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Final Applications Submitted for Corridor-Level High-Speed Rail Grants

» First phase of applications for Track 2 line planning and construction attracts major bid demands from California, North Carolina, Florida, Oklahoma, and Virginia.

Update (13 October): State of Indiana has applied for $2.8 billion in funds on behalf of the Midwest Regional Rail Intiative for a 110 mph line connecting Chicago and Cleveland.

Update (6 October): Federal Railroad Administration head Joseph Szabo released the following news earlier today:

“We have received numerous applications from states and groups of states for the development of high-speed and intercity passenger rail programs for grant funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  These include 45 applications from 24 states totaling approximately $50 billion to advance high-speed rail corridor programs. We also received 214 applications from 34 states totaling $7 billion for corridor planning and smaller projects.”

All awards, according to the statement, will be announced this winter (for the $8 billion). This means that the states applying for the second round of high-speed rail (applications due in Spring 2010) will have to rely on Congress authorizing more money for the program…

Update: New York has submitted a proposal for $7.9 billion (inflation-adjusted) in investments in its Empire Corridor, making it the biggest project on the list yet announced. Pennsylvania has added its own proposal for $3.1 billion in funds.

More than forty states submitted $100 billion in proposals for stimulus funding of high-speed rail projects in July. Those applications were preliminary, but they followed with more serious applications at the end of August for the Federal Railroad Administration’s first, third, and fourth tracks of rail financing, which include small project construction and corridor planning. Last week, a number of states completed their final application for the FRA’s second track, which is designed for corridor-level construction on a much larger scale. These projects, unlike those submitted for consideration in August, do not have to be shovel-ready. The FRA will determine which states receive financing in the beginning of next year.

Though the list I’ve compiled below is not necessarily complete, it provides a basic overview of the states that have announced their applications thus far. Project costs total $18 $30 $50 billion — far higher than the $8 billion thus far committed to high-speed projects in the United States, and coming in addition to the almost $7 billion for which states applied in August. Clearly, there is far more demand than supply for these funds.

Applicants for High-Speed Rail Corridor Projects
State Amount Project Description
California $4.5 b 220 mph service preparations for San Francisco-San Jose; Merced-Fresno; Fresno-Bakersfield; Los Angeles-Anaheim (source)
Florida $2.6 b Tampa-Orlando HSR; Passenger rail between Jacksonville and West Palm Beach (for the first time since 1968) (source)
Georgia $472 m Atlanta to Macon, full capital costs (source)
Illinois $550 m Line from Chicago to St. Louis (source)
Indiana $2.8 b Line from Chicago to Cleveland, via Indiana (source)
Kansas $10 m Upgrades to the Newton-Kansas/Oklahoma state line (source)
Michigan $830 m Upgrades to 110 mph of Detroit-Chicago service (source)
New York
$7.9 b Albany-Rochester-Niagara Falls upgrades to 90-110 mph service (source)
North Carolina
$3.9 b Charlotte-Raleigh-Richmond upgrades to 90-110 mph service (source)
Ohio $564 m 3C Line connecting Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland (source)
$2 b Tulsa-Oklahoma City-Texas State Line (source)
Pennsylvania $3.1 b Harrisburg-Philadelphia speed up; Lackawanna Cutoff; Pittsburgh Maglev (source)
Virginia $1.75 b Washington-Richmond-Petersburg, reducing DC-Richmond trip times to 90 minutes (source)
Washington $850 m Portland-Seattle-International Border (source)
Wisconsin $652 m Milwaukee-Madison (source)


The state that submitted the second biggest proposal, California, has a major rail program underway, and there’s a lot to be said for why it should receive the lion’s share of federal funds. It is the only state whose taxpayers have made a serious commitment of their own to fund their rail program.

But North Carolina, Florida, Oklahoma, and Virginia have also submitted multi-billion dollar bids for money, arguing that their corridors deserve federal help. It remains to be seen how Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will decide to spend the cash, but it would be inappropriate for federal funding to ignore local efforts. But would it make sense for Oklahoma and California both to receive $2 billion, when the latter had already agreed to spend $10 billion of its own money, while the former has done nothing of the sort?

In a September meeting in Georgia, Mr. LaHood was asked whether that state would receive federal dollars for high-speed rail. He responded: “It’ll come to Atlanta if Georgia gets its act togetherThere has to be a commitment by state government that transit is important.” This kind of rhetoric is helpful, because it provides a clue for how the U.S. government will determine funding.

The Department of Transportation has yet to establish how it will measure the efficacy of various proposed rail projects. The government will release a draft national rail plan later this month, a document which should provide some clues about Washington’s goals for intercity rail. Initial plans suggested that the government would release funding for Phase I corridors (those submitted in August) in late September, but there has been no news on that front. It would be appropriate, after all, if the government provided funding after describing its goals for the rail program.

There is also the question about how much of the $8 billion the federal government will distribute for each of the funding tracks; some states are planning to wait for round two of applications, which will be due in Spring 2010. For instance, Minnesota is planning to apply for $200 million in track 2 funds for the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, Northstar, and the Northern Lights Express — but only next year. New Hampshire has temporarily delayed action on a planned line between Nashua and Concord, with the expectation that it will be able to demand funds later. How much will the DOT have already committed by then? Will there be any money left?

Of course, Congress has a role to play here as well. If the $8 billion included for high-speed rail in the stimulus was a good start, it clearly isn’t enough to rework the American rail system, which is hardly the paragon of quality service. President Obama requested $1 billion in additional annual appropriations for rail for the next five years, but that isn’t enough to meet the demand; the House has suggested a $4 billion grant for this year alone, but the Senate has yet to sign on. James Oberstar (D-MN), Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has proposed a $50 billion allocation to rail over the next five years, but his efforts to see a new transportation bill passed have been delayed repeatedly by disagreements in the Congress about how to find money.

Nonetheless, the deluge of applications from states suggest that congresspeople increasingly have strong constituent desires for increasing the pot of federal rail allocations. Whether Congress will follow through on that incipient desire, however, is another matter.

53 replies on “Final Applications Submitted for Corridor-Level High-Speed Rail Grants”

The most straightforward (and politically poisonous) way to find money for this would be to raise the federal gas tax to fully cover the highway trust fund, and use the dollars that bail that out for transit. IIRC, a nickel a gallon gets you around $5 billion over the course of a year.

Good post. We are beginning to separate the serious from the unserious proposals for HSR with this latest round of applications.

When you combine this list of proposals with the analysis conducted for a proposed Amtrak State Corridor program in 2005, you can see which states are serious about rail investment and which are not.

Check out the PDF below:

and review slides 69 – 92. If you want a shorter read, skip to slides 74 – 77 to get the core analysis. Amtrak put out a call for state corridor proposals and 29 states responded. It then graded the proposals on 8 different metrics of readiness to proceed. Corridors with 8 out of 8 metrics fulfilled were considered Tier I corridors, corridors covering 5 to 7 metrics were Tier II, and those fulfiling 1 to 4 metrics were Tier III.

In the Amtrak analysis, the only Tier I corridors were:

-Philly – Harrisburg
-Raleigh – Charlotte
-Chicago-St. Louis
-Eugene,OR – Seattle
-San Diego-LA-San Luis Obispo
-San Jose-Sacramento-Reno

Tier II corridors included:


While this analysis is five years old, it does point out the states that have been regularly investing in rail. When you hold the funding requests above up to this Amtrak analysis list, California, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin all look like states with serious commitments to get things done.

Georgia, with its backwards legislature, is a poser in this group. Kansas, at $10 million, may only lay a mile or two of track. Ohio isn’t virulently anti-rail like Georgia is, and they have a big concept in the 3C plan, but are they spending any money on state-supported corridors? I’m not sure.

Oklahoma has a big ask for a mostly rural state, but they do have a recent history of funding operations for the Heartland Flyer route. They may not be doing much in terms of capital, but they are providing operating support for rail today.

Florida- does anyone know if Florida puts up money for Amtrak right now? They seem to be the most schizophrenic on HSR. Passed a pro-HSR referendum in 2000, repealed it in 2004, elected anti-rail Gov. Bush, elected relatively moderate Charlie Crist who issued press releases about his state’s HSR application. Next door, Bobby Jindal proudly withdrew Louisiana’s application.

The bottom line- this list of projects, regardless of funding, is a decent picture of what may be coming for the big funding pot in the near future.

The list is currently missing applications for what should be sizable amounts from NY, CT, TX, and OR, unless those states were all Track 1 applications.

Looking at the current list, the easiest first cut is Oklahoma for $2 billion for Oklahoma City to Tulsa. Does not make sense to build a new isolated higher speed intercity rail system between 2 cities which is not connected to other multiple frequencies per day trains or has one of the biggest cities in the US as an anchor. The once a day Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Dallas /Fort Worth to the once a day LD train does not quality. Build a San Antonio to Dallas / FW corridor service first, then extend the corridor northward to Oklahoma City, and only then extend a multiple frequency per day corridor service to Tulsa. Same goes for Georgia. Until there is a active higher speed corridor service from DC to Richmond to Charlottesville to Atlanta, why spend half a billion of federal money on a isolated Atlanta to Macon line?

The projects that do make more sense are true HSR in California because they already have active corridor service with the Surfliner, Capital Corridor, and LA & San Fran have been building up their rail transit systems. The upper Mid-West projects for Chicago to St Louis, Chicago to Detroit, Chicago to Milwaukee to Madison all qualify as establishing the foundation for the mid-West intercity HSR. Virginia and North Carolina would be connected to and extend the Northeast corridor, so they qualify. Washington State and Oregon would be upgrading the Amtrak Cascades service, so that qualifies. Don’t know what to make of Florida’s application because of the political history of the state. Major federal money spent on HSR / intercity rail there could easily go into a big sinkhole with little to show for it in the end.

Yonah — We need a better ‘source’ re the Illinois application. That linked article is mostly about a $10 mil study of the Champaign route. It does not tell us what is in the remainder of the half-billion ask. Thanks.

Strictly speaking, California’s bid is the only one on the list that’s HSR. The other bids wouldn’t even give the corridors the same quality of rail service as pre-HSR Europe, where trains were already electrified and lightweight.

The bids in New York and the Midwest at least are for lines that are mostly straight enough to have good upgrade potential later (though New York will do better if it builds the extra tracks along a new, straight alignment between Syracuse and Rochester, where the existing ROW is too curvy). The lines in the South have little upgrade potential, and every year that passes without true HSR built paralleling them is another year’s worth of sprawl that Amtrak will have to use eminent domain on to build its straight ROW.

From the FL-DOT HSR site, the Florida application is for a service “in excess of 120mph”. Is that intended to be a Regional HSR system, an Express HSR system, or launching as a Regional HSR system with the potential to be upgraded to an Express HSR system?

Between Albany and Syracuse the existing RoW isn’t too straight, either. Rochester-Buffalo is pretty good.

Washington-Richmond is a lost cause for beating 90mph on the existing RoW. But the median of I-95 is available for at least some of the route (say from Triangle south). What’s good enough for Connecticut should be good for Virginia, too. The S-line from Collier to Raleigh is fairly straight and a couple of the alternatives being considered in the Tier II EIS cut off what curves there are. I’ve seen it claimed that NCDOT is considering a new straight Charlotte-Raleigh route across largely rural land. And we shouldn’t forget that the old Southern RR Mainline from Washington through Charlottesville and Lynchburg to Greensboro is nicely straight for much of its length (and about 100 miles shorter than Greensboro-Raleigh-Richmond-Washington). South of Lynchburg it gets notoriously hilly, freights slow to a crawl near the top of the inclines, but that shouldn’t pose a problem for over-powered high speed passenger trains.

i seriously thought some of those requests were in millions not billions only to look closely and see that infact yes it did say billion… NY, NC, VA, OK. certainly NY, NC and VA deserve a decent amount of money but not the full request and not when CA could only get up to $4.5 billion. Oklahoma, is that a joke? The state is completely in bed with big oil, the state that holds the distinction of having the most unpedestrian friendly city, the state with 2 of the most whacko senators, is asking for $2 billion in HSR money?!?!?

i couldnt agree more about funding requests as mentioned here that it should only go to those with the state commitment already made, but being that this is political, you also have to make sure there is a good balance so that it doesnt look like its rewarding blue states. sure some radical conservative commentators will make that claim no matter what, but the dispursement of funds does need to look reasonably balanced to a normal middle-of-the-road person.

Just for the Hades of it, I decided to compare the requested totals to Amtrak’s priority lists:

California $4.5b Tier I
Illinois $550 m Tier I
Michigan $830 m Tier II
North Carolina $3.9 b Tier I
Virginia $1.75 b Tier II
Washington $850 m PDX-SEA: Tier I, SEA-VAC, Tier II
Wisconsin $652 m Tier I

Tier I: $10.027 b
Tier II: $3.005 b
Total: $13.032 b

Washington’s application was split half-half between the two tiers.

The Tier I projects are 20% more than $8 b, and the total is about 60% more.

So that $8 b will cover most of Amtrak’s highest priorities.

As to Oklahoma, Georgia, and Florida, if they are willing to contribute some state money, their proposals will then be worthy of consideration.

PA applied for $3.1b,986355.shtml

The Lackawanna cutoff is laughable as a HSR proposal. Keystone east would be for 125mph service, which is not HSR Express, but is at least on the better end of HSR Regional. Most of the other “HSR” proposals are barely Emerging HSR. Finally, PA asked for money for the Pittsburgh Maglev. I’m not even going to touch that one.

It isn’t just the Lackawanna cutoff. A lot of these are simply not HSR proposals. The Pacific Northwest proposal, for example: after spending $850M, the speed limit on the Cascadia line would still be 79 mph. The $850M is preparatory spending: eliminating the bottlenecks and congestion which would make a higher speed limit meaningless. This is the right approach, but it looks odd in the HSR Programs context. It demonstrates how bad the rail infrastructure is, how far we have to go. 3Cs is the same sort of thing. Spending $564M gets Ohio a railroad with a 79 mph speed limit, but where no railroad was before. They have to get to have a railroad there before they can start to speed it up.

Is that intended to be a Regional HSR system, an Express HSR system, or launching as a Regional HSR system with the potential to be upgraded to an Express HSR system?

None of the above. It’s intended as another study that will never come to fruition.

But the median of I-95 is available for at least some of the route (say from Triangle south). What’s good enough for Connecticut should be good for Virginia, too.

Actually, Virginia has a much worse problem than Connecticut. In Connecticut, for most of the length of the route at least one of I-95, US 1, and the Shore Line is straight enough, and there are enough areas with empty space for transition from one ROW to another. In Virginia, the existing rail lines are straight only between Richmond and Norfolk; I-95 is pretty straight, but there’s no place to transition to the existing rail lines at each station.

NY state asked for $7.9 billion? For that amount of money, they should consider going directly to a 220 mph true HSR system, after a round of the much more modest fixes for the most serious current bottlenecks.

While PA applied for $3.1 billion, a whopping $2.3 billion of that is for the Phase A of a maglev train from the Pittsburgh airport to downtown Pittsburgh. Easy solution to save money: shoot that project proposal with a rail gun.

But… Shanghai has a maglev boondoggle. Why shouldn’t America have a few of its own, too? I propose that every city in the country build a Transrapid system to connect the airport with an outlying subway or light rail stop from which people can take connecting transit to downtown.

So, did PA want a little under $500m to upgrade the Keystone East and figure they’re more likely to get that if it looks like a consolation prize after the Maglev gets turned down? Or perhaps $900m including the Lackawanna cutoff?

The Maglev seems like state politics – make the application, and then its the US-DOT fault if (when) its not funded.

On FL: “None of the above. It’s intended as another study that will never come to fruition.

If Florida was just putting in the Orlando Airport Connector as a sacrificial lamb, there’s $340m that its sheltering in Track 1 and 2 funding applications.

The press release put out by PA lists $490 million for the Keystone East corridor projects to increase max speed to 125 mph and $401 million to restore the Lackawanna Cutoff train service to Scranton. Restoring the Lackwanna Cutoff would really be a mix of commuter and intercity rail service and not high speed, but it would provide rail service to the NEC and NYC for communities that have been without it for many years. Both are not likely to be fully funded of the $8 billion stimulus funding, could be funded if Congress allocates $5 billion or more annually for HSR / intercity rail in the future.

Fearless Forecast One: PA will not get all that it asked for. But as noted, ‘it doesn’t hurt to ask’. To the Maglev lobbyists and their political supporters, (isn’t one outfit headquartered in Pittsburgh?), PADOT can say, “Well, we tried.” Same to the Lackawanna supporters — and why not try, since Biden is from Scranton.

In the real world, PADOT wants that half billion for Philly-Harrisburg, and has a strong claim, having put $75 mil of state money into it so far, in what has been Amtrak’s demonstration project for improving rail service. And it claims to get another half million passengers a year from the half bil investment. Do many other projects look to add a half million riders annually to the Amtrak system for only half a billion dollars?

Fearless Forecast Two: PA will not get the full $500 mil, but will get at least $400 mil, and be asked to come up with the remainder out of state funding. (I think most states will be asked to come up with money. CalHSR might use the bond funds, and a few other states may come up with something.)

We had good discussion of the Keystone Corridor last week, but I don’t think we finished it.

PA says it will get the Harrisburg tracks up to 150 mph potential in a few years. And then? Won’t they need more traincars, designed to go faster than the ones running now? Will that be met out of a new order for new cars for the Acela service? I’ve heard that the Acela equipment ain’t gonna last no 40 years, not nearly. And since those trains often run full, Amtrak really needs more Acela cars for more trains to try to squeeze in more frequencies, like every half hour service. The bigger the Acela order, the lower the unit price. So it’s in Amtrak’s interest to use the same fast trains on the NEC and the Keystone (and any other line that gets electrified in time).

Fearless Forecast Three: There’s gonna be more rail money coming in Stimulus Bill Two. That’s the one Congress will pass after unemployment holds at a rate over 10% (not counting discouraged workers, involuntary pat-timers and other essentially unemployed workers) for six more months. Remember, the Congressional elections are coming up next fall — and Japan’s economy has been flat for about 18 years since their big real estate-stock market crash.

In the Keystone East, there are four distinct projects. Given that PA already contributes state subsidies on the operating side, if the full application is not funded, it would be more in line with the idea of Stimulus to fully fund some of these projects than to provide funding contingent on a state match.

Indeed, I find it highly unlikely that any project that requests full funding will be partially funded contingent on a state match – full funding of distinct parts of projects that requested full federal funding is far more likely.

There are very few applications for full funding of substantial fractions of a billion dollars that do not allow that kind of full funding of component projects within the application. Even the Triple-C could be funded for somewhere in the vicinity of $300m to set up a “Double C” in the more time-competitive Cleveland/Columbus route.

I think the Keystone ridership figures are on the low side because they don’t include any new trains, though I doubt they won’t be adding trains once the upgrades are said and done. Moreover, they assume Philly will continue to lose population which I think may be chancing and perhaps more importantly, the population closest to the station or fed to the station by rapid transit is growing with potential Amtrak riders.

Szabo has issued a statement that says 24 (so you’re missing 10) states applied for $50B in track 2. There were 34 states’ applications for $7B on the other tracks FRA has decided to make all the awards at the same time, “in the winter.”

He may be hoping the new stimulus bill gives him more money to lay with.

I’d like to see a little more imagination in the design or the rail system, particularly the actual trains themselves.
A leap forward in the design could see some of the track curve issues reduced and provide a much better system.
I can’t see why we couldn’t have 300mph plus trains in many existing corridors and the California one should be able to get closer to 500mph..
It is time to clear the drawing board and rethink the whole design as there has been little innovation since the 19th century, sure they’re pointier and they tilt and they some have ridiculously inefficient maglev but really we’re still talking iron trains on iron tracks.
We need to launch a design competition as a mater of urgency and get the best minds focused on what we are really trying to achieve – moving passengers and goods quickly and sustainably.
The rail industry has to make a technological leap to the point where rail transport is faster, easier and more comfortable than air transportation. It is possible.
The only rail systems we should be contemplating must be electric. All other approaches should be prohibited.
I know you like your traditional trains but the rail of the future involves small much faster and safer trains running more frequently and in some cases on solar power.
It is time to step back and take a fresh look.
Get Nasa involved, enlist designers who have no preconceptions about train design and see what comes out of it. There is no use in an outdated 19th century approach to rail transportation, it will be a waste of money and uncompetitive.
It is easier than you think.
Better train design will see many of the expensive obstacles to expanded rail disappear. Get moving now.

Dean, believe it or not, but some people have already gotten to 300 mph (=480 km/h). The French got to 574 in test conditions. The Japanese get to 581 on their maglev track routinely – and contrary to what you say, maglev is more efficient than conventional rail at the same speeds.

NASA engineers are the people who designed Challenger and Columbia, and got you boondoggles like the Moon landing (which had no research benefits and was intended only to increase the national penis size) and the Space Shuttle program (which is a dead-end, with the next generation of spaceships based on pre-Shuttle designs). I’ll take JR Central’s engineers over them any day.

They stopped using iron rail in the 19th c. There certainly have been innovations since then, not that there can’t be more. Trains did a good job covering slab track innovations, mag lev doesn’t actually have any contact with the rail as I understand it. tilting trains certainly didn’t exist in the 19th c

Bruce — I said, PA will get at least $400 mil, and be asked to come up with the remainder out of state funding.

You introduced the word “contingent.”

We agree that the feds will fully pay for this, that, and the other. I think it will be about $400 mil for the Keystone. Then PA will decide if it wants to pay for a little bit more on its own. Or it can wait, for who knows how long, before more federal money comes to the Keystone.

Of course, this whole confusing system with the puny $8 billion prize is working wonderfully well to draw forth wish lists from the state DOTs. When their wishes are only partly fulfilled, the states can use their own money to turn dreams into reality, or suggest that their Congresscritters come up with more funds.

So I could have included more explicitly as part of Fearless Forecast Two: Not PA, nor any other state, will get all that it asks for.

Not one will get it all it wants and needs. The bad is none of the interim goals of faster trains and more riders will be reached. The good is it gives Congress an incentive to keep the money flowing to rail next year and the next and the next.

The update from Federal Railroad Administration head Joseph Szabo confirms: Not nearly enough money to go around. Gonna be coast to coast disappointment when the grants are announced this winter.

Dean- ever higher top speeds are nice but you’re missing the point that what really matters is AVERAGE speed. There’s a lot of talk on this board about how 110 mph operation is “not real HSR.”

110 mph is not the TGV. But the designs in NC that we are planning on for our 110 mph service will have a higher AVERAGE speed than the Acela, meaning the service with the 110 top speed will cover 500 miles faster than the 150 mph top speed service will cover 500 miles. The Acela owns 50% of the air/rail market in the NYC/DC market and 30-35% in the BOS-NYC market.

Of course, you also have to pull over and stop every now and then, which slows travel times and speeds down. While TGV/Shinkansen-style service all over the place would be great, a much more affordable and wider deployed network of significant quality would put a few 220-mph lines in places like CA and MANY lines that have 110-125 mph top speeds but have average speeds in the 85-90 mph range.

Woody: “Bruce — I said, PA will get at least $400 mil, and be asked to come up with the remainder out of state funding.

You introduced the word “contingent.”

That’s how I then read, and still read, “and will be asked to come up with the remainder out of state funding.”

If PA just gets three out of four projects funded, that’s not saying anything about where the funding for the remainder comes from – it could well be applied for out of a later annual HSR appropriation with, say, an 80:20 match, in which case only 20% of the remainder would come out of state funding.

Ohio is the only project I have seen that comes close to just a single submission for project funding, up or down. And then again, no Republican ever won the White House without carrying Ohio, and Ohio has the most densely populated corridor in the country that lacks conventional inter-city rail service, and the second largest city in the country that lacks conventional inter-city rail service, and the project comes with a state operating subsidy, so it would not be a tremendous shock if the Ohio request is fully funded.

For the political reason noted the administration would love to give Ohio part of this money. Unfortunately the initial proposal is a dog with an average speed under 40 mph, which would make it a prime target to vilify as waste and portray as the program’s failure. Unless the 3-C plan commits to upgrading to higher average speeds, the admin will probably pass over it for now (other than some seed money for more studies) and rightly so.

My very rough guess is that the big winners this round will be CA ($3B), NC($.7B), Portland-Seattle ($.7B), some NE Corridors feeds such as to Harrisburg, Richmond, and Hartford (total $1B), and Chicago-Madison, -St. Louis, and -Michigan (total $1.8B.) Token study seed money ($.8B) sprinkled around states like FL, TX, MN, OH, OR, NM, IA, and CO, and told to come back for the next round. Gets one big ultimate demonstrator moving forward in CA, a few “moderate HSR” demonstrator corridors going with a high likelihood of success, and dangles plenty of carrots for the rest of the country (hope is always more important than change when it comes to electoral strategy.)

Karnak, do you have a link supporting the assertion that the 3C plan will have average speeds of 40 mph? What I’ve seen (granted, by clueless, rent-seeking contractors) is that the trains will be able to maintain their top speed for most of the way.


“A train performance calculation for the 3C Corridor indicated that the best possible train run time from Cleveland to Cincinnati would be 5:20. This does not include any time for station stops, slow orders, recovery time, and time needed to hand-off the passenger train from one railroad to another. For the purposes of continued planning and coordination with the railroads, a total train run time of 6 hours and 30 minutes has been assumed in the schedule development. However, the ultimate service goal for the 3C “Quick Start” Service is to reduce the total train run time between Cleveland and Cincinnati to under six hours.”

250 miles in six hours = 42mph

Bruce — You introduced the word “contingent” and the phrase “contingent on.”

You use that word in definition #4 from Miriam-Webster:

4 : dependent on or conditioned by something else

That is not what I said.

I predicted that PA will get about $400 mil and have to come up with the rest themselves.

Or it can wait. But PA will get whatever amount it gets from the feds this round WITHOUT that being “contingent on” any further Keystone investment by the state.

If PA gets in a hurry, it could decide to spend $100 mil of its own money to get this package done. Or it can wait and hope for more federal money to come down the track. That decision will depend on politics and economics, but not much on the planning of the Keystone project itself.

I wasn’t at any point referring to your baby, the Ohio Hub. Karnak seems to have that nailed.

Woody: “I predicted that PA will get about $400 mil and have to come up with the rest themselves.

Or it can wait. But PA will get whatever amount it gets from the feds this round WITHOUT that being “contingent on” any further Keystone investment by the state.

Yes, you clarified that. I simply read “will have to” literally, without the tacitly assumed “or, if PA prefers, they can simply wait”.

Restating what I thought you had said in different terms turns out to have been useful, since it clarified what you meant to say.

So, except for the Triple-C, all of the applications in the list above can be scaled down to allocations in the range of the $100m’s. The big question on how many distinct projects of one or a few $100m’s can be funded will be how much is given to CA, and whether or not to fund the DisneyWorld / Airport connector in FL.

Karnak — Great to get this contest started! I was thinking of this too, but looking at the $8 + $4 = $13 B promised so far.

From the initial $8 B , we won’t see more than $2.4 B go to Cali. It has to be enough to give them a serious start, but not so much that the other states scream too loud. After all, 50 states = $160 mil each. So Cali will get the combined “share” of 15 states, tops. Then it might, might, get a commitment for $500 mil from each of the next four years, that gets them up to $4.4 B. Huge money and not nearly enough to get ‘er done. But that commitment in turn puts great pressure on Congress to put more money into the kitty, so other states can get more too over the next few years.

The next most deserving megaproject is the Mid-West Network, stage one Chi-St Louis, Chi-Detroit, Chi-Milwaukee-Madison.
The political problem here is the flip of its political blessing: home ground of Obama and LaHood. The Mid West can’t get too much without charges of favoritism.

And this: they’ve been working on this thing for many years and they don’t seem very ready. The station in Madison isn’t going to be downtown, despite everybody saying that HSR beats flying when it’s downtown to downtown.

Michigan wants $830 million to get trip time Detroit-Chi down to 4 hours. Meanwhile the legislature is ready to cut the subsidies to the existing Amtrak-run state trains. At least Amtrak owns some trackage on this route (and Wisconsin owns part of the line to Madison). With prices down in The Great Recession, this would be a good time to buy the ROW into Detroit, but I don’t see anybody asking to do that.

And Chi-St Louis, sure, but which route? If they want to upgrade to true HSR down the line, it should run on straighter tracks down to Champaign first.

Meanwhile the city of Springfield, unhappy that HSR will run too close to civic landmarks, wants it on different tracks seven blocks away. Heavy pressure is being brought because there’s no environmental impact statement for the other tracks, and doing one would delay the “already chosen” route by a year or so.

So I also see $1.5 to $2 B going to WI, IL, and MI. I’ll say $2 B including something spent in Minnesota and Indiana.

As I’ve said, $400 mil for the Keystone. It may be the most shovel-ready project on Ray LaHood’s desk.

That gets me to $4.8 B

N.C. and VA are also prepared to spend their grants usefully and quickly. Some awkwardnesses. The most ready stretch would be Charlotte-Raleigh. The connection to Richmond is still a study in progress. It does not exactly link to the NEC, even if VA gets a lot of money for upgrades into D.C.

But I could perhaps see N.C. getting $1 B. They are ready to use it, and a big grant here would give cover for similar large grants involving Chicago.

Seattle-Portland is a heartbreaker. Washington has put money and effort into the Cascades, and it is ready to spend half a billion starting like next week. But when they are finished with that round of upgrades, they promise to improve on-time performance from a pathetic 60% or so to better than 90%, cut the scheduled time by 5 or at most 10 minutes, and add another departure each way. Yeah, that’s it. Big bucks yes, big bang for, not.

Texas, Florida, and Georgia are competing for the title of “Least Deserving of Funding” based on past policy toward passenger rail. They would need billions to do anything, and they are in no way ready to go. I’d give them study money. Consultants need love too.

Most of the other states are actually proposing “new and improved Amtrak.” That’s not an easy sell, so they are applying for HSR funds.

Florida is asking to start Amtrak service on the East Coast line Jacksonville-Daytona-Melbourne-West Palm Beach-Fort Lauderdale-Miami.

Missouri is asking to put in some double tracks and new sidings, a bridge or two, and new trainsets to improve the River Runner service Kansas City-Jefferson-St Louis.

New York State has considerable expertise in spending large sums of money. It wants to start with projects to shave a few minutes here and there and add a few departures. Then it will need more billions to get to HSR status.

Even the Ohio Hub start-up looks like “more Amtrak”, and is a far cry and many billions more from HSR.

LaHood and the team will have to decide if they want to fund any of these, or none, or what.

If they decide to fund them, the dam breaks and almost every state will be coming up with a way to spend “its” $160 million share on “new and improved Amtrak”. Even Idaho and Wyoming could pool “their” $160 mil each and pay for plenty improvements needed to start up the Pioneer again.

Obviously, spending on the new and improved Amtrak could divert funds from true HSR. I’m not sure that’s bad. I’d hate to see us get HSR while proving once again the time-tested adage that ‘the poor must go slower in order for the rich to go faster’.

I’d have liked a national goal of doubling the number of Amtrak passengers by the end of Obama’s first term. That would have needed hundreds of new rail cars etc. and they didn’t go that way. But maybe this other route will get us there.

Being from NC I wish I could be optimistic about NC’s chances to get anything decent – even $500 million- out of this. But out of all the places in the country, the place where there seems to be the LEAST buzz over the high speed rail proposal in the media and among politicians is North Carolina.

Although NC has spent (wild guess here) $200 million on track, stations, and rolling stock over the past decade with little or no federal match, we just don’t have the money at the state level to commit in order to match. NC submitted 4 applications, increasing in scope and complexity. We have a 22% match for the most basic one, with a total cost of $30 million. So that one’s in the bag. But the match decreases to roughly 6% for the $1.1 billion that NC wants to spend on Raleigh-Charlotte, and then finally to less than 1% for the full $4.3 billion high speed line between Raleigh and Richmond.

In addition, LaHood seems positively fixated on giving a big chunk of this change to Florida. Early on, he said that “California and Florida are way ahead of the pack.” Now today he’s in Florida encouraging the state to “get its act together” so that he can give them HSR money. He really, really wants FL to win.

Maybe NC could scrape together a 20% match for the $1 billion if its feet were held to the flame. But LaHood is too interested in giving Florida this money, so I don’t expect we’ll see much.

N.C. won’t get the feds to put up more than 1% of the Raleigh-Richmond HSR, not this year.

No problem. VA and NC are simply not ready to spend big money on it for a couple more years at least. We’re talking Obama’Biden’s second term. I’m sure I looked at a map of that route with dotted line A and dotted line B, because they have not even selected the final route, much less done any environmental stuff.

VA is not all that ready to link to the NEC either. Looks like Union Station isn’t ready for them. The new state-supported train from Lynchburg and Charlottesville will stop at L’enfant Plaza.

But Patrick M above impressed me with his claim:
“in NC … our 110 mph service will have a higher AVERAGE speed than the Acela….”

And Raleigh-Charlotte is one of those Tier I segments on Amtrak’s little list.

An earlier post, I think it was here, claimed that N.C wanted to doubletrack a couple hundred miles for about $600 million. I hope they get a billion or more. The more they get, the less of a target that makes California and Illinois when they get $2 B or so.

As for FL, consider the human element. Ray La Hood is a former colleague of Cong John Mica, the ranking member of the House Transportation Committee. Mica is not one of the Repubs who hates Amtrak and all passenger rail, making him, like La Hood, by definition NOT one of the really crazy Repubs. These guys could be friends, I don’t know.

Besides, it’s part of the job of the Secty of Transportation to get along with the ranking member of the opposition party on the Congressional Committees that oversee his Department and its funding. So I’m assuming Mica will get some nice plum out of the $8 B goodie bag. I hope he gets a “new and improved Amtrak” line down the FL East Coast Line. He might get help with SunRail.

Mica might even get money to connect Busch Gardens in Tampa with Disney, Universal, and Sea World in Orlando. And good if he does, because then, in for a dime, he’s in for a dollar. Billions more dollars. Because to make FL HSR real and not a theme park ride, it has to go to Miami. That will take more billions, and the other states will be clamoring along for their share of that next big round of funding too.

I guess I’m kind of disappointed that very few of the proposals are for speeds of 90 mph and faster. I guess the money can only go so far and any improvements are much needed. However it seems like a sham to call it $8 Billion for High Speed Rail.

Also I’m kind of disappointed that there is no proposal for money for the NEC. Money would be well spent fixing that tunnel in Baltimore or the curves in New Hampshire. Well maybe in the next round.

NEC doesn’t need another round, just give Amtrak enough money to do it. They’ve put a plan together how many times? Kummant had it done and stated he wanted to double Amtrak ridership…canned. I see CA definitely getting the $950 million for SF-San jose, even if the rest of the project dies, current service will be improved. I also see LA-SD, also current service. the rest is a lot of money, little immediate benefit. that’s $1.2 bn. Keystone East maybe the only to achieve reasonably high speeds (125 mph). Also, regarding MI, please be aware that Chi-Detroit is NOT state funded. This would not only improve ridership but improve Amtrak’s bottom line. I don’t much like the WI plan, I’d rather see a more complete proposal to the twin cities.
Lastly, VA and Union Station. Electrification south of DC would free up a ton of capacity at Union Station and have the side benefit of allowing MARC-VRE through runs

Alon, that could explain why LaHood is so determined to give him something else in FL. Mica isn’t gonna get his hands on the NEC; there’s at least five states in the way of that scheme. So maybe give him a private consortium to run Busch Gardens-Disney World as a demonstration for privatization. And good luck with that, Congressman.

eldondre, I’m ready to upgrade from Union Station south. But VA ain’t ready. The current proposal to spend $1.8 B and get up to 90 mph by 2017 does NOT include electrification. That’s another billion or so that will have to come along later. Billions more dollars from Congress later.


A few comments/clarifications on the NC plans.

1. I agree with you and orulz that matching funds at the state level could be the Achilles’ heel of the NC application. I am hoping, though, that our consistent spending of $10-20 million per year on rail capital totaling over $200 million in the last 10-13 years indicates that the state DOES find money for intercity rail. We’re opening a third RGH-CLT frequency in March based on 100% NC dollars.

2. The A/B Record of Decision is a lot clearer than the maps suggest. The dotted line to Winston-Salem via the NS K-Line and WSSB rail line was supposed to be executed by the Piedmont Authority of Regional Transportation (PART) in the Triad. All the core investments for SEHSR have always been on the NCRR mainline through Greensboro/High Point; this is firm in the documents.

3. You’re incorrect on the environmental work. NC has tons of it. More than that, NC has track charts and preliminary engineering started. Visit for details.

4. While more work is needed on the WAS-Richmond section, it is already a very active railroad and can be upgraded to 90 mph in several sections when Positive Train Control comes online in 2015. When completed, a Charlotte-Raleigh-Richmond-Washington SEHSR train will provide cross-platform transfers to any train at Washington Union Station. While this isn’t through-routing from Charlotte to NYC and Boston, that’s a pretty good connection.

5. To see how the RGH-RICH segment will be faster than Acela’s average speed, check out this aerial photo of the NC Track path #1 (blue) proposed versus the existing curve (black).

Your analysis of the Mica/LaHood relationship makes a lot of sense.

Absolutely right, Amtrak is the one pushing electrification. Perhaps the feds should indeed fund that as part of the NEC Improvement plan. I also think that funding chicago-Detroit woudl do a lot for Amtrak’s bottom line since they pay for it entirely and since it’s so unreliable, I’d bet they use more equipment than otherwise needed.

Patrick M — The dotted line stretch I was looking at wasn’t inside NC, it was Raleigh-Petersburg.

From that News Observer article linked by Bruce Sicelof @ 24 above:
“The 168-mile path to Petersburg would have a single track with passing sidings and 100 new highway bridges to run the track over or under every road. The state DOT has finished 30 percent of the engineering plans for three alternate routes to Petersburg.”

I expect that you’re ready to go with the NCRR section. It’s the new section toward Richmond that isn’t quite.

And with three alternate routes still being considered I didn’t think there’d be three environment surveys completed.


The three alternatives for Raleigh-Richmond are all basically along the existing (partly abandoned) CSX S-line. The alternatives depart from the existing RoW in slightly different ways, smoothing curves, mostly. There’s a potential environmental impact to creating RoW where RoW wasn’t before; there’s more cost to acquiring RoW where RoW wasn’t before; but straighter, smoother RoW will run better, faster, cheaper. So the decision between them isn’t straightforward. Still, everyone expects a Raleigh-Richmond locally preferred alternative early next year. Given that $$ won’t actually be available much before that, it’s reasonable for NC to submit the application. Although at $3.7B for Raleigh-S. Collier, I doubt FRA will fund it this go round.

And Vermont:

AARP has this link

Rutland Business Journal
Getting on track: Vermont seeks rail funds
October 5, 2009
“Vermont … application for $125 million … to rebuild its eastern and western corridor railroad network.

“The main goal is to accomplish rail service for Vermont’s entire western corridor by bringing the Ethan Allen Express from Albany, NY, which currently provides service as far north as Rutland, up to Burlington.

“… by improving the track from Rutland through Middlebury and into Burlington. Service would be further enhanced through additional track upgrades from Rutland into Manchester and through North Bennington and back into New York. …”


The NC EIS does have three potential alignments, but in many places the alignments are not far from each other. At one point, I believe the study area ballooned out to about a half-mile, but mostly the three tracks are reasonably close and represent different levels of aggressiveness in reducing curvature.

In short, the three alignments are being covered by the single Tier 2 EIS.

What I see is a pork barrel party where US public transportation lags behind the rest of the world and nobody gets HSR.

Looking at it from a distance I see the basic benefit of rail being ignored. I see few justifications for any sort of high speed rail within a single state’s borders and little likely co-operation between states.

I can only assume the result will be many half-baked attempts at under-funded improvements and a lot of money wasted.

Rail is just not going to work piecemeal.

Patrick – I am very familiar with HSR. I’m suggesting there is more than one way to skin a cat.
Are you familiar with the current cost of Maglev? – Are the funds available enough to even be considering current Maglev? I seriously doubt it.

What I see here is a total budget which will fail to accomplish any worthwhile goals further hampered by dividing it up and handing it out to a bunch of toy-shoppers and politicians.

Without a clear goal there will be a failure to reach any goal.

The states in the US are hardly larger than farms back where I come from. Even then – we can’t get HSR without Federal direction even though they only need to traverse 3 states to go transcontinental.

Direction = goal + funds + project management.

I don’t see any definitions (HSR) Goals – ???
and I certainly see no direction.
I predict the result will be similar to sending a bunch of boys to different toy shops with a vague suggestion about trains – when they come back and you try to put it together it’s only use will be a jigsaw puzzle.

If the goal is to dump as much cash into someone’s economy who knows where then you’re right on track for that. HSR shouldn’t even be being used in the conversation without a disclaimer. (HSR = anything that moves)

On a national level nothing will be achieved.

Best of luck. The US will need it.

If HSR is the measure of America’s future I’ll be selling my US dollars.

I here there is rumors that only 40% of the 767 billon dollar stumus package has been spend to date as of Oct 1. Also from that they are akso saying in Washington say the big banks are starting to pay back the billons in lottery ticket money they borrowed to play the morage lotto strachers. If the states are asking for $50 to $70 billon in rail funding to build up grade many railroad systems that have not been worked on scince the 1930’s then the Feds should use $50-$20 from the eather the billons the banks are spost to pay back or from the $767Billon dollar package.

They should also streamline the high speed rail construciton and work on it one high speed rail line at a time such as instead of nibbling at the railroad projects very slowlly they should do it all in several high speed eletric railroad adavices starting out from the Northeast Corridor. Such as the NEC has eletric powered trains then they should kick off the natonal high speed rail up grades with a eletric catenary adaince towards Chaicgo from Harrsionburg PA. Or they could extend the eletric lines thoguh New York too.They should also do a high speed eletric catenary adanicement south from Washingtion DC down to link up with Florida’s high speed rail. Calforinia could start it’s eletric catenary and high speed rail advaincement right away too scince it is going to act as it’s own eletric catenary system with no known planned links to the other eletric catenary rail systems. Maybe they could pay for this with one on one speical foucsed stumius pakages that are custem made for each state’s rail plans.

Dean @ 50 — I’m much more optimistic about HSR in the US than about the future of the American Empire.

Until last year all passenger rail in the US had a very bad reputation — slow, late, run-down, money-losing, doesn’t go where you want to go or when you want to go there… The public and the politicians had mostly given up on rail, and we seemed to be reaching the end of the line.

Then it all changed. Team Obama dangled a modest $8 Billion out there and incited a kind of feeding frenzy. Two dozen states rushed to ask for money for HSR routes and another dozen asked for funds to study rail improvements.

The entire conversation has changed. The media and the people are talking about fast trains for the future, instead of chewing over Amtrak’s past failures. State agencies that used to be honestly named the Department of Highways found themselves instructed by the governors to actually act like Departments of Transportation and get serious about rail. Politicians now see valid proposals about what could be done in their states and they’ll be working to see how they can help to get it done. (If you could get a Nobel Prize just for changing the direction of national policy discussions …)

In our sometimes clumsy federal system, today the proposals for improving rail are coming bottom up, from the various states, not top down from D.C., and building support closer to the grass roots As the states put forward their bids, we are getting a better idea of what is doable, which states are really committed, what’s a realistic timeframe and budget for projects, etc. Most of all, it’s beginning to dawn on the politicians and the public that fast trains may be a very good idea, but getting them will not be easy or cheap.

So the needs and the opportunities are becoming clearer. Priorities are emerging from the fog. When the $8 Billion carrot is sliced and diced and spread equitably across the four regions — Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and West — clearly many worthy projects will be left unfunded. At that point the pressure will be on Congress to put serious money behind better passenger rail. Then we’ll start to move.

Congress would most likely be more willing to add another 4 to 15 billon to the 8 billon high speed rail funds if they do see a lot of active construciton work in the states on new rail projects or improved train arival times. Then the public would to be more happy to go into it to.

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