National Briefs: Delays persist for railroads

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WASHINGTON — On a 30-mile stretch of railroad between Westerly and Cranston, R.I., Amtrak’s 150-mph Acela hits its top speed — for five or 10 minutes. On the crowded New York to Washington corridor, the Acela averages only 80 mph, and plans to bring it up to Japanese bullet-train speeds will take $150 billion and 26 years, if it ever happens.

The Obama administration has spent nearly $11 billion since 2009 to develop faster passenger trains, but the projects have gone mostly nowhere, and the U.S. still lags far behind Europe and China, where trains on average top 220 mph.

Although Republican opposition and community protests have slowed the projects, transportation policy experts and members of both parties also blame missteps by the administration — which in July asked Congress for nearly $10 billion more for high-speed rail — for the failures.

Instead of putting the $11 billion directly into high-speed rail projects, they say, the administration made the mistake of parceling out the money to upgrade existing Amtrak service, which will allow trains to go no faster than 110 mph.

Faith sags in Uncle Sam

WASHINGTON — Three-quarters of Americans doubt the federal government will address the important problems facing the country this year, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

All told, 28 percent of Americans think the nation is heading in the right direction, the lowest level in August of an election year since 2008. That’s on par with 2006, when Democrats took control of the House amid a backlash to the Iraq war.

One-third say they hope the Republicans take control of Congress outright this fall — which the GOP can accomplish with a net gain of six seats in the U.S. Senate while holding the U.S. House. The same share want to see Democrats lead Congress.

The final third? They say it just doesn’t matter who takes control of Congress.

Overall, just 13 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress overall is handling its job.

Hawaii hunkers down

HONOLULU — Hurricane and tropical storm warnings and watches cover most of Hawaii as a pair of storms bears down on the state.

Hurricane Iselle, with top winds of 90 miles per hour, was 625 miles east-southeast of Hilo, Hawaii, while Hurricane Julio, with winds of 75 mph, was 1,550 miles from the city, the U.S. Central Pacific Hurricane Center and the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday evening.

Only two hurricanes, tropical systems with winds of at least 74 mph, have made direct strikes on Hawaii since 1949,.

Tour bus driver arrested

NEW YORK —The driver of one of the two double-decker tour buses that collided in a busy Times Square on Tuesday afternoon, injuring 14 people, has been arrested, authorities said.

William Dalambert, 58, was arrested Tuesday evening after a toxicology test suggested he was under the influence of drugs,.

College cancels Wi-Fi fee

AUSTIN, Texas — A new Wi-Fi fee launched this fall at the University of Texas at Austin would have cost about $1 a month for students, but it sparked such outrage on social media that the university backed off after two days.

On Twitter, students who were notified via email last week of the policy shift called the charges absurd, an example of how the university nickels and dimes them.

— Compiled from news services



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