Mpls.-to-Duluth rail price tag climbs to $1 billion

From Strib: Mpls.-to-Duluth rail price tag climbs to $1 billion Calling at Coon-Rapids/Foley, Cambridge, Hinckley, Sandstone, and Superior. A maximum speed of 110 mph.

By PAUL LEVY, Star Tribune
Last update: November 29, 2009 – 10:48 PM
The cost of the proposed high-speed Northern Lights Express rail line from Minneapolis to Duluth has gone up — way up — to nearly $1 billion, according to state officials.
Even the more conservative estimate of $615 million recently advanced by supporters of the rail line is nearly double last year’s $360 million price tag.

Road deaths cost world economy $540b

From Australia’s ABC Road deaths cost world economy $540b

Road deaths cost world economy $540b
By Moscow Correspondent Scott Bevan
Posted 1 hour 28 minutes ago
Government ministers and traffic safety campaigners from around the world are meeting in Moscow in a bid to reduce the global annual road toll.
It is estimated 1.3 million people die on the world’s roads each year.
So far this year there have been 168,000 traffic accidents in Russia alone, killing 21,300 people and injuring 212,500.
The meeting has been billed as the first global ministerial summit on road safety, prompted by the enormous impact crashes have on lives and economies around the world.
Russian president Dmitry Medvedev says road crashes drain the global economy of $US500 billion ($540 billion) a year.
As well as sharing information, summit participants are expected to sign a declaration calling for a decade of action for road safety.
Australia’s Federal Department of Transport delegate Joe Motha says the declaration could help focus efforts and coordinate know-how to tackle the problem.
“It’s not an issue that’s a knowledge issue, it’s more an issue of implementing what’s already known,” he said.
Campaigners from the Commission for Global Road Safety estimate a decade of action could save five million lives.
Tags: disasters-and-accidents, accidents, road-accidents, safety, russian-federation

One of the interesting aspects of this came up in CE5212 class on Wednesday, which is insurance. Traffic crash damage (including both bodily damage and property damage) costs are borne by the victims, and, in the US, a multitude of insurance companies, but traffic crash prevention are borne by the road agency.
No single individual or insurance company has the incentive to improve road safety. I cannot personally spend money to improve a road which is only one of many I travel on, and an insurance company will not do that if they only get a fraction of the benefits (safety improvements for their customers).
However, it is clear, society would benefit from improvement in road safety. How to align interests. A solution comes from Australia itself (home to this article), wherein the Transport Accident Commission is the statutory insurer of third party liability in Victoria, Australia. That is, Australia has socialized car insurance, and has since at least 1986.
The question is, are Australia’s Roads safer? Evidence would seem to suggest yes. A study by the World Health Organization, now in Google Books (World report on road traffic injury prevention By M. M. Peden, World Health Organization) (Figure 2.4)
shows that while the Australia and US traffic fatalities per 100,000 population were quite simlar through the 1980s, since 1986, Australia’s rate has declined faster than the US, to the point that Australia’s rate is less than 2/3 of the US rate. In other words, if the US progressed as much as Australia, last year’s US death toll on the roads would be less than 25,000 instead of 37,261 (US number for 2008), ( source). Commercial vs. state auto insurance may not be the only difference, but it is an important one.

Nissan’s Electric Leaf Spreads the EV Gospel

From Autopia Nissan’s Electric Leaf Spreads the EV Gospel

… You’ll own the car. Nissan will own the battery.
Ghosn said leasing batteries — which Nissan will produce through a joint venture with NEC — provides several benefits. First and foremost, it keeps the cost of the car reasonable. Although automakers don’t discuss what their batteries cost, they are widely believed to run $500 to $1,000 per kilowatt-hour. The Leaf sports a 24 kilowatt-hour lithium manganese battery.
By retaining ownership of the battery, Nissan also can update them as technology advances so consumers aren’t left with “last year’s model.” And though Ghosn didn’t mention it, leasing provides Nissan with some cover should the battery wear out prematurely because it can just replace the pack.

Ghosn didn’t say what the lease might cost but said Nissan is confident the cost of the lease, plus the money you’ll pay for electricity, will for most consumers be no more expensive than buying gasoline. When we drove a Leaf development prototype in April, a company exec said the cost per mile is 4 cents if you figure gas is four bucks a gallon, electricity is 14 cents a kilowatt hour and you drive 15,000 miles a year. Nissan said at the time the car would cost about 90 cents to charge if you plug it in off-peak.
The Leaf’s air-cooled battery provides enough juice to go 100 miles in city traffic.

Plug the car into a 110-volt socket and you’ll need 14 to 16 hours to recharge it. A 220-volt 20-amp line cuts that to seven or eight hours, while a 440-volt “quick charge” station will get you to an 80 percent state of charge in 25 minutes, Dominique said.
The Leaf is based on a heavily modified version of the platform underpinning the Versa and the two cars bear more than a passing resemblance.

Nissan plans to offer the car for “between $26,000 and $33,000″ when it goes on sale in December, 2010.

Nissan’s plant in Oppama, Japan has the capacity to crank out 50,000 Leaf cars annually, and Nissan is using a $1.6 billion federal loan to build an EV and battery plant at its North American headquarters in Smyrna, Tennessee. When the factory opens in 2012, it will be able to produce 150,000 electric cars and 200,000 battery packs annually.

“I think I’m being conservative saying 10 percent” of the market will be EVs by 2020, Ghosn said. …

Buffett’s Bet on Trains

From NYTBuffett’s Bet on Trains

Warren Buffett is betting big on railroads. He started buying Burlington Northern Santa Fe in 2006 and then made investments in Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern. On Tuesday, his company, Berkshire Hathaway, announced the purchase of the 77 percent of Burlington Northern it didn’t already own for about $44 billion (along with the assumption of $10 billion in debt). It is Berkshire’s largest acquisition.
It has been a long time since railroads were central to America’s booms, bubbles and busts. What does Mr. Buffett’s investment in trains say about prospects for the economy? How can his role be put in historical perspective?

Nice discussion ensues.