Commuter Rail Connecticut Intercity Rail New Haven

Connecticut, Intent on Improving In-State Rail Connections, Plans Bond Release

» New Haven-Hartford-Springfield corridor would get significantly improved service, opening up possibility of Inland Route New York-Boston trains.

As the competition for the rapidly diminishing federal funds for intercity rail heats up, states are apparently taking seriously Washington’s call for increasing local spending on such projects. The $10.5 billion thus far allocated by the Congress for this transportation mode may encourage state and municipal governments to devote much more of their own funds to the program. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Transportation — at least behind the scenes — seems to be informing states that the only way they’ll receive future grants is by committing some of their own budgets to new tracks and rolling stock.

This is the case in Connecticut, which received only $40 million in the first distribution of funds this past January. Governor Jodi Rell (R), who is in her last year in office, wants more, so she has asked the State Bond Commission to release $260 million for the reconstruction of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield (MA) corridor, which runs roughly north-south through the center of the state. Connecticut hopes to bring in an additional $220 million from Washington later this year, enough to fund the first phase of the project.

The announcement ups the ante for other states that want the federal government to chip in for their own rail programs.

Connecticut’s project, which has been discussed for more than a decade, would double-track the entire corridor between New Haven and Springfield, a 62-mile Amtrak-owned line that is currently used by half a dozen Amtrak intercity trains a day. Much of the second track was torn out in the mid-1990s.

Stations would be upgraded to high-level platforms at each of the nine existing and three new stations. Once the improvements are completed in 2015, commuter trains would run every thirty minutes during peak periods and every hour at other times. Operations would be substantially bettered: Average train speeds are expected to rise from 40 mph to around 60 mph; daily round-trip trains to Hartford and Springfield would increase from six to 25 or more; travel times from Hartford to New York would decrease from 2h46 to 2h09, and travelers will be able to get to Worcester, Massachusetts from Penn Station in 3h49, a considerable improvement.

The funding that the state received in January already ensures the double tracking of ten miles of the corridor. Electric operations, necessary for direct Metro-North or Amtrak Northeast Regional service into Manhattan, would cost another $100 million and will not be included in the current project.

A 2005 report on the project suggested that the program would only attract about 3,000 daily riders, but that estimate may be low; the study claimed that only eight people would ride out of New Haven Union Station during the morning peak hour — this is a definite underestimate.

Even so, Governor Rell’s claim thatthis is the most exciting mass transit project ever in the state of Connecticut” is too exuberant: The New Haven Line Metro-North trains from New Haven, Bridgeport, and Stamford to New York’s Grand Central will remain far bigger ridership generators and fulfill a more important function in the state’s commuting patterns. And it could be argued that support for streetcar lines in the state could play a bigger role in determining the future of the state’s cities.

But in terms of improving the national rail network, the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield project is a fantastic investment. If the entire Inland Route is electrified (the route runs from New Haven north to Springfield, and then east to Boston), it could provide direct and vital access from Central Connecticut and Massachusetts to the large Boston and New York metropolitan areas. Intercity trains running along the line from New Haven to Boston will increase in number to six daily. Connecticut’s project will leave room for the future installation of overhead catenary.

In addition, the improvements along the New Haven-Springfield route, in conjunction with the realignment of service to Burlington, Vermont partly funded by the federal government in January, will radically alter the ability of northern New Englanders to get into New York City. Future funding will go towards connecting the line to Montréal, allowing trains from Boston to the Canadian city. Amtrak service to White River Junction from Penn Station will run in 5h32, compared to 7h36 today. In addition, the opening of full double-tracked corridor will ensure more reliable commutes. The Vermonter, which runs on the line now, has an on-time performance of only 84%.

Though the upgraded line does not fit anyone’s definition of high-speed rail, it is exactly the type of improved, fast-enough service that will allow more Americans to take the train without sacrificing their time compared to driving in a car. Connecticut’s decision to implement both commuter rail and improved intercity rail (the latter mandated by the fact that the U.S. grant program is explicitly not for commuter rail) will mean that new operations will be used by a whole variety of users, not be confined to a single purpose.

Image above: Hartford rail station, from Flickr user Mamorital (cc)

55 replies on “Connecticut, Intent on Improving In-State Rail Connections, Plans Bond Release”

Only 3,000 riders a day? That had to be a flawed study. Downtown Hartford has something like upwards of 100,000 commuters a day (probably much more). If only 1% of those commuters switched to rail, that’s already 1,000 riders just to Hartford. Good rush hour service from Windsor, Berlin, and Newington should bring more than that, and cities like Meriden, Wallingford, and Hamden could be opened to the Hartford job market and away from their New Haven-centric existence, further increasing ridership. Throw in connections to Metro-North, commutation to Springfield or New Haven, and incidental trips such as to Yale, the new Gateway Community College in New Haven, or to things like court dates in New Haven or Hartford and the rail line becomes quite useful. New Haven could even start to develop it’s overflow surface lots and ask potential jurors to take the train from Wallingford or Meriden, helping the city reclaim its downtown. I haven’t heard anything about a connection to Bradley Airport, but that also has the potential to add at least a few hundred riders a day.

The point is that expansion of service on this line allows the corridor to think of new transportation options, instead of just the car. Of course I’d love to see some kind of transit corridor from West Hartford, through Downtown, into East Hartford to complement this line, but I know my state and that’s years away.

This project also potentially opens up the area to the New York commuter market, especially if the line is ever electrified and Metro-North MUs can run up to Hartford, recreating the old New York, New Haven, and Hartford main route.

This is all without saying how this helps Amtrak increase service in the northeast. I’m also curious as to how construction of this line will impact current service, as State Street station in New Haven will be expanded, and most of the stations on this line are currently low platforms hemmed in by city streets. I’m very intrigued at how the Wallingford station would be rebuilt; it’s station house is from 1871, and town streets prevent the platform from being more than 2 cars. I doubt grade separation is on the table, but how could electrification take place without it?

This is a big improvement over the “2005 report” that you link to that proposed only double-tracking 18 miles of the line. I’m glad they’re planning on restoring the whole 40 miles of double-track operations that were torn out.

I go up to the Pioneer Valley at least once a year, and the “Palmer reverse” – well, I’m glad I’m never in a hurry when I take that train! Still, it’d be nice to shave an hour or so off the trip.

So, what’s the next project? Restoring passenger service on the old New York and New England line from Brewster to Danbury, Waterbury, New Britain and Hartford?

You’re getting to a very important point here.

A connection service between Metro North’s lines somewhere higher than 125th Street is well needed. Sure you have the 13 bus from Tarrytown to White Plains to Port Chester is available, but some upper end connections would really help mobility in the region.

I remember reading one of the Tappan Zee bridge replacement ideas was to connect a commuter rail to all five Metro-North lines, including the NJTransit ones, running from Port Chester to the Tappan Zee bridge site and westward. I doubt that project will ever happen considering NY state’s dire straits but it always seemed to me to be a great possible expansion of the Metro-North system.

The Tappan Zee bridge replacement study is still underway. Major infrastructure projects spend a VERY long time in the study phases these days. Appears that they are zeroing in on building a commuter rail connection line from Suffern across the Hudson river to the Metro-North Hudson line that would run into Grand Central. A bus corridor would run to connections to the Harlem and New Haven lines. Maps and alternatives can be found at As for NY state being in dire straits, they have to invest in better transportation options and infrastructure if the goal is to have businesses stay or move there.

Obviously BOS-SPG electrification and re-doubling must follow. Rebuilding the old B&M line north from SPG to BRA is extremely important to improve Vermont/MTL services from NYP and WAS (and maybe even to/from Florida in winter). Service through Amherst could continue with 2 trains a day from BOS through to MTR and a couple of more originating/terminating at WRJ. And that’s only a start.

Boston-Worcester is a natural for electrification, now that it’s owned by the State of Massachusetts.

Worcester-Springfield is much trickier, as it’s still a major freight route. It deserves a separate fast passenger route.

BOS-SPG improvements and electrification, as stated, should definitely be the next step. Then you have both the inland and the water route for BOS-NYP. I thought I read something that the inland route could be brought down to 2h30m for BOS-NYP, while the best we can probably get on the water route is 3h0m. Can anyone back this up?

After this, I think another logical step in addition to connecting the Vermonter to Montreal and improving the tracks, is improving and electrifying the line from SPG-ALB.

Can anyone back this up?

No, because it’s false. The worst section for NY-Boston is between NY and New Haven, which both routes would share. East of the CT/RI state line, the Shore Line is largely straight and already built to high-speed rail standards; no other route has anything approaching that. Within Connecticut the Shore Line is curvy, but east of New Haven it can be bypassed on I-95 very easily.

“Within Connecticut the Shore Line is curvy, but east of New Haven it can be bypassed on I-95 very easily.”
I would hardly categorize rerouting the NEC ROW in eastern CT to use I-95 as easy. There are some selected segments in eastern CT where the ROW could be rerouted to use the I-95 ROW, but there appears to be no plans to do so. The NEC infrastructure Master Plan which was released in May only calls for a high level CT River bridge replacement and some minor track capacity expansion in the New Haven to Westerly segment. I think Amtrak has thrown in the towel on doing much to improve the Shore Line route because of the political and financial obstacles.

Amtrak does have plans to fix curves and improve the NYP to New Rochelle 20 mile stretch which they own. There will be some very modest overall speed increases on the New Haven line in whatever decade Metro-North and CDOT actually finish their upgrades to the catenary, tracks and replace several bridges.

The Shore Line route is reasonably fast (well compared to the rest of CT) from East Haven to Old Saybrooke. It is the east of the CT River to RI segment that could make some use of the I-95 ROW. But we are spending $105 million to replace the Niantic River bridge. Going to be hard sell to bypass that anytime soon.

The only remaining grade crossings on the NEC are from just west of New London to Stonington. Getting rid of those grade crossings along with significant speed improvements could be used to justify rerouting the NEC to follow I-95 just west of New London and then cutting back to the current NEC somewhere east of Mystic. Done right, this could possibly reduce travel times between New Haven and Boston by 10-15 minutes by my WAG. That strikes me as a worthwhile improvement, but I don’t see the political support there yet to do anything this ambituous until we get serious about funding HSR in the US; on the order of $10 billion a year type money.

One issue with the inland route is the Springfield to Worcester segment. This is owned by CSX and even a casual look at google Earth shows that it is anything but straight. Planning and building a new faster and straighter ROW suitable for reasonably high speed passenger rail of 125 to 150+ mph in that segment could take a long time, even if the money spigot was turned on tomorrow.

I believe the area on the inland route above the right-of-way in Palmer is MA state land. That area is very curvy and at least represents one of the areas where speed can be improved.

Going to be hard sell to bypass that anytime soon.

It’s never going to be abandoned. Shore Line East trains and Amtrak regional will be on it until they perfect transporter technology as seen on Star Trek. Doesn’t mean the express train from Boston to New York has to be on it.

The Penn Studio study suggested using the I-84 RoW between Hartford and Worcester. I have my doubts about that study as a whole, but this suggestion seems reasonable and might even be affordable.

The I-84/I-90 route is feasible, but the problem is that the freeways aren’t entirely straight, and the terrain around is quite rugged; high-speed track may require tunnels there. To say nothing of the fact that there are some unavoidable curves between New Haven and Hartford. In contrast, the area around I-95 is flat enough that construction there can be done without tunnels and (more or less) without eminent domain.

The Penn Studio study connected up a lot of campuses where horny undergrads hope to meet other horny undergrads. For people less interested in that, the route has some flaws.

This project is amongst the best sorts of incrementalist projects akin to the improvements the first leg of the TGV made. While this particular project isn’t on that magnitude of ambition, electrifying and connecting other corridors (Keystone, Connecticut) make the corridor much more useful for many more people.

Your proposal Alan, makes the most sense for what I’ve read about moving anything NEC to I-95. Serving New London looks unavoidable, but the right of way between there and Mystic looks quite ideal and spacious for HSR. Does anyone know what the terrain is like, or the age of the overpasses?

I’d guess that it would take several billions of dollars to bring the inland line up to 110 MPH status – it is curvy in MA west of WOR, lots of grade crossings all along the way.

@Rebecca – Really? Last I looked, the B&M line reconstruction north of SPG had not started – still lightweight rail and lots of weds and bushes along the line. Have I missed something?

It hasn’t started, but MA received $70 to reroute through Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield, instead of routing through Amherst. That construction should be starting in the near future.

Without electrification this pretty much is a waste. The purpose of the line should be to increase movement and make it easy to get to NYC, New Haven, as well as intermediate destinations. And if Amtrak ever wanted to create a second ROW to Boston and use part of this ROW, electrification is pretty much mandatory. Don’t get me wrong, I support (strongly) rail between New Haven and Springfield, but unless they either electrify the line or make it so electrification is easier in the future (and of course plan for it), or they use DMU operation, all they’re getting is pretty much pork.

The New Haven – Springfield branch is being planned for electrification. BOS-SPG isn’t that far along yet, but I wouldn’t believe that it wouldn’t be setup for electrification.

One advantage of the New Haven to Springfield line is that it is owned by Amtrak. Gets around the problem of using a line owned by and used mainly for freight trains. Makes it a lot easier to define this as a core HSR/intercity rail corridor.

I also think it may be a mistake not to plan for electrification and being aggressive in closing grade crossings and straightening curves where feasible as part of the overall upgrade of the line from the start. If they start operations with diesel trains, that may create a reluctance to switch to electrification because of the sunk cost in the diesel trains. If there is enough funding the next 6 year transportation bill for HSR, CDOT and Amtrak should go ahead and seek funding to electrify the line and upgrade to 110+ mph speeds before they finish the track upgrades and start expanded commuter and Amtrak service.

The decision to go for high level platforms at all the stations on the route is a good one. PA wants to upgrade all the stations on the Keystone East corridor to high level platforms as well. If the NHV-Springfield corridor is electrified, running a once or twice daily Harrisburg, PA to Springfield, MA direct Regional or even an Acela train (once all the stations have high level platforms) might be an interesting experiment.

Yes, it’s a huge factor that this key stretch is Amtrak-owned. A little vague in the reports, but will it all be Amtrak-operated as well, including the commuter trains? On that same track, it’s also vague about the rolling stock, like who will pay and when it will be ordered. And how much will be ordered; for 25 trains a day in Hartford sounds like a good many railcars. (What is that 25 number anyway, two dozen roundtrips New Haven-Springfield and one Vermonter per day?) In the absence of the key details, I think we can assume that no funding has been officially committed by anybody for passenger cars or locomotives.

The absence of these specifics is probably a good thing at this point, because other things are so interrelated. Is the FRA going to lighten up on the requirements for passenger cars before this order is placed? Can the rolling stock order be combined with other orders to share a volume discount? Will Amtrak be going forward with its multibillion dollar fleet replacement plans by then? When will Amtrak place the oder for the next generation Acelas? Will the commuter cars for the Connecticut Valley be more like Metro North’s or more like Regionals or Keystone cars? Etc.

So they don’t know what kind of rolling stock to order yet, and it might, just might, turn out to be electric equipment when they do.

I don’t know what the plans are for operating the commuter service, but my guess is that they would combine it with the SLE operation. Make it a single Connecticut Rail Express (CRE?) operation with 2 lines: the SLE and the Springfield lines. Maybe even have a couple of daily trains that go from New London to Springfield. But because Springfield is in MA, MA will have a say in how the commuter service is setup to Springfield. Amtrak may operate the commuter service under contract, but it is run like the SLE, it would not be a Amtrak branded service.

Looking up Short Line East in wiki, I had forgotten that they currently run diesel engines. But SLE is apparently buying M8 electric cars, so they could keep the diesel P40 engines and rolling stock for use on the Springfield corridor until it gets electrified.

Amtrak will still run some Regionals to Springfield, the Vermonter and very likely any additional Vermonter and central MA service to points north of Springfield. Amtrak would also benefit the most from electrification of the corridor because then they only have to switch the engine(s) on the Vermonter (s) heading north of Springfield.

If a new generation of Acela is ordered, are those trains still going to be in operation, or operable? If another line, like LA-San Fran, Tampa-ORL, or CHI-STL route actually get built, can they be sent to those corridors?

The Acelas currently in use will never be in use on a greenfield high-speed line in the US. In both California and Florida, the state is looking primarily at foreign railroads with experience operating high-speed intercity trains; in California, Amtrak isn’t even a potential operator. In addition, the standards California plans on using are cribbed from the TGV and ICE, which have a maximum axle load of 17 metric tons; the Acela power cars have an axle load of 22 tons, so they’re out.

The Acela requires electrification and high level platforms. The trainset is also heavy and limited to a max speed of around 160-165 mph. CA HSR will be using their own 220 mph trainset on their routes. Tampa-Orlando eventually to Miami is going to be new trainsets. CHI-StLouis is likely only to be electrified as part of a true HSR corridor which is a long ways off.

Any plans Amtrak has for Acela replacements are years away from even putting out bids for an order. Amtrak has written about plans to buy 5 more Acela trainsets and additional coaches to add to the current fixed consists. But such a limited production run presents a problem. If Amtrak does someday move the Acelas from front-line service, the Keystone service might be one place they go.

Thanks Alan and Alon, for the information. Does Amtrak planning on cannibalizing them eventually, or could they be reappropriated onto a high-speed mixed traffic line, like my line to the Twin Cities? I ask because what we’re bound to get are the Talgo gas-turbines, which I heard the West Coasters love, but am thinking if the costs of Peak Oil come sooner, then our Talgos will go to a less dense corridor, and then the Acelas would come here, kind of like a rolling stock hand-me-down.

Also, terrible to hear that California won’t even consider Amtrak as an operator and are just oodling to foreigners. I’m not a xenophobe, I just think it shows how business has given the high ground on research and development.

Cameron, Amtrak has no plans to extend electrification to new lines, hence no plans to move the Acelas to other regions. Potentially it might use the Acelas on Keystone, but more likely it recognizes that the trains are a dead-end and will get rid of them once it gets the next-generation trains.

With California, the intention is to get people with experience in high-speed rail. Amtrak hasn’t even tried to offer itself as an operator. In Florida Amtrak is trying to play up the angle of operating trains “at speeds up to 150 mph,” but it’s a longshot.

I believe the scheme involves buying new *electric* trains, using them on the Shore Line, and then shifting the *diesels* currently used on the Shore Line to the Hartford/Springfield line.

There won’t be any “sunk cost” in new diesels, and we can hopefully get the momentum for electrification prior to the diesels becoming completely clapped out.

This plan may eventually also help to solve the problem on the NEC between New Rochelle and New Haven, politically speaking.

It’s about 86 miles NYC to Philly, or 1hr12 on the current Acela timetable — and it’s about 96 miles NYC-Hartford.

Yonah says, “Travel times from Hartford to New York would decrease from 2h46 to 2h09.”

If you want to get that down to about 2 hours, electrify the section to New Haven.

Now if you want really fast trains, like Philly has, well, you’ve got this section operated by Metro North, but it needs some work …

To be honest, I doubt that this will increase the political will to increase speeds on the New Rochelle-New Haven section. Connecticut is showing that it’s interested in regional rail, again, but won’t do what it takes to institute high-speed intercity rail. The biggest political problems in Connecticut are a) Metro-North’s 75 mph speed limit, b) Amtrak’s timid planning, and c) NIMBYism in the towns the NEC passes through.

Now, the Springfield project is pretty good by itself. It (slightly) improves intercity rail, it’s a decent regional corridor, and the problems it does have (e.g. the awkward number of daily roundtrips) are the same problems that repeatedly crop up everywhere else in North America.

Okay, scrub what I said about the number of daily roundtrips being akward. I misread it as 25 trains per day (i.e. 12.5 roundtrips), not as 25 roundtrips. 25 roundtrips is a good frequency.

This is a good plan, and not just because it’s a rail improvement. The infrastructure proposal is such that even though the trip times still suck, there will be plenty of opportunity to increase speeds in the future. High-level platforms should be a must on every passenger rail corridor, and for the expected level of traffic, double tracking is preferable.

If they also electrified then it would be best. But for a diesel-only corridor, it’s actually good work.

Now am I getting confused? I’m hoping that 25 roundtrips means 25 trains in each direction every day. In a 24-hour day that allows one train per hour, minus 6 or 8 hours during the night, to allow 3 or 4 ‘extra’ trains to run half hourly during each of the morning and evening peaks.

Yes, I’d expect to see a second Vermonter come along (or a “half Vermonter” — running to NYC but maybe not all the way to D.C. and back) to allow an a.m. train and a p.m. train both directions. If they do get that time to White River Junction from 7 hrs 30 minutes down to 5 hrs 30 minutes, they’ll fill two trains, for sure. If Amtrak can round up the rolling stock. Of course, that gets us back to the national problem of Amtrak’s big fleet renewal order.

One bummer: Following a link above to find average speed and round trip details, the article said, “In about 20 years when improvements are completed …” That’s taking a rather long view.

Hmm. With one train per hour… OK, make that one train per half hour in peak… and 2h09 minute runtime, 4hr18 minute roundtrip… sounds like 10 trainsets would cover it including a ‘spare’.

An overnight route to Montreal on the Vermonter route would be ideal. The Adirondack is a beautiful route but is extraordinarily slow, but such time can be tolerated and even enjoyed if it’s an overnight train.

Yes, as far as I understand this post, the intention is to have 25 trains in each direction per day. This works out to hourly service with some extra trains at the half-hour mark at peak hour.

As for rolling stock requirements, it all depends on turnaround times. Using the turnaround times common in France, Germany, and Japan, it would be easy to run trains every half hour in 2:09 with ten trainsets. However, Amtrak turns trains around more slowly, which may require going up to eleven or twelve sets.

In general, some of Amtrak’s rolling stock problems could be alleviated in the short run if turnaround times were shorter and if some of the slow restrictions were relaxed.

would double-track the entire corridor between New Haven and Springfield, a 62-mile Amtrak-owned line that is currently used by half a dozen Amtrak intercity trains a day. Much of the second track was torn out in the mid-1990s.

Someone deserves an award for foresight :(

Its one thing if it was reduced in the dark days of the late 1960s and 1970s when people seriously thought railroading wouldn’t make it to 1980 but to remove the 2nd track in the mid-1990s, unacceptable!!!!!! Any more details on this?

only eight people would ride out of New Haven Union Station during the morning peak hour

Probably because they would be going out of State Street Station, no?

Hopefully there will be a bar car (we all know there won’t but how we wish :) ). As far as ridership is concerned it would probably compensate for the still rather slow times and required transfer at NH. Its a shame the bar car isnt more common on commuter trains nationwide (MADD be damned), people seem to put up with more when they have easy access to alcohol and are surrounded by good company and conversation.

Arguably the nadir for Amtrak were the 1990s. The Clinton administration was indifferent to intercity rail. Amtrak has to shut down some long distance trains in the 90s. The Viewliner order, once planned for 400 or 500 cars of different types, became a 100 sleeper car order which was cut to 50 because of the lack of funds. Don’t know the reason for tearing up the 2nd track, but Amtrak may not have had the money to maintain the 2nd track or may have needed the money from selling off the scrap steel rails in a survival mode.

It was after the 90s with the Acela order and electrification to Boston and the startup of restored/new state sponsored service in the post 2000 era that things slowly got better for Amtrak.

I’m wondering who else is even going to be in contention for this next round of “high” speed rail money. Most states seem like they are going to bail due to the 20% requirement. We know Cali is going to be asking for $1 Billion of it. It seems like Illinois may also ask for some. I think everyone else may have problems getting their act together due to budget constraints. Anyways I’m betting Connecticut actually gets some money. Too bad probably none of the NEC states are going to ask for any.

Good question. Some of the states that should be next in line — Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan — are too broke to come up with a big match. Virginia seems to have likely projects, but will the new Repub Governor ask for federal money AND come up with state matching funds? One way or another I expect Illinois will get more grants for CREATE. Cali and Fla will both be asking for mo money, mo money. Florida might get cute and ask for the HSR money for the Florida East Coast route instead of Tampa-Orlando. There could be some dark horse winners too, perhaps Missouri or even Texas. But on the other hand, there isn’t all that much in the pot. So dribble out a little bit here and there and pretty soon it will be all gone.

Washington State? Theyve done a lot over the last 15 years and have put about a half billion dollars into the SEA-PDX line.

It wouldn’t be surprising if rounding up would make it CA, FL and IL, with the number of states funded substantially larger by taking $200m~$300m and spreading it around to small incremental projects in a larger number of states.

OH can’t apply in the middle of a gubernatorial race with Kasich running on a platform of lying that the $400m for the Triple C starter line can be re-directed to highways.

I don’t expect any state to get more than $1B. There isn’t enough in the pot. Probably one or two biggish grants, above half a billion, Michigan (if it can come up with a match), Virginia and North Carolina are the most likely recipients. Two or three smaller grants, around a quarter of a billion, Iowa and Connecticut look good. The rest (if there is any) dribbled out: $60M here, $75M there. Maine, Vermont, Illinois, New York.

Ohio doesn’t have anything ready to be proposed, I think. Oklahoma and Texas are going to ask for study money. Pennsylvania has said it hasn’t got match money this year. Pacific Northwest has said it needs to digest what it got last time before coming back for more.

The big unknown is California and Florida. My suspicion is that they won’t get much, since they got big last time and haven’t had a chance to spend any of it yet. But that may not be FRA’s thinking.

Virginia is planning on spending $130M 2011-2016 out of a fund dedicated to rail enhancement on adding a Richmond-Norfolk train. If it can come up with a proposal that includes that work together with some Washington-Richmond work for about $650M, the $130M would become its match. Wouldn’t need to wring extra $$ out of a Republican governor.

If the FRA gives half to Express HSR and half to Emerging HSR, that’s 1.25b split between CA and FL.

Ohio indeed does not have anything ready to go … the 3C starter line is proceeding with final design out of the $25m they have been allowed to spend out of the ARRA $400m without committing to the project, and if Strickland is re-elected will come the final push to get the starter line breaking ground.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Michigan got more if it had the matching funds, I would just be surprised if they could get matching funds.

If Minnesota gets grizzly-mama nominee Tom Emmer for governor, we can kiss high speed rail goodbye. If these leotards in Wisconsin or Ohio that don’t want to subsidize rail operations, you can also expect those projects to stagnate.

On the other hand, the Republican-governed state of Indiana is in good financial situation with a governor who has no ambition for high speed rail. If a leader rises their, it would be highly beneficial to the eastern Midwest and connections to the east.

Seems like everyone is saying election year politics will prevent a lot of states from getting it together. Especially those with HSR unfriendly governors or candidates. Kind of a shame considering lots of the states it would be very beneficial in. It seems as if HSR had more bipartisan support before than it does now. Sounds like VA is also a good contender. Can Amtrak apply for any HSR money beyond their yearly allocation?

Election year politics are not really the issue for many state DOT departments not applying for HSIPR grants this time around. This year, the grants require a minimum of a 20% match from the state. Same deal as with federal highway funding. But most states have only small amounts of funding set aside for rail projects, some none at all, compared to highway & road projects. Add in the severe budget crisis for many state and local governments with the falloff in tax revenue due to the Great Recession and there are not much in the way of matching funds available for most state rail DOT offices to draw on.

Remember, the push for HSR and improved intercity rail started with the Obama administration stimulus package only 18 months ago. It can take a long time for legislatures and governors to come to an agreement and pass bills increasing the state funding available for passenger rail projects. If there are 2-4 billion a year or more of sustained federal funding going forward for HSR and intercity rail, then more states will eventually set aside funding to go after those federal bucks. But in some states, mostly the so-called “red” states, there is going to be little real political support for years to come for spending state money for passenger rail.

Which is ok, because then the federal funding can be focused on the regions and states in the US that have studies & plans in place and are willing to work towards improved intercity rail and HSR. If there is $5 billion a year available, concentrate the bulk of the money for the next 6 years on a Eastern region consisting of New England (with this project in central CT-MA getting funding this year), the Mid-Atlantic states down to NC; Florida, a core part of of Mid-West region with OH & IN in play, CA, and the Pacific NW.The rest of the states can get smaller amounts for current Amtrak routes and funding for studies and EIS. Then improved intercity rail can be expanded from those regions if the country is still moving forward on HSR.

Brandi, Not sure if Amtrak is eligible to apply on its own going forward, or if it has to partner with a state or states, as in this Connecticut project.

Of course Amtrak doesn’t own much ROW. It already has bridge rebuildings etc underway on the NEC and much much planning in progress. Via the state application, this New Haven-Hartford-Springfield line seems sure to get the needed $220 million. The Keystone Corridor already got money to plan eliminating three grade crossings that will cost serious money, but PA is broke, especially its transpo funds. Doubletracking a key stretch near Albany, NY is funded. The line out of Kalamazoo is already up to or very near 110-mph speed; the problem is the freight-owned ROW at either end, where the trains run closer to the famed 39 mph projected for the 3Cs.

Meanwhile Amtrak has been using stimulus funds at a few hundred stations to meet ADA requirements. And it’s been ‘consulting’ with dozens of states on their various proposals. Actually, it seems Amtrak has done a good job the last year or so, once the choke hold of the Bushies was removed from its throat.


AlanF, I agree with your analysis. Except to quibble with this: “a core part of Mid-West region with OH & IN in play”. I don’t see Indiana in the game at all, not at all. It got $55 mil, iirc, last go-around, but my hunch is their 11th hour application came when the freight line said, ‘Hey, we can use this too!’ So for now Indiana is a roadblock on the Chicago-Detroit line and Chicago-Cleveland-NY/DC as well. Ugh.

Maybe Ohio could grab a lot more money in a year or two, depending on the election this year, of course, to work on Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit. Nobody has decided the exact route Toledo-Detroit, whether to connect at the airport or at Dearborn closer to downtown, and Michigan is broke. But the Cleveland-Toledo segment will fit into the Mid-West Regional Plan for a 110-mph system. If they do it right, they’ll plan and build for the 200-mph trains sure to come eventually. And here and now they could speed up the Lake Shore and Capitol Limited trains while making space for an extended Pennsylvanian or other frequencies.

Here and now, this year, I’d say Missouri is a strong contender, with a sitting Democratic Governor, and if the grants are announced soon, a contest for an open Senate seat. Last round, the Show Mes asked for money to buy a Talgo to add a third frequency Kansas City-St. Louis and a little something for track projects, but didn’t get much. This time I’d ask for two Talgos and a lot more something for track projects. One caveat: It’s UP track that they are dealing with. But so far, UP has been happy to share in the ROW improvements.

This line is ripe with opportunity. On-time performance has soared and ridership gains are following naturally (July up 25% over ’09). The growth comes despite the major annoyance that the River Runner schedules in/out of St Louis in no way match up with the five trains to/from Chicago. A couple of Talgos should fix that. And at the other end, the states of Kansas and Oklahoma, improbably enough, are moving along with plans to extend the Heartland Flyer, now Ft Worth-Oklahoma City, north through Wichita to Kansas City — and beyond?

Amtrak is eligible. The problem would be finding the 20% non-Federal match. Amtrak’s own money is surely Federal. I could see Amtrak applying for some of the spot improvement money to upgrade stations with the affected cities providing the non-Federal match.

Unlikely that WA will ask for more – the Current Governor Cruisin’ Chris and her Secretary of Highways Pavement Paula are both indifferent at best to rail – hostile might be a better word. They’ll be unwilling to increase WA’s spending while there are 2 enormous highway projects in the offing in the Seattle area, both ripe for overruns.

In addition, the last legislature cut bonding authority for passenger rail projects. There’s no chance of another special session to get some money before the application deadline. The state rail office might be able to leverage some money already committed for current projects, but I expect they already promised that to get the ARRA money.

Leave a Reply to Alon Levy Cancel reply