High-Speed Rail

Everyone wants infrastructure improvements.
Local folks want their roads fixed, steel companies want to sell components for bridges.
Wall Street sees Caterpillar's stock price soaring.
Construction workers take paychecks home and spend money in their communities.
Everyone wins....


...the projects are not Sarah Palin's "Bridges to Nowhere".

What if someone came up with a grand vision that would power an industrial renaissance
that would bring fruits that would endure for a hundred years?
Pretty tall order.
Except that it has been done before.
Hmmmm. Don't rightly remember that.

Railroads powered and created and then amplified the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century.
They powered advances in metallurgy for rails, steam engine technology and finally electric motor technology.
The result was millions of jobs & an infrastucture that would weave America together until the Interstate highway system usurped that function.
Today there exists a semi-viable freight network, but the majority of people today move by automobile at great expense
to their wallets, to the environment and with unacceptable highway death tolls.
When they want to move quickly, they go by air. Even when it is only a few hundred miles.
This requires even more complex machines guzzling more fuel and releasing more pollution.

Frame that with the fact that anyone who has visited Europe and ridden on a high speed train becomes an instant convert.
Are Europeans smarter than us? Nope. A bit more orderly perhaps, but we invented Cheez Whiz among other things.
Not to overlook sending man to the moon, personal computer, internet, laser beam, nuclear devices etc.
You get the drift. There is nothing we can't do if we elect to.

So how about high-speed rail for America?
No one disagrees publicly, but those who sell cars might have reservations (and own some congressmen).
Let's assume for national unity there is a universal consensus.
What's good about high-speed rail?
For one thing, they're not prone to fall out of the air (a big plus).
And you can get there while playing Nintendo or (gasp) reading a book.
If you're overbooked- add another car (hang off the wing in an airplane).
They run rain or shine.
No more being stuck in O'Hare instead of home.
They don't destroy the ozone layer like jets do.
They don't meet drunk fools in their pick'em-up truck head-on on a Friday night on a back road.
In the forty years from 1974 to 2014 there were zero fatalities in the U.S.A. in train wrecks.
In 2015 eight were killed when a train derailed in Philadelphia.
That's an average of a quarter of a person per year. Beats 55,000 per year on the highway.
Need we say more?

How can we make this happen? This is a massive, gargantuan undertaking.
It could be birthed, grow, and bleach like a bloated whale in the hands of conglomerates, bureacracies and special interests.
So consider a small pilot project that would make the most impact with the least expenditure and the least money and risk.
Where? When? What?

Start with this.
St. Louis is in the virtual center of the geographical United States and also the virual center of U.S. population.
Here is a list of cities encircling St. Louis with distance and regional population.
These are too close to fly to and a pain in the rear to drive to

St. Louis
Des Moines/Iowa City
Kansas City
Oklahoma City/Tulsa
Little Rock

These baker's dozen cities' urban population is equal to California's urban population.
If one includes rural areas within short driving distance, they are equal to Callifornia's total population.
If one considers the populations of these states, it is 57,000,000 persons.
That is almost one-sixth the population of the United States within a circle of an approximately 300 mile radius.
Plus, virtually everything in between all destinations is level cornfields.
No bays, no inlets, no penisulas, no mountains, no deserts, no Grand Canyon. Just corn (and beans sometimes).
(If one can imagine the first railroad meeting the Grand Canyon, that likely qualifies as an "oh sh*t" moment.)
Solved problem "A" with regards to construction difficulties.
The difference from other parts of the U.S. is that they are clustered in a uniforn circle, virtually equidistant apart.
So this has everything going for it- location, terrain, demagraphics, national will.
Could it get any better?

St. Louis may be the center of the U.S., but its heart is densely populated and heavily built-up.

East St. Louis on the Illinois side of the Mississippi is an iconic image of an urban wasteland.
It is, by comparison with St. Louis, empty.

In their favor, they do have the East St. Louis Trump Hotel in all its gilded glamor.

Otherwise, it is a vacuum of neglect, decay and disregard for the needs of Illinois' most vulnerable citizens.
Outsiders, in the past, have tried various means to "fix" East St. Louis, but they didn't do well.

Maybe East St. Louis deserves a special effort.
Sort of a national guilt-trip to do right by them for change.
The biggest part of East. Louis is vacant lots or sub-standard and abandoned housing (see photos).
WHAT if it were decided to put the High-Speed Rail Hub in East St. Louis?
All the home owners would be instantly flush with the increased property values.
Legislation would have to be enacted to prevent slumlords and non-owners from speculating and fleecing existing owners.
This is now the official plan for East St. Louis. Rail Hub of the Midwest.
Transportation jewel of the midwest. You heard it here first.

How much would such a dream cost?
The table above considers about 3100 miles of track and thirteen cities which means thirteen terminals and all the land.
A rough estimate is as follows:
A forty-foot right-of-way requires four acres of land per mile of track. For 3100 miles of track that is 12,400 acres.
If cost of acquisition averages $20,000 acre, that is $248,000,000 for land.
Acording to the internet, cost of virgin rail is about $1,000,000 per mile.
This compares with interstate highway which is also about $1,000,000 per mile.
One study indicates for land acquisition, prep, bed and rail along with overpasses comes to $5,000,000 per pile.
So for $15,500,000,000 a rail network. That's the cost of one aircraft carrier.
Add two billion for terminals and two billion for trains and you're at $20,000,000,000.
Assume operating costs, interest, maintenance etc. at a half billion a year for forty years
and the total comes to forty billion dollars.
(You have to double that when the thieves (corporations and politicians) get their hands in the pots.)
For a project with forty year lifetime, that's one billion dollars per year revenue required to break even.
What would a "good" ticket price be?
How about 10 cents per mile?
Twenty-eight dollars for a ticket from St. Louis to Chicago or most other similar distances.
Twenty cents per mile for First Class. Sounds good. Can't buy the gasoline for that.
At those numbers, it would be necessary to sell 96,000 tickets (or fewer if some went First Class) per day.
From the above chart there are about 300 possible combinations of departure and destination.
That's 320 passengers per combo per day.
If a 200 mph train takes an hour and a half from St. louis to Chicago,
in a twenty-hour day, figuring two hours per trip, it can complete ten trips.
Thirty-two passengers average per leg to break even.
Put this in the perspective of the fact that the Moscow Metro moves 12,000,000 passengers per day.
The London Tube 4,800,000 passengers per day.
New York Subway System 5,000,000 passengers per day.
96,000 per day is a trifle. And reachable. Let's do it.

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