Joe Szabo won Senate confirmation Wednesday to become head of the Federal Railroad Administration.
His longtime friend Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) took the floor to give Szabo a warm endorsement, saying that the fifth-generation railroader and former United Transportation Union officer understands better than most the demanding and sometimes dangerous conditions under which railroad employees work.
Durbin also said Szabo will bring his enthusiasm for Amtrak to his new job, which in addition to its primary goal of ensuring that railroads are safe will also involve the administration of President Obama's high speed passenger rail initiative.
Szabo will be informally sworn into office May 5 so that he can take over his new duties without delay, with a more formal ceremony to be announced later.
Armed with $7.4 million in federal stimulus package funding to implement a Bus Rapid Transit line this year, Reno, Nev., is also looking to supplement, and eventually replace, BRT with streetcar operations.
Reno Economic Development Director John Hester justifies the plan by noting rail systems foster private investment. “I think it would be a major transformation of that whole corridor,” Hester said. “Sometimes putting in rail really makes investment happen.”
The City Council wants Virginia Street to accommodate buses, street cars, eventually trains, and other motor vehicles, he said. "The council also wants a new Virginia Street bridge strong enough for rail cars. Eventually, a light railline would run from the University of Nevada campus to the Reno-Sparks Convention Center,” Hester said.
Hester cites the success of Portland, Ore.’s growing streetcar network as a model for his city.
California’s Assembly has passed a bill directing the Golden State’s Department of Transportation to pursue Amtrak service to San Francisco. The state seeks to route such trains though Altamont Pass, currently used by Altamont Commuter Express trains and by owner Union Pacific, which has expressed strong reservations about the proposal. The bill also directs the state to negotiate with BNSF.
Amtrak current serves San Francisco by connecting busservice to and from Oakland and Emeryville, Calif., on the east side of San Francisco Bay. Those cities are served by Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin services, as well as the long-distance Coast Starlight; Emeryville also hosts Amtrak’s California Zephyr.