Ohio and Wisconsin Reject High-Speed Rail

The two state's incoming Republican governors, John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin both swore to oppose high-speed rail for their states.  Getting their wish, the $1.2 billion they had been promised is now being redistributed among the 13 other states with rail projects in the works.  This unfortunate news is however good news for the rest of the country.  Building high-speed lines in these states would eventually connect them to a larger network with Chicago as the Hub City.  Other connections would be from Milwaukee to Madison to Minneapolis/St. Paul which would then integrate to a whole Midwestern network of rail systems. Ohio would have built a $400 million route traveling diagonally across the state from cleveland, through Columbus, then on to Cincinnati.  There would however be no initial link to the Chicago hub which would include a link down to Kansas City and St. Louis or Western Pennsylvania, but that doesn't mean future links to the midwestern network were not planned.

High-Speed Rail in Japan

High-Speed Rail in Taiwan
Sources speculate that the new Republican governors were opposed to receiving the money mostly on an anti- Washington- spending basis, which was the central narrative of the midterm election.  This rebellion of course only hurt their states in the long run, leaving themselves less competitive and disconnected from large quantities of human capital set to drive the economies of the Midwestern Megaregion.

The money is now being redistributed to states that are willing to cooperate with Washington, and invest in their own infrastructure.  By rejecting the funds they have not removed any tax burden from their state.  The money promised was grant money not loan money so no matter what the outcome, it had to be spent.  In the long run this network will grow and grow connecting itself to the greater midwest, the Northeast corridor and southern regions.

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High-Speed Rail, Americas Next Frontier in Transportation

The Government and Amtrak are finally making moves to improve the nations fast growing transportation issues.  With the congested transportation network of the  growing Megaregion referred to as the North East Corridor, current systems can not handle the level of projected growth the region will experience over the next 20 years.  Intercity transportation is becoming an increasingly crucial factor in the economic growth and stability of cities far and between D.C and Baltimore.

In September Amtrak unveiled its $117 billion high-speed rail plan for the Northeast Corridor.  Last wednesday a panel began tallying up the potential economic benefit to the Philadelphia region.  Some areas will benefit tremendously such as Market East, with a new HSR terminal planned for east market street.  The terminal will jump start economic development along the corridor.  In the past, large influxes of cash, mostly federal dollars have spurred earlier development along the corridor like the Gallery, the present Market East Station, and the current expansion of the Convention Center.  High-Speed rail could be the massive capital event the city has been waiting for, providing an estimated $236 billion a year in economic benefits throughout the North East.  The speed of the proposed line is said to top out at 220 miles per hour, a huge improvement from current Acela speeds of 155 mph.  These top speeds will top similar lines over seas such as France (TGV), Japan (Shinkansen), Spain (AVE), and the Germany (ICE).  The improvement in service times could turn Philadelphia into a "super-bedroom community" for New York by essentially making a commute to the Big Apple take about the same time as a trip to Paoli, said John Connors, managing partner at Brickstone Realty in Philadelphia.

The line would enable Philadelphia businesses to attract employees living in Connecticut and entice New York- based companies to relocate back-office and operational divisions to Philadelphia.  Under the proposal, the section connecting New York to Philadelphia, which is expected to cost $20 billion, would be constructed first over a time span of 12 years beginning in 2015.  The eight car, 400 passenger train would first stop at 30th Street Station, then at the New Market East Station scheduled for a later phase of the project.  The next phase would extend service to Washington D.C. and later extend north to Boston.  The Boston to Washington corridor is set to be completed by the year 2040.

When all is said and done, travel times between Boston and Washington will be as low as 4 hours, Washington to New York 1:55, and New York to Boston 1:46.

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Frank Gehry Sculpts Philadelphia

Certainly not a typical project for Architect Frank Gehry, or what we would expect when we hear the name Frank Ghery, but indeed the Philadelphia Museum of Art's underground expansion project will be an exciting addition to the city of Brotherly Love.

Gehry joined more than 100 dignitaries, philanthropists and art aficionados last month at the 82-year-old neoclassical landmark to mark the start of construction of a 68,000 square-foot $81 million loading dock and art handling facility.  The relocation of the loading dock provides opportunities to re-open a majestic pedestrian entrance unknown and never seen since the 1970s by todays museum patrons.  Work on the loading dock should be completed in 2012.  Museum officials said the new space will provide much needed improvements for the care and storage of art works and will make deliveries simpler.

After completion of the loading dock, planning will begin on a vast underground gallery, also designed by Gehry.  Tons of dirt and rock will be excavated under the steps of the museum, creating cavernous spaces to showcase oversized contemporary works and Asian art as well as rotating exhibitions.  The project will add 80,000 square feet of gallery space to the museum.  Gehry acknowledged that the loading dock is utilitarian by necessity, but said the public won't be disappointed when the final phase that includes the gallery is complete.  The work marks the second phase of the museum's $500 million, 10-year master plan.

"When it's done, people coming to this museum will have an experience that's as big as Bilbao," Gehry told the Associated Press.  "It wont be apparent from the outside, but it will knock their socks off inside."

Mixed-Use Educational and Housing Facility in North Philadelphia

Philadelphia design firm WRT is designing a new mixed-use educational and residential facility in North Philadelphia for the organization Brighter Hope, a partnership of the Goldenberg Group and Bright Hope Baptist Church.  The project calls for the renovation of the former John Wanamaker Middle School for new Temple student housing and renovation of an existing gym and auditorium into a "green technologies center" and a charter school.

"The lively public realm and mix of users envisioned for this project take full advantage of its fortunate location between Temple University and the neighborhood, and between multiple regional rail lines and the Broad Street subway.  Creating a vibrant transit-oriented development at this significant town & gown location," said Antonio Fiol-Silva, a principal at WRT involved in the projects design.

The 4.5 acre site at 11th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue will contain housing for 2500 student residents.  Phase I of WRT's master plan calls for renovating the existing school for 600 beds in 180 units, as well as a new Green Construction Training Center and an Arts & Education Forum.  The project targets LEED Silver, maximizing the structures potential for adaptive re-use, and incorporating recycled content materials, energy efficient HVAC systems, and progressive storm water strategies.  Future phases include two new high-rise student residential structures, retail, a large open courtyard, and a structured parking facility.


Integrative Elementary School In Denmark

Danish architects BIG present an interesting take on sustainable design and building with nature.  Located in the Denmark city of Asminderod, the sloping roofs of the Vilhelmsro Elementary School blend with the sloping hillside to create one continuous experience both inside and out.  The sloping landscape bands allow sunlight to stream through all classrooms as well as providing several energy saving features such as storm water storage, and natural cooling techniques.
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