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Sunday Train: A Nationwide Freight and Passenger Regional HSR System

by BruceMcF Sun Mar 7th, 2010 at 09:12:32 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Energy Independence

It often seems there is a deep canyon lying between what we can do and what needs to be done as a community, as a local region, as a state, as a national region, or as a nation.

But the Steel Interstate is a national program that a coalition of determined groups of advocates scattered across the country could get going. It bridges regional interest conflicts, and offers a way to advance some of the interests of so many - Interstate motorists, advocates of freedom from cars, organized labor, the largely disorganized army of the unemployed, advocates of ecological sustainability, advocates of mitigating climate chaos, and Progressive Patriots, to name just a few.

Of course, I want to talk process, but it seems to be network maps that catches people's interest. So how I will go about this is alternating Map and Process.


I do want to stress that this is quite long, so feel free to skim until you see something of interest. And I am quite serious about the Steel Interstate offering something substantial of interest to:

  • Interstate motorists, by taking a substantial amount of semi truck traffic off the road, reducing both driving stress and road damage
  • Advocates of car independence, by providing a Rapid Rail network that can extend the reach of Regional HSR train services in a financially sustainable way
  • Private sector organized labor, by providing an ongoing project that will employ people in constructing the system and producing materials for the system, and as a direct consequence reduce the import share of national spending, increasing the employment impact of all newly financed spending, private or public
  • The large "army of unemployed" benefit in precisely the same way
  • Advocates of a development of an ecologically sustainable, by saving 90% of the energy cost of long haul freight transport by diesel powered semi-truck
  • Advocates of effective climate change mitigation strategy, in precisely the same way
  • Progressive Patriots, by advancing the cause of Energy Independence and weakening the foundation of the protection racket that oil companies use to gain control over US military power in support of corporate interests and in opposition to US national interest


Stage 1 Map: The National Line

The genesis of Stage 1, from which the balance of the map follows, was a comment in the dkos edition of the  Sunday Train, Sunday Train: Attacks on HSR in Flyover Country, by IndianaDemocrat

So, Ya' Wanna Build A High-Speed Line?
Then build one that will actually have an IMMEDIATE TANGIBLE ECONOMIC BENEFIT.

Reconstruct the National Line form Pittsburgh to St. Louis as a High-Speed, three-rail line.

This bypasses Chicago, reduces cross-country travel times by as much as a day-and-a-half, OR MORE, depending on Chicago delays. Make it a Nationally-owned and operated line, available to all railroads to use. Even the Shortlines, for a fee.

Put that money to use actually doing something that could help breath life back in to manufacturing, instead of a flashy boondoggle.

The Stimulus Flyover projects in Chicago are a start, but little more than band-aids that don't really address the bottleneck problem.

by IndianaDemocrat on Sun Feb 21, 2010 at 08:00:59 PM EST

That's what Line#1 does. Now, as explained later in the process section, each stage is around 3,000 miles, so there's more to it: New York to Pittsburgh is the STRACNET alignment that is generally the route of the Amtrak Pennsylvanian, St. Louis to Denver is a STRACNET freight corridor, and Denver to Oakland, California is generally along the route of the Amtrak California Zephyr.

Before you react to the passenger service appeal of the corridor .... stop. Take a deep breath. This is at its core a plan that is to provide an opportunity for Sustainable Energy Independent long distance freight transport. Consider the truck traffic on Interstate 70 between Pittsburgh and Denver before rejecting the alignment out of hand.

What makes IndianaDemocrat's proposal so powerful is that STRACNET through Ohio and Indiana is a bit of a tangled mess, and it is quite plausible that the loss of the National Line is the reason.

Also, bear in mind that freight trains can change locomotives. Swapping locomotives costs time ... but if the run on an electric corridor is fast enough, both in terms of speed and in terms of capacity to handle traffic without delay, it can easily cover the time-cost for long-distance traffic.

So this is not an isolated corridor, its a trunk corridor that can be accessed by a wide number of the STRACNET corridors.


Stage 1 Process: Foundation Concepts for the Steel Interstate Project

After four to six months writing Sunday Train's, its easy for me to lose track of the fact that while there are some regulars, there are also always some people who are dropping by for the first time. So if the following is old news to the regulars, my apologies.

The Brawny Recovery. Back when the US was Energy Independent, progressive macroeconomist's would patiently explain that there is simply no problem with the government running a deficit during an economic downturn.

After all, "Money" is just a permission slip from the government: its resources that can limit the government's freedom to deficit spend. And during a downturn we have idle resources.

"Except" ... except that now we are no longer Energy Independent. Instead, we are addicted to imported energy. Like any Dependent Economy, there is always a risk that boosting demand for domestic resources will lead to problems in the exchange rate of the local money, causing a crisis in access to the external resource.

So under the situation of growing addiction to Energy Imports that has been pursued as active government policy over the past three decades by both Republican and Democratic administrations ... we can't ignore the impact on our external balance.

So we need to do more than just do "Keynesian Pump Priming": we need to ensure that we spending some of that money on stuff that helps us make stuff. That's the "Brawny Recovery": economic stimulus that also develops our national economic strength.

Ecological and Economic Sustainability. I do not spend a lot of time in the Sunday Train arguing about whether the US Economy is in an unsustainable ecological overshoot, nor about accelerating climate chaos, nor about a wide range of ecological and social failings of our current transport system. But Energy Efficiency ties into these concerns as well. Economic Growth is getting more stuff done that people want done. The massive material wastes built into our present system, means that we have an opportunity to mine what is presently wasted to get economic growth without requiring more material support.

And this is what makes it possible economically to get these projects launched. We are doing a lot of things in ways that only made economic sense with $1 a gallon gasoline or diesel (in 2010 prices). The economic foundation has fallen away, but the institutional supports keep obsolete systems and practices alive like so many zombie transport systems.

Opportunity for Sustainability. It is easy to fall into a status quo bias in which we evaluate every change in terms of what the impact will be under our present way of doing everything else. But I don't believe we can actually keep doing everything else the same way either, so I also look at how easy it is to upgrade something to full sustainability.

For long distance transport, there is no mature transport technology that has a stronger opportunity for sustainability than electric rail. Given the massive energy waste of long haul truck freight, the correct speed is "fast enough to capture freight shipments that would otherwise go on the road." Hence the focus on 100mph Rapid Electric Rail freight, which is fast enough to do precisely that.

STRACNET. STRACNET is the department of defense Strategic Rail Corridor Network. Forty years ago, the Pentagon noticed that rail lines that it depended upon in its planning for logistical support in times of crisis were in the process of being ripped out. So rail corridors with strategic impact were identified, and the STRACNET process was born, whereby the Department of Defense looks at proposals to abandon a rail line that is on STRACNET and tries to hammer out a solution that maintains the logistical capacity it requires.

As in so many other things in our society, we are only "allowed" to do serious national planning if there is a defense component. But we have been wearing massive (and politically motivated) blinkers over the past thirty years: the addiction of our nation's economy to massive oil imports is one of the greatest threats to national security that we face.

The presumption is that these investments will take place on STRACNET corridors - but note that there is some flexibility in this, since regional development banks would be in a position to negotiate with Department of Defense logistics bureaucrats to add or shift STRACNET status from one corridor to another.


Stage 2 Map: The Gulf and Southwestern Line

The next line to roll out ... and under the system proposed below, each line begin rolling out the year after the previous one ... runs from Miami to Los Angeles via Jacksonville, Pensacola, Mobile, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Tuscon, and Phoenix.

One thing this line focuses on is port traffic, which is why it starts at Miami, runs to Los Angeles, and runs through Mobile, New Orleans, and Houston (with junctions to Galveston).

This is the Florida Atlantic Coast route and then the old Amtrak Sunset Limited, before it was chopped back to NOLA/LA.

You'll probably notice that there is no "whistling past Dixie" here ... more like "whistling through Dixie".


Stage 2 Process: Institutional Foundations

So, if we want to tap the energy efficiency of long distance rail, how would we go about doing it?

First, we learn the lessons of Amtrak in the Northeast Corridor and set the "Line Builder" authority up as a form of public regional development bank from the outset. We charter it with a specific responsibility to get a Rapid Electric Rail corridor established, and specify the cities that it must serve when construction is finished.

How to fund the thing? (Note: I am being "cute" here, using "fund" in its 1930's classical technical sense, and will discuss "finance" in another stage.) If we want an integrated, national network, it has to be publicly owned infrastructure. If we want the network integrated with the existing rail system, it has to be primarily on freight railroad right of way.

Once a rail path in a rail corridor has been electrified, it is very capital efficient to electrify all tracks in that corridor. So the basis of the regional steel interstate development bank making itself welcome is to provide the infrastructure for all existing track in the corridor, as desired by the right of way owner, in return for cooperation in providing for a Rapid Electric Rail freight path in the corridor.

And then the original capital cost project is funded by charging access fees to the tracks owned by the public authority, and user fees for the electricity consumed by all electric trains, on either the Rapid Rail or Heavy Rail paths.

Indeed, since having the capacity is in the national interest, while its using the capacity that is in the interest of the private railways, its possible to ensure that the terms are attractive by mandating that the user and access fees will be set at the level that provides for full recovery of the original capital cost in four years of 100% capacity utilization.

So the more heavily railroads use the stuff (and therefore the more useful it is to them), the faster the infrastructure is paid back. If capacity utilization is 20%, it will take 20 years to refund the cost ... if capacity utilization is 50%, it will take eight years to refund the cost.

Obviously, during an extended oil price shock, it will be used even more intensively, but there is nothing in this proposal that is waiting for things to change in terms of gas and diesel prices. This thing would have been used at the diesel prices at their trough right after the Panic of 2008 hit in full force..

Indeed, the question that is up in the air is how intensively it will get used and how rapidly rapid electric freight traffic will gain market share. Alan Drake, who developed the most ambitious form of the Steel Interstate system, was able to get modelling of the system done by the Millenium Institution, and this will get used under current economic conditions.

The funding system proposed here and financing system proposed below will allow the infrastructure to be built. If it turns out that we experience another oil price shock, the result will be to accelerate the roll-out of the corridors. However, the proposed institutions are entirely workable under present economic conditions.


Stage 3 Map: The Gulf and Northwestern Line

Its a distinctive fact of the shape of our country that the Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico makes the country narrower north to south east of the Mississippi, and wider north to south west of the Mississippi. Stage 3 takes advantage of that to provide for the first crosslinking while bringing in the northwestern quadrant that is under-served by the first two corridor.

Stage 3 starts at Mobile, linking to the Gulf and Southwestern Line, and runs up through Birmingham, Nashville, Louisville, and up the STRACNET connector to the STRACNET corridor to Chicago, It crosses the National Line with a high capacity cross-over junction at Terre Haute, Indiana. From Chicago, it runs through Milwaukee, Madison, Minneapolis, and then along the northern STRACNET corridor through North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Washington to Seattle.

In Amtrak terms, the Northwestern portion of this corridor is the Empire Builder route.


Stage 3 Process: Financing the System

Looking ahead to a system of repaying the original capital cost over time means that a system is needed for paying the interest expense of the capital spending between the time that the money is spent and the time that the capital cost is paid back. This is what is classically called "Financing" the capital expense.

My proposal cuts to the heart of the matter. The problem with gas taxes is that they are seen as making gas more expensive.

But the US is not Addicted to Energy Imports because we have lost the ability to produce oil. We are the third biggest oil producer in the world, behind Saudi Arabia and Russia but well ahead of Iran, Mexico, China, Canada, UAE, Venezuela, Kuwait, Nigeria, and etc. With roughly 5% of the World's population we produce about 10% of the world's oil.

We are not an "oil poor" country. We are an oil wasting country, consuming about one fourth of the world's supply, 2.5 times our production and 5 times our "global per capita share".

That's why "drill baby drill" was such a load of total bullshit. We already "Drill, Baby Drill" ... the myth that we do not is a convenient lie, and no basis for national policy.

And as the biggest oil waster of the world, our chief power to keep oil prices from skyrocketing is by cutting our massive waste of oil.

So this proposal goes to the heart of the problem. For each rail line, a $0.01 per gallon tariff is imposed on all imports of petroleum and petroleum products. The tariff starts at $0.01, and the regional development bank for the first line can start work, then $0.02 and the second bank can start work, up to $0.05.

A massive step toward independence from the Saudi Oil Sheiks and the Phantom Iranian Menace and the corruption and savagery of Nigeria's national oil policy and Hugo Chavez ... whoever you do not like among the nations we rely on to feed our insanely counter-productive imported oil addiction, a massive step toward reducing the imports "from them".

It may well be that the original interest subsidy will not cover the whole capital cost ... but that's OK, since building the first 2,000 miles will start generated user and access fee revenues which can be recycled into new capital spending until the line is finished. And then, when the construction of the mandated line is finished, the development bank uses the tariff revenue to accelerate repayment of the original capital cost.

And then, when the full capital cost is repaid, the tariff is extinguished.

We import in the neighborhood of 200b gallons of petroleum and petroleum products a year, so a $0.01 tariff yields in the neighborhood of $2b annually. That supports from $40b to $50b in bonds at interest rates of 4% to 5% ... less at higher rates, more at lower. Alan Drake's original proposal was costed at around $450b for over 30,000 miles of track ... so I am taking about $45b for 3,000 miles of track and working on that basis.

That is why these first three lines have all been in the neighborhood of 3,000miles (4,800km).

And building the system to its robust ... that is what allows "in the neighborhood" to work out. A robust funding framework with the flexibility to cope with moderate oil prices and extremely high oil prices is what we need to insure our economy against the potentially rocky road that lies ahead.

This is, after all, an infant industry tariff - a finance rather than protective infant industry tariff to be sure - so once the system is launched, the tariff should go away.

At that point, the longer term mandate of the regional development bank to promote the development of energy independent and carbon neutral transport in systems within its broader catchment kicks in.


Stage 4 Map: The Front Range Line, the Great Lakes Line, and the Southeastern Line

Apologies that the Southeastern Line was inadvertently omitted from the map ... you can see if on the final map below

So far New England extending into the heavily trafficked I-80 and I-76 corridors has not received a line, and there are obviously still large holes in the network. So at Stage Four there are three shorter Lines.

The Great Lakes Line starts in Boston and runs through Springfield MA, Albany and Buffalo, NY, Erie PA, Cleveland and Toledo OH, northern Indiana, into Chicago. The Southeastern Line extends from New York through DC, Richmond VA, Raleigh and Charlotte in NC, and Atlanta GA to connect with the Gulf and Northwestern at Birmingham, AL. And the Front Range Line runs from El Paso through Albuquerque through Colorado Springs to Denver.

The first three corridors are launched in three years, one after the other, each with a dedicated $0.01 in petroleum tariff revenues. These are three shorter lines, so the revenue is split: 0.4 cents goes to the Great Lakes Line, 0.4 cents goes to the Southeastern Line, and 0.2 cents goes to the Front Range Line.


Stage 4 Process: Building the Coalition to Get there

So far, this is just blueprinting. But without an opportunity to get involved, then a blueprint just gathers dust on the shelf. What is needed is to convert the blueprint into an Action Plan.

This requires coalition building. Steel Interstate Advocates need to form local advocacy groups, in all the cities and states served by the corridors ... which is all of them except Hawaii and Alaska. Even states that do not have a corridor have:

  • access to the corridor via their local rail network
  • benefits of the corridor in reducing national oil consumption
  • and participation in the energy independence transport investment by the "Line" development banks once they have finished rolling out the corridors.

But long experience is that face to face meetings are required to actually look people in the eye and talk to them in person and get things moving.

Of course, the groups can be freestanding, but do not have to be freestanding. It can be an interest group working party in a union local. It can be an interest group working party in a local political party. It can be an interest group working party as part of Drinking Liberally. It can be an interest group working party wherever you can pluck up the courage to suggest it.

This is one reason why I've focused on sketching a robust system ... a fine tuned, well oiled machine would be fine for a fine tuned, well oiled political machine to put into action as a demonstration of its prowess. But this is something that we are going to have to make into an issue, over the next year, or three years, or decade if that is what it takes.


Stage 5 Map: The Midwestern Line, the Texarkana Line, and the West Coast Line

Stage Five finishes up the main trunk network ... using STRACENET corridors to provide North/South trunks in the Midwest and West Coast. The Midwest Line runs from San Antonia to Austin, crosses the Texarkana in Dallas/Fort Worth, Oklahoma City, Wichita to Kansas City, then on the STRACNET corridor through Des Moines to Minneapolis. The Texarkana runs from through Dallas/Fort Worth to Little Rock Arkansas, Memphis TN, and connects to the Gulf Coast and Northwestern at Nashville. And the West Coast line runs from San Diego to cross the Gulf and Southwestern east of the LA Basin, up the Central Valley to Sacramento, where it crosses the National Line, then Northern California through Redding, up the STRACNET alignment to Eugene Oregon, and then up to Portland to connect to the Gulf and Northwestern at Seattle.

The Midwestern Line receives 0.4 cents from the fifth tranche of imported oil tariff, the West Coast line 0.4 cents, and the Texarkana receives 0.2 cents.


Stage 5 Process: What Do You Think?

Well, this is a big fat whopping Sunday Train, and will post an hour late to boot ... but what do you think? In order of importance:

  • What do you think is an effective means of organizing to promote a national Steel Interstate system?
  • What do you think about the Line Development Bank system?
  • What else do you think about the mechanics of the proposal?

I expect to get lots of suggestions of different alignments and roll-out sequences ... and I am happy to discuss my why's and wherefore's on each and every line proposed as well as the logic of the sequencing ... but you know, even if not one single line I propose is adopted, and it is rolled out in reverse order ... any serious real world steel interstate system beats the best possible fictitious real world steel interstate system.

So if the lines that people are willing to fight for end up being completely different to the maps I draw up this weekend ... people willing to fight for any steel interstate line is such great news that I'd be sitting pretty.


The Headliners: Midnight Oil - The Power and the Passion

Display:
.. by Bethany and Rufus ... 900 miles is just a pilot project for Electric Interstates



I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Mar 7th, 2010 at 09:17:23 PM EST
That is why these first three lines have all been in the neighborhood of

Unfinished sentence?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Mar 10th, 2010 at 06:52:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... roughly 5,000km (roughly 3,000miles)

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Mar 10th, 2010 at 03:55:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What does the $450 million cost of the Steel Interstates include? Electrification (both overhead line and high-voltage lines) sure; but what about
  • track renewal,
  • grade separation,
  • noise barriers?

If such a project is to be promoted locally (as opposed to 'selling' it to big customers or Class 1 railroads or city-dwellers or taxpayers on a federal level), I see only two strong arguments:

  • reducing truck traffic on highways,
  • the possiblity of shorter-distance intercity passenger transport (even if the real priority is freight).

While a fuel tax is unpopular, I wonder what Americans would think of a highway toll for trucks?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Mar 10th, 2010 at 07:09:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Billion as in thousand million.

The $250b figure for the full project was for electrifying 79mph corridors, so an additional $200b for the Rapid Rail paths. That'd be track upgrade and new track, upgraded switches and new switches, any crossings upgrade to automatic quad gate, lights and bells, with speed sensitive trips, any support structure speed limits raised to 79mph for heavy rail, so 100mph for Rapid Rail, PTC signalling along the whole corridor, etc.

This is roughly half the original proposal, so scale it down, but it's a little shy of $15m/mile, about $9m for the electrification and $6m for providing Rapid Rail paths.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Mar 10th, 2010 at 04:01:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Billion

Stupid typo.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Mar 10th, 2010 at 04:40:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Help me understand why the initial east-west line goes through Denver. There's little heavy industry in Colorado, and the current freight traffic is mostly related to coal and grain, both of which originate outside the state. Why not follow the existing UP and BNSF routes, running to the north and south, respectively, of the Colorado mountains?
by asdf on Mon Mar 8th, 2010 at 12:32:58 AM EST
... that's why.

Also bear in mind that its not heavy rail freight traffic on which the US wastes the majority of its long haul diesel consumption, but rather truckload freight. Only a small share of the oil savings is on existing rail traffic: the bulk is on shifting truckload freight to electric rail.

So the focus of the infrastructure is providing the 100mph single stacked (22.5 tonne axle load) Rapid Electric Freight Rail that would have a massive market competitive advantage for long haul truckload freight.

Extend the Colorado-Utah border north and south ... there are six east-west corridors that cross that line. The southern Wyoming line selected connects to the Pacific Northwest via Portland, Northern California via Salt Lake City, and Southern California via Salt Lake City.

The northern of the two Denver alignments is the less mountainous alignment of the two: it hits the terrain just east of Salt Lake City, but either alignment does that, and AFAIU going via Wyoming instead of Western Colorado is generally easier terrain.

There are two alignments out of Wyoming to get to Kansas City and from there to St. Louis. The one via Denver is better is a collection / drop-off for what is presently truckload freight than Omaha and Des Moines, because Denver / Colorado Springs is a bigger population.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Mar 8th, 2010 at 02:12:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I love it! But, who are the potential nay sayers and their allies? Big oil, trucking industry and unions, auto industry (maybe)??  

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Mon Mar 8th, 2010 at 11:37:44 AM EST
... and there is nothing in this proposal that undermines short-haul freight. Trade-off stronger enforcement of driver rotation on unionized and non-unionized drivers alike and support the blocking of moves to allow Mexican drivers to operate across the US ... a key to shifting big box store logistics to the Pacific Coast of Mexico and shifting the container traffic out of Los Angeles ...

... and the Teamsters might be persuaded to join the coalition. It would definitely be good for a range of industrial unions.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Mar 8th, 2010 at 02:15:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... like Passenger HSR but five times worse.

OTOH, there's a political wedge built into the policy, since domestic oil producers gain an extra 5 cents per gallon over international oil prices when they sell inside the US.

So it offers benefits to both refiners, which benefit from lower risk of economic downturn, and the capital value of US-based oil producers, where the sure benefit of the 5cent bonus per gallon will offset a much larger speculative loss in terms of moderating oil price shocks.

for the Auto Industry its likely a small boost, with substantial reduction in transport costs.

Its the truck manufacturing industry that would face a bit of a hit ... of course, not as big of a hit as the one they are insuring against if the US drops its oil demand and that results in moderation of the next oil price shock ... but its a smaller industry, and its actually not as big an impact on vehicle fleet as on vehicle miles, because the long haul truckloads put a lot of miles on each vehicle a day.

Indeed, if it increases economic activity in the US, demand for trucks for the local-haul market would rise.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Mar 8th, 2010 at 02:28:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For every long-distance rail project, you also have to consider NIMBY protests.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Mar 10th, 2010 at 07:04:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's informs the proposed organizational structure ...

... and also why, as discussed in Stage 5, a critical element is building the support advocacy groups in towns and cities served by the project, both directly and indirectly.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Mar 10th, 2010 at 04:05:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. Have estimates been done on the number of jobs, both for construction and for operation, that would be generated by this project? And how does that number compare to the number of jobs needed to get the economy out of the pit in which it is currently found?

  2. This would also seem to impact regional electric grids by offering a potential for tie-ins to a truly national grid. Has the potential to use rail right-of-way for such electrical trunk lines been included in the analysis? It would offer two links between the Eastern Grid and the Western Grid and a cascading link between the Eastern Grid, the Texas Grid and the Western Grid as well as a north south tie in between the Texas Grid and the East-West National line tie-in. This could "un-strand" a lot of high potential wind power sites along the Front Range of the Rockies.


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Mar 8th, 2010 at 12:29:40 PM EST
... costs the design and use of the electrical infrastructure to support long haul grid to grid HVDC lines on the same infrastucture as an additional $20b for their project, so about $10b for this one.

The Millenium Institute analysis also have economic impact analysis ... I'll have to dig into their report and get some jobs numbers for a follow-up diary.

This is not an immediate digging out of the mess we are in ... eg, pass it this year, first stage plans next year, construction starts 2012. But it addresses the problem of "how we afford the deficit" for any immediate stimulus, since long term the US fails to be able to "afford the deficit" if there is an external accounts crisis and a spike in the US$ price of oil.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Mar 8th, 2010 at 02:19:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Clearly any investment here is self-liquidating and the beauty of your proposal is that the jobs are created out of tariff revenue on imported oil, and it will obviously reduce our dependence on imported oil. Beats the hell out of going into debt to prop up underwater mortgages to help out the big boys. But what is in it for Wall Street? They are the only ones Obama seems to care about.

Pitch it to T. Boone Pickins as a way to get his wind energy to market and reduce US dependence on imported oil. Perhaps he will run an add campaign this summer like he did in 2008.  :-)

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Mar 8th, 2010 at 09:53:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What Wall Street likes is volatility to sell ... as a bone for Wall Street, I would imagine having two tranches of tax revenue bonds, one paying a fixed dollar amount, and the other paying the difference between the committed interest payments and the proceeds of the dedicated tax.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Mar 8th, 2010 at 10:46:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bruce why do you so badly want to avoid a direct LA to Chicago route? Most of what you see traveling on I-70 is aggregated from a wide area that is hard to serve, much of it is produce from California and Frozen Beef from Western Kansas. The railroads have looked at this traffic and can't figure out how to economically serve the markets. The first big problem is the dray haul from the actual shipper to the originating Intermodal terminal, and then you have the dray from the terminal at the far end to the consignee. Dray costs per mile are much higher than the over-the-road charge per mile. The only way your proposal would work is if you emulated Switzerland and drive trucking costs way, way up. And doing that would disrupt vast parts of this country and turn them into second or third world areas. Freight flows into Chicago because it is The Center of disaggregation for a large part of this country.
by jfbeaulieu on Wed Mar 17th, 2010 at 11:48:16 PM EST


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