Planes, Trains and Buses–The Rest of the Story

Maybe I’m just not cut out for travel.

Some of you will remember my blog detailing the wild and woolly start of our trip to the West Coast–the mad dash to catch the plane, the belated realization that we’d left our car at the airport but we were returning by train…

That was NOTHING compared to the return.

My husband has long wanted to take a train trip across the Western U.S. We are big train buffs, and whenever we are in Europe or Asia, trains are our primary means of travel. Almost without fail, those trains have been modern, immaculate, fast and reliable.

Amtrak, unfortunately, cannot claim to be any of those things.

We boarded in Emeryville (just outside San Francisco) on Friday morning for a trip that was scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 3 pm Sunday. We had made (nonrefundable) reservations on a Megabus to Indianapolis for 6:00 p.m.–giving us three hours. Plenty of time.

Our first disappointment was the “top of the line” sleeper; not only were the cars 40+ years old and tired, but the design of the sleeper was baffling—when the lower bed was out, there was no room to walk and no way to use the washbasin. The upper bunk was much higher than necessary—nice for the person on the bottom, but making it impossible for the person on top to sit up. There were none of the clever storage solutions we’ve found on European trains—virtually no place to put even the most common items–and the tiny bathroom/shower left a lot to be desired.

And there was no Wifi. Fortunately, my techie son had explained how to tether our phones to our devices, but we burned through our data plan and then some.

As we went across the country, the scenery was magnificent, and the other passengers we met were interesting and pleasant. (I should note that the train appeared full–people really like trains!) But we steadily lost time; due to the condition of track, there were many places where the train had to slow down.

As we entered Nebraska  it became obvious we’d be well behind schedule. Before we even reached Omaha we were three hours late, so we made new Megabus reservations for six p.m.(couldn’t change the existing ones, thanks to that company’s requirement that changes be made five days in advance). (Did I mention that these tickets are non-refundable?)

Then we got to Omaha, where we were told that storms in Iowa the day before had washed out rail, and we were being re-routed onto a freight line’s track. Despite the fact that Amtrak obviously knew about this problem well before we left Emeryville–and well before they allowed other passengers to board in Denver without informing them of the problem–this was the first time anyone mentioned the fact that the previous day’s train was still stranded in Iowa.

The new route involved waiting for a new crew; we sat in Omaha for six hours. Although  announcements were few and far between–and, in our car, thanks to an antiquated PA system, basically inaudible–we were finally told that the estimated time of arrival in Chicago would be somewhere between 1:00 and 3:00 a.m. Monday. Yesterday.

Another nonrefundable ticket purchase from Megabus, this time playing it safe: 6:00 a.m. And given the schedule, no sleep.

The train finally arrived at Chicago’s Union Station. At 6:02 a.m. We waited 40 minutes for the checked luggage to appear (and when it did, it had evidently been dragged through a large pile of dirt.) No one was working in the baggage claim area, so there was no one to ask about the reason for the delay-or the dirt.

Our final non-refundable Megabus tickets got us on the 9:30 a.m. bus to Indianapolis.

The bus ride was uneventful until we hit the bridge repairs on I65, which brought traffic on that incredibly busy interstate to a virtual halt for over a half-hour. By which time, I was ready to throw myself off the damn bridge and end it all.

We finally got home at 2:30 in the afternoon. Dirty, sweaty, tempers frayed. We’d had no sleep and nothing to eat since Sunday afternoon. Amazingly, we’re still married….

So what have I learned, other than I’m an old broad who should just stay home and tend my (nonexistent) garden?

One of my father’s favorite sayings was: things worth doing are worth doing right. Other countries seem to get this; in the U.S., however, lawmakers seem averse to the concept of infrastructure maintenance. Our bridges are dangerously substandard, our rail beds deteriorating, our trains far past their prime. But rather than fixing our embarrassing rail system, Congress continues to degrade its ability to provide service by cutting Amtrak’s budget.

We sure seem to have plenty of money for weapons, though.

 

 

47 thoughts on “Planes, Trains and Buses–The Rest of the Story

  1. “We sure seem to have plenty of money for weapons, though.” Amen to that, Sister!

    Once again you have hit the nail on the head.

    Unfortunately , in rail (or the postal system, or a host of other things that would benefit the American people) , there’s no money for lobbyists and lining the pockets of the congresspeople who should actually VOTE in support of such things.

  2. “We sure seem to have plenty of money for weapons, though.” I’d add to that:

    Football and Baseball Stadiums as well as Basketball Arenas.

    Jacksonville is financially broke.

    There are no monies available to make up the deficit in the City’s Pension Plans. It’s now over 2 1/2 billion dollars. For over 11 YEARS no monies went to funding the Plans which include the Police and Fireman Pensions because the monies were needed for the football stadium and preparation for the Super Bowl.

    Last year, our Black , Democratic Party, Tea Party supporting Mayor allocated $40 Million for a new scoreboard at the owner of the Jaguars request. We now have the largest scoreboard in the NFL.

    Does anyone have a “horror story” that can beat that one? I doubt it. But I could be wrong.

  3. That’s absolutely awful and I would send those megabus ticket receipts to Amtrak and plead with them for the refund considering it was their delays that made your expenses triple. Yikes.

    There are delays here in Europe on trains but they keep the public informed (in multiple languages no less). After reading your post, I doubt I’d ever take a train the US, Ever! (And yes, read where they lowered the funding for Amtrak right after that disaster in New England. Congress is stupid.)

    Bernie Sanders (for President 2016) had drafted a bill to spend 1.3 Trillion on our infrastructure. That man has my vote.

  4. Sheila, you forgot to add that there are a number of people (some of whom hold elected office) that believe Amtrak should be privatized and let the free market decide whether rail travel is desired by the market. That’s unwise, of course, but it’s hard to persuade these folks that Amtrak would be more successful if some money was put into it—and that the country would be better off as a result.

    But, hey, maybe Donald Trump can invest in Amtrak.

  5. Have ridden both that Amtrak train and the Megabus. Know what it is like. For comparison, we just got back from Spain where we rode the AVE from Madrid to Barcelona (roughly 620 km). The train reached speeds of 300 km/hr, smoother than air travel, and with one stop reached Barcelona in about 3 hours.

  6. I took electric rail transportation from Geneva to Zurich and to Lyon France. Clean, on time, quiet, affordable and customer friendly. The ride was smooth and relaxing. Why not here? Why not now?

  7. The Rail Industry in the USA does not own enough legislators. The Road Builders and the Truckers own LOTS of legislators. Follow the money.

  8. I am not an fan of of Ayn Rand (side bar I am a Bernie Sanders supporter), but as the saying goes a stopped clock provides the correct time twice a day- So here goes an Ayn Rand quote – “when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you–when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice–you may know that your society is doomed. – Ayn Rand, “Atlas Shrugged”

    There is essentially a dual system of tax collection and tax expenditures. One is for the Oligarchs such as owners of Professional Sports Teams and the other is for the Public. Here in Indiana the Governor, the State Legislature, Mayors of Indianapolis, and City-County Council will provide what ever amount of money is needed to build new stadiums and subsidies for the Mega-Billionaire Owners of the Colts and Pacers. Money for Public Parks, Public Transportation, Public Streets and Roads is strictly rationed.

    Sheila, what you have encountered is the face of Public Transportation here in the USA whether it is rail or roads. I feel sorry for any foreign visitor from Europe that might think our passenger rail system is remotely near European standards.

  9. The last time I rode a train was in 1954 from Cincinnati to New Orleans and back without any of the delays you all experienced. Oh, now I remember, that was 61 years ago.

  10. Not all rail travel in the United States is like the Amtrak experience.

    On a visit to New York City (5 or 6 years ago) instead of flying to one
    of the New York Airports. I went by air to White Plains and took the
    train to Grand Central Station. A great experience, super fast modern
    rail travel exists on the East Coast.

  11. I have to agree with Sheila.

    I used to go to Chicago for a conference each year. Even though I can drive from Indianapolis to Chicago in three hours, we didn’t like to drive up for this conference, because of the cost of parking our cars for four days in Chicago. So we would usually fly up and back. The cost of plane tickets would negate the cost of parking, gas, and wear and tear on the car. But in 2009, we decided to try something different and take the train. The trip up took five hours, as per schedule, but was uneventful.

    The return trip, however, was frustrating. It left Chicago around 5:00 pm, and was supposed to arrive in Indianapolis at Midnight, accounting for the time zone difference. As soon as we got into rural Indiana, the train inexplicably came to a stop. Eventually, the conductor announced on the public address system that there was a freight train on the track ahead of us. So we sat still for a full 90 minutes. In the meantime, the conductor went outside and walked around the entire length of the train. He smoked a cigarette while doing so, since he couldn’t do that on the train.

    After this, we began to move forward again. About an hour later, the conductor announced that there was a “railroad emergency,” and that we would again need to stop the train so he could perform an inspection. So we came to a stop once again, and he went outside. Again, he walked around “inspecting” the entire length of the train while — you guessed it — smoking another cigarette.

    By this time, most of the passengers were livid. There was never any explanation for this from the conductor. We finally arrived back in Indianapolis at 3:00 am. The conductor was nowhere to be found as we left. A few days later, I received an online survey from Amtrak. But, guess what — the survey was only for the trip up to Chicago, and it specifically asked that any other trips not be included in my responses.

    So, I wrote a letter to my Congressman and to one Senator. I don’t remember what responses I received if any, but I have not ridden Amtrak since. I likely will not, unless it is the (relatively) high-speed Acela trains that run along the East Coast.

  12. To Go a step further:

    Why is it that we are spending billions to extend I 69, a road to nowhere, in lieu of expanding I 65 another lane to someplace to go?

    Needless contracts to transfer public money into private pockets with no concern for public good.

  13. Earl; what a short memory you have. We are spending those tax dollars to extend I 69 because “their man Mitch” wanted I 69 extended and Pence agrees.

    irvin; I also took the train in 1954 from Indianapolis to Cleveland, Ohio, and had a smooth, if boring, ride with no problems. Wanted to take my grandchildren back to Florida with me by train a few years ago; no depots near where I was going so would have had to take a bus to reach the town nearest where I lived and either taxi or find a friend to pick us up. I stuck with the plane and used the shuttle from Tampa airport to my door, the driver even helped haul our bags into the house. Total cost (including driver tip) was the same as it would have been by train, bus and taxi.

  14. Louie vocalized my feelings exactly. I would be embarrassed for anyone in Europe to ride our trains. Their bullet trains are amazing, but even regular speed trains through the Alps provide a very smooth, on time, clean ride. If they can do that through the mountains, why can’t we do it on flat land?

    Before Amtrak, private railroads were no better at maintenance of infrastructure or at servicing markets. There was research to indicate that railroad magnates were milking the railroad to invest funds elsewhere.

    While working in a Congressional office, I had the misfortune to deal with railroad executives to arrange for more rail cars to deliver Hoosier grain to market. Grain was piling up on the ground and rotting at grain elevators due to the shortage of cars assigned to agricultural communities. As grain elevator operators had reported, the railroad execs were rude, arrogant, completely unsympathetic, and denigrating – a response seldom given to a U.S. Senator’s office. We persisted, and finally my boss was able to convince them to send a few more cars to Indiana, but that experience burned into my soul.

    Over the years my boss had his differences with various business interests, but none had ever displayed the outright hostility to their customers and customers’ congressional advocates that was displayed by the railroad companies.

    Years later, an attorney friend of mine reported his attempts to regain – for a farmer friend of his – abandoned rail line property going through his farm. The attorney found that the railroad never owned the property and had no right to it if they weren’t using it. Even so, the railroad would not agree to sign papers to give the farmer clear legal authority to use his own land. The railroad drug out legal proceedings for many months, but the attorney persisted and ultimately won. Word spread and farmers near and far sought similar relief. The railroads put up an incredible fight – spending years of legal dollars over land long ago abandoned. The funds would have been better spent restoring railbeds, upgrading and adding cars. Railroad execs finally lost again, creating more enemies for themselves while mis-spending investor funds.

    Whenever someone tells me capitalists are more efficient, more productive, and more protective of the bottom line, I think of those railroad execs.

  15. Trains are by far the most energy efficient means for distance travel. We should be heavily investing in them as we are sustainable energy sources. Why are we instead investing in entertainment venues? Because entertainment venues support the oligarchy salesmen in our living rooms. And the oligarchs themselves for income as well as marketing of their toxins.

    Aristocracy is winning again. We will have to fight the Revolution again.

  16. Does anyone else remember Barry Commoner? He was a candidate for President in 1980 (i think). One of the planks in his platform was restoration of the railroads based on their superior energy efficiency. This was based on upgrading the infrastructure and maintaining it. I imagine we would have a functional rail system today if he had been elected or if his ideas had been able to get some traction.

  17. I have fond memories from a family vacation in the summer of 2000 where my now late husband, our two sons, and I flew from Norfolk, VA to Chicago and then boarded Amtrak’s Empire Builder train where we had adjoining sleeper cars en route to Seattle. This particular Amtrak route parallels the US/Canadian border where we were treated to a vast, beautiful unspoiled landscape we’d never enjoyed in the US.

    Our particular train traveled at the established US speed limit of 79mph for passenger trains on that specific track. Actually if we’d been traveling at the 200 mph speed of Japan’s Shinkansen, aka the bullet train, we’d likely have seen nothing of interest other than a blur. We were in no hurry to get from Chicago to Seattle; it was a vacation, not a trip and definitely not a commute. Highspeed trains are wonderful as per the Eurostar high speed train route from London to Paris; however, a portion of that route passes through a tunnel with little scenery and a majority of the passengers are tourists wishing to get from point A to point B in the least amount of time. In 2003, my late husband, our younger son, and I took the Eurostar from London to Paris and back to London. It was more or less a bucket list item, quick, efficient, and with pre-packaged snack food and sodas priced even higher than at our US movie theaters.

    We found our Amtrak sleeper car accommodations more than adequate. Perhaps because my husband and I were barely 50 years old at that time, he did not complain about taking the top bunk nor did we feel especially constrained in the combined bathroom/shower in each sleeper car. We made good family memories on the Empire Builder, an idea planted in my husband’s mind by his reading a NYT travel article published a few months before we made our reservations/plans.

    Last month my now husband and I spent 8 days in London where he expressed a desire to take the Eurostar from London to Paris while we were so near. After first checking with our hotel’s concierge and then a bit later via Online reservations, I learned that a round-trip rail fare for 2 from London to Paris on the Eurostar was 552.00 British Pounds converting into 867.80 USD for a 2hr 15m travel time, each way. We quickly tabled that idea. After returning home and out of curiosity, I checked airfare prices for nonstop round-trip airfare for 2 and discovered we could have flown from London to Paris w/a 1hr 10m flight time each way for only 172.00 USD including taxes.

    Individual purposes for traveling by rail can range from the commuter’s need for time and speed to scenic vacation travel.

  18. Nancy, I worked as a gandy -dancer for the old New York Central in 1945 and 46. You cannot imagine how well maintained the railroads were in those days and it was all hand labor.

  19. Irvin, what is a gandy-dancer? I Googled the term as written here and found pages of images showing an extremely handsome, well-built young man in various stages of dress. Then I dropped the hyphen and found the 98-mile Gandy Dancer Snowmobile/ATV Trail in Minnesota and Wisconsin. I need details in context. Thanks.

  20. gandy dancers were men who maintained the tracks for the well maintained railroads back before, during and after WWII. It is an old term of which I am one of the few remaining such named. Although I did not remain with the NYC I am proud to say I was a gandy dancer

  21. I have always enjoyed Amtrack, but have learned never to plan closely timed connections. You get there when you get there. Freight trains have priority over passengers, and while the govt complains about what it spends on RR, no such complaints come about airline support. Some will say that we use airplanes more than RR, but that is not exactly capitalism at work. I think we will come to regret the failure to support passenger RR.

  22. Irvin, found this wonderful YouTube video highlighting the work of the Gandy Dancers. My hat’s off to you, obviously a strong young man who performed extremely physical labor during one point in your life! I’ve attached the below link leading to the short video clip. Hope it transfers…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIMBOEWOTMA

  23. BSH now you have learned a new term. I worked on the NYC in southeastern Indiana. Mostly in Dearborn County. There were easy jobs, not so easy jobs and then really hard jobs. Every two days we switched so we got some of everything. As you can imagine, there was never any shade. Thanks for the forward. It came up for me.

  24. The reason we don’t have good highways, good trains, etc. is because the taxes needed would be too high. Sheila and her husband can afford the train, most people can’t. My wife and I have a combined income that is a bit lower than Sheila’s income. I have no idea what her husband makes. However, because my wife and I make just over six figures, combined, and have no children, many view us as “rich.” We are mid-30s and we will likely see no social security, reduced or no retirement healthcare, etc.. However, folks here want to raise taxes on even us to have it all.

    Well, if you raise our taxes for nationwide mass transit, then raise it for local mass transit, then raise it for clean energy, then raise them for better roads and bridges, guess what, I damn sure won’t have any money left over to travel anywhere.

    Lastly, the service is horrible and will always been horrible. The train to Montana, the only place I wouldn’t mind taking the train to, would cost me around $2,400 round trip for a sleeper car. This trip will take at least 37 hours! Taking a plane though only cost me $1,500 round trip and takes just seven hours. I know what everyone will say, that if we just raise taxes (a popular theme here) I could then have some magical high speed bullet train. OK, maybe. However, I won’t be able to then afford the trip. So then we will have a nice train system that most middle class people can’t use.

  25. IndyGuy. The question is if other countries can do it why can’t we? A quick look at the Federal budget tells the answer. Military spending. Our penchant for policing the world.

    I don’t know why people who cheer wars on don’t see how we can’t do that and other things too but we can spend each dollar only once.

    Like all budgets ours reflects our priorities.

  26. Irvin, one final question and one last observation. When you worked as a gandy dancer was there a designated ‘caller’ who established a rhythm, a cadence, and an esprit de corps whereby all your fellow gandy dancers were exerting your collective strength in a coordinated manner resulting in a final product where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts?

    I’m certainly no wise sage, but I’ve observed distinctly different types of people. Those who thrive as people of words, who draw their strength from putting their thoughts into words, and later draw more strength from discussing their words and ideas with others who are similarly inclined.

    On the other hand, I’ve observed those people who thrive and draw their strength from producing a tangible, physical product perhaps through strenuous physical labor, a tangible physical product that allows their return to its existence years later and their touching it and saying, “I helped produce that.”

  27. Government subsidies and general involvement keep airline tickets within reason, so comparing RR and airlines involves more than what you pay. It the fed invested the level of care and concern for RR, it would be a very different story, but the poor get poorer and then get blamed because they are poor.

    Because European governments have invested heavily in trains, and trains are so easily accessible there, they are just wonderful, and people compare them with what we have. Well, you get what you pay for. A two-car train goes from Chicago to Indy, and with a big train that goes to NYC via Indianapolis a couple times a week. These trains are popular and many people take them. Just try to reserve a sleeping car in the next few months, for example. These could be excellent with the right subsidies, and a lot nicer and more convenient than airlines.

  28. @IndyGuy, I hear you loud and clear. The Amtrak Empire Builder vacation in 2000 w/adjoining sleeper cars from Chicago to Seattle for 4, my husband and I, and 2 sons, would have been an impossibility in our mid-30’s as my husband and I both were public employees with advanced degrees living in a large metropolitan area on the East seacoast.

    After years of my husband’s serving as Director of Planning, the Acting Director of Public Works, and the Acting City Engineer, he finally went over to the private sector as the COO of a large regional real estate development/homebuilding firm where he was hired because he “knew his way around City Hall” and was given the company “checkbook” to purchase land w/out any committee meetings. Evidently knowing one’s way around City Hall was a valuable skill because his public sector salary was more than tripled and later quadrupled immediately by his joining the private sector where he loved every minute of his work. I remained with my public sector career but with great relief from any financial pressures.

    Yes, IndyGuy, you’re correct. My two sons, both in your basic age group, will never realize the ability to plan a grand vacation for their small families other than one that involves staying with Mom to save money.

  29. My partner and I had a similar experience several years ago, returning to Indy from Davis, California via the Coast Starlight and Empire Builder. The Coast arrived in Davis several hours late, making it impossible to connect to the Empire Builder in Portland, Oregon, so we were “bustituted” at Klamath Falls to catch it there, missing lovely scenery. Our sleeper car was added to the end of the Empire Builder from Seattle, and all was well until the springs under the Seattle sleeper car broke at Minot, South Dakota, so the cars were uncoupled, and those poor passengers had to move into coach cars for the remainder of the trip into Chicago. We were too late to connect to the train (Cardinal) from Chicago to Indy, and received very little and incorrect information about the “bustitution” that would take us to Indy. The bus driver drove straight through to Indy, so the passengers from Lafayette had to make arrangements for someone to pick them up at Union Station.
    I’m a huge rail fan, much preferring the slower pace and scenery that I won’t see from an interstate highway or 33,000 feet to air travel, but this trip was a disappointing, unpleasant experience.

  30. BSH There was no collective rhythm as such. We worked in collective gangs and when we drove spikes we had four groups of three each and there was a rhythm but there was no caller. When the first man was ready we then all followed suit. We just learned that and we got better as time passed. One other fact that you might find interesting. The railroad workers had their own retirement plan and our retirement number all began with 722-00 etc. That is still my SS # even though I have been long gone from the railroad system. I started to work for the NYC the day I turned 16.

  31. The South Shore railroad from South Bend IN to Chicago is another train line that carries passengers from point A to B and why I won’t use it again. The freight trains have priority so every time they needed to share the track, the South Shore had to wait. It took 4 hrs one way the last time I rode it and decided instead, taking the bus from SB to Chicago was much faster. The bus driver keep in touch with headquarters about traffic backups and have routine paths to avoid them. Flying between the two cities was more expensive than the bus so preferred as well. It’s only about 80 miles!

  32. You’re not really suggesting that American taxpayers fund your sleeper-car vacation, are you?

  33. “There are no monies available to make up the deficit in the City’s [Jacksonville] Pension Plans.”

    GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    They never should have got those pensions, in the first place.
    NOBODY in the private sector gets a pension. Default on the pensions, and put the government workers (we’re really talking about police) on 401k equivalents.

  34. “Why is it that we are spending billions to extend I 69”

    Because we didn’t spend millions to build it when we should have. It’s great to see progress being made on I-69 south of Martinsville, but this should have been built in the 60’s. Section 6 doesn’t even appear to be underway, never mind the very essential link that needs to be built running 69 through Downtown Indianapolis and not on overloaded and indirect 465.

    Indiana hates roads, compared to other states. I-65 is only two lanes for most of the Chicago to Louisville trip. That road is horribly over capacity.

    Indiana has horrible Interstate coverage. Roads, highways, Interstates are great and wonderful and the first place transportation tax dollars should be used.

  35. To any and all who think, believe or suspect that Gopper is a “plant” or a “shill” working for Sheila; I say again – she would never do this; it is beneath her value system, she is outspoken, straightforward, says what she means and means what she says. She doesn’t need anyone posing as opposition to her views, we have all disagreed with her from time to time on various issues. IF – IF – she thought she needed this assistance on her blog; she would have chosen an intelligent, knowledgeable person who would give us facts and figures from their vantage point to provide us with viable opposition. Gopper, in his beyond foolish statement, “You’re not really suggesting that American taxpayers fund your sleeper-car vacation, are you?” shows his ignorance…of Sheila and her strong sense of supporting civil and human rights of all residents of this city, state and this country. He is obviously one of those Sheila is concerned about due to the lack of civics education provided in schools.

    Gopper has also lost sight of the fact that the city of Jacksonville’s employees paid into their pension plans for years; their money has been stolen and who is there to prosecute for the theft. I consider Social Security my lifetime pension/investment plan; I had paid into it from age 15 to age 57, in both private and public sectors. I live in fear of this being devalued, lowered or repealed by the government who borrowed millions of our Social Security investment dollars years ago and no repayment is in sight.

  36. Earl Kennedy, surely you realize that stating the extension of I-69 south of Indianapolis is simply a highway to nowhere leaves some readers thinking you’re possibly very provincial and narrow in comprehending the larger picture and intent of I-69 as serving as a NAFTA Superhighway extending from Port Huron, MI on the Canadian border south to Laredo, TX on the Mexican border.

    I-69 is not merely a road to your personally perceived idea of “nowhere” but rather is a road from Canada to Mexico envisioned as part of President Clinton’s signing the NAFTA in 1993 with bipartisan support. In 1993, my husband, a professional planner, and I were living in coastal Virginia where he remarked that we’d never live to see I-69’s completion.

    In 2010, my father in West KY at age 91 remarked that I’d never live to see I-69’s completion based upon his closely following the foot-draggers in and around Bloomington, IN, despite KY’s prior placement of I-69 signs along specific highways from the IN border to the TN border. My late husband was correct, and my late father was correct in his narrowing and identifying the small group of foot-draggers to global progress in the Bloomington area.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Remarks_on_the_Signing_of_NAFTA_(December_8,_1993)_Bill_Clinton.ogv

  37. BSH; I remember reading Daniels expressed the primary need for I 69 was to make the trip from Indianapolis to Evansville 20 minutes shorter. Why are they still arguing about exactly which route to take to complete it – wherever it ends up? Republicans are adept at uprooting people from homes, farms, businesses and paving over fields and greenways which help clean the air of pollution which big busineses here have just been given the green light to continue doing – full speed ahead. Between Daniels, Pence and Ballard; if they can’t sell it or lease it, they pave over it and give it a route number or stick another pro sports arena on it.

  38. JoAnn, the I-69 project as a NAFTA Superhighway was brought to the forefront very shortly after President Clinton’s signing NAFTA in 1993 with bipartisan support from Congress. As a NAFTA Superhighway I-69 is a direct trade route from Port Huron, MI on the Canadian border to Brownsville/Laredo, TX on the Mexican border. I-69 was never intended to become a Democrat or Republican talking point or litmus test; it was intended to open direct trade routes among 3 large countries including Canada, the US, and Mexico. Actually the first Governor of Indiana to chart the current 142-mile route from Indianapolis to the Kentucky border in Vanderburgh Co was Gov Frank O’Bannon in 2003. Gov O’Bannon selected a straight line between two points, always the shortest if you’re into geometry. At this point, there is a 45-mile interruption of I-69 in Indiana after all these years.

    This 45-mile interruption of a major Interstate Highway is located in an area between Crane Air Station and Bloomington and dumps all travelers, whether passenger cars or semi-trucks transporting freight to points far north of Indianapolis or far south of Indianapolis onto an extremely narrow curvy 2-lane road with no shoulders through a section of Indiana that appears more like a road scene from the old movie “Deliverance” than a road leading to or from the State’s largest research university, IU in Bloomington. This 45-mile stretch of narrow curvy road passes through no farmland. This 45-mile stretch of narrow road takes Interstate traffic through what most would describe as the backwoods, the hinterlands, a locale where one would not be surprised if stopping along the way to be approached by a snaggle-toothed man in bib overalls, carrying an old shotgun, and spitting tobacco juice as he says, “You ain’t from around these parts, are ya?”

  39. BHS; after reading through this description of NAFTA’s I 69 on Wikipedia, I understand why Indiana still doesn’t know where I 69 is going, I found the last paragraph particularly intesting. Under Bush, the USDOT, working with Daniels and continuing under Pence on these “Corridors of the Future” with now suspended funding fits with Earl Kennedy’s description of a road going nowhere. It only seems clear where it came from before it reached Indianapolis.

    Interstate 69 (I-69) is an Interstate Highway in the United States consisting of seven disjointed parts with an original continuous segment from Indianapolis, Indiana, northeast to the Canadian border in Port Huron, Michigan, at 355.8 miles (572.6 km). The remaining separated parts are variously completed and posted or unposted parts of a long-distance extension southwest to the Mexican border in Texas. Of this extension—nicknamed the NAFTA Superhighway because it would help trade with Canada and Mexico spurred by the North American Free Trade Agreement—five pieces near Corpus Christi, Houston, northwestern Mississippi, Memphis, and Evansville have been newly built or upgraded and signposted as I-69. A sixth segment of I-69 through Kentucky utilizing that state’s existing parkway system and a section of I-24, was established by federal legislation in 2008 but is not yet signposted. A section of the previously existing Western Kentucky Parkway from Eddyville to Nortonville was approved and signposted in late 2011.[2] This brings the total length to about 625 miles (1,006 km).

    The proposed extension evolved from the combination of Corridors 18 and 20 of the National Highway System as designated in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, but the federally recognized corridor also includes connecting and existing infrastructure, including I-94 between Chicago and Port Huron and several spurs from I-69. Among these proposed spurs are an extension of I-530 from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, an upgrade of U.S. Route 59 (US 59) from Texarkana, Texas, and a split in southern Texas to serve three border crossings at Laredo, Pharr, and Brownsville.

    In August 2007, I-69 was selected by the United States Department of Transportation as one of six Corridors of the Future, making it eligible for additional federal funding and streamlined planning and review. This funding has since been withheld causing some states to suspend construction indefinitely.[3]

  40. JoAnn, thanks for the ‘copy and paste’ from Wikipedia regarding I-69. I’m aware of all their entries; however, I’m more concerned why citizens insist upon finding a Democrat or a Republican slant or litmus test before discussing a trade route issue, NAFTA, that was passed in 1993.

    What do we gain by playing a game, “Now I’ve Got You…” straight from transactional analysis as outlined by Dr Eric Berne’s 1964 “Games People Play” after parsing through reams of old public information and ‘copying and pasting’ the information as if a great conspiracy was at last uncovered. By the way, following Berne’s antithesis to this particular game of “Now I’ve Got You…” is to acknowledge the structure of this game from the onset and to refuse to participate.

    The fact remains that the US agreed to NAFTA as one attempt to improve trade among our northern neighbor, Canada, and our southern neighbor, Mexico. NAFTA was not crafted to punish anyone, but rather to benefit the citizenry at large, you and I included among that group of US citizens.

  41. BSH; I 65 could have been designated one of the spurs as part of I 69 as was being done in other states on many interstate systems. The point was stressed that to get to Evansville, one had to take I 65 south then cut west to Evansville, taking 20 minutes longer, hence the “need” for another highway. Daniels had close connections to Bush; this was another case of follow the money; a new highway was not needed to continue I 69 into Kentucky and further south.

    I am not playing games or believing “now I’ve got you”, because I did some reasearch and copied and pasted the information I found. I am just pointing out that, here we are years later with no end insight and those “Corridors of the Future” are stuck in a time warp and going nowhere here, federal funds are no longer available and Indiana is still fighting over which direction to take I 69 to it’s completion. This state cannot resolve the pot hole situation on our highways; just last week my granddaughter’s fiance had a blowout when he hit a pothole on an interstate. I read Eric Berne, too, along with Alan Watts, Ayn Rand and that long list of authors of “here is the reason for your problems and the resolution is included in my book”. Problems and solutions in the 1960’s and 1970’s rarely fit todays issues; neither will they fit tomorrow’s problems. Those earlier decades were when the railroad system should have been maintained and improved to meet growing needs of travelers and transporting goods; instead it was allowed to stagnate to the condition Sheila and Bob were forced to deal with on their return trip from the west coast. Some of the same problems my friend dealt with about four years ago, also from San Francisco going east on Amtrack.

  42. BSH,

    Good comments on I-69. Sadly, the Bloomington Luddite, tree-spikers are opposed to all forms of progress and want to seal off Bloomington as a protected and inaccessible liberal enclave.

    With I-69 comes progress for Bloomington. Progress brings new economies and industries. New economies and industries aren’t necessarily overwhelmingly liberal, so the dominant liberal flavor of Bloomington becomes diluted.

    That’s how an Interstate became a political issue.

Comments are closed.