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Philly has 2,500 acres for urban farming, crop value of $10M-plus, says Green Space Alliance study

The Pennsylvania Convention Center Annex was filled with the redolent scents of artisanal cheese, creamy gelato, freshly-baked bread and biscotti, and premium steeped tea last Sunday. These scents formed the aromatic calling card for the Philly Farm and Food Fest, which was co-organized by Fair Food and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA). One of the highlights of the convention was a panel discussion on the Green Space Alliance’s recent study “Transforming open space to sustainable farm enterprises.”

The panel discussion started with an outline of Green Space Alliance’s (GSA’s) findings, which include recommendations on public outreach, zoning and planning, and urban areas. One of the chief findings is that GSA should extend an arm to local governments, land trusts, and conservancies to generate knowledge about sustainable farming. Under zoning, the study concludes that specific ordinance definitions should be drafted, says Justin Keller, an architect with Simone Collins Landscape Architecture, which prepared the study for GSA. 

Finally, the study advises that incentives be created for urban farms that bolster stormwater management through the elimination of impervious surfaces. It specifically pinpoints urban farms as sources of sorely-needed nourishment in food deserts and job creators in neighborhoods with rampant unemployment. GSA found that the city of Philadelphia has nearly 2,500 acres that can be used for farming, which could yield a crop value between $6.4 and $10.8 million, says Peter Simone, also an architect with Simone Collins.

After Simone Collins presented the study, three panelists offered conference-goers some feedback. Nic Esposito, who farms at East Kensington’s Emerald St. Urban Farm, is interested in the study’s examination of municipal land, as his farm is owned by three different city agencies. While the study looks at both CSAs and farms that donate food, Esposito makes sure to mention that Emerald St. donates all the food it generates from chickens and bees. He also adds that Councilwoman Sanchez and Councilman Green’s land bank resolution in City Council would be an asset for urban farming on vacant land.

Another panelist was Joan Blaustein, chair of the Philadelphia Food Policy Council and a director in the city’s department of Parks and Recreation. Blaustein, who grows food in her own backyard garden, emphasizes the practical nature of urban gardening. Urban gardens “should satisfy the social needs of people in the city,” says Blaustein. She proceeds to give the city a pat on the back for emphasizing urban farms in its Greenworks plan and mentioning it in its new zoning code

The third panelist was Fred DeLong, a project director at the Willistown Conservation Trust and Rushton Farm in Chester County. DeLong differs from the other panelists in that his farm certainly isn’t urban. Nonetheless, he has a similar goal to the study and his fellow panelists. “Willistown Conservation Trust wants to connect people to the land,” says DeLong. He adds that within the trust is the Rushton Farm, which is a natural community-supported agriculture (CSA) within an 80-acre nature preserve.   

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Sources: Justin Keller, Peter Simone, Nic Esposito, Joan Blaustein, and Fred DeLong, panelists at Philly Farm and Food Fest

Illustration courtesy of Philly Farm and Food Fest   

Not much snow, but a revived historic lodge at Montco's Spring Mountain

A half-century ago, Schwenksville was considered a destinations for vacationers from the Delaware Valley, along with the Jersey Shore and Poconos, thanks to Spring Mountain skiing and the Perkiomen Creek. Quite a bit has changed since then, as Schwenksville isn't exactly a household name any longer. However, Rick and Gayle Buckman, co-owners of Schwenksville's Spring Mountain ski resort, are hoping to revive the area's appeal to visitors. To do this, they recently renovated and re-opened the historic Woodside Lodge, formerly known as the Woodside Inn and Woodside Manor. 

The Woodside Lodge began accepting visitors again at the end of January. According to Gayle Buckman, the inn features mostly two-room suites with fireplaces. The Buckmans are clearly proud of their lodge's legacy, which dates to 1923. In the midst of the $1.5 million renovation, "we were able to uncover some of the historical elements,” says Gayle Buckman. This includes the building's porches, which, with the exception of one, were opened up like they were decades ago. Buckman is also proud that she was able to preserve the inn's original staircase, although it had to be enclosed due to the fire code.

Spring Mountain was also able to maintain most of the wooden floors on the first level of the lodge. The Buckmans added transoms, which are wooden crosspieces separating doors from windows above them, to add to the historic mystique of the lodge. After all, transoms were prevalent before air conditioning was commonly used because they facilitated cross ventilation. For those of you visiting Spring Mountain during the summer, there's no need to fret, as the lodge is air-conditioned. 

The Buckmans believe the re-opening of Woodside means great things are in store for Spring Mountain. The lodge makes the mountain "a destination,” points out Gayle Buckman. During the winter (assuming it's cold enough), visitors can enjoy a day crammed with skiing and a night relaxing at the Woodside. During the summer, tourists can take advantage of the mountain's one-of-a-kind zip-line canopy, which Buckman says attracts people from across the country, and retire to the inn. The inn is also convenient to the Perkiomen Trail, which is popular among bicyclists.

The lodge also features the Buckman Tavern, whose chef Michael Kenney has experience as Will Smith's personal chef and as a cook at the Four Seasons Hotel. Currently, the tavern is open for dinner, and serves American comfort food. Entree prices range from $15 to $26. Along with entrees, the tavern serves soup, salads, "starters,” and sandwiches. It is generally open between 4:30 and 9 p.m., with later hours on Thursdays and weekends. Kenney also prepares breakfast for overnight guests. 

Woodside's re-opening open house in late January proved to be a big hit. Gayle Buckman says between 800 and 1,000 people showed up to christen the historic lodge. Among them were the grandson of the original architect and the co-owner of the Woodside in the 1940s, the latter of which is now in her late 90s. Needless to say, there were plenty of pictures of the inn and manor from when Schwenksville enjoyed its heyday. With the lodge re-opened, the Buckmans hope for similar pictures in the future.  

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Sources: Gayle and Rick Buckman

Popular suburban orchard proves that mini golf and science go together like apples and apples

Now that it's finally turned cold, are you desperately searching for something fun to do? If you are, you might want to think about a round of miniature golf.

That's right, Linvilla Orchards now offers indoor miniature golf. Yet, Delaware County's newest mini golf course is about so much more than hitting a ball into a hole, as Linvilla worked with the Academy of Natural Sciences to turn every hole into a lesson about the environment around us.

Linvilla's course, called Fore! The Planet, stands out for its scientific theme. This means every one of the course's 19 holes conveys a lesson about the Earth's environment and the organisms that inhabit it. Think of each hole as a textbook, with the golf club serving as a bookmark. The ball, on the other hand, represents different things depending on the hole. The layout includes a hole where the ball is a bat following sonar, a hole about landfills where the ball is supposed to be garbage, and a hole about water pollution with water traps denoting brackish water.

Rob Ferber, the senior manager at the orchards, enjoys hole No. 8 the most. This hole is "Predator and Prey,” where the ball is a rolling metaphor for a fly trying to elude its predators and find a safe place to lay eggs. Ferber is amused at this hole's sound effects. He's quick to point out that one of the fly's predators, the frog, has a decoy hole that spits the ball out and makes a frog noise. To Ferber, the course consists of "museum exhibits" that are reflective of Linvilla's work with the Academy of Natural Sciences. 

This course is also unique because it's one of only two public mini golf courses in Delaware County. It's also one of only a few indoor mini golf courses in the Philadelphia area. It represents a fresh idea and a fresh partnership for what many consider to be the Delaware Valley's most famous orchard. Linvilla has been known for its apple, pumpkin, and Christmas tree picking for decades, but never for golf. It's also emblematic of a new collaboration between the orchard and the Academy of Natural Sciences, which also has no prior experience with mini golf. 

Fore! The Planet, opened the day after Christmas, and has proven very popular. "It's been a big hit, especially the first week when kids were out of school,” confirms Ferber. He adds that Fore! has proven popular with adults as well, probably elated to see a miniature golf course open during the winter. Ferber makes sure to add that some of these adults take their golf quite seriously, as they have come bearing their own clubs.

Source: Rob Ferber
Writer: Andy Sharpe

SEPTA's bus fleet to become more eco-friendly thanks to two grants

Despite a budget shortfall, SEPTA will be able to resume purchasing hybrid diesel-electric buses thanks to two grants from the US Department of Transportation. For the first time ever, SEPTA will purchase hybrid 60-foot accordion buses, which are the longest buses in the system. SEPTA’s current assortment of hybrid buses is about 30 percent more fuel efficient than equivalent clean diesel buses.

SEPTA is the beneficiary of $15 million in federal funds to cover the difference in cost between hybrid and clean diesel 60-foot buses. Luther Diggs, who’s in charge of operations at SEPTA, says it will stretch out the acquisition of these longer buses over four years, with the first year’s purchase entirely hybrid. Over the four years, SEPTA will be replacing 155 longer buses, with an option for 65 more. The percent of these that are hybrid will depend on how much more grant money becomes available. 

This opens the possibility that additional bus routes might see these longer buses. "We have some additional need for 60-foot buses," confirms Diggs. He suggests that the Route 47 bus, which was the subject of the failed skip-stop pilot and more successful attempts to speed it up, might end up seeing longer buses. Also, he hints that the extremely well-traveled Route 17 bus, which runs up and down 19th and 20th Sts. in South Philadelphia and across Center City, might be another new candidate for the 60-footers.

Shortly after the $15 million grant was announced, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced another grant of $5 million to pay for additional hybrid 40-foot buses, the most prevalent of SEPTA's fleet. This is welcome news for many local environmentalists, who earlier this year were dismayed to hear that funding difficulties meant SEPTA would cease acquiring standard-size hybrid buses. According to Diggs, SEPTA will resume purchasing these hybrid buses in 2013, and only purchase hybrid 40-foot buses in 2014. 

Diggs is convinced that hybrid buses represent the most financially sensible way for SEPTA to green its bus fleet. Diggs says SEPTA did examine running buses using compressed natural gas (CNG) in the mid-1990s. However, hybrid buses were ruled more effective than their CNG counterparts because of "infrastructure, residential neighborhoods, and cost," says Diggs. While some transit agencies in California and Texas use CNG, there are legitimate concerns about the cost of putting in CNG infrastructure and the health risks associated with natural gas.  

Source: Luther Diggs, SEPTA
Writer: Andy Sharpe 

A new way to charge at King of Prussia Mall (your electric car, that is)

Shop-a-holics with finer tastes are used to extravagant unveilings of new products or fashions at the King of Prussia Mall in Montgomery County. On Friday, the largest shopping mall on the East Coast hosted a different kind of unveiling.

Local politicians and mall officials were on hand at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for four new electric vehicle charging stations at the mall. The stations will allow drivers to simply pull up and plug in. Charging will be free during an introductory period, and prices will be established by 350Green, the EV charging service provider working with the mall. Starting  this month, mall shoppers will have access to a pair of Level 2 chargers at 208/420 volts (standard for all electric cars) located in front of Nordstrom in the upper level parking deck. Two more units are slated for installation on the upper level deck of the court near Bloomingdale's.

The self-serve stations, partially funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, are able to "top off" or "partially charge" an electric vehicle in anywhere from one to two hours. Electric cars are nothing new to King of Prussia Mall. The mall's public safety team uses an electric Gem Car, which operates on a 72-volt battery system.

More than a dozen new plug-in electric car models are expected to arrive on the market by next year, fueled in part by President Obama's goal to have one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

Source: King of Prussia Mall
Writer: Joe Petrucci

Northern Delaware burger icon expanding all over Philadelphia area

If you're jonesing for a hamburger, you may soon have a new fix nearby. Jake's Wayback Burgers, which started in 1991 as a few ultra-popular burger shacks in Northern Delaware, recently opened locations in Delaware, Chester, and Montgomery Counties, and plans to open its first location in Philadelphia soon.

These locations include Northeast Philadelphia, West Chester, and Chadds Ford. Northeast Philadelphia will be the business' first foray into the city, and will be located at Welsh Rd. and Roosevelt Boulevard. According to Jake's the target opening for the Northeast location will be in two to three weeks.

Jake's Burgers has been a staple in New Castle County, Delaware, consistently garnering local awards. As Gillian Maffeo, the marketing director at Jake's, puts it, the restaurant has a "cult following" in the First State. The original location in Newark hasn't changed very much, as it still has just four tables inside, picnic tables outside, and the original hand-made burgers and milkshakes. These burgers and milkshakes have attracted the accolades of Delawareans, as they have repeatedly been voted the "best burger" and  "best milkshake" in the state by Delaware Today and Delaware News Journal readers. This is despite stiff competition from another old-fashioned burger joint, The Charcoal Pit.  

The restaurant is currently flipping burgers in Wayne, Willow Grove, Springfield (Delaware County), Exton, Kennett Square, and Pottstown. Some of these locations have only been open a few months, while others have been open for a couple of years. With this in mind, there are a number of locations that will be opening in the coming months.

Maffeo is most enthusiastic about the role Jake's plays in the surrounding communities. Individual restaurants do everything from "fundraising events to cancer and diabetes walks," said Maffeo. The marketing director added that some Jake's locations will be serving turkey burger dinners at local homeless shelters for Thanksgiving. She was also especially proud of the diabetes walk that employees at the Exton location participated in.

To emphasize the popularity of Jake's burgers and milkshakes, the restaurant has begun to feature a "burger of the month" and a "milkshake of the month." While hamburgers and milkshakes will always be Jake's most notable offerings, the restaurant has expanded its menu beyond just those. The burger joint now sells all-beef hotdogs, turkey burgers, various sandwiches, and salads.

Source: Gillian Maffeo, Jake's Wayback Burgers
Writer: Andy Sharpe

SEPTA prepares for vote on new way to pay on Regional Rail

At a press conference this past week, SEPTA announced that its Board will be voting on an ambitious plan to modernize the Regional Rail fare structure in September or October. This comes after the Regional Rail Fare Policy Advisory Group, which consisted of 14 suburban and urban transportation planners and transit activists and had been meeting since May, released a report concerning SEPTA’s New Payment Technologies proposal.

However, before the Board votes on reforming Regional Rail payment, SEPTA wants more input from riders. To this end, SEPTA has placed a brief survey soliciting opinions about New Payment Technologies on its website. The authority has also promoted the survey in stations and vehicles. John McGee, SEPTA’s chief officer of New Payment Technologies, is eager to see rail riders participate in the survey. This survey "really impacts what we’re doing," said McGee. "It will help us lay out the foundation of a gated railroad system."

For Regional Rail riders, conductors, and engineers, the installation of turnstiles in the five designated Center City stations, which are Temple University, Market East, Suburban, 30th Street, and University City Stations, may be the most noticeable proposed change.

Because of this, the addition of turnstiles is also proving controversial.

"Turnstiles are both a physical and psychological barrier to riding the train," said Matt Mitchell, a director at the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers (DVARP) and a vocal member of the advisory group. "They slow down people as they’re rushing to catch the train." Yet, SEPTA remains eager to install turnstiles and gates. "We’ll buy gates soon after the Board vote in September or October," pointed out McGee.

Another notable aspect of New Payment Technology concerning Regional Rail is that, if approved by the SEPTA Board, riders to some stations closer to Center City will have to pay for traveling further, and then collect a refund when they disembark the train. McGee looked to brush off skepticism about this for riders paying with credit or debit cards. "The refund will be instantaneous for contactless credit and debit card users," reassured McGee.

It is important to add that many of these proposed changes are still at least a couple of years away. Also, some of the changes are not even etched in marble yet. "We’re still open," said McGee. "That's why we’re asking for wider input."

This means that debates over whether fares will be collected in one or both directions and what to do about paying with cash and transferring vehicles are not over. 

Source: John McGee, SEPTA
Writer: Andy Sharpe

How Brandywine Realty Trust is exceeding profit forecasts while others struggle

Despite the poor economic climate for development, Radnor-based Brandywine Realty Trust continues to exceed profit forecasts. This has been evidenced through out 2011, and has been true in the Delaware Valley and across the country. In fact, Brandywine has been able to execute almost 2.5 million square feet of leases through June of this year. As a result, "all operating and financial metrics equaled or exceeded our business plan targets," says Gerard Sweeney, President and CEO of Brandywine.

One major reason for Brandywine Realty's success in attaining leases can be found in Center City. This is where the realty titan inked a long-term lease with Janney Montgomery Scott at Three Logan Square, located on the 1700 block of Arch St. Brandywine "executed a 146,321 square foot, 15-year lease with Janney Montgomery Scott LLC at Three Logan Square," says Sweeney.

While Brandywine expanded its leased space in Center City, it also sold unloaded property in South Jersey. "During the second quarter of 2011, we completed the sale of Three Greentree Center, a 13.9-percent occupied 69,300 square foot office building in Marlton, NJ," says the CEO. The company was able to use considerable profits made on this sale to reduce their credit balance.

Brandywine Realty Trust is one of the largest comprehensive real estate companies in the country. It has properties in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Texas, California, and elsewhere. They are well known for sustainable building practices, as many of their buildings nationwide are either LEED or Energy Star certified.

Brandywine's success shows that developers can still meet profit forecasts, even with the present economic uncertainty. Judging from Brandywine, sustainability seems to be one key to succeeding in leased properties. Another key seems to be the ability to know when to sell unprofitable properties.

Source: Gerard Sweeney, Brandywine Realty Trust
Writer: Andy Sharpe  

Pennsylvania Department of General Services greenlights Graterford Prison project

Built in 1929, Skippack's Graterford State Prison has housed hundreds of thousands of inmates. And like many prisoners past and present at this maximum security facility, the proposal to rebuild Graterford to its former glory looked like it might be locked up in litigation or even facing a death sentence as recently as last week. After entering bids for the $365 million project, a group of builders successfully sued the state Department of General Services on Sept. 1, alleging that the Department violated state law by limiting the number of construction companies considered. But this week, after nearly a year of court battles, the Department selected Walsh Construction and Heery International as principal builders, keeping the tentative opening date of March 2014.

"The need for the prison was based on inmate population exceeding available capacity, as determined by the State Department of Corrections," says PA Department of General Services Secretary Elizabeth O'Reilly. "This is not a recent development. It has been going on for at least several years."

The Graterford project is part of a state-wide initiative to add 9,000 beds to the overcrowded state prison system. The Walsh/Heery proposal calls for a maximum security ward, as well as a smaller, medium-security facility, with a total capacity of just over 4,000 male inmates. If successful, Graterford will become Pennsylvania's first LEED-certified prison, utilizing storm water runoff and local, low-impact materials.  

"It is a prison so there can't be many design initiatives but it will be a LEED-certified prison, which is not typical, especially in the commonwealth," says O'Reilly. "It's pretty exciting."

Source: Elizabeth O'Reilly, PA Department of General Services
Writer: John Steele

A video survey draws attention to repairing Rt. 422, explores tolling possibilities

In the past decade, traffic on US Route 422 has increased by 50 percent. The highway spur that connects Hershey to King of Prussia has seen many efforts to reduce traffic--from narrowing lanes to adding a third lane in some sections--go nowhere. After publishing a master plan for 422, which included an extension to SEPTA's R6 as well as several roadway improvements, municipalities were stuck on the issue of tolling, a measure many municipalities originally opposed.

To explore the tolling possibility, a group of local and regional government agencies created the 422plus Project, an outreach campaign to create awareness and get public reaction. For their latest effort, project officials tapped former Fox 29 features reporter Gerald Kolpan to create a video survey gauging public reaction to tolling and the proposed 422 improvements.

"When people hear the word 'toll' they are generally upset and don't want to pay it," says Kolpan. "But one of the things we found out was that, if you ask the question correctly, people really weren't averse to paying. If the money that is raised on 422 stays on 422 and doesn't end up in some project in Western Pennsylvania, Harrisburg or Washington, only one person we talked to said they would be opposed."

Talking with business leaders and everyday drivers, Kolpan gets a man-on-the-street view of everything from traffic to tolls. Beyond where the money is going, Kolpan says, citizens worry that toll booths will further congest traffic and prefer some sort of automatic system, like high-speed EZ-Pass transponders for all drivers. The video survey and the 422plus Project's other efforts will culminate in a final report on the pros and cons of tolling, which will be released in 2011.

"One of the biggest problems that people have is that they don't have any alternative to driving, unless you want to take a horse or a bicycle," says Kolpan. "Fixing 422 is very important to them and they are waiting to see what the findings are."

Source: Gerald Kolpan, 422plus Project
Writer: John Steele

Three Brandywine Realty Trust properties receive EPA EnergyStar Certification

These days, sustainability is everywhere, and no one understands that reality more than Brandywine Realty Trust's Executive Vice President and General Counsel Brad Molotsky. Charged with keeping Brandywine's assets green, Molotsky's current specialty may not have existed 10 years ago. Today, some buyers are attracted to certifications like LEED and EnergyStar as a way to save energy, making sustainability efforts a priority. Brandywine has gone from four EnergyStar Certified properties in 1999 to 29 today. This week, the Radnor firm added three more to that list, receiving the EPA's top certification for ts 401 Plymouth Road, Plymouth Meeting; 5 Eves Drive, Marlton, NJ; and its 3 Barton Skyway, Austin, TX projects. 

"There is a lot of good data that the EPA publishes to suggest that if your building is EnergyStar Certified, it will consume 35 percent less energy, which is significant," says Molotsky. "Are people paying attention to this? Not yet but I think the brokerage community is coming around to this, and tenants are getting smarter about it."

As certain municipalities begin to mandate publication of sustainability information, Molotsky says, certifications like EnergyStar will become increasingly valuable as the U.S. moves toward more sustainable building assets.

"You are going to see this in New York, for instance, this January where every building over 50,000 square feet will be required to measure and publish their EnergyStar score," says Molotsky. "What's that going to do? All these buildings will be measured against each other, creating a natural competition and people will start paying attention."

Source: Brad Molotsky, Brandywine Realty Trust
Writer: John Steele

SEPTA receives $6.4M in federal grants to develop transit asset management system

Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey announced last Tuesday that Pennsylvania would receive $47 million in federal transit and infrastructure grants as part of the Federal Transit Administration's State of Good Repair program. As SEPTA updated its hybrid bus fleet two years ago, the lion's share of the funding went to Pittsburgh's Allegheny County Port Authority for a clean diesel fleet of their own. But SEPTA didn't come away empty handed, receiving $8.1 million for two infrastructure improvements a long time coming.

The first grant will revamp SEPTA's Parkside Bus Loop, helping reconnect this West Philly neighborhood. But the second, more universal improvement will aid in future upgrades. Using $6.4 million, SEPTA will install an asset management system to aid in record-keeping as many of Philadelphia's transit assets come up for repairs.

"A lot of our infrastructure dates back to the early 1900's and were taken over from other private companies," says SEPTA CFO Richard Burnfield. "What the FTA was trying to focus on is knowing what you have out there in the field before you can make an assessment as to what your overall needs are, coming up with a plan for when things should be replaced."

The system will help SEPTA keep better records so when funding is available, the authority can make a more organized, more compelling case for further federal dollars as the fleet is upgraded.

"Right now, we do a very good job of managing our assets so while the records are not as computerized as we'd like them to be, we have so much knowledge within our engineering staff that I feel we make excellent decisions," says Burnfield. "But I think this will help us going forward so we can do a second check on things as our staff reaches retirement."

Source: Richard Burnfield, SEPTA
Writer: John Steele

Subject of a popular blog, green building project 60 Bragg Hill finally underway in Chester County

When it comes to sharing experiences, Barney Leonard just can't help himself. As a veteran of corporate communications, Leonard has spent his career blogging and filming for profit. After five years searching for a home in Chester County, Leonard and his wife stumbled on a piece of land with views of the Brandywine River, nestled in the wooded seclusion of Pocopson Township near Chadds Ford. They decided to build their dream home and they decided to build it green. Leonard began chronicling the experience on a blog, 60BraggHill.com, named for the lot, in order to make some extra revenue and gain community support. This week, after three years of well-documented battles with state and federal regulators and Mother Nature herself, construction began on 60 Bragg Hill, the most sustainable property in Chester County.

"We decided that, not that we are tree huggers, but if you are going to start from scratch, why not be smart and use green building techniques," says Leonard. "What we didn't realize is how difficult that would be to do. We just broke ground but it took a long, long time."

As his project ran into several roadblocks, the blog became increasingly dramatic, gaining hundreds of weekly readers. For one thing, the wood from their property had been pillaged by loggers, leaving only stumps and remnants that had to be collected for construction. The property nudged up against the natural habitat of the endangered Bog Turtle, living in nearby wetlands. It wasn't easy being green, especially with an audience. But eventually, local construction companies began helping out, hoping to show off their sustainable abilities, and community support kept pressure on the powers-that-be. Today, Leonard firmly believes that without the blog, he never would have gotten this far.

"I will say this: the government agencies who issue permits and environmental groups who provide clearances for land disturbance tend to be highly conservative and overly cautious because these issues are new," says Leonard. "I want to go through this so maybe it will be a little bit easier for the next guy."

Source: Barney Leonard, 60BraggHill.com
Writer: John Steele

Amtrak stops at 30th Street Station to announce high-speed rail plan

In science fiction novels and books about the future, a few technologies are boilerplate: flying cars, meals in pill form and the ability to teleport instantly from place to place. National commuter rail company Amtrak took another step toward teleportation on Tuesday with its announcement of a high-speed rail vision plan. In Tuesday's news conference from University City's 30th Street Station, with Governor Ed Rendell on hand, Amtrak officials laid out their goal to create a line with average speeds well over 130 mph, saving passengers between one and two hours on average.

"Amtrak is putting forward a bold vision of a realistic and attainable future that can revolutionize transportation, travel patterns and economic development in the Northeast for generations," says Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman.

The plan, entitled A Vision for High-Speed Rail in the Northeast Corridor, proposes a full build-out to be completed by 2040. Its construction, Amtrak says, would create more than 40,000 full-time jobs annually over a 25-year period, building new track, tunnels, bridges, stations, and other infrastructure. Predictably, the cost for such a project is high, $4.7 billion annually over 25 years. But Amtrak's feasibility studies peg the Northeast as a "mega-region" capable of drawing the type of rail traffic to make such an investment profitable. And with some premier legislative voices like New Jersey's Frank Lautenberg and Massachusetts' John Kerry already voicing their support, we may be teleporting out of 30th Street Station sooner than we think.

"Amtrak's High Speed Rail plan will create jobs, cut pollution and help us move towards a modern and reliable transportation system network in the Northeast," said Kerry in a recent statement. "As countries around the world continue to build out their transportation systems, we
cannot afford to fall further behind. This is an important down payment on the massive commitment necessary to bridge our infrastructure gap." 

Source: Joseph Boardman, Amtrak
Writer: John Steele

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