent days. Last week, the secretary told POLITICO that he plans to discuss his future with the president after the president concludes the fiscal-cliff negotiations.
Speculation over the secretary's future prompted this week's poll question on ProgressiveRailroading.com: Would you like to see LaHood continue to serve as transportation secretary? Why or why not? And, if LaHood does stay on, what issues would you like to see him address in a second term?You can answer the poll question by clicking here, then consider sharing your opinions in a post below.
Secretary LaHood has done a good job in generalities. At present he is undergoing a grilling in Senate sub-commitee hearings on the high-speed rail mess. US Congressman Mica wants to know in the hearings where approximately $11 billion in already dispensed transportation monies have gone? $11 billion given to rail authorities has not produced even one foot of genuine high-speed rail track. Granted there are several Amtrak routes out of Chicago that are upgraded to accomodate 110-mph speeds, though there is no construction on real world class hs-rail. I must inform readers that the speed qualifications for international standards hs-rail are 186-mph average maintained speeds over the rail transit from point A to destination point B. Currently France has the fastest trains in the world. The French hold the speed record at 357.2-mph set in the fall of 2007 utilizing a fast prototype train assembled by the French high-tech rail firm Alstom. Real high-speed rail operates on its own dedicated and speed qualified track. At this time no track at this level has been layed or even tested on! Hundreds of miles of safety area chain link fencing has to be on the right-of-way property lines. Homeland Security will require underground motion detecting cable to fend off any unwanted intrusions to the track or possible damage. Special overhead cantenary will be built to dimensions that no freight trains can operate under. Maintenance costs for the trainsets and electric pick-ups will be immense! Trainsets will run in the 100's of millions each! 20-25 million for the electric engines each positioned front and back of the passenger cars, then 5-10 million per car. I know my figures are right on the money! My background is civil engineering infrastructure land surveying and project management, I've been there and back. Most politicians and so-called expert proponents of hs-rail don't even have a foggy concept of what this fantastic passenger transit will cost to build and operate. Ticket prices would be astronomical to make a profit...that will never happen as this system will be totally public tax supported, with tickets priced for everyone. The best plan with professional engineering in process would be to design and construct one system first! Let's take the California system to task. Instead of building the small section being proposed; design a profile complete plan for the whole state, then build it with magnificent architectural masterpieces of stationing and bridging! Then invite the cities of San Diego, LA and the Bay Area to Sacramento to get on and ride. Never, EVER, settle on a construction of a partial representation of a 900-mile system such as in Cal. If America is going to be great, then let's be great and build and pay for a super system in California! The whole project at one time or nothing. This only makes sense in the engineering and planning process. This way is very scientific in nature and more exact in quality. There is less occasion for mistakes in build. 100-meters of track with only 1-hundreth of a foot in elevation variance! Can be done! Special shock stations for earth movement, can be designed. A new super rail classification above the current level 10 at the top today, can be done in the future. With this proceedure America can take that speed record from the French! 357.2-mph; no problem. In my vision of a system 400+mph can be achieved...LA to the Bay in 1 and 1/2 hours! Try it my way Secretary LaHood.
In reply to goldenspike:
With all due respect I take exceptions to several of your assertions. I will try to be brief here to ensure I don't discourage others from participating.
1. The assertion related to average sustained speeds of 186 mph as an international standard is false. In my opinion, misinformation related to "average speeds" is one of the reasons advocates here lack real credibility.
2. The assertion that maintenance costs will be extraordinary and inflate ticket prices is not substantiated by existing international experience.
3. The suggestion of building track "100 meters to within 0.01' elevation tolerance is not consistent with current international construction standards.
4. The prospect of going 400+ mph using steel wheels and rail and conventional technology is misguided. Our best approach is to leverage "service-proven" international experience.
I expect to read a long rebuttal but I believe that if we are going to ever realize "express" high speed rail service in this country, we need to start by challenging attempts to spread misinformation. Nothing personal, I assure you.
In reply to Blaine Peterson:
Excellent rebuttal. The fact that in France high-speed rail has achieved a speed of 357.2-mph in late 2007 is a reality facing our lack of technical rail progress in America! Today our rail passenger transit schedules and speeds attained don't even match daily operational speeds from the late 1930's! That gap in progress is disgusting to me. Let's be brutally realistic; our country dropped the ball on advancing passenger rail and never recovered it.
Elevation variance tollerances of one or two hundreths of a foot in 100 meters or so is actually possible with the right sub-base to rail track roadbeds. Proper civil engineering calculation, excellent land survey construction staking and build makes it all attainable even today.
400+mph would be done with passing air redistribution on the trainsets, the same science used in Formula 1 automobile racing design. Passenger car wheels would not be "steel", but lightweight composites that would eliminate what is called in engineering "unsprung-weight" drag.
Maintenace costs will be high, very high. That is the price to pay for maintaining a highly sophisticated rail passenger transit system.
186-mph has been the benchmark for defining genuine international hs-rail for the last couple of decades. America has been so far behind the technology trend, that the speed dictionary we use is a very old, old edition for sure!
When it comes to technical advacements I'd personally like to see our country lead in design, speed and construction rather than follow a path of quite boring mediocrity. 110-mph transit corridors out of Chicago are boring indeed! The Milwaukee Road "Hiawatha" passenger train twice daily service Chicago to the Twin Cities in the 1938 trainset reached speeds of 124-mph on sections of the route back then! I am not impressed by 110-mph in 2012.
I want to see America lead in passenger train long and short distance route. We don't need a Silver or Bronze medal, we need to go for the Gold!!!