California High-Speed Rail DOT High-Speed Rail

DOT Releases Second Round of High-Speed Rail Grants, Bringing Good News to California

» In the shadow of the coming elections, California’s large commitment to its rail program continues to be rewarded by Washington; a focus on the Central Valley encourages long-term thinking about the state’s future train network.

Nine months after allocating $8 billion to intercity rail projects across the nation, the U.S. Department of Transportation has announced an additional $2.5 billion in investments designed to encourage the spread of rail passenger transportation. Unlike the first expenditures, these funds do not come from President Obama’s early 2009 stimulus but rather from the FY 2010 budget. Though the FY 2011 budget may also include funding for this mode of transportation, that spending has yet to be agreed upon by the Congress, making today’s announcement the last definite federal distribution of rail dollars.

Each state receiving funds will for the first time be required to contribute its own funds to its respective project. The DOT has asked for 20% or more to be covered locally. The list of projects shows a distribution of funding spread across the country, though many of the states have received only relatively small planning funds so far.

As I discussed earlier this week, the decision by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to devote $800 million to the Tampa-Orlando high-speed corridor indicates that the government expects to use this Florida line as a model for the rest of the country once it opens as early as 2015. Now that funds have been allocated, it appears that were he to win, once-skeptical Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott may not be such an opponent as he once suggested, indicating that this project is highly likely to move forward no matter who wins next week’s election. The Democratic candidate, Alex Sink, is a strong supporter.

Yet the $715 million to be spent on California’s Central Valley high-speed line is of more consequence for the future of the country as a whole, since it will form the central element of the nation’s fastest and most comprehensive set of fast train corridors. When including the $2.25 billion the state received in January for the program and the $10 billion voters approved in 2008, the state now possesses enough funding to begin construction on a large segment of the planned 700-mile network — though the full $45 billion, 220 mph program is far from being completed.

The federal government’s decision to allocate specifically to the Central Valley corridor between Bakersfield and Merced suggests that Washington hopes to grow the fast train system from the center, out. In the first round of grants, the government failed to pinpoint exactly where it wanted California to begin construction — so the rail authority is currently evaluating where to spend those initial funds. Now that a large amount of money has been earmarked specifically for the Central Valley, the state should think seriously about investing most of its funds there for now. Unlike the San Francisco Bay alignment to the north and the route through the greater Los Angeles area, the Central Valley line has encountered little resistance from locals, so its completion could come more quickly. Showing that the state can move forward with actual construction, instead of simply more planning, would be a good move politically.

The large lead Democrat Jerry Brown has taken in the California governor’s race is good news for California’s project, since his Republican opponent Meg Whitman has repeatedly suggested that the state cannot afford high-speed rail for now.

Three slower-speed routes have also been granted major funds from Washington: $230 million for a new connection between Chicago and Iowa City; $158 million for upgrades on the line between Dearborn and Kalamazoo in Michigan; and $121 million for a link between New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Each of these states will benefit from substantially improved service standards on these intercity rail lines, though none of them will be getting true high-speed rail in the foreseeable future.

Connecticut’s award is lower than the $220 million the state asked for and arguably unfairly small considering that the legislature has agreed to pay for almost half the costs of the project, a larger percentage than any other state except California. But the DOT is likely assuming that the Congress will decide to allocate increasing funds to intercity rail in the next budget and in the future transportation reauthorization bill; Connecticut seems likely to be one of the first recipients to complete the funding portfolio of an important extension of the Northeast Corridor.

The U.S. Invests in High-Speed Rail, Round Two
StateAwards in HSR II (m$)Awards in HSR I (m$)Total AwardsNew Projects Funded in HSR II
California898.123443242.1Central Valley HSR
Illinois3.712351238.7New bridges Chicago-Milwaukee
Washington30.8590620.8King St/Tukwila Stations;Seattle-Vancouver
North Carolina23.2545568.2Charlotte Station; New bridge
Iowa2300230Chicago-Iowa City
New York26.5151177.5New crossovers; signal poles
Connecticut120.940160.9New Haven-Springfield
Northeast Corridor13.3112125.31.5 miles new track; New bridge
Minnesota40040St Paul Depot
Missouri3.63134.6Downtown St Louis rail
Oregon4812Portland-Eugene; Union Station

99 replies on “DOT Releases Second Round of High-Speed Rail Grants, Bringing Good News to California”

Why do I keep getting the feeling as long as Obama is in office Texas will continue to never see a dime of all the money he has spent since he has been in office? We will just continue paying for everyone else.

As they say, elections have consequences.

There was a rumor that TxDOT was to get South Central Corridor planning money, but I don’t see that on the list.

My state, Oklahoma, was also looking for planning money for an OKC-Tulsa link, but I don’t see that listed either.

Texas got $5.6 million for a study and service development plan for the designated HSR Oklahoma to Dallas/Ft. Worth corridor with a potential extension to Austin and San Antonio. Texas got about $10 million from the HSIPR stimulus grants in January for grade crossing and track improvements.

Texas also got $34 million for one of the largest Tiger II grants announced last week for major upgrades to the Tower 55 rail intersection for UP and BNSF lines which will benefit the Amtrak Texas Eagle.

Oklahoma got $4.3 million for planning for the Tulsa- Oklahoma City corridor, state rail plan, and construction funds ($1.6 of the $4.3 million) for a track extension at the Oklahoma City station which will allow the Heartland Flyer to exit the station without a reverse move.

The bulk of the funds went to states that had long been putting their own funds into passenger rail and had a lot of SDPs and engineering studies in place. Texas and Oklahoma have to play catch-up if they want to qualify for bigger grants. If Perry gets re-elected as Governor in TX, odds are good that Texas will talk about HSR, but he won’t put any substantial political support behind it.

The states and corridor that have not been shown the love arguably have been Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the NorthEast Corridor. There was $13.3 million award today for installation of a high-speed 3rd track at a bottleneck point in Delaware, but the NEC has seen comparatively little of the $10.5 billion of HSIPR grants.

True, Amtrak did get $1.3 billion of stimulus money which they are using to address a wide range of items throughout their system. Yes, some of the money is going towards the NEC with the Niantic River bridge in CT replacement and the Wilmington DE station refurb as the 2 high profile projects along with NEC track repairs, station repairs, and a way overdue tree cutting, clean-up, and fence repair along the Amtrak owned parts of the NEC.

However, besides track repair, the Niantic bridge replacement is only Amtrak stimulus project that will directly speed up run times on the NEC from what I can tell. And only by 1 minute at that. The NEC got $100 million of the $8B stimulus with $60 million of that for a critically needed PE study for replacing the B&P tunnel in Baltimore, maybe a couple of hundred million of the Amtrak stimulus, and now around $50 million between the 3rd track in DE and South station in Boston. Not a total shutout, but not much of the $10.5 billion either.

My understanding is that the FRA wants to see a cohesive combined EIS plan for the entire NEC before granting major funding under HSIPR except it appears for the obvious critical projects. Their thinking may also be that the NEC crosses enough states that it should be able to get real funding from Congress rather than use up the HSIPR funds on the NEC.

And over and above that, not having the NEC in a state of good repair causes delays from the timetable times … and being stopped for twenty minutes because something has been fracked up does even more damage to expectations of trains that are supposed to be going faster during that time.

That is the problem right there IMO. They put money into upgrading what is already there. Look at the routes in Texas. I can drive from Austin to Dallas in 3.5 hours but to ride there it takes 6. So of course everyone drives. SA to Dallas is 8.5 hours and obviously stopping in Austin. And Houston to Dallas … well there isn’t a Houston to Dallas.

The only real commuter talk that seems to matter in Texas has come out of the privet side. The Lone Star Rail talk from the company out of Japan.

The NEC you are right they don’t seem to be represented here at all. But they already have something that works and is functional. What we currently have in Texas is not really functional. Everything going through Ft. Worth really messes it up. There are many in Texas that would love to see something built here, but with out any federal assistance the only talk will continue to be stuff like the Lone Star Rail LLC which is a joint thing with Japan and likely nothing will every happen.

“That’s the problem”, but the US Dept. of Transport cannot force Texas to get its act together and put together a plan for an Express HSR corridor between Houston and DFW. Until Texas has a plan, it won’t get funds to implement the plan.

Until then, they can only apply for incremental upgrades and if they only apply for incremental upgrades, that right there is the explanation for why they are only getting incremental upgrades.

I’ll go further than Bruce, upon thinking about it.

Currently all the HSR money is being funnelled through state plans. Texas has no plan, so it gets no money. NC has a plan, so it gets money.

Perhaps this is unreasonable. Perhaps there should simply be one national program. *But this funnelling of money through state schemes is what Republicans have pushed for for decades*, in the name of shrinking national government and giving power to the states.

If you want a single nationally planned system, you have to stop electing Republicans, with their anti-federal-government mentality, at the federal level. (I’m not saying Democrats are the perfect alternative, they aren’t, just that the Republican Party has really staked out a position specifically set to prevent Texas from getting much rail.)

and they contribute great big juicy gobs of money to the infrastructure maintenance in many way. For instance without the commuter railroads paying Amtrack to use the track there probably wouldn’t be a NEC.

Texas does not a full rail plan in place. That’s why Texas is bypassed with any significant funding. It was only last year that TxDOT finally formed a passenger rail division. States like North Carolina, Illinois, and Wisconsin have had rail plans for years if not a decade. That is why they got lots of funding. They had a plan. Texas will come soon, I’m am hopeful.

Maybe because your built environment and land use pattern is almost entirely hostile to non-auto forms of transportation so substantial investment in rail would be somewhat pointless for the time being.

Texas gets back more in Federal dollars than what Texans pay in Federal taxes. Get back to us when you get less than what you send to Washington DC than what you get back.

Not that I have any particular affection for Texas but do you have some numbers to back this up? Unlike most of the rest of the money sucking south, all the lists I remember seeing showed Texas as having one of the worst ratios of dollars sent/dollars received.

I’m sorry, but that is not correct. This chart only goes up to 2005, but as of then Texas only gets back 94 cents for every dollar it pays to the fed. Back in 1981, Texas only got back 81 cents for each dollar it sent to the fed. For some reason this chart only goes to 2005, so if you find something different or more current, I’ll stand corrected.

Does Texas have any local funds dedicated to HSR? California has put up 9 billion of local funding and has a local high speed rail authority with a partially developed engineering and planning process.

I think Texas would be a great place for 110 mph trains on upgraded tracks, and even 150 mph high speed rail service in the future. But the state needs to commit some money to planning and building the system, and show political commitment to completing it.


The San Antonio, DFW, Houston triangle is almost as strong a location for Express HSR as the Bay to LA Basin axis … but Texas has not even settled on a plan for building it yet ~ Triangle, T-Bone, Mini-triangle and spurs … for crying out loud, pick one and start working on how to implement it.

Hell, even though we might have to hand back our $400m because of political grandstanding, at least Ohio has had a plan in place of how to build up a system. California has $9b in bonds committed, well over a 20% match for pure federal funding for Stage 1 (and once it is close to completion, revenue bonding will be an option). Illinois has been investing on an incremental basis in the Chicago / STL corridor for years. Even the Florida DoT worked to reserve the median alignment between Tampa and Orlando for future use as an HSR corridor.

What is the model supposed to be, “give us some money and we’ll work out how we are going to use it”?

My vote would be a mini triangle of Austin, Waco, and College Station with spurs to San Antonio, DFW, and Houston respectively. Put that in and you could create quite a decent rail system in Texas. How to do it without SWA trying to kill it again will be the kicker. Could of had something similar in 1990!

Upgrade the existing Houston / San Antonio to Emerging/Regional HSR and provide the College Station / Austin connection the same way, and the two Express Corridors from DFW to Houston and San Antonio, forking at Waco …

… huh, I guess that’d be a Wishbone.

Damn, I always used to hate it when a Big 10 team would play one of those damn Wishbone teams.

Well…Ohio has a concept, but it’s rooted in politics. First, 3C will probably be stopped if Kasich is elected. Second, the corridor’s pretty good from Cleveland to Columbus, even to Dayton, but the Dayton-Cinci segment involves crappy track with tighter curves, and this is going to chew up a good deal of the start-up money. Third, the current plan is 4 roundtrips/day along the line; if you stuck to an initial Cle-Cols segment, 7-9 roundtrips per day would be possible. That would focus service in Democrat-leaning areas, which would all but kill the project. Adding Cols-Cinci in the initial line eats up time, and means that taking the train for, say, an OSU game is all but out of the question unlesss you overnight in Cols. Again, depending on election outcome, Ohio may be barely better off than Texas–great corridor, but no plan to pay for it.

Leaving out the Dayton – Cincinati link would be a mistake. One of the big things in favor of the 3C is that it connects two cities that are on the Amtrak network, allowing connections (albeit inconvenient and time consuming) between the Cardinal and the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

There’s two schools of thought on this. One is to build the initial segments in places where construction can be completed sooner so a return on investment can be shown to the public and elected officials as soon as possible. The other is to build the first segment where the corridor performance is likely to be the highest to prove it’s performance as a new technology that can and should be applied in other strategic corridors in the US.

Given the stakes for the future of the HSR program, I’d rather pick a corridor for early implementation that returns a very high performance than simply try to get something on the ground quickly with less regard to corridor mobility and other metrics. Can the US build a successful HSR program starting from corridors in central CA and FL? The former misses the two large metro regions, and the latter skips one of the major downtowns entirely. I remain unconvinced this is an approach that will provide elected officials and skeptics a proof of concept.

In California’s case, the Central Valley segment is essential. California’s HSR line will be the only true HSR line in the USA and will need testing at high speeds that aren’t achievable in urban areas. If the CV segments aren’t completed first then there is a good chance that the state will be stuck with rolling stock that can’t actually perform as well as is required. I think that while the Central Valley segments aren’t the best segments of California’s system when operated in isolation, they are a pre-requisite for building the rest of the system.

Further, complete the CV link, and then the access from there into either the LA Basin or the Bay, and there’ll be a genuinely usable with Express HSR trains segment which can start operating and generating revenue. And once trains are running, nothing will stop the unfinished link from being finished.

CV-Basin’s better as a second step than CV-Bay, as it has less opposition and more unserved demand. Just get across the Tehachapis and support will start to snowball.

I know there’s a proposed Texas T-bone and Mini-Triangle, but people who care about such things have zero reason to believe that Texas is serious about HSR.

Dallas/FtW-Houston is the nations 13th busiest air corridor and has one of its busiest intercity freeway corridors today. By 2030, Dallas-FtW is projected to have 9.4M pop. and Houston is projected to have 8.7M pop. So HSR lines going to Austin 2.8M pop and San Antonio 3M pop pale by comparison. Even with Amtrak service between San Antonia-Houston-New Orleans, and Houston’s train station looks like a Greyhound bus stop. Yet there is no proposal being floated like grand intermodal transit center in Atlanta.

Do Southwest, Continental and American Airlines have so much influence over Dallas and Houston politicians that they won’t even propose a no-brainer route or Houston intermodal transit center? Until TX proposes and puts up 20% for a DIRECT 220 mph line for the 241 miles directly between Dallas and Houston …. fagggeetttaaboutit.

Yes, the San Antonio leg of the Wishbone is a network economy leveraging off of the investment in DFW and the Waco/DFW section of the Express HSR corridor: Houston / DFW is phase one.

Continental and American both voiced support for the T-Bone. Their business model is such that they lose money on short-haul flights, and would prefer to be able to codeshare with trains. Although Texas has not built grand train stations, many of its key politicians support HSR, though unfortunately Rick Perry isn’t one of them.

Southwest killed the original Texas TGV proposal, back in the 1990s, but is neutral about HSR today. It’s branched out of Texas to serve longer-haul flights, and no longer sees HSR as a threat.

Okay, if the problem is not Continental or American and Southwest is supposedly neutral, why isn’t there at least a Dallas-Houston 220 mph proposal? I’ve driven the freeway between them and know that its flat. Downtown Houston has room intersecting the Houston LRT line and Amtrak route for an intermodal transportation center. Does any Texas politician have the kahunas to stand up for two of the largest and fastest growing metro areas in the country tailor made for 220 mph trains, not to mention the Texas Triangle and extension to OKC.

Texas is the state which finished the study showing that it spent some astronomical amount of general fund money on exurban and suburban roads and very few people used them, isn’t it?

You hit the nail on the head about Texas, “There money in roadworks, and the ongoing and worsening congestion between Houston and DFW is an ongoing reason to engage in roadworks.” As long as the Highway interest groups run things in Texas, all we’ll see is more multi-billion dollar Freeway projects and airport expansions in Houston and Dallas.

In contrast on the HSR front, a few well-meaning souls gather plans for 220 mph service, but are constrained by lack of political support. As a result, all they can muster is inefficient T-Bone alignments for travelers … like the route going NORTH from San Antonio and Austin to the small city of Temple, then SOUTHEAST to reach Houston. That makes as much sense as Acela like going from NYC to Scranton to reach Philly !

Texas should not get a dime of HSR construction money until it resets its multi-billion dollar transportation priorities like California, Florida, New York and Illinois did. This says to the rest of the nation, don’t look at Texas for HSR.

Oklahoma will find more success aligning its HSR initiative with Kansas to MIssouri by hammering out 220 mph plans from OKC-Wichita-Kansas City-St.Louis-Chicago. Later they can address a HSR spur from OKC to Tulsa.

I disagree with your evaluation of the use of a steiner tree for Texas HSR.

How do you think HSR is developed in western Europe?

Look at this map.

There isn’t a line straight from Koln to Paris, you go through Brussels and Lille first. similarly, you don’t go between Amsterdam and Germany without going through Belgium first.

This network, with ICE, Thalys, TGV, and Eurostar trains is one of the most successful in the world. This is a much more efficient design than a full triangle.

Perhaps there should be a small triangle (a map). A full triangle doesn’t make sense.

I’m familiar with the EU HSR map, but you’re comparing Apples to Oranges if you’re saying Dallas/FtW-Killeen-College Station-Houston is equivalent to Paris-Brussels-Antwerp-Amsterdam or Paris-Brussels-Koln. Those EU cities are already transit & train-centric. Ingredients for successful HSR were already in their DNA.

HSR is not in Texas DNA, so it has to establish that culture with a successful first line. My concern is that going from Dallas/FtW-Waco-Killen-Austin-San Antonio will not be as successful, but very expensive. If the patronage/cost metrics don’t quickly evidence themselves on the first line, it will delay Texas’ most important route between its two largest cities.

That why California HSR is making Los Angeles-San Francisco its first route even though it could easily have chosen LA-Riverside-San Diego for quicker completion. Its is also important to note that both California cities are expanding their transit in ways that compliment HSR.

Maybe, for political reasons, Texas will start with Dallas/FtW-Waco-Killen-Austin-San Antonio. But you should scrap notion of going from Killeen to Houston. The only two Dallas/FtW-Houston routes that make sense are:

Dallas/FtW-Waco-College Station-Houston
Dallas/FtW-College Station-Houston

There’s a very good reason Japan’s HSR consortium propose Dallas-Houston first.

One more thing about the Texas T-Bone. Isn’t that a 110mph top speed Emerging HSR route? Why is the bar set so low? Dallas and Houston invested in world class Freeways and Airports. Both metro are building major Light Rail Transit networks.

With T-Bone Emerging HSR routes delivering 60-70 mph average speed and low train frequency, Continental and American have nothing to fear. No wonder they support this sop to the unknowing masses, who never rode Acela, let alone Asian or European HSR trians.

Come on Texans – you can think bigger than this.

No, the Texas T-bone plan is for 220 mph class HSR. The plan, however, is mainly a number of proposals with different ideas on where the tracks should be placed. Texas has a lot of more detailed planning and EIS work to do before they get near to a funded program ready to move towards construction.

I wonder how much of the resistance in TX towards building a effective passenger rail system is because of their self idenity as an oil state with open frontiers. Hence, the majority of the voters and the business community see cars and airplanes as the way to go, not almost socialist trains. Given what I have read about Texas’s looming severe budget problems combined with a likely oil crunch in several years, Perry may have wished he had not run for reelection.

Okay, so the Texas T-Bone folks have upgraded to 220 mph on their webpage, but where are the initial engineering studies backing it up? Where is the state and local commitment to pony up 20% of the cost. To me it looks like well-meaning brave souls want it to happen, but lack the political muscle to generate major momentum.

Even it they had those things, T-Bone routes should be lower priority than a direct Dallas-Houston corridor.

A direct route would be Houston / College Station / Waco / DFW, and Houston / College Station / Temple / Waco / DFW is not all that many extra miles. Line of sight its a difference of 22 miles ~ at an 80% alignment efficiency it would be 28 miles, or 8~11 minutes at 160mph~220mph.

Exactly. A line from Houston to Dallas that skips College Station (home to one of the largest universities in the country with many thousands of students from Houston and the Metroplex) and Waco (another university town) would be a foolish decision. The Texas University Triangle is the only way to properly build this thing for the best bang for the buck.

The thing about starting with the Houston/Dallas leg of the T-Bone is that after it is finished, only one new alignment, from Temple to San Antonio is required. Compared to the College-Triangle, the T-Bone most disadvantages Houston/San Antonio, but there is already an existing Houston / San Antonio corridor that could be upgraded to 110mph or 125mph for an effective service for a distance of 182 miles line-of-sight.

Forget about upgrading the Sunset line. While it’s shorter than the T-Bone route, the T-Bone could be so much faster that to match the running time, Sunset would need an average speed of nearly 200 km/h. And that’s assuming UP would even agree to let passenger rail muck with one of its key transcontinental freight routes.

Using road distance for the T-Bone, Houston-Dallas is 483 km (vs. 390 on I-45) and Houston-San Antonio is 511 (vs. 316 on I-10 and 338 on Sunset). But the Houston-Temple roads are mostly curvy state routes, so HSR could shave a few kilometers.

Or since Continental/UAL + American are very dependent on good will from the American government, especially when landing lucrative international routes, do they “support” HSR because to do otherwise could hurt them in a lot of other ways?

Continental and American have been supporting the T-Bone since the Bush administration – and moreover, the route they’re supporting is nowhere on the FRA’s map of future corridors.

Lucrative landing rights are neither here nor there: in the past, governments have not been able to use them to get airlines to do socially useful things, such as flying fewer, larger planes in order to decongest the NYC airspace. Offering landing rights based on plane size is straightforward and ethical, and yet Port Authority hasn’t been able to do it.


I’m not sure why that makes anything different. What is the loss for the airlines to publicly “support” (note, not a dime of their money going into it) for something that at worst would compete on a couple short haul routes that as their cost structure is today, they don’t make money on?

And looks what is up for grabs. Only 4 or airports in the US are restricted when it comes to slots. But except for where there are open skies agreements, governments routinely grant franchises to fly a route. For example, American recently got the right to fly Los Angeles to Shanghai. UAL can’t just start flying the route. As they have, they’ve had to apply for it. But only so many China-US routes are available. It’s not a given they’ll be allowed to fly it with other airlines wanting to fly that route and others.

So why not make some gov’t folks happy at little or no cost? You support a train service on a route you can’t make money on, don’t have to put anything into it and hopefully gain some political favor that could be the difference between you getting that new high margin international route instead of a competitor?

You said it all in the first paragraph. They don’t make money on those routes; they have no business reason to oppose HSR construction there.

I don’t know how American tries to make the government happy. But it’s not by taking the administration’s position on HSR. The Texas T-Bone concept goes back to the Bush administration, and so does airline support: see for example the list of members from the January 2007 newsletter. I suppose that at the time they could guess that the Democrats would win in 2008, but they couldn’t guess that they would give a crap about HSR; nobody in mainstream politics or punditry discussed the issue until 2008, when California’s Prop 1A became a serious initiative.

Southwest is the most politically powerful Airline in Texas. I believe American and Cont. have both always been for HSR but SW was not, and it didn’t get built. But for the past few year now SW has been pushing hard to get a HSR built here in Texas.

Can someone post the following information or refer to a website with it?

A list of projects, with the length of travel time between the two cities concerened once the project is built, and the average speed in miles of kilometres per hour (not the maximum speed).

Construction/completion dates will be useful, but my understanding is often these haven’t been set.

Thanks in advance for any info. Thanks also for the site author for such an informative website

I see a couple of small errors for the color codes on the map. The Downeaster extension from Portland to Brunswick ME should be in lighter blue as it is new service and fully funded. The line to Iowa City should be pale blue after the Y split on the route to Quincy as that is new service and fully funded.

It takes you 6.5 hours to drive from Milwaukee to MSP. It takes you 6 hours to ride.

It takes me 3 hours to drive from Austin to Dallas and 3.5 to drive from Austin to Houston. It takes me 6 hours to ride from Austin to Dallas and 9 hours from Austin to Houston.

It takes me 4 hours to drive from Houston to Dallas it takes me 15 to ride.

It takes me 4.5 hours to drive from SA to Dallas it takes me 10.5 hours to ride.

Point being you have a functional system up there even if it isn’t HSR. What we have here is not functional. We have a highway system and a horrible jerry rigged pile of crap.

The midnight scheduling of the only train to Minneapolis and the appalling location of the train station are the main problems there. The latter problem is scheduled to be fixed. Perhaps a second frequency can get commissioned sometimes, somehow….

Pennslvania got $26 million in the firt round out of $446 million requested for a project that was actually, high speed rail.

I checked on, and I found that the Pacific Surfliner’s LA-SD route has 2+ tracks north of southern Orange County, and alternating single and double track south of there. That’s why there are several proposals for that route — one for each of the segments to be double-tracked, it seems.

I also noticed that some of the tracks are rather fresh-looking, as if they were added relatively recently. I also noticed that the right-of-way seems wide enough for two tracks along most of its length.

But about the initial CAHSR segment, the three towns are Merced; 80K, Fresno: 510K, and Bakersfield: 830K. The two distances are 58 mi, 110 mi in that order. So the best show-off IMO is Fresno-Bakersfield.

China has the world’s fastest train running in operation. It is operating a Zefiro train running at 217 mph, with PLANS to run it at 236 mph (380 kmph) once new state of the art track opens in 2011. Italy bought the same Zefiro train but apparently plans to run it at 224 mph (360 kmph). Reasons to run trains slower than their rated speed are catenary wear and energy consumption that rises much faster than speed. As of 2010, no one can prove that it makes financial sense to operate faster than 217 mph. The good news is decreased weight of materials, wheel technology and aerodynamic advancements to lower energy consumption, external wind noise and internal cabin vibration indicate that 2011 is the right time to begin testing commercial operation at 224-236 mph.

I love MagLev as a technology, but the financial numbers don’t pencil out in commercial operation, not even for 272 miles between Tokyo (25m pop.) and Osaka (18m pop.). The current China MagLev operates with a significant subsiidy for 19 miles, which implies that its more of PR statement by China. Even when it finally reaches down Shaghai, it will still need a significant subsidy. Also note the 311 mph Tokyo and Osaka MagLev is not targeted for operation until 2027 because they are counting on those technology advances and population increase to make the numbers pencil out profitably. You can’t believe’s China’s numbers because they won’t disclose how much subsidy is required to operate their MagLev. I wouldn’t touch it until the Japanese prove they can run it at a solid profit, without major electricity drain and even then only the Northeast Corridor should be considered. But if Next Gen Acela lowers DC-NYC to 90 minutes and Boston-NYC to 110 minutes, why bother with MagLev?

Bottom line, Houston-Dallas corridor needs a 220 mph HSR with only one 5 minute stop in between. Averaging 210 mph between the two titans would deliver a customer satisfying and business profitable 75 minute trip time. The only thing the airlines should do is lobby for Intermodal transportation stations at DFW and IAH to compliment the downtown Intermodal transportation stations. Partnering with the true HSR in that manner would actually make them more profitable focusing on flights of 500 miles or longer.

Typically, real-world average speeds for HSR tend to be about 70-80% the top speed. But newer greenfield lines and maglev, which has amazing acceleration, tend to do slightly better. A new 360 km/h HSR system between Dallas and Houston should be able to average about 300 km/h. A 500 km/h superconducting maglev should be able to average about 420. The difference is significant, but not enough to make up for the large difference in cost and track record.

Corridors and services are not the same thing ~ a limited stops service and a service that serves all-stations run on the same corridor, after all.

Also 75 minutes is not an upper ceiling on the transit for a successful service. An Express HSR service that is under 2 hours will normally dominate air transport, because of the added hurdles in getting from arrival at the airport parking lot to sitting in a seat with the plane taxiing for take-off. At three hours, it is typically competitive with flying. And for the mode split coming from cars, its all “way faster”.

But in this case it happens that both Love and Hobby are very close to their respective downtowns. So the “getting to the airport” hurdle is much lower.

The hurdle is the 1 to 1.5 hours you are supposed to get there ahead of time. Hobby isn’t exactly walking distance to downtown Houston either.

I was talking about the time between getting to the airport parking lot and getting to your seat. And time spent waiting to get into a transport service has a bigger subjective impact than time spent in transit. We always have to weight time spent waiting for a train or bus more heavily than time spent in the train or bus when estimating travel time impacts. Same applies to the time between hitting the parking lot at the airport and the plane taking off with your in the seat.

Jim, you’re right that closer-in airports will make flying more competitive. However, even very conveniently located airports hold very little market share against HSR that takes less than 3 hours. Even on NY-DC, where HSR is substandard and the air shuttles are very convenient, the rail/air mode split is about 2:1. Good HSR, such as what’s found in Japan and Korea, can dominate nearly anything. When Seoul opened a new subway line to Gimpo, air gained a small portion of the market share from the KTX, but the KTX is still dominant.

air shuttles are very convenient

That really depends on where you start, where you are headed and how much money you want to spend. LGA to DCA can be very very expensive and moderately convenient. You also risk traffic delays on the highways. If you want to go from Port Chester to Bowie the train wins hands down.

I’m curious why the money for upgrading the Iowa City – Chicago route is counted as HSR? My understanding is that none of the upgrades will be enabling anything more than 79MPH operations.

That’s a way of getting support for something — getting it into as many Congressional districts as possible. That way, there will be fewer politicians complaining that their districts are not benefiting from it.

It worked for the Interstates, and it has worked for Amtrak, and I think that it will work for HSR.

It’s worked for Amtrak by the long-distance trains helping to get support for the Northeast Corridor trains and other regional ones.

It didn’t really work for either the Interstates or Amtrak. It got some rural Interstates built, but the costs were so astounding that they forced some states to raised taxes and cut other spending just to be able to come up with the 10% match, let alone maintain the roads adequately. And as for Amtrak, one of the arguments Anthony Perl makes in New Departures is that the need for national coverage prevented the US from building HSR on high-value corridors as Japan and France did.

I will say that the ever increasing hub network radiating from Chicago should have a real network effect on ridership of all the lines on said network. And if trends hold true :-) more train riders will mean more votes for trains in rural Illinois, which these lines will pass through.

However, all of the upgrades are part of the plan for incremental upgrade of the corridor to 110mph.

Any project that cannot bring an HSR service on its own has to have “independent utility”, so that even if the HSR plan is never completed that money is not entirely wasted … the 79mph service is the independent utility. But the projects are work on a corridor designated for 110mph service on the Midwest HSR.

The signaling and level crossing upgrades to allow the increase of the speed limit from 79mph to 110mph services normally pencil in as the last phase of the upgrade, because they have far less utility independent of the 110mph services themselves.

“Any project that cannot bring an HSR service on its own has to have “independent utility”, so that even if the HSR plan is never completed that money is not entirely wasted … the 79mph service is the independent utility.”

Other states are making a 168-220 mph HSR commitment and changing their funding priorities to make HSR an equal transportation citizen with airports and interstate freeways.

If Texans doubt that they can complete 220 mph HSR lines that cost less (in constant dollar value) than DFW, IAH, I-35 and -I-45 freeways, that is exactly why they should NOT get any significant HSR funding UNTIL they do. Ditto for Georgia and Arizona.

Regarding the quote, don’t lose track of what a “project” is in the quote: a distinct funded program of capital works.

So the $715m for the CA-HSR is an example of a “project” that cannot provide for an operating 220mph HSR system on its own, but it is a contribution to a 220mph HSR system while also having independent utility if the HSR system is never completed (via Amtrak-California). Similarly, the $400m for the Ohio 3C starter line is the track work for a 110mph system, which can support a starter Amtrak speed system before the level crossing and signal upgrade have been completed to permit 110mph operation on any of the segments.

The Texas case is entirely different ~ they do not have a plan for an HSR system, so there is nothing for an individual capital works project to contribute to.


You’re right. Comparing Texas to Ohio’s 3C is not an apple-to-apples comparison. That causes me to consider a scenario where I could agree you on 110 mph Cleveland-Columbus Phase 1 project — to a point.

The $400M for the Cleveland-Columbus segment could be focused on ROW for curve straitening, concrete ties, upgraded track bedding, and continuous welded rail — all needed to eventually support a 200-220 mph 3C route.

One big problem: 200-220 mph service will only happen when Ohio and Indiana pass $3-4 Billion HSR bond or other political measures similar to California. Without a sea-change in rural Ohio and Indiana politics, I don’t see either state getting serous about 200-220 mph 3Cs or Pittsburgh-Akron-Cleveland-Toledo-Ft. Wayne-Chicago route before 2016.

Given that political calculus and America’s critical need to build a 200-220 mph Interstate HSR network fast, it circles back to my key point. From a national perspective, its better to redeploy the $400B from Ohio and $822B from Wisconsin (if that Gov refuses to redeploy it between Milwaukee-Chicago) to a 200-220 mph route that will come online sooner and escalate national HSR momentum.

Though Chicago-St Louis makes a strong functional case to claim the $822B from Wisconsin, IMO its politically + functionally best to redeploy $1.22 Billion HSR funds from Wisconsin and Ohio to Virginia and North Carolina. Both states envy an extension to current Acela service and have ROW that can be upgraded to support 200-220 mph.

Since Amtrak owns track between Springfield-Hartford-New Haven and Harrisburg-Philly, some of that $8 Billion Amtrak stimulus funding will be spent there, in addition to the $26M PA, $70M MA and $171M CT grants from USDOT, plus more funds from PennDOT, MassDOT and ConnDOT. Similarly, NYDOT and MTA Metro-North have plenty of incentives to upgrade NYC-Albany corridor beyond the $177M from this round of USDOT funds.

Somewhere I heard $8 Billion is required to enable 200-220 mph between Charlotte-Greensboro-Raleigh-Richmond-Washington. When I add $400B + $822B + $121B Virginia + $568B NC = $1.91 Billion. That 24% down payment sounds impressive to me. Furthermore, North Carolina and Virginia population are growing faster than Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin, a fact that appeals to other Congresspersons around the country. In their budgeting calculus, spending $5B more USDOT funds + $ 1B local match for Southeast Corridor HSR upgrades is still cheaper than I-95, I-85 and I-64 Freeway lane expansion and Raleigh-Durham, Charlotte and DC National airport expansion.

Thus, Southeast Corridor 200-220 mph CAN compliment Northeast Region upgrades headed towards 165-200-220mph service by 2025-30 with these routes:

* Boston-Providence-New Haven-NYC-Philly-Baltimore-DC-Richmond-Norfolk
* Charlotte-Greensboro-Raleigh-Richmond-DC-Baltimore-Philly-NYC-Albany
* Springfield-Hartford-New Haven-NYC-Newark-Trenton-Philly-Harrisburg

Current Acela trains are capable of 165 mph. They can be redeployed to the upgraded Springfield-Harrisburg route, which has the lowest traffic generation capability of the three routes.

NextGen Acela tilt trains will be capable of 220 mph. But even after significant upgrades, no trains will go faster than 110-120 mph between curvy New Haven-NYC-Newark. And due to noise in too many closely spaced urban areas, its unlikely that Northeast trains will be permitted higher than 200 mph. So Amtrak control center would only have to manage a mix of 165 and 200 mph top speed trains on the same tracks between Newark-Philly.

Finally, Amtrak service to Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine is being upgraded to 110 mph with more frequency connecting to Boston and Springfield.

NET: If California gets $20B and Florida gets $12B in USDOT HSR funds over the next 15 years, you can bet that MA, CT, RI, NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, DC, VA, NC, VT, NH and ME Congressional delegations will get $35B in USDOT HSR funds over the next 15 years. Congress won’t need a National Infrastructure Bank to figure out that calculus.

The improvements necessary for 110 mph aren’t about the rails. The most important ones are high platforms for level boarding, modern signaling, good noncompliant trains, and quad gates at all grade crossings. Curve modification and superelevation might be good but only on the margins, as the line in Ohio is straight north of Dayton; in fact, the line is straight enough that if I were in charge of the project I might not even ask for an FRA waiver allowing higher cant deficiency.

It’s far more important to avoid slow zones than to increase top speed. Those are overcome by high-acceleration trains, curve modifications and high cant and cant deficiency if the track is curvy (which in this case it’s not), level boarding, and simple station throats. When those are in place, even 90 mph trains can average 75 mph; you’d be getting the average speed of the Acela with top speeds that were achieved in the 1930s.

Of course, the equation is somewhat different for true high-speed rail. Once you’ve overcome all the major slow zones, there’s no way around increasing top speed. So for example, better rolling stock and station throat fixes could cut the NY-DC Acela runtime to about 2 hours or 2:10 without an increase in top speed, but to get below that, a large increase in top speed is required; raising speed from 135 to 220 mph would get travel time down to 1:30, with difficulty.

I’ve seen the railroad tracks these trains would run on and they mainly go though some very flat and stright areas such as you could look down these tracks for ten or 20 miles in a streight row. They also have low freight traffic on them and If they double tracked them and added some catenary wires they could have trains going a 110 and 140 easly down them on the existing tracks.

Chicago-Iowa City is straightish, but has many level crossings. Grade separations are one of the most expensive parts of HSR construction. At this speed, grade separations or very hardened grade crossings are used universally, not just in FRA-land. On top of that, the line would need new rails, ties, and ballast; it would still cost much less than fully greenfield construction, but not sufficiently less to be low enough for the traffic of Chicago-Iowa City.

1st priority route (4 stops over 241 miles):
Dallas-DFW-Bryan/College Station-IAH-Houston

2nd priority route (5 stops over 250 miles):
Dallas-DFW-Waco-Temple-Austin-San Antonio

3rd priority route (5 stops):
San Antonio-Austin-Temple-Bryan/College Station-IAH-Houston

The 1st and 2nd route priorities contribute to an Interstate HSR Network that has national travel appeal, sustains 200+ mph for long stretches, removes cars from two Interstate Freeways and is airline friendly. This is a reasonable approach given 75-80% of funding would come from the USDOT. The 3rd priority can hit 200+ mph as well, but has provincial appeal. Hence federal funding for it should be 50-60%.

I admit to not knowing Texas transportation politics. What’s wrong, if anything, with this scheme, given 1&2 priorities can built by 2023 and Temple -Bryan/College Station track segment can be added shortly afterwards?

SNCF would switch your priorities 1 and 2. I believe that this is due to two reasons: first, there are more intermediate cities, and second, I-35 provides an existing right of way for trains to use. Dallas-Houston should get higher ridership, but the corridor selection there is more contentious, as I-45 is probably suboptimal, and anything else requires carving a new right of way. Not saying I agree, but that looks like SNCF’s thinking to me.

“SNCF would switch your priorities 1 and 2. I believe that this is due to two reasons: first, there are more intermediate cities, and second, I-35 provides an existing right of way for trains to use”

If one buys the politics behind that rational, the only USDOT HSR money Texas should get for many years should be towards this Interstate HSR route:

Tulsa-OKC-Dallas-DFW-Waco-Temple-Austin-San Antonio

Once its operational by 2018-19 and proves that 220 mph service works, Texans will beg for USDOT funds for the route that should have been their first priority:

Dallas-DFW-Bryan/College Station-IAH-Houston

Lastly, the Texas HSR folks proposal indicating that its more important to have direct service between Temple-College Station-Houston due to the college traffic is like saying its more important to have direct service between Atlanta-Athens (U. of Georgia)-Augusta than Atlanta-Greenville-Charlotte. Its in defiance of all traffic statistics and logic. Leaving that “college” route in their plan without designating a direct Dallas-Houston route as the 2nd priority is more like an insult to the USDOT. Why shoot themselves in the foot?

Tulsa and OKC are much lower-performing than Austin and San Antonio. SNCF’s proposal is not really political – it’s based on an honest assessment of what the best routes are.

The reason not to do a direct Dallas-Houston line is that it would save about 80 km distance (=about 15-20 minutes of travel time), at the cost of an extra 120 km of construction (=about $2.5 billion). It’d be a tossup if not for the fact that the T-Bone allows serving Houston-San Antonio and Houston-Austin without new construction.

The Georgia equivalent of serving College Station would be having a line between Greenville and Atlanta detour to serve Athens. I don’t think it’s the best alignment, but it’s not stupid.

The Texas Triangle is about cost effectiveness. Sounds like you are suggesting a line of DFW-Houston, DFW-San Antonio, and Houston-San Antonio. That would be 243, 274, and 200 miles respectively (717 total). Building the ‘College Triangle’ connecting the same cities would entail ~556 miles of rail to be built. Assuming $20M per mile that is a $3.22B savings, while making for more compelling travel legs in all directions. DFW – Houston via the triangle would be ~279 miles, 36 more than the straight I-45 shot. I think a 36 mile detour at 220 mph is worth the savings.

The biggest detour is HOU-San Antonio, 200 vs 285 miles. It would take probably 2 hours by train, and would still take 2.5 by car going 80 mph. But personally I think that Austin would be a bigger destination anyways so it is still a win in that regard.


Ordinarily I support the goal of construction cost savings, but we should not forget the time sensitivity of business travelers who drive operating profit for HSR lines just as they do air routes. Nor should we forget about interstate travelers. As I understand it, the T-Bone route from Dallas to Houston, would have these stations:

Dallas-DFW-Waco-Temple-Bryan/CollegeStation-IAH-Houston (6 stops)
vs. my proposal
Dallas-DFW-Bryan/College Station-IAH-Houston (4 stops and 36 miles shorter)

The shorter, direct route sounds like 20 minutes time savings to me. Its been proven many times around the world that business travelers value 20 minutes each way between large business centers capable of it saves 40 minutes to enable more day trips and still be home for dinner. And if T-Bone trip time were 2 hours, there would be even higher demand for more direct fewer stop 1 hour 40 minute trip time.

I have no doubt that business travelers in Dallas/FtW & Houston metro areas, each forecast around 9M pop. by 2030, will demand sub-2 hour trip times just as Washington-NYC and Boston-NYC business travelers demand such a trip time now. The T-Bone is reasonable for Dallas-Waco-Temple-Austin-San Antonio in the Peak Oil Era when gas at the pump is over $10/gallon and jet fuel is equally high, but it sells Dallas/FtW-Houston short. Moreover, the 20 minutes saved in Texas’ primary route would be a good example for Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas, to save minutes that attract more interstate business travelers from OKC, Tulsa, Little Rock and KC.

If Texas convinced the USDOT that it needs big airport expansions at DFW and IAH to handle more regional flights OR 4 more freeway lanes between them on I-35, no one would blink an eye $3.22B. So if it takes longer to build the right HSR routes and costs $3.22B more for our 5th and 6th largest metro areas in 2030, its worth it. Whats the cost heartburn to Texas, given California HSR will be asking the USDOT for $20B to cover some mountain tunnels and cross the San Andreas Fault twice?

The bottom line is Texas is still trying to do HSR on the cheap. And you know what they say about buying cheap.

Thomas, I am not proposing the t-bone. I too dislike it. It would still be 4 stops: Dallas – Waco – B/CS – Houston. Houston to San Antonio would be Hou-B/CS-Aus-San. Dallas to San Antonio would be what is proposed.

36 miles is probably closer to 15 minutes travel time than 20 (I am assuming an avg 140 speed for a 220 system). A non stop DFW-Houston train could do it in 1h45 on this alignment assuming 160 avg speed due to no stops and that is perhaps conservative…

The Governor is an Aggie. Might as well make the sell easier.

Try not thinking in terms of average speeds. The average speed is pulled down by stops and major city station throats; for an express Dallas-Houston train, these would be the same regardless of alignment.

However, the T-Bone corridor would require trains to do a switching move at Temple. This imposes a slow zone of about 160 km/h, or at most 220 if Texas uses special expensive turnouts.

The time difference should then be thought of as [(extra distance)/(top speed) + (160 km/h slow zone penalty)]*(1 + schedule pad).

Worried about Wisconsin in this election. The Republican Milwaukee County Executive, Scott Walker, who has led in the polls throughout for governor, has turned emphatically against rail and says he would turn back the money for Milwaukee-Madison — one of the best new rail schemes out there. Tommy Thompson, a previous GOP governor who was a big advocate for rail, now supports Walker’s stance. Walker also used to be for it before he was against it. But now that there are votes in being a Tea Partier, do you expect them to go back to the original positions? I don’t.

I too like the Waco Wishbone. Express HSR could run thru Waco for a sub-2 hour time, while Regional HSR could stop at Waco. Following Alon’s note, Waco and B/CS should have wider throats to prevent congestion. For the Waco Wishbone did you mean:

A. Dallas – Waco – B/CS – Houston
B. Dallas – DFW- Waco – B/CS – Houston
C. Dallas – DFW- Waco – B/CS – IAH-Houston


Waco and B/CS would almost certainly not have any slow zone: that is, a nonstop train could go through them at full speed. Worst that can happen is that noise problems at College Station and maybe also Waco would force a brief slowdown, on the order of 15-60 seconds each.

DFW is tricky. Do you do FW-DFW-DAL-south or DFW-south with a much better/speedier regional transportation system that connects frequently with downtown FW and Dallas to the airport stop?

I am leaning to a FW-DFW-DAL-WAC-B/CS-IAH-HOU alignment. I also am talking about a leg from B/CS to Austin to make a triangle and skip the talk of a T-bone/wishbone. That way you could get HOU-IAH-B/CS-AUS-SAN as a major and useful run. And of course there would be the DFW area-WAC-TEM-AUS-SAN line with quite a few opportunities for regional rail stops along that route.

“… leaning to a FW-DFW-DAL-WAC-B/CS-IAH-HOU alignment. I also am talking about a leg from B/CS to Austin to make a triangle and skip the talk of a T-bone/wishbone. That way you could get HOU-IAH-B/CS-AUS-SAN as a major and useful run. And of course there would be the DFW area-WAC-TEM-AUS-SAN line with quite a few opportunities for regional rail stops along that route.”

I agree. $1B spent spent reducing auto crossings and new Bio-diesel trainsets, even 110 mph Austin-B/CS line would out-perform driving trip-time. Ditto for $1B spent spent for 110 mph San Antonio-Houston line. Both would permit Texas to make a stronger case for $10B Fed and $2B State and local funds for the 220 mph Waco Wishbone more feasible to fund over 12 years or so. Its the same reasonable tradeoff California is making to only upgrade is Amtrak Pacific Surfliner and Capital Corridor routes to 90-110 mph service, while pushing ahead with 220 mph for the main north-south forked route.

Is it true that Ft. Worth is planning to de-fund its portion of the Trinity Railway Express commuter train. If so, then I would scratch the HSR spur from FtW to DFW.

Are Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri participating In the Texas HSR study? If they are, then a 220 mph Chicago-St. Louis-Kansas City-Wichita-OKC-Dallas-Houston+San Antonio Wishbone route could grow public sentiment and political roots connecting two mega-regions. Such a 220 mph Wishbone route would be a solid upgrade over Amtrak’s existing 79 mph Texas Eagle route, that bypasses Wichita and never reaches Houston. It would reduce national flight delay, eliminate less profitable short flights and open airport gate space for more profitable 500+ mile direct flights.


Thanks for the insight that its better to go from
Ft. Worth-DFW-Dallas-Waco-Bryan/CollegeStation-IAH-Houston.

The makes downtown to downtown faster while complimenting both major airports. And it leaves the door open for future HSR connection between Ft. Worth-Alberquerque.

I like your suggestion to link Sat Lake City-Las Vegas, but you are missing these Interstate HSR (Federal Priority) routes:

Phoenix-Las Vegas
Albequerque-Ft. Worth/Dallas

I would designate the Killeen-Temple-College Station segment of the Texas Triangle as a State priority rather than Federal priority, meaning it could be a 110 mph line.

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