Doug Gooch, proposed developer of the Bridge Street to Redstone Arsenal Light Rail system, responded to my criticism of his proposal here. I’ve bumped his comments to a post because: a) IMO this is an important issue; b) as a transit user (where appropriate) and fan I like this topic; and c) IMO Gooch deserves the space since he took the time to reply. Here are his comments:
Thank you for kindly posting our proposal for public review. We actually have an updated more detailed version with additional team members you will be equally impressed with. We would be happy to share it with you. (edit email adress)
For the record I am a life long, moderate, Republican.
After leaving the University of Kansas in 1979 I moved to a small to mid sized Central Florida town, Orlando. My career in Architecture and Construction began in 1980 and spanned the next fifteen years involving hospital, municipal, theme park and corrections design. Three rail proposals came and went during that time. High Speed bullet trains to connect Orlando/Tampa/Miami, low speed commuter rail systems, all failing due to right of way issues = expense.
I watched as Orlando made all the classic mistakes of growth management. Urban sprawl on their scale took up three counties; Orange/Osceola/Seminole.
Buildings and housing development occupied land that should have been set aside for transit needs. It wasn’t and today I-4 and a myriad of toll roads offer residents the only alternatives to move within their road system.
May I take this opportunity to respond to your dismissive remarks and clarify our altruistic approach to a long range need for planning for our community’s future. My family go back several generations in North Alabama. My mom is a Schrimsher and my dad is from Florence. My great grandmother Schrimsher was a chamber maid at the Montesano Hotel. This is home now and my prayer is that we don’t let happen to Huntsville what has happened to so many towns who experience “rapid” growth. (See I didn’t use exponential)
If you will allow me we will follow your comments as an outline.
To suggest if any city in America were to bring online in a very short period of time (ten years)over FOUR MILLION square feet of adjacent office space as an inappropriate use of the term “exponential” then I want to be a contractor in your world.
You are correct my family are the previous owners of the Sister Gooch restaurant in Madison. Since you feel that is important to include in your comments you might like to also know that prior to 9/11 we enjoyed a very successful business, with many of our customers coming from Redstone. Post 9/11 we went from 300 lunch customers a day to less than 100 overnight. Their response: “We can get off post to go to lunch but can’t get back on in time”. I know very personally the cost to business when security changed at Redstone.
Rather’s quote aside, American’s don’t like to wait for anything. Note the arrival of the phrase “Road Rage” to our lexicon. Is that not the virtue of the blog, instant response to an idea or comment?
The chances of powering 100% of this system with solar are almost as good as receiving a well researched and thoughtful response in the world of internet chat. By design this forum provides instantaneous response.
We realize the major role TVA does play and will play in this technology. Our neighbors(literally)at NASA have a lot of smart folks who have led the field in research involving solar. Makes sense we invite them to participate since one of the proposed stops is at Marshall.
The Chamber found 22% of the workforce in Madison County lives outside the county. The bulk of that number enter from west of town. These folks come from Decatur, Athens, Hartselle, Cullman and many from as far as Tennessee. Granted 53 and 72 carry many of those commuters into our system, but a large group use 565 as their point of entry to get to work.
Our suggested means of moving cars off the road is to use proven “speed pass” payment systems(try driving the Florida toll systems without one)to enable drivers to be routed off 565 prior to entering the primary road systems of the Central Business District (CBD)to park and ride into a central station. Upon arrival at the Central Station riding an escalator up to a second story Security Portal, where with the proper badge you may take a secure train car to Marshall, Von Braun 3,2,1 and Sparkman Center while reading the paper, working on your PC or Blackberry, sharing a conversation or just enjoying the fact that you don’t have to drive.
You have the proposal, look at the Google image of cow pastures along the route onto Redstone. The first leg anticipates reusing(read cost savings & Green) a heavy rail track that was created in the 40’s to deliver the materials needed to build the original Redstone.
History repeats itself. The east/west route follows parallel to Martin Road on the north of current and future development. Some reuse of rail may also be possible along this leg as well. An elevated leg would be anticipated over Rideout at the point the train heads east to access Marshall. One of the advantages to the system is crossings can occur within existing road designs.
The Redstone train is operated in a SECURE environment. Unfortunately given the world we live in an event could occur requiring major security restrictions. This is not a question of if but when. How do we get the 46,000 cars going on Restone today to their desks when the gates are all but closed to limited personnel? Buses? That’s alot of buses and from where? Telecommute? To a point but chances are alot of folks are going to be scrambled due to the event and will be mission critical to our response.
Now due to a Pro Rail administration many funding sources are available which previously did not exist or were not a funding priority. Our schedule was very aggressive at best. Were this a purely government run project there is little if any hope of making timely decisions. If we faced multiple property owners as Birmingham and others faced this would be a twenty year plan. We don’t.
Funding priority and access to alternative funding mechanisms may also come as a result of Security and infrastructure needs of BRAC.
Charlotte most closely resembles our community when looking at other cities with Light Rail systems. Their income and educational statistics closely resemble ours. They too have high concentrations of educated, well traveled citizens like that of greater Huntsville.
I would offer you visit http://www.glatting.com to see the Light Rail experience of our lead transportation consultant, Glatting Jackson Kercher Anglin. Charlotte is but one of their many projects.
We welcome your comments, ideas and yes,criticism. All of us are alot smarter than any one of us… if I knew who said it I’d give them credit.
I sincerely appreciate and welcome comments and realize this is a major undertaking not to be taken lightly. We see this as an opportunity to countless numbers of firms needing work in tough times and each element represents a project within itself.
I would hope that respondents would keep an open mind and not be to quick to judge.
Thank you for your indulgence.
I stand by my criticisms: “…the plan – my first impression is what a load of BS”. Perhaps a better, less dismissive term would be oversold: the plan was unrealistic as written (solar power – Gooch moderates that issue in his response), security cost savings aren’t likely, and the proposed schedule was ridiculously aggressive. Plus IMO the system would be very costly (my guess is about $250 million to build – who knows how much to operate) - show me how I’m wrong.
I also stand by my opinion that I like the idea of planning for a transit rail system in Huntsville and that the base security aspect of the proposal has merit. Plus the team that Gooch proposes is “impressive”.
It’s good to see that Gooch plans to elevate the rail system where it crosses Rideout road. It’s also good to see that the ‘solar’ stuff seems to have been mostly fluff. I can see using solar where appropriate at stations but as far as I know solar power doesn’t make trains go.
About the restaurant – I included the reference to Sister Gooch in order to provide some background on Gooch. I know many people who miss the restaurant.
Gooch also offered a copy of his revised proposal and we’ll make it available ASAP.