High Speed Rail Picks Up Speed Between Chicago and St. Louis

Midwest
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
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An Amtrak train in Niles, Ill. (Courtesy Wayne Senville, Planning Commissioners Journal)

An Amtrak train in Niles, Ill. (Courtesy Wayne Senville, Planning Commissioners Journal)

Midwest train travelers will enjoy a quicker passage, as Amtrak approves a new top speed of 110 mph for a section of its Chicago-St. Louis route. Though trains will only accelerate to the new top speed over a 15-mile segment, officials said another $1.5 billion investment over three years of upgrades will bring the rest of the track up to speed.

The current top speed is 79 mph over most of the route. Instead of 5 and a half hours, future trips could be under 4 hours. Union Pacific Railroad and Amtrak tested a new system of triggers for highway crossing gates earlier this year.

Amtrak’s Midwest presence has seen a significant ridership boost, following trends around the country. Transit in general may be enjoying a small renaissance, with the CTA counting 16 months of rail and bus line increases. Despite setting ridership records, Amtrak is losing money and faces an uncertain future.

Cermak is Next: New CTA Stop Primes Chicago’s South Loop

Midwest
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
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Rendering of the CTA's new Green Line station. (Courtesy CTA)

Rendering of the CTA’s new Green Line station. (Courtesy CTA)

The CTA is abuzz with new projects these days, having successfully avoided fare hikes during dire budget negotiations this summer. Now another $65 million investment will deliver the new Cermak / McCormick Place El Station Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised early this year, as well as new library, school and three-story building rehab for the South Loop.

New renderings presented by the Mayor on Friday show the new Green Line stop, which will be designed by Carol Ross Barney, principal at Ross Barney Architects. It’s a sleek tunnel shape, reminiscent of Rem Koolhaas’ IIT Green Line stop.

Continue reading after the jump.

A Streetcar Named KC?

Midwest
Friday, August 3, 2012
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An old Kansas City streetcar rolls through San Francisco. (Image courtesy Jamison Wieser via Flickr.)

An old Kansas City streetcar rolls through San Francisco. (Jamison Wieser/Flickr.)

Kansas City, recently outfitted with superfast internet courtesy of Google, is on the move. And KC taxpayers voted to keep up the momentum this week, authorizing a special taxing district to help fund a downtown streetcar.

A transportation development district would cultivate the 2-mile, $101 million route from Union Station to the River Market. The line was shortened by 300 feet after a scramble to make up for $25 million in TIGER grants that the city applied for and was not awarded. Funding for the modified plan came from the Mid-America Regional Council.

Now efforts turn to finding an operator. Kansas City will work with the Port Authority to create a Streetcar Authority—a step which has become a hang-up for similar efforts in Detroit. But Wednesday’s vote is a clear signal of public and political support for expanded public transit in the city.

KC is also lining up funding for a second phase of streetcar lines, totaling 22 miles of track crisscrossing the city.

Obama Banking on an Infrastructure Rebound

National
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
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President Barack Obama hopes that a $50 billion infusion of government money
will help counteract two things that plague the nation—job loss and potholes. The
White House has a list they see as “tangible” goals for the next six years, with a focus on roads, railways, and runways. So, what might you, the taxpayer, get for $50 billion? Read More

LEEding the RPA

East, East Coast
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
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Sander (Courtesy RPA)

The Regional Plan Association played a crucial role during the Great Depression, helping guide the Roosevelt administration’s recovery efforts. While the tri-state advocacy group has been less visible during the current crisis, the RPA still plays an important roll in shaping transportation and infrastructure policy, both locally and nationally. The group may be jockey to kick up its profile as it replaces its outgoing chair, little known real estate attorney Peter Herman, with former MTA boss Eliot “Lee” Sander. Read More

Messrs. Fixit

National
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
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All aboard. (Teamsugar.com)

With the loss in yesterday’s Massachusetts special election no doubt hanging heavily over the White House today, the Obama administration can at least take solace in the fact it’s done at least one thing right. Planetizen points us to a Brookings Institution report from Friday that gives the 44th president an A- grade for infrastructure from his first year, meaning there’s still room for improvement (launch an infrastructure bank) but things are generally pretty good (high speed rail, grid upgrades, job creation). Read More

Stimulus Potholes

East Coast, National
Monday, January 11, 2010
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Men at work. Or not... (Courtesy Fremont.gov)

In a blistering report published today, the AP contends that the roughly $20 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, né the Stimulus, dedicated to road and infrastructure spending did nothing to help create jobs over the past 10 months. The news is particularly damning because the House has proposed another $28 billion in road work in its latest jobs package, and in light of this news, those critical infrastructure projects—which are easily pegged as pork to begin will—could become the next health care debate. To wit: Read More

MTA: To Dig or Not to Dig?

East, East Coast
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
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Sunset for the Z-train: The MTA could be ending express service on the JMZ line—and so much more—amid new budget shortfalls. (Courtesy Satans Landromat)

Sunset for the Z-train: The MTA could be ending express service on the JMZ line—and so much more—amid new budget shortfalls. (Courtesy Satan's Landromat)

Not since the collapse of Lehman Brothers last year has a major bastion in the city seemed to fall apart so quickly and readily as the MTA over the past few weeks. As the Times succinctly puts it, “state legislators cut $143 million out of the authority’s budget; state accountants then determined that a payroll tax dedicated to mass transit financing would produce $100 million less revenue than initially thought. Finally, late last week, a court ruled that the authority must pay significant raises to transit workers, adding tens of millions of dollars in expenses.” The MTA is required to fill the $400 million budget hole this created because it must end the year with a balanced budget. And so a range of service cuts were ratified today by the agency’s board, including the elimination of subway and bus lines, reduced off-peak service and para-transit, and no more free rides for half-a-million students. Read More

Cortlandt Coronation

East, East Coast
Monday, November 30, 2009
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The northbound Cortlandt Street station on the Broadway line reopened last Tuesday. (Courtesy MTA)

The northbound Cortlandt Street station on the Broadway line reopened last Tuesday. (Courtesy MTA)

Many New Yorkers were headed for planes, trains, and automobiles last Wednesday as they decamped for the Thanksgiving holiday, but not new MTA chief Jay Walder and a clutch of Lower Manhattan pols. They took the subway to Cortlandt Street, where a re-dedication of the of the the northbound R/W station took place, its restoration—which we first noticed in April—recently completed. “The MTA has played a key role in the revival of Downtown, and we’re excited to provide customers with an improved station just in time for the holidays,” Walder said in a release. Read More

Imagined Infrastructure

National
Friday, September 4, 2009
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Urban Algae: Speculation and Optimization, Mining Existing Infrastructure for Lost Efficiencies

Urban Algae proposes a park on a floating pontoon between Lower Manhattan and Red Hook that would harvest CO2 emissions from the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

cityLAB, an urban think-tank at UCLA’s Department of Architecture and Urban Design, has announced the six finalists of its WPA 2.0 competition. The competition, which stands for working public architecture, invited designers of all stripes to submit proposals for rebuilding our cities’ infrastructure as a sort of throwback to the Great Depression-era WPA. Juried by Stan Allen, Cecil Balmond, Elizabeth Diller, Walter Hood, Thom Mayne, and Marilyn Jordan Taylor, the top-six picks run the gamut from heading off an impending water crisis to creating a softer, gentler version of our infrastructure. One finalist, Urban Algae: Speculation and Optimization, Mining Existing Infrastructure for Lost Efficiencies, proposes to harvest CO2 emissions through photosynthesis. Submitted by PORT Architecture + Urbanism, the solution could be rolled out nationwide on coal-fired power plants and toll booths, but the designers also outlined a scheme for creating a public park on floating pontoons between Lower Manhattan and Red Hook, which would harvest emissions from the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Read about the other finalists after the jump. Read More

By UNanimous Decree, Urban is Green

Other
Thursday, May 21, 2009
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(Ezra Stoller/ESTO)

A sublime piece of modern architecture, the United Nations Headquarters is a time capsule that preserves almost intact the spirit of the 1950s. From the head sets to the tapestries, which hide the most breathtaking views of Brooklyn and the East River, everything has the air of an early James Bond movie. On May 13th, however, the UN was looking forward to pressing environmental challenges and their urban solutions, as the host of the second part of the “Conference on Sustainable Urbanization in the Information Age,” entitled “The Role of Infrastructure in Metropolitan Development.” Read More

Through The Channel, Darkly

Other
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
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We’ve blogged about the oil infrastructure in and around Houston, Texas, a couple of times: here and here. But we hadn’t managed to get a level view of the massive installation until stumbling across ship pilot Louis Vest’s time lapse video of a nighttime trip down the Houston Ship Channel aboard a 600-foot-long Panamax tanker. Vest strapped his NIkon D700 camera to an outside rail and programmed it to capture an image every six seconds, documenting a 3 1/2-hour journey cruising at 5 to 10 knots through this gloaming industrial landscape of exhaust stacks, burning lights, and gas flares. Mmmmm… Creamy!

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