Proposal envisions development of both upgraded corridors and very fast high-speed rail
— Cross-posted on Infrastructurist.com —
Today, President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood released a vision for high-speed rail in the United States, the first such administration-endorsed rail strategy in American history. The plan attempts to outline a strategy to follow in undertaking the development of rail corridors with the $8 billion included for the effort in the stimulus bill passed earlier this year. The administration has specifically endorsed providing more money in the near future to state and federal rail projects, though those funds have yet to be approved.
The administration’s report on high-speed rail clarifies the direction of the federal government, confirming that the administration will be spending its funds on the existing Congressionally-designated corridors, which include lines in the Pacific Northwest, California, Texas, the Gulf Coast, Florida, the Southeast, the Midwest, Pennsylvania, New York, and Northern New England. The report, unlike previous federal descriptions of high-speed rail lines, actually endorses connecting these corridors with one another, something that had been left out of previous DOT reports. That said, the existing corridors noted on the plan aren’t necessarily the most thought-out: a line from Dallas to Little Rock, Arkansas is envisioned, but there’s no provision for a line from Dallas to Houston, for instance. Those deficiencies in the existing plan are likely to be remedied as the administration selects the most cost efficient and valuable routes for funding.
The plan identifies two types of project – one, very fast high-speed rail running at up to 200 mph, like that in Europe and Asia; and two, upgraded existing lines running at up to 110 mph. High-speed programs would be funded by grants going to individual programs, corridor programs, or planning programs. Initial funding is planned to be allocated at the end of the summer.
What is perhaps most exciting about the high-speed program established by the President is that it wholly endorses the idea of a national rail plan, proposing to draft a proposal by November of this year, rather than simply developing isolated corridors. Its insistance that 150 mph and faster rail services are the ultimate goal also demonstrates the the U.S. government isn’t ignorant about the advances in high-speed rail abroad.
— More to come when I get the chance… —