Friday, July 3, 2015

NNEPRA's Proposed Royal Junction Siding Project Unnecessary

In this recent post, we talked about the Tooth Fairy and NNEPRA's fourth successive TIGER Grant application submitted to the US DOT.  It cites a total cost of $8.5 million, and asks for $7.5 million as a grant.

Now comes word from a retired railroad professional commenting on the application, and how the proposed project is virtually unnecessary.  We thought we'd pass it along to you for your consideration, and perhaps NNEPRA's as well.  The individual who composed it managed major passenger rail enterprises;  his credentials for making this analysis are far stronger than anyone in the Downeaster management chain.

That doesn't matter much, we suppose, when you have the Oppem sisters behind you in whatever you propose.  Here is his brief response to the application; the visuals below the text support the argument.


The basis for the project is alleged to be the fact that “string lines” demand it as the precise meeting place for Downeaster  passenger trains. This is a common, but costly, error made by passenger rail planners (Amtrak and Commuter alike).  You should enhance infrastructure based on the common good, and long term planning.  Amtrak, and Pan Am operations are less than dependable. There is no Swiss precision here. Conditions change, schedules change, string lines change.  An adjustment in MBTA schedules south of Plaistow, NH could make a siding at Royal Jct. superfluous  within a year.  In the Maine tradition "Use what you have...if it isn't broken."
 An existing  segment of two main tracks (CPF 192-CPF 194), nearly two miles long, is a mere three miles to the south of the  $9,000,000 proposal.  Opposing Downeaster trains could meet in this double track line segment, which has the same parameters as the proposed project.  There are no intervening highway crossings.  The Tiger proposal has six crossings to be reckoned with. Which would be better for motorist safety?
A second existing segment of two main tracks is but three miles further south at Congress St. in Portland. Downeasters could also meet here, should they be off schedule.  What becomes clear is that there are several existing meeting points that are only minutes apart that would provide flexibility with a 10 train Downeaster schedule.  Pan Am currently runs a miniscule four trains each day on this line; the Downeaster six. The existing infrastructure  can handle triple that amount. 

Amtrak requires a large amount of "padding" in any proposed set of schedules due to performance failures that are not infrequent.  Tweaking southbound departures out of Brunswick by five to six minutes would allow for meets on the above mentioned existing trackage with the (more likely) tardy northbound trains out of Boston.

 Adjust the strings accordingly. 

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