Category Archives: Political

Trump’s ‘sanctuaries’ crackdown imperils transportation projects

A tunnel under New York’s Hudson River may be imperiled. In Los Angeles, millions of dollars could be at stake for port improvements. And other communities’ hopes for major transportation projects could be caught in the crossfire as President Donald Trump threatens to strip federal funding from “sanctuary cities” that defy his immigration policies.
Considering that Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., have all declared themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants, Trump’s reprisals could end up canceling or delaying major infrastructure projects in some of the nation’s most congested areas — even as the administration touts a $1 trillion proposal to rebuild the United States’ roads, railroads, bridges and airports.

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Congressional Republican threats to Caltrain funding could cripple Bay Area’s growth

Caltrain has a problem.

Passenger numbers are exploding thanks to the Bay Area’s tech boom, and service has not kept up with demand. Peak trains are full, and it is difficult to find the capacity to run more. Service frequency is the same as it was in the late 2000s, but daily ridership has grown from 36,000 in 2009 to 62,000 in 2016.

Riding outside rush hour is no better: off-peak trains don’t come frequently enough, and take more than an hour and a half to go between San Francisco and San Jose.

All of Caltrain’s problems have solutions. These involve smart investments in better service and one of the keys is the Caltrain electrification project. For $2 billion, it would wire the line between San Francisco and San Jose and buy new high-performance electric trains, reducing local travel time by twenty minutes.

And yet, the Republican Party is threatening to cancel the project.

Shoreline Officials Want To Hit The Brakes On Federal Railroad Proposal

A  federal proposal to run tracks for Amtrak high-speed trains through a new route in affluent Fairfield County drew fire Thursday from the mayor of the region’s second-biggest city.

Mayor David Martin said Thursday he likes the plan to expand capacity at Stamford’s busy train station. But he’s against building new track routes to Greenwich and to Westport that might eat into his city’s neighborhoods or commercial base.

“This plan looks more like fantasy than fact, and we’re going to fight it,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal told reporters.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s proposal to overhaul sections of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor route in Connecticut has already hit heavy resistance in southeastern Connecticut, where the agency wants a new 30-mile inland segment to bypass the curving, twisting tracks between Old Saybrook and Kenyon, R.I.

Martin is the first Fairfield County leader to raise concerns about how it would affect the southwestern region, but Blumenthal predicted that opposition will keep growing.

“The feeling in Stamford is similar to southeastern Connecticut: People want safe, reliable and fast trains, but the devil is in the details,” Blumenthal said.

The FRA met stiff opposition in Connecticut last week when it released a massive report documenting how it wants to modernize Amtrak’s heavily used but badly deteriorating 456-mile Northeast Corridor route from Washington, D.C. to Boston.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Sen. Chris Murphy, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney and Blumenthal all slammed the proposal for Connecticut, where Amtrak’s Acela and Northeast Regional trains run along the shoreline from Greenwich to Stonington.

The Old Saybrook bypass would “eviscerate neighborhoods, historic landmarks and real estate values,” they said in a joint statement condemning the idea.

The FRA maps also suggest new tracks between eastern Greenwich and Stamford’s train station, and another – far longer – new segment from east of the station to Westport.

The FRA hasn’t specified precisely where it would build new tracks; its report refers to constructing “aerial structures” above I-95 and possibly using the highway’s embankments, but FRA staffers emphasize that exact routings would be have to be worked out with local officials. The report and maps are at http://www.necfuture.com/flipbook/feis_highlights/default.html#4/z.

Opponents and the FRA both acknowledge that there’s currently no funding source, and Blumenthal has said the potential $10 billion to $30 billion cost of a mile-long tunnel beneath Old Lyme is simply unaffordable.

On Thursday, about 100 southeastern Connecticut residents gathered at town hall to discuss a strategy for blocking the Old Saybrook bypass. SECoast, a regional organization leading the fight, warned of a lawsuit if the plan advances.

The FRA wants a plan to rebuild the Northeast Corridor to accommodate a much more frequent schedule of next-generation Acela trains as well as more Northeast Regional service. The corridor links Boston, New York, Trenton, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., a congested mega-hub of people and jobs that’s expected to grow over the next three decades.

The agency wants to clear chokepoints and slow zones, allowing for faster runs and far more trains as the schedule expands over the next several decades.

In Connecticut, that means shaving 20 percent off the travel time of Acela’s Boston to New York City run by building modern tracks on straight alignments and free of grade crossings.

“Rather than spending billions to save 25 minutes on travel time, why not invest millions to save five minutes on parking, five minutes on ticketing, five minutes on reliability, five minutes on connectivity?,” said Gregory Stroud, head of SECoast.

“For many travelers the 25 extra minutes spent in a comfortable seat, writing email, is the least of their worries. Let’s invest first in longer trains, in safer closer-spaced trains through positive train control. With limited dollars let’s invest in the New Haven to Springfield corridor, which will nurture Connecticut communities, not destroy them,” he said.

The FRA has emphasized that without state support, the proposal won’t move forward.

Bernie Sanders Has Already Won

A British general once said to Gandhi, “You don’t think we’re just going to walk out of India!”

Gandhi replied, “Yes. In the end, you will walk out. Because 100,000 Englishmen simply cannot control 350 million Indians, if those Indians refuse to cooperate.”

he progressive political battle was never for the White House. It was, is, and always has been for mobilization. The battle against plutocracy and fascism has always, in reality, been a battle against apathy.

Bernie Sanders, with this remarkable campaign, has taken the issue of American political corruption out of the shadows and placed it center stage.

While that sounds like a simple thing, it is a thing that all progressive leaders have tried and failed to do for as long as there has been an American political process. The movement is mobilized, and not a moment too soon.

Winning the Presidency

The Oval Office would more aptly at this point be called The Office of the Empire Manager. The notion that any work of social good can be achieved from the Oval Office is, at this juncture, sadly far-fetched at best.

From that perspective, Hillary Clinton is actually well suited for the office, if you want your empire managed efficiently. If you want the logic of empire challenged at its core, then you’ll appreciate the scope of Bernie Sanders’ achievement.

So will Bernie win the “battle” to be the democratic nominee for president? In truth, it seems like a long shot. Will he win the “war” against apathy? He already has, in extraordinary fashion.

What makes defeating apathy so important? Apathy is where corruption grows. Apathy is so valuable to the corrupt that they manufacture it and control the production of it. This is where infotainment and mass broadcasting play such an important role. The trick is to keep the population huddled beneath their security blankets, rather than pounding on doors and demanding justice.

The people who understand the magnitude of the transgressions and who want change have always been there. But they have always been relegated to three percent of the popular vote in presidential campaigning. Brave new world. We are united, we have numbers, and we are on the march. It’s not about the Oval Office, it’s about the country, our country. Let’s win there.

Marc Ash, Reader Supported News

Cuomo orders higher security measures on mass transit

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week signed an executive order that gives New Jersey and Connecticut law enforcement jurisdiction on New York’s public transportation services and facilities.

The order is aimed at allowing security and counterterrorism officials in both states to assist New York in ensuring public safety at locations traditionally targeted by terrorists, according to a press release issued by Cuomo’s office.

“With the busy holiday season in full swing, we are taking every precaution necessary to mitigate potential terrorist threats and keep people safe,” Cuomo said. “This order gives our partners in New Jersey and Connecticut greater ability to help patrol and protect our mass transit networks. Together we will continue to remain vigilant, and I urge all travelers to stay alert and safe throughout the holidays.”

The holiday season tends to be a time of heightened alert and risk of terror attacks as hundreds of thousands of commuters travel between New York, New Jersey and Connecticut each day via mass transit systems, including inter-state rail, bus and ferry systems.

Increased manpower and overall law enforcement presence will allow governments throughout the region to protect public safety and provide an additional reassurance to commuters, Cuomo’s press release said.

The order was issued on Dec. 8 and will remain in effect for 30 days.

A Risky Proposition: The ‘Regulatory Hole You Could Drive a Train Through’

A long-overlooked loophole allows railroad infrastructure to be built with virtually no local permit requirements at all

 

n early 2012, residents of this sleepy town began to notice an unusual amount of activity around the Grafton & Upton rail yard at the north end of town. An old barn that had stood for over a century was knocked down. Bulldozers came out, clearing the land.

The tiny 16.5-mile railroad had been nearly defunct, but was purchased in 2008 by Jon Delli Priscoli, a major local developer with a penchant for railroads; he also owns a Thomas the Tank Engine theme park 70 miles away.

At least one town official who visited the site to ask about the construction said he was told that the railroad’s activities weren’t subject to review by the town.

In December 2012, Delli Priscoli finally unveiled his plans to more than 100 residents at a meeting in the municipal gym. The railroad yard, he announced, was to become a propane transfer or “transloading” facility, meaning that propane would be brought there by rail and unloaded onto tanker trucks to be distributed. With four 120-foot long, 80,000-gallon storage tanks to be filled by up to 2,000 train tank cars a year, it would be the biggest rail propane facility in Massachusetts.

Residents were dumbfounded: The location was in the middle of a residential neighborhood, less than 2,000 feet from an elementary school and atop the town’s water supply. But, aside from an application to the state’s fire marshal (still unapproved by publication date), the railroad’s owner had not requested nor obtained, town officials say, any local permits, environmental assessments, zoning variances — or permission.

And as residents would learn, it was the railroad’s position that it didn’t have to: Being a railroad, the Grafton & Upton was exempt from any state or local law that interfered with its business, a legal doctrine known as pre-emption.

As one resident put it, “You mean we have no rights?”

Around the country, in towns as small as Grafton and as large as Philadelphia and Chicago, communities are beginning to ask the same question as the domestic energy boom makes the expansion of railway infrastructure — to host trains carrying crude oil, propane and ethanol — a profitable venture indeed.

After more than a dozen serious explosions, fires and spills around the country, those trains have become notorious. But an investigation by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and Al Jazeera America suggests a critical part of the energy-by-rail picture has largely escaped national attention: the rail industry is exploiting historic exemptions from state and local laws to build often-massive transfer and processing stations free from virtually any permit requirements and without regard for basic laws protecting the communities in which they are based.

Railroads are exploiting a large, surprising loophole in federal regulatory law, critics say, and they are doing so with the backing of an obscure federal agency, the Surface Transportation Board, which has been quietly creating what some call a “regulation-free zone” and asserting a jurisdiction over railroads that trumps health and safety laws.

The result is a “regulatory hole you could drive a train through,” says Ginny Sinkel Kremer, an attorney who represents the town of Grafton in its legal battles against the transloading facility and the STB.

Read More of this article by By Isaiah Thompson, Al Jazeera America

Schumer wants to keep drones way from airports, major events

Drone manufacturers would be forced to implement technology to keep the unmanned crafts away from airports and possibly events like parades and major sporting contests under a proposal Sen. Charles Schumer plans to introduce.

ChuckShumerSenator

Schumer said he would introduce an amendment to a bill that funds the Federal Aviation Administration requiring drones sold or operated in the U.S. to have geo-fencing technology that would prevent them from operating within two miles of an airport or above 500 feet.

The amendment would also encourage the FAA to enact policies forbidding drones in other “sensitive locations,” like sporting events, parades or near the Pentagon, Schumer told The Associated Press on Saturday.

“God forbid a drone was sucked into the engine of a passenger airline that was flying, it’d be a huge tragedy,” he said. “And it’s a matter of time before that happens.”

Under current regulations, drone pilots must get clearance to fly within 5 miles of a sizeable airport in most cases. The FAA also notified drone enthusiasts in October that the law does not allow them to fly the aircraft near Major League Baseball, NFL and NCAA Division I college football games and major auto races.

FAA officials did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Sunday.

Schumer said his amendment was an “elegant solution” to a rise in drone incidents at sporting events and parades across the country. He believed the proposal will pass this month with bipartisan support among legislators.

Schumer pointed to an incident earlier this month where a drone buzzed above a match at the U.S. Open before it crashed into empty seats in the stadium. A high school science teacher who had been flying the drone in a park surrounding the tennis center was arrested on a reckless endangerment charge.

“Somebody could attach weaponry to them, or explosives,” Schumer said. “No one has yet, but sooner or later someone will think of that.”