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MISSED OPPORTUNITIES - "What if" Amtrak routes
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Flemington Flyer
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MISSED OPPORTUNITIES - "What if" Amtrak routes
 
« on: Feb 4th, 2016, 3:11pm »
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Unlike in Europe, the American passenger rail network is not the preferred, expedient long distance way to travel, and fell to such disrepair that in 1971, the United States Government needed to step in a create a unified passenger rail company to manage what was needed to maintain the nation's network. Say what you may about Amtrak, but it's done the best it can over the last 40+ years to maintain a system, but that is NOT the point of this thread.
 
The point here is to discuss and explore the "what might have beens" if -  
 
A) Passenger travel by train was a bigger part of the American lifestyle, thus requiring travel to all those far flung locales of yesterday  
 
B) If more railroads had been actively operating "grand" passenger fleets past the 'Golden Age" of the 1950's, and up to the time of Amtrak's creation
 
C) What certain routes (in most cases now ripped up) that once featured prominent "name" trains, were still served by Amtrak - Case in point, the DL&W/EL route though the Pocono Mnts., and route of the famous Phoebe Snow.
 
Feel free to add your "vote" and why as this thread grows!
 
Just think - Vista Domes over the MEC's Frankenstein Tressle and thru Crawford Notch!
 
 


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Flemington Flyer
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Re: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES - "What if" Amtrak routes
 
« Reply #1 on: Feb 4th, 2016, 3:12pm »
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Just imagine if we had a rail system as an entire country or continent? -
 
https://www2.raileurope.com/index.html


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Flemington Flyer
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Re: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES - "What if" Amtrak routes
 
« Reply #2 on: Feb 4th, 2016, 3:13pm »
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What a way to travel in style and comfort, with grand names that radiate luxury and relaxation! -  
 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_named_passenger_trains_of_Europe


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Flemington Flyer
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Re: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES - "What if" Amtrak routes
 
« Reply #3 on: Feb 4th, 2016, 3:15pm »
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Still, there's nothing like nostalgia, but image if it were still with us! -
 
http://www.american-rails.com/streamliners.html


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Flemington Flyer
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Re: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES - "What if" Amtrak routes
 
« Reply #4 on: Feb 4th, 2016, 3:32pm »
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Just think if some of these ideas had been successful! -  
 
http://io9.gizmodo.com/the-zeppelin-train-the-aerotrain-and-other-classic-str-1564713752


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Flemington Flyer
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Re: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES - "What if" Amtrak routes
 
« Reply #5 on: Feb 4th, 2016, 3:33pm »
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Luckily, we have these to enjoy! -
 
http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/top-10/north-american-train-trips/


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ClydeDET
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Re: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES - "What if" Amtrak routes
 
« Reply #6 on: Feb 4th, 2016, 4:46pm »
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Oh yes - I can what if with the best of them. And every time I do, a couple of things pop up to make me realize "It wouldn't have worked, not once jet aircraft and a good highway network with reliable, comfortable, air-conditioned cars came on scene".  
 
When we compare our rail (especially rail passenger) network with Europe's, do NOT forget that France, the BENELUX countries and France, all together are about the size of Texas...[]======= (sorry about that, the cat decided to add a remark).
 
But we could certainly have done good things we didn't.


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Flemington Flyer
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Re: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES - "What if" Amtrak routes
 
« Reply #7 on: Feb 5th, 2016, 12:56pm »
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Oh indeed, there is no denying what killed rail travel in North America, especially the USA, and that there is no way unless you were to write an alternative history story, that there's any way around those facts.
 
But, what COULD have been prevented is the loss of indusrty and population craps that were caused by big business and government over-regulation (or the lack of it in some cases)........Coal mining in Pennsylvania and textile manufaturing in New neglad are two big ones that come to mind.
 
Places like Scanton, Pa and Troy, NY could STILL be "go to" destinations for rail travelers if big industry wasn't forced to close up or move away.


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HwyHaulier
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Re: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES - "What if" Amtrak routes
 
« Reply #8 on: Feb 5th, 2016, 3:22pm »
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J. W. B. - Lodge Members -
 
Sorry about that! Your writer is not about to join this taffy pull and quilting contest.
Hall & Oates said it better? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccenFp_3kq8
A major flaw with the "what if" scenario?  http://www.history.com/topics/model-t
 
Meanwhile, a related note? If pigs could fly, would the FAA compel tail numbers? Would stewards (owners) of the animals subject to  
mandates wherein each would need an FAA Pilots License? Would EPA get involved in the correct disposal of porcine droppings?
 
Tariff Notes: A) J. W. Booth a known, past Harford County, MD resident.
B) The current Session of our Free State Legislature concerning itself of whatever to do with all the poultry droppings (aka, chicken  
schidt). Demands rules so the World may be saved. State regulations already embrace chicken salad...
 
...............................Vern.........................


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George_Harris
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Re: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES - "What if" Amtrak routes
 
« Reply #9 on: Feb 6th, 2016, 1:33pm »
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Let's not forget:  When train speed was roughly equivalent to driving speed, including stops in both cases, we had a sustainable rail passenger network, provided that there had been sufficient money spent to keep facilities and trains well maintained and up to date, and by that I mean add air conditioning to stations, keep them painted, clean, platforms smooth, etc.  However, from a business perspective to do this in the 1950's was throwing good money after bad.  At this point if an alternative history had stepped in with such things as a serious funding of passenger rail facilities, working on elimination of slow spots in the track, and other things to work against the mindset of the train being the way of the past on the rail side; the Interstate Highway system not happening on the road side, and the massive funding for air travel not happening.  (What is essential about airline service to a small town?)
 
In the 1950's with road speed limits around 60ish towns with 30 to 40 mph speed limits, going through not around the larger cities, road speed averages of 35 to 40 in most of the east was about as good as you could get, so having train average speeds of 40 to 50 put you in the lead.  Those days are no more.
 
Clyde mentions the Dallas Houston trains, BRI route 4 hours end to end twice a day and the SP route 4h25m once plus another with a few more stops that was around 5h30m.  I am guessing that if you drive the distance in much under 5 hours you were doing good.  Once I45 was complete, the drive time probably got down to around 3.5 hours and that with much less hassle that the drive had been previously.  Meanwhile, the rail routes had already been would about as tight as they could be.  SP dropped out of the picture fairly early, probably because they were slower than the BRI route.
 
Let's take a look at the BRI route:  It was a fairly low density line which meant fairly reliable operation due to few meets.  However, it also meant lower spending on track maintenance and renewal.  Not going back to it, but from memory:  In a 1947 ICC accident report on a broken rail derailment the line had 90 lb/yd jointed rail and operated by train orders (no signals) with a 90 mph speed limit for passenger trains.  No way that could be done today.  they were operating on the edge of the envelope even for the time.  Yes, we could go back to a 90 mph railroad, but we would be talking installation of full signals, which they did get, but only to the extent that the speed limit could be above 59 mph, and that is about where that is today.  To got to 90 mph we would need signals with some form of ATC or ATS on it.  The line does have basic signal, which I am inclined to believe was applied after the ICC order would have limited passenger train speeds on the line to 59 mph otherwise.  On the track side, even though there has been quite a bit of work since, it is oriented toward a low density 40 mph freight operation, we would need a complete rail relay with major T&S work.  Then we would also be dealing with the realities of getting into the center of Dallas, which would be the easy one, and into the center of Houston at reasonable speed.
 
So, I am saying it would take megabucks to get to where we were in 1950 so far as run time is concerned much less what it would take to improve on it.  This may be somewhat of an extreme example but still for many routes much work would be required just to get to where we were in the past.  On the other hand, there are many routes that carried respectable volumes of passengers that simply no longer exist, or are lightly used low speed secondary lines.
 
For the most part, these opportunities are not just missed, but many are gone forever. I ma also inclined to believe that the 2 night plus rail trip market no longer exists except for the "land cruise" which is far smaller than even the go see grandma two states over much less the business travel market.
 
Note that even in Europe the long distance overnight trains are disappearing.  Likewise, even though they still exist in Japan overnight sleeper trains are a small fraction of the total rail market.  Long distance high volume travel flies.
I am inclined to believe that such things as the Texas Central would work


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HwyHaulier
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Re: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES - "What if" Amtrak routes
 
« Reply #10 on: Feb 6th, 2016, 2:32pm »
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George - Lodge Members -  
 
Many Thanks! Makes me wonder whether this a Lecture from a Graduate Level Seminar which you administer?
 
Your writer with a related line of thinking. That being (and you explained the needed and continuing incremental investments,  
which lines reluctant to do): One should not subsume ridership levels just post WWII. It did not happen. As early as 1951,  
city transit authorities, National City Lines also reported trending, declining ridership levels.
 
In any case, the flexibility of privately owned automobiles undercut nearly all of it. The fixed route rail options could deliver very  
good Station to Station timings. But, that was not the customer (rider) concern. The user more motivated by total door to door  
times, and on whetever schedulings and timings convenient to the user.
 
Ah! Your writer has a great deal more here, of course. From own experiences, your writer misses BURLINGTON ZEPHYRS.  
Been there and done that on fast schedules on 90 lb. rail. A round trip, Kansas City - Chicago most informative. IIRC, West of  
Galesburg it was clearly less traveled line...
 
..........................Vern......................
 


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NYC_Subway_Fan
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Re: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES - "What if" Amtrak routes
 
« Reply #11 on: Feb 6th, 2016, 2:45pm »
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While George touched upon it in a slightly offhand way in his post; let's be clear here:  It wasn't just the vast distances, the point to point of an auto with AC, or the higher speeds of the airplane that helped to lead to the decline of passenger rail.  It was the vast amount of subsidies to flying & driving while the RR's got nothing that really hurt passenger rail!!!!
 
While it was intended by the Highway Act of 1956 that the fuel taxes should cover the costs of building our wonderful Interstate Highway System (IHS); the simple reality is that fuel taxes have never covered the full costs of the IHS.  At its best back in the late 50's and early 60's, the fuel taxes managed to cover around 71% to 73% of the costs.  Today those fuel taxes are barely covering 50% of the costs of our IHS.
 
And local streets have always largely been paved with property taxes.  In some states that do share fuel taxes with local municipalities, maybe as much as 25% of local streets are paved with fuel taxes.  The bulk remains property taxes, with some other taxes thrown in depending on where one lives.
 
As for flying, that too has always been heavily subsidized.  More-so in the past than now where a big base has been built such that taxes on tickets now provide about 75% of the funds needed.  But still there are monetary subsidies provided to flying.  And there are plenty of non-monetary subsidies provided too, things like pilots trained in the military, technology developed for the military, etc.
 
Had rail seen any subsidies back in the 50's & 60's like those other two forms of transportation the picture today would be very, very different!


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ClydeDET
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Re: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES - "What if" Amtrak routes
 
« Reply #12 on: Feb 7th, 2016, 3:13pm »
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on Feb 6th, 2016, 2:45pm, NYC_Subway_Fan wrote:       (Click here for original message)
While George touched upon it in a slightly offhand way in his post; let's be clear here:  It wasn't just the vast distances, the point to point of an auto with AC, or the higher speeds of the airplane that helped to lead to the decline of passenger rail.  It was the vast amount of subsidies to flying & driving while the RR's got nothing that really hurt passenger rail!!!!
 
While it was intended by the Highway Act of 1956 that the fuel taxes should cover the costs of building our wonderful Interstate Highway System (IHS); the simple reality is that fuel taxes have never covered the full costs of the IHS.  At its best back in the late 50's and early 60's, the fuel taxes managed to cover around 71% to 73% of the costs.  Today those fuel taxes are barely covering 50% of the costs of our IHS.
 
And local streets have always largely been paved with property taxes.  In some states that do share fuel taxes with local municipalities, maybe as much as 25% of local streets are paved with fuel taxes.  The bulk remains property taxes, with some other taxes thrown in depending on where one lives.
 
As for flying, that too has always been heavily subsidized.  More-so in the past than now where a big base has been built such that taxes on tickets now provide about 75% of the funds needed.  But still there are monetary subsidies provided to flying.  And there are plenty of non-monetary subsidies provided too, things like pilots trained in the military, technology developed for the military, etc.
 
Had rail seen any subsidies back in the 50's & 60's like those other two forms of transportation the picture today would be very, very different!

 
Well, rail got subsidies of pretty substantial value when the lines (many of them) were built, which counts for something. Thereafter, mail by rail did serve as a subsidy for passenger service, until most 1st class mail (especially bulk shipment between distribution centers) went to airlines instead of only premium priced air mail - and THAT decision was a (hidden) subsidy to the airlines, made consciously and (I suspect) corruptly.
 
But the real killer, IMO, was cars that were fast, comfortable, on quality roads. And air conditioned. And Vern is right about people looking at origin (house) to end-point without having to change mode.
 
Dallas to Houston was 250-270 miles, and the speed limit was 60 (55 at night) on mostly two lane roads that hit every little burg between the big cities. You would be doing well to average 50 MPH. 45 would be more likely. Speak from experience.  Train was faster and (despite 20-25 cent gasoline) not greatly more expensive. And comfort - don't forget comfort. Interstate and A/C - well, that made a big difference. Add loss of mail contracts, capital expense for replacement cars, and - AMTRAK saves the service, some of it. Oh - when AMTRAK added a Dallas to Houston trip, it was something like 7 hours IIRC, on the old SP route with no more stops than the Sunbeam. Which ran 265 miles in 265 minutes per time-table adverts behind steam in 1937....
 
As I think everybody knows, I LOVE trains, watching, riding, and all that. IF there more and they ran more places I want/need to go, I'd ride more. I think.  But dammit, I have to put some realism glasses on and realize that the system as it existed when I was a kid (say through around 10 or 12) just isn't possible in the US any longer. Damp it...


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HwyHaulier
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Re: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES - "What if" Amtrak routes
 
« Reply #13 on: Feb 9th, 2016, 12:15pm »
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Clyde - 'NYC - Lodge Members -  
 
Hmmm... You must be some kind of genius, an out of town consultant guru, or one solid "expert witness" on the stand. Reason  
your writer says so asserts? You agree with thinking and beliefs of your humble correspondent.
 
BTW. Right! We both know when so much First Class, and vital BULK mail center to mail center diverted by a stroke of the pen  
by some Texan who then a tenant at 1600 Penna Ave, NW? It was devastating...
 
Note to Attn: 'NYC... Don't sweat the recovery rates of fuel taxes and fees amounts. It does not matter. Anything  not captured by  
direct "pay as you go" taxes made up by General Funds (i.e., loans against all our Social Security accounts). One of the huge  
problems here being: In (we can only hope still obtains), the US Consitution document compels: A system of Mail - presumably  
- and Defense Highways a basic obligation. Also, Ports and Waterways. And, of course, the Military.
 
So that: The Highway System will cost what it costs. Note, there are no supplements (secret deals, is how we do it these days)  
detailed in the Constitution about how to deal with prickly issues of precise Finance and Accounting. Same way with waterways,  
and military.Besides, so much of the money has gone astray since the more recent "pay as you go" principle of the Interstate  
Highways (1956). There is little logic to support why these funds support publicly operated city bus lines!
 
..........Keep The Faith....................Vern.............................


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NYC_Subway_Fan
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Re: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES - "What if" Amtrak routes
 
« Reply #14 on: Feb 9th, 2016, 10:39pm »
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on Feb 7th, 2016, 3:13pm, ClydeDET wrote:       (Click here for original message)

 
Well, rail got subsidies of pretty substantial value when the lines (many of them) were built, which counts for something. Thereafter, mail by rail did serve as a subsidy for passenger service, until most 1st class mail (especially bulk shipment between distribution centers) went to airlines instead of only premium priced air mail - and THAT decision was a (hidden) subsidy to the airlines, made consciously and (I suspect) corruptly.
 
But the real killer, IMO, was cars that were fast, comfortable, on quality roads. And air conditioned. And Vern is right about people looking at origin (house) to end-point without having to change mode.
 
Dallas to Houston was 250-270 miles, and the speed limit was 60 (55 at night) on mostly two lane roads that hit every little burg between the big cities. You would be doing well to average 50 MPH. 45 would be more likely. Speak from experience.  Train was faster and (despite 20-25 cent gasoline) not greatly more expensive. And comfort - don't forget comfort. Interstate and A/C - well, that made a big difference. Add loss of mail contracts, capital expense for replacement cars, and - AMTRAK saves the service, some of it. Oh - when AMTRAK added a Dallas to Houston trip, it was something like 7 hours IIRC, on the old SP route with no more stops than the Sunbeam. Which ran 265 miles in 265 minutes per time-table adverts behind steam in 1937....
 
As I think everybody knows, I LOVE trains, watching, riding, and all that. IF there more and they ran more places I want/need to go, I'd ride more. I think.  But dammit, I have to put some realism glasses on and realize that the system as it existed when I was a kid (say through around 10 or 12) just isn't possible in the US any longer. Damp it...

 
Yes, rail did get some subsidies to build out.  But let me please raise two points.
 
1) That was a one time subsidy; not an ongoing subsidy.
2) The Fed marked that debt paid in full after WW II to thank the RR's for their contributions to the war efforts in WW I & II.  Ergo, the initial subsidy was repaid!
 
As for cars being fast & comfortable; yes that did help.  But the number one factor that drives things is the almighty dollar.  People will always choose that which appears to be cheaper, even if it is falsely cheaper.  Example:
 
When gas spiked over $4 per gallon back in 2009, for the first time in history total miles driven in this country declined.  Prior to that point, it had always increased at least a bit.
 
And transit ridership, which had for a number of years been enjoying single digit percentage increases saw a double digit increase in ridership.
 
The cost of driving had reached the point where fast & comfortable was no longer enough to keep people in their cars.


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NYC_Subway_Fan
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Re: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES - "What if" Amtrak routes
 
« Reply #15 on: Feb 9th, 2016, 10:45pm »
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on Feb 9th, 2016, 12:15pm, HwyHaulier wrote:       (Click here for original message)
Clyde -  
 
Note to Attn: 'NYC... Don't sweat the recovery rates of fuel taxes and fees amounts. It does not matter. Anything  not captured by  
direct "pay as you go" taxes made up by General Funds (i.e., loans against all our Social Security accounts). One of the huge  
problems here being: In (we can only hope still obtains), the US Consitution document compels: A system of Mail - presumably  
- and Defense Highways a basic obligation. Also, Ports and Waterways. And, of course, the Military.

 
Vern,
 
While the Constitution does direct that the Fed should pay for mail delivery and roads to facilitate same, it does not direct that the Fed should pay for highways.  Nor does it direct that the Fed pay for roads for the military.  Not to mention that military use of the highways was part of the little white lie that Ike told to get his Interstate Highway plan passed in 1956 after its earlier defeat in 1954.
 
But the military uses less than 0.1% of the capacity of our highways.  And it most certainly doesn't need 6, 8, 10, and even 12 lane highways.  Nothing more than a 4 lane highway would ever be required by the military.


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George_Harris
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Re: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES - "What if" Amtrak routes
 
« Reply #16 on: Feb 10th, 2016, 11:47am »
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on Feb 9th, 2016, 10:45pm, NYC_Subway_Fan wrote:       (Click here for original message)

 
Vern,
 
While the Constitution does direct that the Fed should pay for mail delivery and roads to facilitate same, it does not direct that the Fed should pay for highways.  Nor does it direct that the Fed pay for roads for the military.  Not to mention that military use of the highways was part of the little white lie that Ike told to get his Interstate Highway plan passed in 1956 after its earlier defeat in 1954.
 
But the military uses less than 0.1% of the capacity of our highways.  And it most certainly doesn't need 6, 8, 10, and even 12 lane highways.  Nothing more than a 4 lane highway would ever be required by the military.

"Nothing more than a 4 lane highway would ever be required by the military."  There was a brief period of time as costs began to rise that congress decided that exactly that would be paid by the 90-10 fractions and that if a stated wanted more they would have to pay for it.  I don't remember when that was or how long it lasted, but it did not last for long.  
 
That I-79 across West Virginia exists at all is because of a political promise that was part of the Kennedy-Johnson election (or was it the Johnson-whoever election?)  The projected traffic count to justify it was not there.  Saying that, another point seemingly forgotten was that in the low traffic areas in the west the Interstates could be built as a two lane only highway, but on a right of way sufficient to add the other side later if needed.  I think that other side has long since been added to all of them.   A few of the "public lands" states in the far west also got their interstates built on a 95-5 payment basis, but still with the state doing the design work.


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HwyHaulier
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Re: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES - "What if" Amtrak routes
 
« Reply #17 on: Feb 10th, 2016, 12:50pm »
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'NYC - Lodge Members -
 
Yours PM TU 9 FEB.: So noted. Can my people work with your people on this?
 
So whatever were the Founding Fathers saying? Directives to get the MAIL dispatched and delivered. Mandates of implied purpose of Defense Highways.
 
It remarkable the Founding Fathers did not wish to be accounting experts, and nor to provide specifics how to pay for all this...
 
...............................Vern..........................


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HwyHaulier
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Re: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES - "What if" Amtrak routes
 
« Reply #18 on: Feb 10th, 2016, 5:36pm »
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George - Lodge Members -
 
Oh! There you go with remarks of the Mountain State (Montani semper liberi)! Rather to paraphrase, ...Senator, I knew the  
Hon. Robert Byrd... Robert Byrd was a friend of mine...
, all over again. There a time when near anything nailed down in the  
State was named for Senator Byrd...
 
There came a day with the happy news that IH 64 finally completed across WV. This led to much rejoicing in the highway  
motor carrier industry. Near any and all of us with anything to do with dispatching schedules over the route? There much  
rejoicing, and lifting a few beverages honoring Sen. Byrd. ...It's a true story, Kay... It did link Beckley with the outside world!
It did create a marvelous route, Norfolk, VA - Cincinnati, OH, among myriad pairs... Still does...
 
.................................Vern.............................


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