Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Train We Ride? Sixteen Coaches Long?

In further proof that I need to get a life, I've spent the morning at the New Mexico Council of Governments site piddling through the Alternatives Analysis (which I know sounds like some sort of sex-related thing) for the Santa Fe Phase II of the Rail Runner train. The graphic to the left shows a mobius strip of shaded red. That's the suggested Lamy bypass where approx. 16 miles of new track would be lain for Rail Runner II.

The Executive Summary of the Final Report (hey I'm boring, but not boring enough to read the full document) notes different alternatives, including HOV lanes, a new regional bus authority running shuttles from SF to Bernalillo, and just having a train follow the entire route through Lamy on to SF.

The upshot of the analysis is, of course, the money. In a very interesting table, the summary estimates that the cost of building the new track and running train service to Santa Fe will cost just about the same as just adding a lane of traffic on both sides of I-25, and will cost much less than having HOV lanes and a regional bus company (a stupid idea that I hope is finally burned to the long-term planning ground with publication of this document).

What to think?

  • In a sure sign this blog has reached a new low, I'm actually trying to get in touch with folks from the MRCOG, GRIP, DOT to ask a few questions. I'll share what I find out as I get it, but as normal people, many of these folks have taken this pre-holiday week off or just aren't around. Maybe they are writing blog entries about middle school education.
  • Some say the Governor is doing this as much for the positive press, and when I see AP stories on the project picked up by papers like the Casper Star-Tribune and a weird editorial from Santa Fe on the project in the online version of the Fort Wayne, Indiana News Sentinel (???) you have to think it certainly isn't hurting Big Bill.
  • By the way, some here in New Mexico seem to be confusing making fun of Big Bill with attacking Big Bill. In some cases, it's definite attacking (Mario Burgos, anyone?), but with some of us it's just good ol' skeptical inquiry and funnin'. Problem is, this State hasn't seemed to have quite moved up the political analysis evolutionary chart to the point of skeptical inquiry and such. Take, for example, the Journal story about Big Bill and his "touching" problem (paid site). Loved reading it and funny as hell, but you know we're in a faintly naive political environment when a story like that hasn't been the source of at least 25 follow-up news stories and 1,000 blog entries. I'm gonna work on that blog entry aspect when I finally stop obsessing on this Rail Runner thing.
  • But back to the obsession. I could go on and on, but I'll try to keep it to one question right now:
    • A big sales point of the Executive Summary is that running a commuter line direct from ABQ to SF will cost roughly no more than expanding I-25 to three lanes. The question becomes does anyone seriously think that we aren't going to do both and have both Rail Runner and the I-25 expansion?
In a Jeff Jones-written ABQ Journal story of December 10th (yeah, you gotta pay for that too), NM Department of Transportation Secretary Rhonda Faught assures us that Rail Runner funding will not take funds away from other road projects. Hmmm....we'll see. We'll see.

And Next Time on Scot's Obsession with Rail Runner: The South Valley "Rio Bravo/Airport" station that isn't.

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