Sunday, March 15, 2009

All Aboard...

All Aboard…

The trainmaster calls out “All Aboard” and the people shuffle themselves and their belongings towards the gate like a content herd of cattle. After boarding the train at the King Street Station (Seattle), we find ourselves gliding along smooth tracks to Portland. The leather seats are inviting and apparently (if the gal snoring across from us is any indicator) comfortable enough for the 4 hour ride aboard Amtrak’s Cascader (wouldn’t an under 2 hour high speed line we wonderful?). After pulling through the industrial landscape from Seattle to Tacoma, the rail line takes a scenic burst along the Puget Sound. The clouds clear, the mountains appear and I begin to wonder what the phrase “All Aboard” means for our nation. Are we all on board? Has the POW V corridor been left behind?

For the past 25 years, our country has experienced great strides in ‘so-called’ economic expansion. Despite the recent recessions, our GDP and other economic indicators illustrate a nation living the good life. However, as we ‘peel the onion back’, we realize not everyone is ‘All Aboard’. Despite the harsh warning signs of the prior generation, we continued to build an economy driven by the oil of other nations and (increasingly) the muscle of other nation’s labor. With cheap oil/gas in our nation’s engine, we plowed forward building corporate profits by selling the goods ‘Made in China’. In turn, we now face immensely divided economic classes, a fragile economy (one spike in oil prices away from collapse) and an environment in peril. On both sides of the political aisle, we’ve built policy on the ‘sink or swim’ ideas. These flawed concepts have left the communities which once built our nation’s infrastructure as people/regions which ‘couldn’t make it’. Our heartland became more of a liability as we moved into the global ‘free-market’ economies. Areas throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia became second-thought on the political landscape as the unemployment rose, the ‘strong’ escaped, and the proud people suffered.

Economic booms and busts come in cycles, and there’s always going to be areas/people which benefit more/less from those movements. Our region has always played a key role in providing the foundation for our nation’s prosperity. We built (and served as the primary corridors of) the transportation lines of the 1800’s (original rail lines) and the 1900’s (interstate highways). We furnished the coal to burn and the steel to build the bones of a country. For the most part, we missed the call to transform our economy into the Information-Age and continued to grasp onto the jobs (which put food on our tables for the generations) like a fading dream. But, the next ‘age’ is upon us and has our names (all of our names) written all over it. The ‘green economy’ is plowing ahead with an agenda which will transform the jobs of the industrial age into those which will provide the same benefits (and more) but in a more responsible manner. This is why it’s so important we embrace a concept of ‘All Aboard’ rather than outsource the next cycle of development. The new leaders must boldly step forward and provide a platform for the U.S. to take a front role in this inevitable movement. We must innovate in ways which not only provide profits for the corporation’s short-term agendas but capture our communities’ welfare for generations to come. If not, not only will the poor and middle-class suffer, those at the top of the pyramid will continue to prosper on false realities.

Currently, we’re ‘only’ one voice in this movement however POW V High Speed Rail holds this concept as a driving principle. We believe without all of our neighbors “All Aboard”, any short-term gains will be fragile for all. We’re not advocates of hand-outs nor are the people of our region. We don’t need the flashy bling of Hollywood, the pressed suits of Wall St, but rather we want to build something. We want to be at ground zero of a strong and vibrant nation. You see, instead of needing our names in lights, we put our names on lunch pails. We’re people who want to provide for others and provide for our families in return, and hope it extends to our grandchildren. POW V believes bringing high speed rail to this region will facilitate our involvement in the ‘green economy’ and fuel the fires of innovation towards jobs within our borders.

All Aboard?!?

Place your name on the POW V lunch pail by joining our team at

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Community Action & High Speed Rail

The recent presidential election brought the concept of "Community Action Groups" to the forefront of driving democracy and providing solutions for the next generation. Although some ignorantly ridiculed the leadership and stature of a community organizer, the American people have awoken to the call to get involved and to take responsibility for the direction of our nation and the communities which comprise it. This is not a new concept however one which has been buried amongst the belief that government and corporations are the primary avenue to provide the infrastructure we depend on. But, there's a noticeable change in the air. One which has the youth ready to dedicate their time and energy to make things happen. And, while the shifting tides resides within the younger generation, it is carrying to all generations as contagious inspiration.

So, what does this mean for high speed rail? After all, trains are the product of large amounts of capital and resources requiring engineering expertise and government approval. Please welcome POWV High Speed Rail. In the mid-80's, POWV was born via the desire of a group of railroaders who fought for what they felt was right for their community and the nation their line was supporting. Other local parties joined the cause and together they found an avenue to protect the Panhandle line from removal. Although the plot details play out like a riveting novel, the basic story of this line being saved revolves around the group pledging to bring high speed rail to the line. Although there were hopes of actually bringing high speed rail to the tri-state (Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia) region, the primary intent of the pledge was capitalizing on the right of way's protection if such a pledge was made. Although they weren't able to save the freight running over these tracks, they had displayed an act of courage and won the battle. The following 20 years weren't so favorable for the region as they saw countless jobs shipped overseas and the people who served as the backbone of our nation's infrastructure soon felt the pain, and still do to this day.

Fast forward to today, POWV High Speed Rail is reemerging and embracing its position as a well-purposed community action group. An organization moving with direction to provide solutions for the people, and our collective nation. POWV is moving with a passionate pace to bring place the POWV Corridor into the current discussions for high speed rail. Anyone viewing the current FRA HSR Corridor Map can see the obvious disconnect in the proposed network. POWV's current mandate is to ensure those in the decision making positions see it, understand it, and connect it. Amidst the HSR discussions taking place across the country, POWV sees the monumental challenges in front of it. The other proposals come via State Transit Authorities, Multi-national corporations, and other large scale entities which are expected to be here and have the resources to move decisions. While this is reality, POWV has pledged to do what they feel is right for the broader community and are gaining steam with each person they bring on board. It will be, and has been, a trial by fire approach which is building momentum (along with setbacks) forward. It involves the courage of the people behind it who know what hard work is all about.

It's been nearly 25 years in the making however the time has come for POWV vision to come to fruition. Their intentions revolve around building the next generation economy for a region sitting at the heart of our nation. Their embracing their role as a community action group and energized by the resurgence of community involvement witnessed in recent times. It's time to make Ohio high speed rail, West Virginia high speed rail, and Pennsylvania high speed rail all a reality on a connected network via the POWV Corridor. It's time to put the people back in democracy, and drive a nation forward.