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The original design of all grand U.S. railroad stations fit the architectural design foundation “form follows function.” Unfortunately the years have not been kind to these railroad stations. Real estate developers have coveted the rail yard property for non-transportation development. In some cases these rail yards have yielded to interstates, highways, and streets. This has transformed the depot (waiting room, ticket offices, etc.) into just “a nice old building that used to serve the traveling public.”
In a new video report, Bomb Trains: The Crude Gamble of Oil by Rail, Vice News investigated the risk of crude oil–carrying trains exploding as they crisscross North America. That isn’t some hypothetical risk that could be realized down the road—it’s already happening. Last summer, forty-seven people were killed when an oil-carrying train exploded in a small town in Quebec, and in the year since, four more trains have gone up in flames in the U.S. and Canada. With so many train lines carrying oil through the hearts of American cities, Vice highlights safety concerns for urban areas and rural alike.
It finally happened. After decades of planning, five years of construction, and months of delays, Washington D.C.‘s brand-new Silver Metro line welcomed over 50,000 commuters for its opening weekend. The new 11.4-mile line, which includes five new stations, will ultimately connect the city to Dulles Airport in Virginia. That part of the line is scheduled to open in 2018. The Silver line, though, is more than an attempt to connect a city with its airport—it’s the latest, multi-billion dollar effort to expand a rail system, spur economic development, and create more walkable, pedestrian-friendly destinations. So, yes, it’s ambitious. And, yes, it was expensive. Continue reading after the jump.
As development along the Brooklyn and Queens’ waterfront has increased dramatically over the years, transportation options—for residents old and new—has not. The number of glass towers, startups, and parks along the East River has only been matched by style pieces on new “it” neighborhoods from Astoria to Red Hook. But, now, the New York Times’ Michael Kimmelman has used his platform to launch a plan to change that equation, and give these neighborhoods the transportation system they deserve.
The Philadelphia Zoo, squeezed between heavily trafficked arteries in Fairmount Park, isn’t the easiest place to access by rail service, and with a dip in attendance in the last few years, Zoo officials are pushing for a new SEPTA train station at 34th Street and Mantua Avenue. When the zoo first opened in 1854, there was a train station located right at the entrance, but it closed in 1902 when the Pennsylvania railroad expanded, complicating the public transit options.
The debate over the future of the abandoned Rockaway Long Island Railroad (LIRR) line is heating up, and while a proposal to convert the viaduct into a version of the High Line called the QueensWay has gained early momentum with support from the likes of Governor Cuomo, it looks like an alternative proposal to restore the long-defunct rail line is picking up steam as well. According to the Queens Chronicle, a source revealed that Representatives Hakeem Jeffries and Greg Meeks will call for for federal transportation subsidies to return the line to rail service. For residents, the reactivation of the railroad could mean a significantly faster commute into Manhattan.
Construction on the two-track Gateway project, a new tunnel between New Jersey and Manhattan, will commence this summer beneath Related Company’s Hudson Yards redevelopment site. Related Companies and Amtrak will build this 800-foot-long “box tunnel,” which will first serve as a shell for Amtrak’s rail connection linking the Hudson tunnel to Penn Station’s tracks, and, eventually, to the proposed Moynihan Station. The actual Amtrak Gateway Project is still years away, but construction on this first leg of the tunnel is happening now to coordinate with construction on Manhattan’s West Side. The project will be funded by the federal government including some funding from the Hurricane Sandy relief package meant to help mitigate flooding during future storms. It’s estimated to cost between $120 and $150 million.
A new video released by LA METRO gives us all a much clearer conception of the construction sequencing of the Regional Connector, the 1.9 mile downtown underground light rail line that will connect Los Angeles’ now-dispersed Gold, Blue, and Expo lines. The $1.3 billion connector, funded largely by 2008’s Measure R sales tax increase, is set to begin construction later this year. It will travel primarily under Flower Street and 2nd Street, and is set to open by 2019. Movement of utilities around the line began in December. Yes, more transit in Los Angeles. This is really happening!
Belle Isle is a 985-acre island in the middle of the Detroit River originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. While details are still being negotiated, it appears the plan could save the City of Detroit $8 million per year in operating costs. Though Detroit would still own the land, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources would operate the island as a state park, charging motorists an $11 entry fee. Bicyclists and pedestrians would still get free access.
The potential deal comes on the heels of some good news for Motor City urbanists. In addition to filling out the gaps in the city’s riverwalk, Detroit is moving forward with its M-1 Rail plan, as well as an ongoing $300 million renovation of its Cobo convention center.
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.