High-Speed Rail Grants Announced; California, Florida, and Illinois Are Lucky Recipients

» Wisconsin, North Carolina, Washington, Ohio, and Michigan also getting big investments. But no corridor is fully funded for true high-speed service.

After months of speculation about which states will get funding from the Federal Railroad Administration to begin construction on new high-speed corridors, the news is in. As has been expected, California, Florida, and Illinois are the big winners, with more than one billion in spending proposed for each. But other states with less visible projects, including Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Washington will also get huge grants and begin offering relatively fast trains on their respective corridors within five years. The distribution of dollars is well thought-out and reasonable: it provides money to regions across the nation and prioritizes states that have made a commitment of their own to a fast train program.

President Obama and Vice President Biden will make the announcement today at an event in Tampa.

Despite the excitement, though, there is plenty of work that still needs to be done — and huge amounts of money that still needs to be spent — to get most of these projects up and running. Eight billion dollars of spending won’t be enough for even one true high-speed line.

California voters committed $10 billion in taxes to a high-speed line between San Francisco and Anaheim in November 2008, and their unrivaled effort has been justly rewarded, with a commitment of $2.25 billion to the project, about half of what the state applied for in August. These funds will go to environmental work and initial construction along corridors between San Francisco and San Jose; Los Angeles and Anaheim; Fresno and Bakersfield; and Merced and Fresno. The state rail authority has pledged an equal match, though it has not yet established exactly how much each corridor will receive.

Roughly one hundred million more would go to improvements on existing Amtrak corridors throughout the state, including a large expansion of San Jose’s Diridon Station and 110 mph trains on the Pacific Surfliner between San Diego and Los Angeles.

With the largest project planned in the United States — the full corridor, with trains running at 220 mph speeds by 2020, will cost $42 billion — California has a lot of work yet to be done. With $2.5 billion more in high-speed funds allocated in the government’s fiscal year 2010 budget, it could reap further rewards, but it will be competing with the rest of the nation in its efforts to receive those expenditures as well. Washington will have to find significantly more money for high-speed rail to make the full San Francisco-Anaheim line a reality.

Florida, as has been hinted repeatedly by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, will get a large infusion of money as well: $1.25 billion. This is half of what the state requested, but it is clear that the federal government is convinced of this project’s merits. As a result, the state is likely to receive an additional $1.5 billion over the next few years to ensure that an 84-mile Tampa-Orlando line is up and running by 2014, connecting the cities in less than an hour at maximum speeds of 168 mph. The state government’s decision to invest several hundred million dollars in a commuter rail system for the Orlando area allowed Washington to argue that the state is making a full-fledged commitment to rail.

So is Illinois, with Governor Pat Quinn and the state legislature agreeing to spend $400 million on the proposed corridor between Chicago and St. Louis. With $1.133 billion, the state will be able to afford significant upgrades to the line on the way to 110 mph service, decreasing travel times from 5h30 to 4h00. Missouri will get some of those funds for upgraded and more reliable operations between St. Louis and Kansas City.

$823 million will go to new train service from Chicago to Madison, Wisconsin and $244 million to an upgraded corridor to Detroit. Both will meet the St. Louis line in Chicago, which is poised to renew its claim to be America’s premier rail hub. After spending $47.5 million on new Talgo trainsets and working for the opening of a new manufacturing facility in Milwaukee, Governor Jim Doyle will get the new service he desires on the 80 miles of track between Milwaukee and the state capital at Madison.

The government has picked the Ohio 3C line, which will implement new service between Cincinnati and Cleveland, via Columbus, for $400 million, enough to get 79 mph trains operating there in two or three years, the first trains on the corridor since 1971. This new line has been supported by state government and will reinforce the state’s existing Amtrak network. Though the state wanted $1.53 billion for 110 mph service, it will have to wait.

On the other hand, a line through Fort Wayne in northern Indiana, proposed for a major upgrade on the way to Cleveland, will not be funded in this first phase. That’s an acceptable decision, since Ohio has pledged money to its service while Indiana has not.

North Carolina and Virginia will receive a $620 million grant to increase top speeds to 90 mph between Charlotte and Raleigh, via Durham and Greensboro. Between Richmond and Washington, the state of Virginia will build eleven miles of new track that will form the first segment of the region’s plans for 110 mph service. Both states have been active for more than a decade in funding their own services.

Washington and Oregon have grand plans for a 150 mph, fully separated corridor between their two largest cities, but the federal government’s $598 million grant will on provide enough money for a slight reduction in travel times, two new round trip trains, and better reliability. Service south to Eugene from Portland may see some improvement as well.

Notable for the lack of major proposed investment is the Northeast Region, which will only get $485 million in total from the stimulus’ high-speed rail funds. The Amtrak-operated Northeast Corridor has already been pegged for $706 million in upgrades, funded by a separate source of money.

As part of the stimulus funds, Vermont will get $50 million to reduce trip times to Burlington by 30 minutes within two years. Massachusetts will receive financing to reroute the Vermonter service north of Springfield. Maine will be able to reactivate the 30-mile train line between Portland and Brunswick. Connecticut will get money to build 11 miles of new track along its proposed New Haven-Hartford-Springfield line. New York, contrary to expectations, has not received a full-throated endorsement of its project to upgrade operations between Albany and Buffalo; it will only get limited funds ($151 million) for track upgrades. Several crossing improvements will further speed up trains between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, which are already the second-fastest in the country.

Iowa and Texas will get small grants to fund minor improvements for their systems. Texas’ huge T-Bone project has not received any funds, for two clear reasons: there is no political advantage in funding a project in a state unlikely to vote Democratic at the national level for the next decade at the least, and the state government has done nothing to fund the project independently — or even approve its exact route.

As a whole, these investments are genuinely exciting; they confirm the administration’s commitment to high-speed rail and they have rewarded states that have invested their own funds in the program. The DOT has chosen projects that are responsible first investments and which will improve rail-based mobility in the affected states. The Administration, despite President Obama’s pledge of a spending freeze, suggests that it’s still ready to provide $5 billion for high-speed rail over the next five years.

But that’s not enough. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) would extend 2010′s commitment of $2.5 billion annually until 2014, which would do more. But for projects like California’s to truly get off the ground without defunding everything else, there will have to be even more money available. The government is going to have to step up: today’s announcement is just a start.

U.S. Invests in High-Speed Rail
(table is sortable)
StateAwards (millions $)Projects
California2344» $2.25 b - ROW, construction on CAHSR
» $51 m - Surfliner service improvements
» $23 m - Capitol service improvements
» $20 m - Train improvements
Florida1250» $1.25 b - 84 miles of new track between Tampa and Orlando
Illinois1236.3» $1.102 b - Improvements to Chicago-St. Louis line for 110 mph
» $133 m - Station and line enhancements along Chicago-Detroit line
» $1.3 m - Planning study
Wisconsin822» $810 m - New stations, implementation of PTC on 80 miles between Milwaukee and Madison
» $12 m - Minor enhancements between Milwaukee and Chicago
Washington590» $590 m - Bypass tracks, upgrades for Seattle-Portland line
North Carolina545» $520 m - Improvements to increase travel speeds to 90 mph on Raleigh-Charlotte line
» $25 m - Congestion mitigation between Raleigh and Richmond
Ohio400» $400 m - Upgrades for rail implementation along 3C corridor between Cleveland and Cincinnati
New York152» $148 m - Improved tracks between Albany and Buffalo
» $3 m - Three miles of new track on Albany-Montréal line
» $1 m - Planning study
Northeast Corridor112» $112 m - Engineering work on Balto dwtn tunnel; other work in RI, NJ, MD, and DC
Virginia75» $75 m - Third track along Richmond-DC line between Arkendale and Powell's Creek
Indiana71» $71 m - Minor rail improvements on Chicago-Detroit line
Massachusetts70» $70 m - Relocation of Vermonter service to more direct route
Vermont50.5» $50 m - Vermonter route improvements
» $500,000 - Planning study
Michigan40» $40 m - Renovations to stations at Troy and Battle Ck; New station in Dearborn
Connecticut40» $40 m - 11 miles of 2nd track between New Haven and Hartford
Maine35» $35 m - 35 miles of track restoration between Portland and Brunswick
Missouri31» $31 m - Improved grade crossings, bridges on line between St. Louis and Kansas City
Pennsylvania27» $26.2 m - Eliminates all grade crossings between Philadelphia and Harriburg
» $800,000 Planning study on extension of 110 mph service to Pittsburgh
Iowa18» $17 m - Four remotely controlled powered crossovers on BNSF Ottumwa subdivision
» $1 m - Planning study
Oregon8» $8 m - Improvements to Portland Union St, engineering on Portland-Eugene line
Texas4» $4 m - Signal timing improvements on Austin-Fort Worth line
Colorado1.4» $1.4 m - Planning study
West Virginia1» $1 m - Planning study
Georgia0.8» $800,000 - Planning study
Minnesota0.6» $600,000 - Planning study for rail improvements to Twin Cities
Delaware0.5» $500,000 - Planning study
Kansas0.3» $300,000 - Planning study
Alabama0.2» $200,000 - Planning study
New Mexico0.1» $100,000 - Planning study
Information from U.S. DOT here and here
104 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Loved how the president actually acknowledged how bad our rail sucks in his State of the Union address. At first I thought the stimulus money was spread a little too thin. However, I understand the need to do this politically and to reward the many who have invested in rail. I think its definitely going to create an appetite for more money which is good. I wish they would make separate pots for real high speed rail projects over 125 mph and upgrades below 125 mph to send the clear signal of the value of true high speed rail. It seems as if only Florida and California’s money will go towards funding high speed rail on electrified, dedicated right of ways. This is a shame because it is what America truly needs. The upgrades to speeds above 79 mph will however get a lot more people riding the rails and increase demand and visibility for the issue. The money should great improve Amtrak’s reliability as well and hopefully public image. Here’s to hoping there is so more money in the next job bill and the future fiscal year budgets. When do we get to hear about the FY 2010 allocations?

  • I definitely think this is a great start. Perhaps Florida and California will be models to the rest of the country for true high speed rail. But in my opinion, true HSR won’t operate in a vacuum. In other words you need a network of conventional speed and higher speed trains first, and in many places we don’t even have that! Just higher speed rail can be done for much much cheaper and you still get the same benefits….getting cars off the roads. As a Texan though, I’m disappointed that our leaders in the state have done nothing to commit to any type of rail service, which is why we get a measly $4 million. Hopefully this will change.

  • Patrick M

    In some cases, 110 mph service does not preclude 125 mph service if a diesel-powered locomotive could be developed to run at those speeds. The line from Raleigh to Richmond is being designed so that while the initial MAS is 110, improved locomotive technology could take it to 125 without electrification.

  • Diesel locomotives accelerate so slowly that the gains from going up to 125 are small. A 110 mph EMU should have a higher average speed than a 125 mph diesel loco-hauled train.

  • jim

    Spread too thin.

    $1.25B for FL just funds the civil engineering required. It isn’t enough to lay rails, hang catenary or buy rolling stock. The half-billion for NC increases capacity (double tracking some, not all, single track segments) but isn’t enough to raise the speed. There will be more frequent trains, but they’ll still take 3:15 to get from Raleigh to Charlotte. The VT money extends the Ethan Allen to Burlington, but isn’t enough to make it run faster. The ME money extends the Downeaster to Brunswick, but isn’t enough to raise its speed. $244M for Chicago-Detroit extends the existing 90 mph MAS segments, but isn’t enough to extend them to the whole route. The Washington State money removes some slow zones and adds some capacity, but isn’t enough for the speed limit to go above 79 mph. It’s not clear how the CA money will be allocated, but it’s not likely to be enough to actually lay rail, except possibly in the Central Valley.

    Only two routes get more trains that run faster more reliably: Madison-Milwaukee-Chicago and Chicago-St. Louis.

    FRA is gambling on there being a lot more HSIPR $$ fairly quickly.

    • Nathanael

      Most of the Chicago-Detroit money is actually going to Englewood Flyover in Chicago proper, also known as “CREATE project P-1″. It creates an enormous multitrack viaduct for the METRA commuter tracks over the NS freight/Amtrak tracks.

      Currently they cross at grade and cause *MASSIVE* delays for Amtrak (an average of 20 hours of delay per *day*), and also cause the single largest chokepoint on the entire NS freight system. METRA has very serious trouble too, but they have dispatching control.

      The viaduct is huge because it carries three METRA tracks (upgraded from two), leaves clearance for up to *five* railway tracks underneath (planned as two high-speed passenger, one conventional speed passenger, two doublestack freight), and due to the layout must also cross — on the same viaduct — the sunken Dan Ryan Expressway.

      This change will cause all five daily (each way) Michigan Service trains to run much more reliably on time — and *also* the daily (each way) long-distance trains from New York and DC to Chicago.

      Not high-speed rail, but extraordinarily good news for the rail system.

    • Nathanael

      “FRA is gambling on there being a lot more HSIPR $$ fairly quickly.”

      Well, you know, there is the $2.5 billion in the 2010 budget! That hasn’t been announced yet and should be allocated fairly quickly!

      The big problem with California’s plans is that the Bakersfield-Palmdale and Palmdale-LA segments are moving too slowly. LA to the Central Valley is the real minimum operable segment, and until they get that built it won’t really function.

  • But I read it on the internet

    Diesel locomotives accelerate so slowly that the gains from going up to 125 are small. A 110 mph EMU should have a higher average speed than a 125 mph diesel loco-hauled train.

    An inch of truth and a yard of wrong.

  • But I read it on the internet

    Actually the Obama Admin has done a good job in allocating starter seed money this round. Obviously Orlando-Tampa is probably too short for a true HSR stand-alone project, but it is the first installment on the Tampa-Orland-Miami corridor. The admin put in enough money to insure that the longer completion leg will now certainly be built, while still leaving enough of the $8 bil to sufficiently propel multiple other corridors across the country. The 3 Chicago lanes, WA-OR, NC, and of course the CA package were well-deserving no-brainer decisions. The NEC’s portion will come soon when their master plan is better developed. Similar for Texas. Though I do wonder if VA’s share was cut when the GOP won the governor’s race, they’ve been one of the most proactive and steady state DOT’s for years regarding passenger rail planning. Ohio’s service plan is a joke but it is a swing state and the base corridor this creates can always be upgraded.

    Throwing the whole pile at CA’s and/or FL’s true HSR requests wouldn’t have significantly sped up either’s completion, so this allotment was about as good as we could hope for from the admin. Congratulations and thanks to them, a nice start.

  • Fritz

    FRA is gambling on there being a lot more HSIPR $$ fairly quickly.

    The FRA is trying to create a national initiative that gets national momentum. They had a tough job because creating one demonstration model (say, $8 billion to CA) would have made it a hard sell to other states. I think what they are doing is relatively smart, funding planning in certain areas so they are ready to make construction investments soon, and getting speed increases in a few places. I’m really glad they gave money to CA and FL because both of those states put money on the table. Not funding TX gives a great message–you don’t plan and put local money, you don’t get federal funds. I think not funding the NEC _might_ be a good short term idea since you don’t need to convince the Northeast to get on the HSR bandwagon–but eventually you have to put serious money in the system. I hope the FRA’s balancing act turns out to motivate more spending on HSR as was their plan.

  • Jordan Hare

    It will be interesting to see if FRA attempts to coordinate funding direction with USDOT via relevant state/city DOTs. Building on this wisely dispersed and incremental approach, it would provide a great opportunity to use the new/renovated rail depots as intermodal transport facilities (with federal funding).

  • Woody

    I’m OK with it. The money is even more spread around than I anticipated, but that’s probably good politics.

    I’d expected Tampa-Orlando to get fully funded, to get one HSR line up and running asap. But maybe this will get the Florida delegation behind increasing future appropriations.

    Glad to see that swing state Ohio got enough to get the 3Cs going. Pennsylvania, a swing state too, got the short end, because the Keystone Corridor deserved more. New England, mostly not swing states, did very well.

    I guess Chicago-St Louis was inevitable. Hope they don’t spend too much on a line shared with freights when they’ll need dedicated tracks to get real HSR at 220 mph.

    Chicago-Pontiac, oh please. The world will be looking at the timetable Chicago-Detroit, which now takes an absurd amount of time. That’s where the money needs to go to make an impact. Don’t spend more than $100 total on the Detroit-Pontiac stub for now.

    I’d have said we’ll fund Pontiac-Detroit-Toledo-Cleveland next year, or the next, (not that anyone applied for money to do it) because that’s potentially a strong route. But Chicago and Detroit are the two “largest closest” major metros in the U.S. outside the NEC, deserving fast trains and many frequencies, and sooner than later.

    Washington State scored huge money. When it’s spent, the runs will be much more reliable. But schedules will be shaved a mere 5, or at most 10 minutes. At least Cascades passengers will benefit from more frequent service, with new trains and added departures.

    Those new Cascades trains may be THE REAL DEAL here: sending more orders Talgo’s way, along with Wisconsin’s now funded line to Madison, to make sure the proposed Talgo assembly plant goes into operation. If I recall correctly, the Missouri bid also included Talgos for Kansas City-St Louis. It will be politically useful to have at least one domestic plant building passenger rail cars, and even better if we have two.

    I’m hoping we’ll see a separate request for many, many billions for the NorthEast Corridor, and also some more billions to renew the Amtrak fleet and to expand its existing route system and increase frequencies.

    I agree with Jim that it’s a big gamble. We’ll soon have nearly a dozen routes where hundreds of millions have been sunk into first stage work. But to see a big payoff, Congress will have to be convinced to come up with “only another $8 billion or so” for a few years to come and finish the jobs. Not until then will we see big improvements in these corridors in both speed and passenger totals.

    But I’m not impatient they didn’t go farther faster today. We’re not ready to start installing catenaries or ordering new trainsets. We don’t have any national standards yet. I’d hate to see incompatible systems sprouting up, when ultimately we might want one linked national system. Meanwhile we should get better prices on equipment orders if we’re buying in bulk, not a half dozen Shinkansen here, a dozen TGVs over there, four or five Talgos for the Cascades, a dozen ICE somewhere else.

  • Adirondacker12800

    Diesel locomotives accelerate so slowly that the gains from going up to 125 are small. A 110 mph EMU should have a higher average speed than a 125 mph diesel loco-hauled train.

    If the train is making a stop every two miles. Eyeballing the schedule between Washington DC and Charlotte, the average distance between stops on that route is 40 miles or so. There is no catenary south of Washington DC. Stinging 375 miles of catenary would be expensive. It would be cheaper to make the track faster first and consider electrification when they have more traffic.

    • Pearl

      There are catenary-free systems now available. Makes more sense and doesn’t interfere with the scenery.

      • The catenary-free systems are built to light rail specs, not intercity rail specs. Even then, they require putting together an electrification system on the tracks; Alstom’s system has a third rail between the rails that is activated only when there’s a train above it, and Bombardier’s system has magnetic coils between the rails that interact with magnetic coils at the bottom of the train. Those systems are intended for use in sensitive historic districts for light rail and nowhere else.

        Besides, those systems are proprietary and have a vendor lock, whereas catenary is standard and can accommodate different companies’ rolling stock.

  • Max Wyss

    @Patrick M and @Alon Levy:

    We have 125mph diesel running since about 35 years (British HSTs), and there are several series of DEMUs running at 200 km/h and more (for example in the UK; the German ICE-TD were (if I remember correctly) certified for 220 km/h).

    It is possible nowadays to get decent accelleration with diesel powered trains, but they won’t be the old-style “big, fat locomotive plus cars” concept, but more a distributed power system (in other words DMUs).

    Whether a 110 mph maximum speed electric train gets shorter travel times than a 125 mph diesel powered train will depend a lot on the trains, the topography, the signalling system etc. etc. The topography in particular has a big influence.

    Current electric passenger locomotives (able to do 230 km/h) come with a rating in the 6500 kW range; that’s what you would have to provide with diesel power as well (in fact, even more, because the auxiliary power, such as HEP, has to come from that too).

    A rule of thumb for the required power rating is in the 15 kW/t range (meaning that for a car weighing 40 t, you will need 600 kW … or a locomotive weighing 120 t will need 1800 kW just to move itself at speed…

    Note: those numbers are guesstimates and approximations.

  • There’s no mention of electrification on these corridors they’re boosting to 110 mph. Can Amtrak’s existing diesel locomotives go this fast on tracks that are built for it, or are new trainsets coming?

    Also, will Amtrak be operating some or all of these services, or local commuter operations (where they exist), or some new state-funded operations?

  • @jfruh, Amtrak has done test trains before at 110 behind the P42 Genesis locomotive that is the mainstay of their fleet.

  • DBX

    There are some issues with high speed diesel, Max. First, the HST trains, impressive as they are (I remember how the acceleration felt the first time I rode in one) require a complete powerplant replacement every few years — those things are run HARD. But they’re still the best we have. Even now, more than 30 years after they first came into service, they remain at the speed limit of diesel technology. And with the engines in the power cars at either end of the train, where they belong for long distance travel, the passengers travel quietly and smoothly. However, wIth newer units like the Super Voyager and Siemens’ diesel products on TransPennine in England, the traction motors are under the car. This makes for a light, fast accelerating train that takes fairly standard-issue traction motors, driving every truck, but it is noisy for passengers and you constantly feel the vibration.

    Typical journeys on the Chicago to St. Louis route are 200 miles or more. A Super Voyager-type train would be miserable for passengers as the noise and vibration would really get to you after a while. Maybe appropriate for Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison at most, but not a longer run that that.

    And the Genesis locomotives currently running Amtrak service do not accelerate at all quickly unless they have a very small train in tow; each stop makes a significant difference to the schedule.

  • Max Wyss

    I fully agree with you, DBX, about comfort level in a DMU, as good as it can be. Unfortunately, my regular business trips between Zürich and München ended before they introduced the ICE-TDs, so that I never rode them for the full distance, but even some short trips were not the very best – despite the undeniable high comfort level of the ICE. But I spent several hours in the DB Class 610/11/12 tilting DMUs, and that was not the very nicest experience…

    Of course, there are possibilities to improve the comfort level, even with a diesel engine underneath, and as for the US places, tilting technology is not really needed, it is possible to get to a little bit higher weight.

    One thing we can say is that — with Genesis (that’s what Amtrak has available, unless they can quickly jump on the wagon for ordering the NJTransit type diesels), they will need to run essentially every train with a double or triple header…

  • Jay

    Well, the funds have been allocated and appropriated. Now, let’s pull together and get the routes built ! Enough talk == build the lines.

  • Avi

    Anyone else notice that 31 states got funding? Seems like a very convenient number to have been random.

  • BLambert

    Avi, I’m sure that there was a political element to the calculations, but…wtf are you talking about? Without further context to your statement, you just sound like someone talking about flouridation and the messages the CIA sends you through your dentures.

  • Yonah, Orlando is about 3 mm too far south on your map. That’s a compliment: I notice only because your maps are usually really precise!

  • 1-3-5-7-8-10-12

    Avi, I’m sure that there was a political element to the calculations, but…wtf are you talking about?

    Baskin-Robbins

  • Woody

    As I recall, 34 states asked for funds. Who didn’t get any? Oklahoma, Kansas, and ___?

  • Note that the diesel vs electric argument is a massive red-herring – the major design upgrades to get from 110mph to 125mph are grade separations and hardened crossings for any crossings that remain and provision of a dedicated higher speed rail path.

    If electric rolling stock is required, then electrify the higher speed rail path. Problem solved.

    Indeed, in the upgrade from 110mph Emerging HSR class to 125mph Regional HSR class, only half of the trip speed increase will typically come from the increase in train speed, the other half coming from the reduced schedule slack made possible by having a dedicated Rapid Rail path.

  • Note that Chicago/Fort Wayne is not needed by the Ohio Hub until Phase 3. Phase 2 is Cleveland / Toledo / Detroit Airport to link to the Detroit / Chicago Midwest Hub alignment.

    In terms of the Ohio Hub, since Phase 1 is the Triple C and Detroit Chicago, it can be said that the entire Ohio Phase 1 corridor map received funding in this announcement. The entire Phase 1 map of the Midwest Hub also seemed to receive some funding, so it seems the regional partnership model has shown success in terms of being able to get the phasing agreed to by the partner states.

    • Nathanael

      Unfortunately at the rate the Ohio Hub was funded at, I despair of seeing phase 2 in my lifetime. :-(

      As for Midwest HSR, its original proposed phasing is kind of being followed except:
      - preliminary engineering for Madison-Portage hasn’t started AFAIK, which should have started along with Madison-Milwaukee.

      The next stage of stuff planned to start engineering, after that and the ones which received funding:
      - Toledo-Cleveland (nothing happening)
      - Chicago-Cincinnati (!!!! — I really doubt this will happen)
      - St. Louis – Kansas City (already ahead of schedule)
      - Chicago – Iowa City (moving along nicely but slowly)
      - Chicago – Milwaukee (planned to take a very long time, apparently getting some funding)

      After that come Portage-Twin Cities (tied up in route arguments), and the South of the Lake Reroute (which frankly just needs funding and should be accelerated).

      In sum, the deviation from plan is that not much is going on for lines located in Indiana or Ohio. :-( I hesitate to say it again, but Indiana’s past bad attitude is clearly the key here.

  • Woody

    It’s hard to say how many states applied for funds, because there are 4 or 5 tiers of funding. One govt press release said 34 applied for the fattest category of grants. It looks to me like more than 40 applied for some sort of funds, and not all the funds were given out today.

    Looks like the biggest losers were Texas, Georgia (Atlanta-Macon), Oklahoma (Tulsa-Okla City), and Virginia (D.C.-Richmond-Raleigh/Norfolk). Connecticut (New Haven-Lieberman-Hartford) didn’t do so well either.

    Of course, some losing proposals were losers (Macon, Tulsa) with weak projected ridership or non-existent connections to longer corridors. But political considerations may have been a factor.

    If so, I will be shocked, shocked to think that Obama would follow the precedents of George W Bush and others in this regard.

    Actually, it is surprising to see the entire political class of the Dixiecrat states completely abandon the accumulated Southern expertise in bringing home the bacon. But I’m veering off topic.

  • Ocean Railroader

    I’m acitvly working on a video of what the NEC would look like if it were extended south to Petersburg VA with NEC type tensioned catenary masts. It looks like they need to extend the NCE wires down to Florida and tap into the new Florida catenary system that way they could change Amtrack’s car train over to eletric.

    I kind of feel that this money was kind of to little to late and it looks like it’s manly being used to treat the bad over croweded track ills that have been hurting Amtrack for years. There going to have to at least set aside $5 billon to $10 billon a year for the next ten years to get a true high speed rail system. If it dosen’t have catenary wires it’s not high speed rail.

  • Adam

    What? No electrification projects?

    • Where did you get that? The Peninsula project in California is in part an electrification project – indeed, each California CAHSR corridor project is, since its an electric system, but the Peninsula project also includes electrifying Caltrain from San Jose to San Francisco.

    • Woody

      I’d say half the money is going to “pre-electrification” projects. It’s just a matter of time — and money.

      But very very few routes are ready to be electrified right now. And we’ll need a large order for new equipment to run on electrified routes. That order could come a few years from now, after Amtrak’s next big order to replace and expand its current fleet of diesel equipment.

      Extending electrification from the NEC New Haven-Hartford-Springfield is a sure thing at some point, connecting. But now it’s mostly single track. Let’s get the curves smoothed out and the second set of tracks put down before we start spending on the catenaries and all.

      How about electrifying the Downeaster Boston-Portland-soon Brunswick? Before, or after putting in a billion-dollar tunnel to connect Boston’s North and South Stations to connect the line to the NEC?

      The Empire Corridor NYC-Albany-Buffalo should end up electrified, but it also has years of laying down new track before we can put up the catenaries.

      The big enchilada is D.C.-Richmond-Norfolk/Raleigh-Charlotte-? Atlanta ?. Virginia has been doing a lot of work, under both Republican and Democratic governors. If this new Repub Gov also gets behind this massive project, we could see electrification begin a few years down the line. Meanwhile, the existing D.C.-Richmond route has too many curves, narrow bridges, and other fixable problems. Take care of those first. When you do get 8 or 10 more trains running south of D.C., you’ll need tunnel work and a Potomac crossing that will cost a billion or two or three. After that, electrify the line.

      That sprawling Midwest system was designed a decade ago to be built on the cheap, with 110 mph routes that would about break even. Suddenly they have almost more money than they know what to do with. Now they need to be rethinking those 110 mph routes to ensure that money spent now is for lines that can be easily upgraded to 200 mph. Same goes for the 3C plan in Ohio.

      Is that line Madison-Milwaukee going to be shared with freight? If not, and I think not, it should be built with an electric upgrade in mind. That Chicago-Detroit route may end up as more of an Ann Arbor-Jackson-Battle Creek-Kalamazoo-Niles (South Bend) route, so 110 could be enough. Detroit could be reached faster by a branch off a 200 mph line Chicago-Toledo-Cleveland.

      This round of funding puts serious money into the CREATE plan to untangle Chicago rail and roads. That mess has to be fixed before spending anything on electrification of any routes to Chicago.

      So it’s premature to electrify any trackage now. We’ll see hundreds of miles going under wires within the decade.

  • nick

    here in the uk we are waiting for the government to announce our high speed route which all 3 political parties support, which is a first in itself !

    the govt has already announced electrification plans and is trying to resolve the issue of how electric trains can still run at the end of the wires. This is why HST’s are still used on the east coast line as beyond edinburgh the wires stop. An Hst on full throttle with the turbos whistling is still impressive but the re-engined ones dont sound so good but are much cleaner.

    For longer journey you need locos and coaches as dmu vehicles can be noisy as has been mentioned. There is another loco other then the hst that does 125 mph and that is the GM Class 67′s that we use here as high speed freight engines (but not at 125) and the 67s also pull the scottish sleepers!!!

  • I’m starting to think more and more that a lot of this stimulus money is also kind of like free money for freight railroads because it will improve their performance in turn for nothing. I mean I don’t really feel we should be investing government money in private railroads. Wouldn’t it be better only to let the money go towards new passenger dedicated right of ways?

    • 電車男

      I think that would be a bad idea (dedicated ROWs)–as expensive as incremental rail work is, building a completely new dedicated passenger system would be outrageously expensive and inefficient. Freight railways don’t make enough money to do substantial work on their tracks, whether it be building new track, electrifying existing lines, or upgrading to improve speed. This isn’t to say that the freight railways aren’t trying to upgrade their infrastructure, but that alone, they simply can’t take care of their tracks AND provide space for passenger trains. Government funding is good because it supplements the work being done by freight railways, making more space for passenger trains while also improving the flow of goods throughout the country (which, while no good for passenger travel, is essential for trade and economic well-being). It’s also good because it encourages freight railways to share their track with passenger trains (if they aren’t sharing track, they aren’t getting the government to build for them). No need to make freight railways into enemies of passenger rail when there are mutual benefits in cooperation.

    • Russell Warshay

      Why is it OK for private companies to use the Interstate Highways, but it is not OK for private companies to use subsidized rail RoWs?

    • Note on the “free money for nothing” – in most cases the passenger trains are running on their property, and putting through all new rights of way would double or treble or quadruple the capital cost of the projects.

      Its not “money for nothing”, its a quid pro quo, permission to build public track on private property in return for cooperation to ensure that private freight is not disadvantaged. And, yes, of course “ensure not disadvantaged” implies an average benefit, but nothing like the massive cross-subsidy from city motorists to long-haul truck freight built into the federal fuel tax regimes.

  • DBX

    Rolling stock will be a significant issue in general. I think rail operators in the US need to get behind an effort to develop a new standard railcar, and I have just the idea — something based on British Rail’s Mark IV. This would be a sufficiently lightweight railcar to get better performance out of the Genesis, yet more crash-resistant than the Amfleet or Horizon. The Mark IV has survived some horrific crashes that arose from various deficiencies with British infrastructure, and done so with considerably fewer fatalities than in comparable wrecks in the US — and it weighs only 40 tons a car instead of 60. Compare the particulars of Amtrak’s Chase, MD wreck in the late 1980s and GNER’s crash in Selby, Yorkshire in 2001, and you’ll see what I mean.

    Unfortunately a monoque design like the MkIV will require the FRA to bring its regulations at least into the 20th century, if not the 21st. But this kind of approach fits better into current American operating conditions than anything else I can think of, certainly better than DMUs.

  • Also, will Amtrak be operating some or all of these services, or local commuter operations (where they exist), or some new state-funded operations?

    It looks to me that the only slam dunks for Amtrak at this time are the routes that they currently have and the planned SEHSR service. As for the big winners–CA and FL–it looks like they will probably rely on foreign entities, while other corridors should be up for grabs.

    Looks like the biggest losers were Texas, Georgia (Atlanta-Macon), Oklahoma (Tulsa-Okla City), and Virginia (D.C.-Richmond-Raleigh/Norfolk).

    This is a main reason why I find it frustrating with the amount that FL got over others like SEHSR. The latter has worked really hard for the last 17+ years to have their system built. Granted it isn’t gonna go 125 MPH, but it’s a start. Florida, OTOH, has fumbled chance after chance. I would have understood the amount if they’d already had a CA Corridor like system in place, but even the existing service is a shadow of what the state used to have. Hard work didn’t really pay off here.

    • Amtrak will be operating the Triple-C, at least as long as its running Amtrak speed, though like the Cascades it will likely be with equipment that can run 110mph as soon as the speed limit is raised on a section.

    • Adam

      It is true that SEHSR has been working for close to 20 years on their plan. However, Florida is further along in that they have acquired most of the necessary right-of-way and are finished with all the federal environmental documents. I think FRA wanted to reward SEHSR for all the work they’ve already put in, but also couldn’t award them significant amounts for the higher speed line from Raleigh to Richmond until the EIS process is complete. This is expected to be complete sometime in 2011. So if we can keep federally funding in the 2-5 bn/year range then expect SEHSR to be fully funded within the next 2-3 years.

    • Woody

      Good news about a side benefit in this article posted on the UTU News site:
      http://www.utu.org/worksite/detail_news.cfm?ArticleID=50658

      DUMFRIES, Va. — A new express train on the Fredericksburg line . . . , the Stafford County Sun reports.

      An 11-mile stretch of tracks to be built thanks to federal stimulus money from Powell’s Creek near Dumfries will aid future Virginia Railway Express trains . . .

      A new 5 a.m. train will begin in July, depart 15 minutes earlier than the first train currently scheduled, and will get riders to Washington 35 minutes sooner than any other VRE train . . .

      “People will be able to leave a little earlier, get to work 35 minutes earlier . . .

      Plans for the express train come after Virginia was awarded $75 million for high-speed rail improvements . . .

      “The Powell’s Creek project was our first ‘shovel ready’ project. As soon as we get the money in hand we will be able to begin construction,“ said a spokeswoman.

      Last year, Virginia applied for an additional $1.8 billion . . . [to] extend high-speed rail service from the Amtrak Northeast Corridor. But the money was denied. . .

      Improving the rail corridor remains a priority, and there will be more opportunities for federal funding for it over the next five years for once the Federal Rail Administration sets its application guidelines.

      ——————

      A nice twofer, readying the line for HSR in the long run, and in the short run an almost immediate benefit to rail commuters.

      There’s a few more twofers in this package, as near as I can tell. Much of the grant for Chicago-Detroit looks likely to help Metra. The work on New Haven-Hartford-Springfield will aid efforts to make this line a commuter route, as well as a faster line to Vermont. With a little bit of luck, other funding for commuter line improvements could turn out to be twofers with a benefit to intercity rail as well.

    • Nathanael

      “This is a main reason why I find it frustrating with the amount that FL got over others like SEHSR. The latter has worked really hard for the last 17+ years to have their system built.”

      Well, at least NC got full funding for everything shovel-ready from Raleigh to Charlotte. This means it’s all about EISes and plannign for a year or so for them — until they can finish the Richmond-Raleigh EIS and the Charlotte station planning, they can’t actually build anything more.

  • Gordy

    Wow, $2.25 billion for California. Only another $39.75 billion to go. Assuming the price tag doesn’t go up even more. And where exactly is all this money going to come from? The State of California is bankrupt and there’s no money from private investors.

    And that $8 billion is probably the most you’ll ever see from the feds for HSR. The deficit and debt are at astronomical levels. Obama just announced a freeze on all non-security discretionary spending for three years. And the Democrats are almost certain to lose seats in the next election. If either Obama loses in 2012 or the GOP regains a majority in congress, HSR will be completely dead.

    • This is one of the lines that deniers have been using … “where’s the money going to come from”. $9b bonds get passed, “where’s the rest of the money going to come from?”. $2.25b Federal money added, “where’s the rest of the money going to come from”. Annual appropriation for $2.5b passes the Senate and the House … “its needs to be $4b to comfortable fund California’s system”.

      Indeed, the projects funded by the ARRA are useful in their own right, even if no more funding is ever forthcoming, which makes the “oh, woe, there is not enough money for a decade long project sitting in a sequestered account in a bank somewhere” talking point even sillier.

  • AlexB

    California now has $12.25 billion: $2.25 billion from the stimulus and $10 billion from bonds. The line from SF to LA will take years to build and won’t cost the full $40 billion. They have money to get started and a lot of time to get the rest; it will take years and years to build the first trunk line anyway.

  • Avi

    BLambert,

    If you’d follow recent politics you’d know the current Senate effectively requires 60 votes to pass any bill. 31 states got funding = 62 votes in the senate.

  • BLambert

    Avi, I do follow politics. I’ve done so for a long time, and I’m willing to bet that my knowledge of the arcana of American governance is on par with most any poster here. However, you were speaking into a vacuum without providing the necessary context to understand exactly what it was that you were talking about.

    And even now, you’re lacking some, so I’ll ask you to explicitly state the assumptions you’ve made and aren’t sharing: are you suggesting that this was to spread enough projects around so that those 62 Senators would have reason to support further rail investment, or are you suggesting it was a straight-up pork deal to sway those legislators in general?

  • Woody

    This 62 Senators thing is tediously simplistic. The real world, even the real Senate, simply does not work that way.

    It’s a longtime claim by train-haters that Amtrak’s long-distance routes are only spread around to collect votes in Congress. If it were only so easy. For example, two l.d. routes pass through Arizona. But John McCain is only interested in hundreds of millions a year in federal subsidies for small airports, nothing to any train service, l.d. or short.

    In this package, North Carolina came out very well, $500 million plus, but I expect that the Repub Senator Zero from N.C. –whatsisname, Burr? — will continue to vote against anything that Obama is for, including rail money for his home state.

    Minnesota got a million or less, chicken feed, to help plan the route Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison-St Paul-Minneapolis. But I expect that the two Democratic Senators, Klobuchar and Franken, will vote in favor of future funding of HSR. In fact, I expect that the Democratic Senators from Western states — Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, North and South Dakota, and even Hawaii — will support future HSR appropriations.

    Fact is, more than 40 states applied for some ARRA funds under various categories. About 3 out of 4 of them got money in this round, with more rounds to come.

    And anyone who looks at the current list sees that it makes good sense. It gets the ball rolling on half a dozen important HSR routes. It begins the 3C plan in Ohio. It benefits some feeder lines to the NEC and gets work started on the Balto tunnels, crucial to speeding up the Acelas. So many good projects got about all the funds they can use in the timeframe of the Recovery Act, even if much more money will be needed to finish any one of the projects.

    We all could tweak the list. I’d say, a bit more to Pennsylvania, a dab more to Virginia. But no omission screams out — ‘How could they leave out the XYZ Plan?’ — and really, no included program screams out — ‘That’s a boondoggle, a political plum’. It happens to work out to be a little more than 30 states. But NOTHING about the list suggests they started with a need for 62 votes and worked backward from there.

    To argue that the list is purely political and phony rather suggests that someone has not been paying attention to the various proposals, their timetables, or their relative merits. I congratulate Ray LaHood and his team at the FRA (and others who may have had a hand in this, like Amtrak) for coming up with this solid and exciting list of grantees.

  • Chetan Chandrashekhar

    The rail ridership in Florida is one third of rail ridership in Washinton State, but they got way more money.

    I wonder how much of that has to do with the fact that Florida is a swing state, and Washington is not.

    • Woody

      Florida also has way more population — about 18.3 million compared to 6.6 for Washington.

      And while Jeb Bush was no friend of rail, it’s not Florida’s fault that the Sunset Limited no longer runs between New Orleans and Orlando. In fact, the Christ administration has been working to restore service to the Florida East Coast line from Jacksonville down along the coast to West Palm Beach, a route that hasn’t carried passengers in almost 40 years.

  • jim

    It’s not that Florida is a swing state, it’s that a Florida Congressman is the ranking member on the House committee.

    I’d add that it was surprising that Washington State got any money, since they weren’t (and aren’t) proposing speeds above 79 mph.

    • Nathanael

      I’ve been following this one closely.

      Washington and Oregon did a professional analysis, which told them “the lowest speed limits on the route are more important than the top speed for scheduled time”, and “schedule reliability is more important than top speed”.

      So they made a long term plan which created reliable schedules and eliminated low-speed segments first, before raising top speeds.

      This money is enough to complete the *entire* scheme for creating reliable scheduling and eliminating low-speed segments. As soon as this stuff is done, high top speeds are the next step on the agenda. This stuff was all literally shovel-ready, they can issue the contracts ASAP. The high top speeds part requires more design work…. which the states can now afford to start doing, rather than focusing on scrambling for the money for part I!

      • Woody

        And Washington will add two more trains to the Cascade service. So they get reliability and capacity out of this first part.

        I’ve become a great believer in the value of greater frequencies in building passenger count totals. The difference between “the next train leaves just 2 hours from now” VS “the next train won’t leave for another 4 hours” can be all the difference in the world.

  • It’s not just Mica – Mica would’ve pushed for sending more money to Florida and the NEC. My guess is that the administration wanted a low-cost demonstration corridor, and Florida was it. If all you care about if putting up HSR, then Florida is the best choice, with a developed business plan and a reserved ROW. It’s only if you care about ridership or service need that Florida looks bad.

    In addition, Florida played the negotiations game well. First it refused to fund any local rail improvements or contribute any of its money to HSR. LaHood demanded the state step up, and the state passed a bill to fund a few low-service commuter corridors. This would have made LaHood look like he’d reneged on a promise or shifted the goalposts if he’d not lavishly funded Florida’s HSR.

  • Woody

    That $200 million will mostly go to untangle part of the mess of rail and roads in Chicago. When this is done, it will connect to the Amtrak-owned stretch from Portage, Indiana, to Kalamazoo.

    This project will certainly speed up the trains to Kalamazoo, and a bit beyond. I’d expect to see two or three more runs a day between Kalamazoo or maybe Battle Creek, and Chicago. If there are puddlejumpers flying from Kalamazoo into O’Hare or Midway, this upgraded rail line could knock them out of the sky.

    From Kalamazoo to Detroit, I dunno. Another $800 million? Or more? Isn’t most of this trackage for sale? A year or so back the owner was trying to spin it off to a short line operator or something. It would be worth buying. If Amtrak controls it, rebuilding and dealing with freight traffic will be less of a problem. But I don’t think Congress or the public is ready to buy rail lines just yet. Maybe a year or two of delay will pay off.

    On the other hand, a much faster route could be Chicago-South Bend-Toledo-Detroit. It might be worth waiting to be connected to a true HSR line at 220 mph Chicago-Cleveland-Pittsburgh/Buffalo.

    • Woody

      Oops. This was meant as a Reply to Jim, far far above in this thread, saying the money was spread too thin, e.g. Chicago-Detroit. But it got uncoupled from his Comment.

  • Gordy

    $9b bonds get passed,

    No, a proposition was passed authorizing the state to take on an additional $9 billion in bond debt. But the state is bankrupt. The state leg has to appropriate $9 billion from the budget to make it available for the HSR project. It hasn’t done that. There is no sign that it’s going to do it. It doesn’t have the money. And since the price tag has gone up so much, it’s now going to have to be much more than $9 billion.

    $2.25b Federal money added,

    Yes, $2.25 billion, for a $42 billion project. Where’s the rest of the money going to come from?

    Annual appropriation for $2.5b passes the Senate and the House …

    WHAT $2.5 billion annual appropriation?

    There’s no money from private investors, either. And when the Democrats lose political power, as they inevitably will, funding will be even harder to get than it is now. The whole funding scheme for the California HSR is a total joke. You’re just crossing your fingers and hoping on a wing and a prayer that the money will somehow materialize. It’s a fantasy.

    • Xerx


      look up H.R. 3288, capital assistance for high speed rail corridors and intercity passenger rail service

    • Nathanael

      ” Annual appropriation for $2.5b passes the Senate and the House …

      WHAT $2.5 billion annual appropriation?”

      The federal one for the 2010 fiscal year, passed some time ago. Who gets the money should be announced in the next couple of months. California probably won’t get all of it, obviously.

  • Shorter Gordy: I’m going to support Republicans because they’re against HSR, and I’m going to oppose HSR because Republicans will win and defund it.

  • Ocean Railroader

    North Carolina and Virginia have a 62 mile abonaded rail line called the S Line which ran from Petersburg Virginia into NC Amtrack is planning on buying it and restoring it into a pasanger only rail line which would be great.

  • RVA_Exile

    Ocean: The restored S-line will actually be shared with freight trains and will be mostly single-track with passing sidings

    • Nathanael

      Well, sort of shared with freight. But it will be a passenger mainline and a freight branchline where freight has no rights. This is very common on commuter rail systems and the Northeast Corridor — freight is simply not allowed to interfere with passenger traffic.

      It will be constructed with ROW and grading for double track, but track and some structures for single track (which actually makes a lot of sense if you’re trying to save money). The geometry is intended to be good for 125 mph (though I think they should aim higher).

      However, the S Line got no money so far.

  • Gordy

    look up H.R. 3288, capital assistance for high speed rail corridors and intercity passenger rail service

    HR 3288 provides $2.5 billion for FY 2010, not an annual appropriation of $2.5 billion. And it’s not $2.5 billion for HSR in California, it’s for the entire country.

  • jmj4trains

    I want to start by complimenting thetransportpolitic for giving the best analysis of the awards that I have seen so far. There is also a great discussion that has followed, with comments by people who seem to know a lot about actually making this happen. I am hoping that more discussion will continue, because I have a lot of questions.

    I would like to respond to Russell Warshay’s question regarding private companies using public ROWs, but I think I need to know more first. It was my impression that the freight companies owned the tracks. But does the government own the ROWs that the privately owned tracks are laid over?

    To answer Russell from what I do know, I will start with the fact that the public has equal ACCESS to the Highways. With the freight-owned tracks, the public has only as much access as the freight companies will agree to. If the government HAD to subsidize privately owned tracks in order to improve passenger rail service, it should have at least ironed out a contract that dictated exactly what schedule the freight rail companies would have to honor. Without that, we have to rely on the freight companies “being encouraged” to share their tracks, and I am not willing to accept that in exchange for millions of taxpayer dollars. In addition to the access issue, there is the problem of maintenance. The government maintains the Highway system, and that allows for the government to dictate a safe speed for the vehicles that travel over them. Is the money being given to the railroads also being accompanied by a contractual obligation to maintain the tracks to a level that will allow the promised speeds to continue over time? Maybe the press releases that are out haven’t gone into all the details of all of that; but without these types of agreements, it sounds a lot like the money that was unconditionally given out to AIG and the likes.

    I agree with Ocean Railroader in thinking that “if it doesn’t have catenary wires, it isn’t HSR”. I wish I could be as optimistic as Woody, and think that there will be “hundreds of miles under wires within a decade”. But I think the strategy is what Adirondacker stated, they will “consider electrification when they have more traffic”; and I really don’t think they will ever get that ridership.

    The 3C line in Ohio hasn’t had service since 1971, and the reason for that is they didn’t have the ridership then to keep it going. Resurrecting that line is going to cost 400 million dollars– but is the service that will be provided going to be superior to the service that was offered back then? At 79 mph, I doubt it. And where are they going to get the ridership for the Chicago to St. Louis line? It takes 5 hours to drive it, it will take 4 hours in the new train, but it only takes 1 hour to fly it. Many will still drive it just to have their car at their destination. If they are willing to give up that mobility, how are trains supposed to compete with a 1 hour flight that costs $150? Nobody will ride these trains!!

    The projects for service from Madison to Milwaukee, the one up to Brunswick, ME, and the service in Iowa… these are all lines that aren’t on the corridors designated in the “Vision for High Speed Rail” that was announced last April. It is just as well, because all but the Florida and California projects aren’t really HSR anyways. It should be announced that “The FRA has spent 3 billion on High Speed Rail, and 5 billion for half-fast trains.”

    • Nathanael

      “To answer Russell from what I do know, I will start with the fact that the public has equal ACCESS to the Highways. With the freight-owned tracks, the public has only as much access as the freight companies will agree to. If the government HAD to subsidize privately owned tracks in order to improve passenger rail service, it should have at least ironed out a contract that dictated exactly what schedule the freight rail companies would have to honor.”

      It is a big issue. Apart from Florida and California (which will own their systems), Wisconsin will own the new track to Madison, and about half the track from Chicago to Milwaukee is METRA-owned. New York plans to either own or have Amtrak own *all* new track they build. The North Carolina improvements are all on track owned by the North Carolina Rail Road, which is wholly owned by the State.

      BNSF is making out like a bandit in the Pacific Northwest, but public entities own the new “Point Defiance Bypass” trackage. CSX is making out like a bandit in Virginia, and UP is *really* making out like a bandit on the St. Louis-Chicago run, because they’ve got the government to sink a lot of money in already and have *shown no results for it yet*.

      The Chicago improvements from Porter to Union Station benefit so many different parties so clearly (including METRA and Amtrak) that it’s not worth arguing over the fact that NS still owns the trackbed. Plans are to get Amtrak its own exclusive high-speed corridor there, but the Englewood flyover has to be done *first* so it’s not worth arguing about ownership before doing it.

      “And where are they going to get the ridership for the Chicago to St. Louis line? It takes 5 hours to drive it, it will take 4 hours in the new train, but it only takes 1 hour to fly it.”

      That would be 3.5 hours including travel time to the airports at either end and security screening “arrive early” allowance.
      However, the real market is the intermediate cities such as Springfield (the state capital, eh?) which have much more expensive plane flights. In fact I suspect the route was chosen because it goes through Springfield, as it isn’t the best route from St. Louis to Chicago, but it’s the shortest (though still probably not really the best) route from Springfield to Chicago.

      Oh, and the Madison-Milwaukee line is in the “vision for high speed rail”, it’s part of the Twin Cities-Chicago route.

  • Eugene Wilson

    Unclear how this statement in the article–”110 mph trains on the Pacific Surfliner between San Diego and Los Angeles”–could be true. $51M in funidng seems like a drop in the bucket of what is needed to get trains to that speed. The corridor has been neglected for years. A single new siding could cost $10M-$20M. Where does this information come from?

    • Eugene -

      Thanks for your point. The FRA says this about the work to be done on the Pacific Surfliner:

      “New track and crossovers will improve on-time performance and ultimately allow for top speeds of 110 mph on the segment connecting Los Angeles and San Diego.”

      So it’s not 110 mph immediately, by all means.

  • Ocean Railroader

    Speaking Catenary I’ve finally made a video about what needs to be done with the Catenary ending in Washingtion DC. It’s about what if they extended the NEC type catenary to Petersburg VA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQMPEUhm2Bs Virginia only got 75 millon out of the whole funding bill which in away is very small but will go towards 11.5 miles of track. They should at least get plans up and runing to extend the catenary down to Fredricksburg in the mean time.

    • jmj4trains

      I like the video!

    • Nathanael

      CSX won’t allow (sigh) catenary until there’s a third track. (They want to keep at least one track clear for over-height freight, and probably two.) Unfortunately this means catenary can’t even be extended to Alexandria, VA, because the northernmost two-track bottleneck is the Long Bridge over the Potomac.

      (I think the section in DC, from the junction of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel with the tunnel to Union Station, to the Long Bridge, is three tracks now, but anyway it’s planned to be three tracks.)

      The VA plan has been almost entirely devoted to getting that third track in place everywhere but the Long Bridge, after which I assume the Long Bridge is next. (Sadly VA didn’t think to get any ownership rights over the new track, which is stupid, but anyway.)

  • Nathanael

    “On the other hand, a line through Fort Wayne in northern Indiana, proposed for a major upgrade on the way to Cleveland, will not be funded in this first phase. That’s an acceptable decision, since Ohio has pledged money to its service while Indiana has not.”

    The trouble is that this line is of national importance, as the core link between Chicago (and therefore everything west of Chicago) and the entire East Coast. It should not be held up because Indiana doesn’t care.

    That’s why we need a national rail system, not state rail systems. Sigh…..

    Anyway, the Washington/Oregon money is huge. It doesn’t sound that great at first, but in fact it eliminates the *four* largest bottlenecks on the entire Portland-Seattle route.

    It should knock 10 minutes off the runtime and increase on-time performance to near-perfect. The most dramatic project gives a better station in Tacoma, shared with commuter rail, and extends that commuter rail, while creating a track used only by passenger trains except for one local freight train a few times a week. Driving time on that route is 2:46 under *ideal* conditions, while the train will be 3:20 — it should start really seeing boosts in popularity.

    There’s a couple more improvements planned after this — largely a major trestle replacement — and then all the “quick win” bottleneck and terminal work is done, and the next step is dedicated passenger tracks. I think this work will create sufficient popularity to drive that funding. I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up with 110mph operations shortly after Michigan (which is doing it pretty much now) and the NEC, and before anyone else.

  • Victor

    Don’t make me laugh! All those billions for foreign trains that will trot as “fast” as 110 mph? How about a MADE IN USA monorail “Natrix” offered by the U.S.WAY Corporation at much lower cost? Speed: 400 mph. Plenty of jobs in waiting…, if our politicians care.

  • OceanRailroader

    They could build the next generation of GG1 locomtives and call them the GG2 and build them at the Altoona PA railroad shops where the originals where built in the 1930′s. Most of them lasted into the 1970′s and 1980′s. We need to have high speed trains that look like something from the US vs something comming from overseas.

  • Trains cost next to nothing. A full-length HSR trainset costs $40 million. Most of the cost in rail is infrastructure construction, not rolling stock.

    The GG1′s are even heavier than today’s FRA-compliant rolling stock. They weigh more than 200 tons, compared with 100 for Amtrak’s current electric locomotives and 45-65 for off-the-shelf HSR equipment.

  • @Nathanael This is debatable, if the project was developed at the right scale the costs could be comparable.

    • Nathanael

      Nope. The problem with monorails is that they are single-supplier, vendor-lock-in systems. Buy a standard gauge, standard (25Kv 60 Hz) electrification, system and you have your choice of many suppliers for both construction and maintenance, and many choices of trainsets. I’d also recommend standard platform heights and standard curve radii and geometry specs (allowing off-the-shelf turnouts) and standard ERTMS/ETCS signalling. (I’d further recommend standard European safety standards, but the FRA doesn’t allow that yet.) Go with worldwide standards, not custom one-vendor-monopoly jobs, if you want to avoid gross cost escalations.

  • Clarence

    A monorail would be the best way to go. Everything should be made in this country. Think of the jobs created to build the tracks, the trains and to operate the system. Sure the cost would be great. But, the rewards would be much greater. However, the government already own the roadway on which to build. A monorail built alone the current expressway system would support speeds over 150 mph.

    Why not form a company and sell stoch. Make this a National HSR System. A government and corporate venture. With the Postal Service experiencing a rapid decrease in employees, we need a service that will offer long term employment to thousands of employees and we truly need a HSR system.

  • Clarence

    A national monorail HSR system would not be a single supplier system unless you call built in the USA a single supplier. A system of this magnitude would include many suppliers, all right here in the USA. The objective is not to go out and buy a HSR system from someone else. The objective is to build a HSR system in the US, a system built by US workers, using materials made at US factories located in the US. Our country cannot survive as only a service economy. We must also build the things we service. A National HSR System that follows sections of the Interstate Highway System would be a great step in rebuilding our nations economy.
    Presently, almost everything we buy is made in some other country. Yet, the cost of everything is constantly rising. Where are the savings in cost escalations? Americans are not getting them.

    • Nathanael

      You can do everything you want better with a standard gauge rail system.

      And yes, no two monorail designs are compatible == no competition.

      • Nathanael

        I absolutely support rebuilding US passenger rail manufacturing capacity, of course. As late as the 1970s the US was the world leader.

        • Nathanael

          The point I’m making is *don’t reinvent the wheel*. We can establish US rail manufacturing to *international standards*. Then we can start improving on them again.

          It’s imperative to avoid the “not-invented-here” attitude.

  • Clarence

    Let’s build our monorail system. The rest of the world will follow after us. After all, this is the greatest market place in the world. Once the plans for a high speed monorail system are complete, every industrialized country in the world will want a piece of it. So, lets get back to leading the world and stop following behind. We need manufacturing jobs that are going to last well into the future and we need a HSR system. A system of the future; for our future.

    • John W

      Right… The rest of the world is going to abandon its already functioning high-speed networks for some yet-to-be-built, not-even-designed system, simply because it’s American??? You really don’t get how incredibly patronising that is, do you?

      (Unless by ” want[ing] a piece of it” you mean to get their snouts in the trough along with the American firms happy to hoover up money that’s being thrown away. That at least would be believable.)

      • No matter how hilarious it is, please don’t feed the trolls too much.

        • John W

          Damn. And I was going to suggest that these monorail trains could be designed so that they can transform into giant robots. Robots that can fight! And then we wouldn’t need the DOT to eventually scrounge up funding as the Army would throw money at the project.

  • Clarence

    Why are we so worried about the rest of the world? We don’t live in the rest of the world. We live in the USA. What are the needs of our country? Let the rest of the world have their “standard scale” HSR system. Our trains are not going to hook-up with theirs.
    Once we build our monorail system with constant speeds of 150+ mph, we will have delivered what we need. If the rest of the world has something different,lets give them our blessings and be happy for them. We don’t need to be envious and try to copy what they have, especially when that is not what we need.

    • Adirondacker12800

      Clarence, put down the 40 year old Popular Mechanix. New HSR lines are being build to 200 or 225 MPH speeds as you read this. They’ve never built monorails that go faster than streetcars. Streetcars are 125 year old technology.

  • Clarence

    Adirondacker,what have you been smoking? Just because a high speed ground train reaches 200+ mph in a test run does not mean that it will average 200 mph. The modern monorail has the potential for even greater speeds. Once our scientists and engineers began to seriously consider such a system, the monorail will reach speeds of 300+ mph. Also, the elevated monorail reduces the possibility for railroad crossing accidents, animals on the tracks and weather delays caused by snow and floods.

    • Adirondacker12800

      Again, put down the 40 year old Popular Mechanix. Monorails have been just around the corner of attaining higher speeds since the 60s. They’ve been putting birail trains on elevated since the 1860s has all the advantages of elevated monorails and it’s a mature technology.

    • Adirondacker12800

      and trains run at 186 MPH all over the world in regular revenue service. Some of them at 220 in regular revenue service. Just like a conventional train that attains 220 won’t average 220 the vaporware 300 MPH monorail won’t average 300 MPH either. Put down the antique magazines…

    • Max Wyss

      … definitely 40 years ol Popular Mechanics… or, actually, more 50 years old…

      The 200 mph record with a dedicated test train occurred 55 years ago, between Bordeaux and Dax, in the Landes…

      nevertheless, those posts give me a chuckle…

      • Adirondacker12800

        The Pennsylvania Railroad did 175 MPH tests back in the 60s… Even Amtrak does 150 now and then in Rhode Island.

  • Don Kirk

    High Speed Maglev is Monorail; and it’s quitier than steel to steel rail, climbs steeper grades and by far the fastest way to travel. Maglev Monorails also use less power than (HSR) High Speed Rail; and requires “NO” helper locomotives to get over steep climbs.

    There’s a place for every type of Transportation Mode; and neither the LV – LA route, nor the SF – LA route would be best served by steel wheel to steel rail HSR

    A new public transportation speakers bureau was recently formed; and it’s members “all” believe that there are places for LR, Monorail, HSR and Maglev; but when climbing over steep mountains, of the ones we asked, almost everone agrees that Maglev would best serve those two routes.

  • Clarence

    Thanks, Don Kirk. The high speed Maglev Monorail system is the passenger train of the future. One that can be improved over the coming years as technology improves. A high speed Maglev train system would connect the cities in this country in ways that the airlines cannot.

    If we build a National Maglev Monorail Train System and put low cost rechargable electric rental cars at every station, we would have a new world class transportation system. A system that would transport hundreds of thousands of people each day. A system that would create tens of thousands of career jobs and at the same time have almost no carbon footprint.

  • Auld Sodger

    Clarence. Glad you have finally gotten your terminology straightened out.

    Have you ever thought about why a country such as Germany, already with an operational MagLev test/demonstration facility, does not have a commercial application in place? It is because the costs outweigh the benefit. When MagLev was first being developed (here in the US, btw) the current thinking was that conventional steel on steel technology was maxing out around 100-110 mph — which turned out not to be the case. Combine this with the fact that HSR can use existing conventional rail infrastructure, to include tunnels and access to center city, and MagLev essentially became obsolete before it was ever built.

    When I was in Munich in Sept of 2007 an all-star consortium has just announced a MagLev line between the Munich Hbf and the Airport — in spite of the fact that there were already two conventional rail lines connecting the two. The consortium included TransRapid, Krupt, Siemens, DB, the German Federal Govt, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich. They had a MagLev operational unit from the TransRapid test facility in a station mock-up at the airport and a bunch of multi-lingual young ladies explaining how great it was going to be and that it would be operational by Dec of 2008! I was impressed because I knew that when I was back in Sept of 2009 I would get chance to ride it. Well, when I was back in Sept 2008 (I go every year for Oktoberfest) there was no sign of construction anywhere and the mock station with a MagLev vehicle was gone. When I inquired I was told that not too long after I was there that the consortium had decided that they could not justify building it and they had to stuff their national, state and city pride and cancel the project. One explanation I heard was that for about a penny on the Euro the two existing conventional lines could be upgraded to offer a level of service approaching that of MagLev.

    However, I do think that eventually there will be a role for MagLev. It will come when our Mega-Regions (see, e.g., Neal Pierce) are all laced with conventional HSR and the need begins to rise to connect the MRs. For those relatively close together, and with significant population in between, it will be more conventional HSR. However, in some of the more distant western MR, it could be MagLev that will connect them. And they will likely built by what we now call the airlines. Of course, the great thing about making such predictions is that neither of us will live long enough to know the outcomes.

  • I must confess that during the last two weeks of this particular particularly unhinged election bike, despite the brief mental refreshment I experienced in the Restoring Sanity Rally upon Saturday, I have once again begun to suss out suitable caves inside Northwest Territories of Canada to i always can retire and reduce the intellectual and moral potato sack sprint to the bottom that is our own national political conversation.

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