DOT High-Speed Rail Intercity Rail

A Last Gasp for the Initial Intercity Rail Grants

» For the first time, the Department of Transportation makes a major effort to use high-speed rail grants to invest in the Northeast Corridor.

After months of complaints that the U.S. DOT was not focused enough on the needs of its densest and most productive metropolitan area, the agency has agreed to appropriate almost $800 million to the Northeast Corridor — enough to begin work on upgrades to the main line between New York and Philadelphia.

Also winning major new grants for rail upgrades are Michigan, Illinois, and New York State. California will receive another $300 million to pursue construction on the Central Valley segment of its planned new San Francisco-to-Los Angeles main line.

This is the third major release of rail funds from the federal government after similar announcements in January, October, and December 2010.

The $2 billion in projects funded today are taking advantage of the decision in February by Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) to abandon his state’s efforts to construct a new rail line between Tampa and Orlando, despite the fact that the line’s construction would have been almost fully paid for by the federal government. Numerous studies projected it to be operationally profitable. The governors of the states that received awards today are unanimously supportive of intercity rail projects in their respective states, so they are unlikely to turn back the funds.

These grants are the last of their kind: The election of a Republican majority to the U.S. House of Representatives has put a block in the Obama Administration’s efforts to continue funding for rail projects. Indeed, the April budget agreement eliminated such grants entirely for Fiscal Year 2011. Unless there is a significant change of heart among conservative members of the national legislature, there is unlikely to be much more money at least until after the 2012 elections.

Nonetheless, the commitment of hundreds of millions of dollars to the Northeast is likely to be well-received politically. After all, at the root of much of the criticism of the Administration’s rail grants has been its focus on places like California and Florida, which have been (inappropriately) construed as the “wrong places” for initial investments. At least so far, few have objected to the notion that the Boston-Washington corridor deserves — and needs — better rail service.

Specified for funding are $450 million in improvements on a 24-mile section of track from New York and Philadelphia (between New Brunswick and Morrisville) that will allow 160 mph service there and $295 million for a bypass around the Harold Interlocking in Queens, now a major impediment to the smooth-running of trains into and out of Manhattan. Three projects worth a total of $50 million in Maryland and Rhode Island will also attempt to increase capacity marginally on the corridor.

What remains far off is Amtrak’s $117 billion vision for a brand-new high-speed rail line connecting the Northeast’s biggest cities. Though the national rail agency asked for funds to begin studying a new trans-Hudson tunnel between New York and New Jersey called the Gateway project, it came away empty-handed this time around as the government has made the right-headed decision that with limited funds only much-needed upgrades to the existing line should be pursued.

The complete renewal of the Northeast Corridor will probably have to wait until something akin to President Obama’s $53 billion intercity rail plan is agreed to by the Congress, unlikely in these deficit-obsessed times.

Fortunately for the rest of the country, the new focus on the Northeast has not prevented the government from awarding grants to other states including California, which now has enough money to complete a 133-mile segment of the first phase of its statewide system. Tracks are now funded for the entire corridor from Bakersfield north of Fresno to the wye where trains will eventually head off either north to Sacramento or northwest to San Francisco. With $10 billion in state funds and $4 billion in federal funds now committed to this program, this project is well on its way to getting off the ground.

Also moving forward are upgrade projects in Illinois, Michigan, and New York State, where Amtrak services will be significantly improved to allow for faster travel times. On top of the previously awarded funds, Michigan will be able to offer 110 mph service on the 135-mile track segment between Kalamazoo and Dearborn by 2013, saving passengers up to 50 minutes between Detroit and Chicago. The funds for Illinois will continue to improve service on the route between Chicago and St. Louis. And New York will be able to relieve the bottleneck that occurs at the Albany-Rensselaer Station with $58 million in grants.

California and the Midwest will receive $68 million and $268.2 million, respectively, for the purchase of new trainsets to be used on existing Amtrak routes. A similar $100 million grant was provided to the Golden State two weeks ago for new train cars and locomotives.

Double tracking of existing lines and minor improvements in capacity will be funded in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Texas has been awarded $15 million to pursue studies on a future true high-speed rail corridor between Dallas and Houston.

DOT Announces Third Round of High-Speed Rail Grants
StateAwards in HSR III (m$)Awards in HSR I&II (m$)Total AwardsNew Projects Funded in HSR III
California3683866.14234.1New cars; Extension of Central Valley line to Wye
Illinois186.312811467.3Chicago-St Louis
Northeast Corridor795125.3920.3Capacity Improvements
Washington15782.3797.3Port of Vancouver Grade Separation
North Carolina4569.7573.7Piedmont Corridor Service Enhancement
Midwest Region Service268.20268.2New rail cars for Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri
New York59.4184.8244.2Empire Corridor Capacity Improvements
Connecticut30160.9190.0Double tracking New Haven-Springfield
Massachusetts20.872.893.6Double Tracking Wilmington-Andover
Pennsylvania4026.266.2Keystone Interlocking Upgrades
Missouri13.536.850.3New Mississippi River Bridge
Minnesota54045Northern Lights Express Planning
Texas15621Planning for Dallas-Houston Express HSR
Oregon1.513.615.1Eugene Stub Tracks

239 replies on “A Last Gasp for the Initial Intercity Rail Grants”

Amtrak’s building a bypass for Harold Interlocking? Isn’t the LIRR reconfiguring it to eliminate existing conflicts as part of East Side Access? How would this bypass improve things further?

OK. Amtrak from Connecticut comes in from the northeast (above grade level), and the LIRR Main Line comes in from the southeast (roughly). East Side Access needs to depart to the northwest below grade level, so the LIRR is building a pair of underpasses (one for each direction of traffic) from the Main Line to the East Side Access route.

Penn Station traffic needs to depart to the southwest — through four tunnels — but Amtrak needs to be on the south pair the tracks to get to New Jersey, while the LIRR wants to access the north pair of tracks to get to the West Side Yards. The LIRR Main Line has the ground level. So Amtrak needs to fly over it and land on the south side, which it doesn’t currently.

(LIRR traffic to Long Island City is yet another matter — it needs to be even further southwest. I’m not quite sure how they’re handling that; it would be logical to land the Amtrak tracks between the tracks for LIRR to Penn and the tracks for LIRR to LIC, with the LIRR trains being sorted to the east of that, but I doubt they’re being that clever.)

Thanks for this good, clear explanation. I feel I understand it now, whereas I certainly didn’t before.

This is already part of the East Side Access project to build two duck under tunnels for Amtrak to bypass Harold.

The award is just a way to increase funding to East Side Access without going back to the FTA.

Here’s more info from a local paper:

Not exactly “just a way” to fund East Side Access, because the interlocking is already busy and subject to frequent delays, but funding East Side Access is a good part of it.

I don’t have any problem with projects that are two-fers. The Englewood Flyover in ChicagoLand will be great for schedule reliability and speeding up Amtrak’s five trains to Michigan, the Lake Shore Limited, the Capitol Limited, and any new trains Amtrak might add in a happy future. But it’s probably even better for Metra’s dozens of trains there.

Doesn’t this project make it much easier to add trains — MetroNorth or Amtrak’s — that will run from Penn Station to New Haven-Hartford-Springfield when upgrades kick in on that stretch north of New Haven?

Probably for Conn’s own political concerns, those investments were sold as improved service New Haven-Hartford-Springfield. But the report “HSR in America 2050” showed the full route NYC-Springfield with far more potential than measuring merely the New Haven-Springfield segment alone. To capture riders Philly-Hartford or Newark-Springfield, etc. trains from Conn need to get to Penn Station, not to Grand Central Terminal with MetroNorth’s commuters.

Federal government funds to help unsnarl MTA’s Sunnyside rail hub
by Mark Morales, DAILY NEWS Writer

Thursday, May 26th 2011

Details are emerging about an MTA plan that recently got federal funding to ease congestion at a bottleneck in Sunnyside. Work…is slated to start next year. New tracks, faster track switches, new signal towers, and demolition of existing structures are all part of the project….

Transportation officials are banking that the upgrade will increase ridership on all three lines that use Harold Interlocking – the Long Island Rail Road, NJ Transit, and Amtrak.

“This project will disentangle a choke point that serves nearly 800 trains a day, dramatically improving the reliability of train service for Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak customers,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan told the Daily News. The new tracks will…help shave minutes off [Amtrak’s] trips to and from Boston, officials said. The LIRR will also cut down on delays….

Read more:

Judge, I would assume LIRR is reconfiguring part of it to direct trains from the LIRR Main Line to the new line connecting to the 63rd st tunnel. Amtrak will work on the route between the 34th st East River tunnels and the Hells Gate Line.

Yonah, any idea what portion of the line between NYC and PHL is being upgraded and what the current speed is? Are we talking about going from 150 to 160, from 110 to 160, or some other speed limit?

So we’re talking about saving 1:40 in time. As much as I’m glad we’re seeing NEC improvements, I have to wonder if there was a bigger bang for $450m than 1:40 somewhere on the route.

This is simply proof that upgrading the NEC will not be cheap, quick, or easy.

Lessee, Acelas could reach 160 mph, up from 135 mph top now, over a 24-mile section. They’ll be hitting the brakes about as soon as they finish accelerating. And you calculate that as saving all of 1 minute 40 seconds. Yeah, it’s a PR stunt.

Not that there’s anything wrong with PR stunts. It at least marks a start.

Looks like something that can be started during the Obama Administration. Other necessary projects are far, far, far from being shovel-ready. Some still need environmental approvals, most need a lot more design and engineering, then prioritize and scrape up some funds.

Speeding up the NEC will involve a 50-point list of one- and two-minute improvements: In Jersey alone, the Portal Bridge (another billion or so, some doubletracking between Newark and the new Hudson tunnels, and Alon said, iirc, you could get a minute or two out of faster time in new Hudson tunnels themselves. So 5 or 6 more minutes saved, $15 or $20 expended.

Even if Amtrak is stupid, as critics like to say, not even Amtrak is so stupid as to have overlooked any one nice little project that would slice big time off the run. Probably the biggest single de-bottlenecking and speed-up project on the existing NEC will turn out to be new tunnels under Baltimore. My guess is that they will cost, in an easy to remember way, at least a Billion per minute saved, and maybe two.

But as Senator Dirksen could have said, A minute here, a couple of minutes there, pretty soon it adds up to some real time saved.

The PR part of the improvements is the added speed. The non-PR part of the same improvement is increased reliability. The Trenton local or the Silver Star is less likely to pull down the catenary. Portal bridge, if it lets them get back to speeds they got regularly in the early 80s will save 5-6 minutes. Used to be fairly common for the trains to make it between Newark and New York in 13 minutes. Schedule read 15.

What Adirondacker said: this section has badly needed its catenary replaced for quite a while. The speed improvements are just a nice side benefit, the reliability improvements are very real.

Reliability improvements are speed gains too ~ that is, in terms of actual transit speeds actually delivered to passengers, whether or not in terms of hypothetical timetable transits.

No, the single biggest de-bottlenecking project on the NEC would be the Gateway project to build 2 new tunnels under the Hudson River to Penn Station in NYC. That is the biggest bottleneck on the NEC. It is also by far, the most expensive to fix with 2 new tunnels under the Hudson, the Portal Bridge North and South replacements, and capacity improvements in Penn Station/Moynihan Station.

The B&P Tunnel in west Baltimore needs to be replaced too, but it is maybe a 2 minute time saver.

Well there was an alternative to the Gateway project that was due to be completed in 2017 but that got canceled……

Just how many more trains would be able to come in through the tunnels if Amtrak scrapped ACSES and went with ETCS instead? 1? 2? None? They are already up 26 an hour.

Whoppee! A whole four trains an hour more on systems that don’t have interlocking A at the end of their tunnels. The capacity to give the Raritan Valley line one seat rides. Leaves everybody who is standing between Metropark and Penn Station or Summit and Penn Station, standing. Leaves the passengers on the former Erie lines on trains that can only go to Hoboken. You have to rip out a few hundred million dollars worth of ACSES. And run trains with three control systems instead of two for the decade or so it takes in install it between Washington and Boston.
ARC was going to double capacity. Estimates I’ve seen for Gateway are as low as 8 more trains an hour.

Current traffic is normally 25 tph at the peak, so it’s 7, not 4. Add in longer trains and it kicks the capacity problems a couple years down the line.

Platforming 14 car multilevels at 12 car long NJTransit stations will be….. interesting. Install the magic signal system, save every about to be scrapped Silverliner and press it into service on NJTransit tomorrow you still run into capacity problems two days from now. And no running the train from Port Washington to Trenton doesn’t solve the problems.


ARC was going to double capacity. Estimates I’ve seen for Gateway are as low as 8 more trains an hour.

The ARC estimates were vast overestimates of what could be accomplished at a 6 track stub terminal buried 200 feet underground. ARC would never have gotten more than about 18 trains per hour. The Gateway estimate of only 8 more trains per hour is simply silly. The project will add 7 new platform tracks and make Tracks 1 through 4 more usable. Amtrak/NJT/LIRR currently get three trains per hour on each track at Penn Station. 7 new tracks is 21 new trains, and allows the inbound tunnels to be balanced at around 23 trains per hour, relieving a little pressure on the current tunnels.


And no running the train from Port Washington to Trenton doesn’t solve the problems.

Yes it does. Through routing trains gets them off the platform in about 5 minutes or so, compared to 20 minutes for turning them. Compare the operation of SEPTA before and after the center city tunnel. Reading Terminal went from 13 tracks in a stub-end terminal to 4 tracks below and with more trains movements. The biggest bottleneck at Penn Station is the 20 minute platform occupancies.

Just how long does it take to change ends on a train? Amtrak manages to do in ten at 30th Street on Keystone Service. Same FRA rules are in effect at 30th Street as are in effect at Penn Station.

How many of the tracks at Reading Terminal were out of service when they took the whole terminal out of service? How many tracks were there at Suburban?


Just how long does it take to change ends on a train? Amtrak manages to do in ten at 30th Street on Keystone Service. Same FRA rules are in effect at 30th Street as are in effect at Penn Station.

That isn’t the issue at Penn Station. At Penn Station, you can’t board and disembark passengers at the same time because the escalators and stairs are only one-abreast, and there are only 4 sets on the main Amtrak tracks, and the platforms are ultra narrow, especially near the columns. Given that the entire train is generally turning over at Penn, with 500-1500 people trying to get in or out, it takes a while to get everyone off and everyone on. So Amtrak schedules 15 minutes to get this done, generally allowing 5 minutes on and 5 minutes off and 5 minutes of pad. Then you need time to enter and exit the track at 15 mph, meaning about 2 minutes in and 2 minutes to get out given the half mile length of the platforms and A interlocking. Hence 20 minutes per train per platform.

How many of the tracks at Reading Terminal were out of service when they took the whole terminal out of service? How many tracks were there at Suburban?

All tracks at Reading Terminal were in use.

At Suburban Station, there were 8 tracks in use, but at rush hour they stacked two trains on each track to gain capacity, and they had 4 tracks in and out of each station.

The biggest change though, was that at Suburban Station they doubled the width of the platforms by expanding them across one of the tracks next to them and the adjacent column line to the next track, effectively adding over 15 ft. of width to the platform and allowing the additiona of wide stairways with escalators next to them to help with pedestrian flow. Suburban station has 5 wide stairways for each platform (and even a shut down escalator bank on the far end that is not in use), giving them about 3 or more times times the pedestrian flow capability of Penn Station New York. Market East, which replaced Reading Terminal, was built new with very wide platforms.

New York Penn Station would need to be retrofit similar to Suburban Station to allow timely through service with no more than 5 minutes per train for a stop.

There is one very wide platform at Penn Station – the Track 18-19 platform. LIRR uses it and also the fairly wide Track 20-21 platform for most of their trains.

That isn’t the issue at Penn Station. At Penn Station, you can’t board and disembark passengers at the same time because the escalators and stairs are only one-abreast, and there are only 4 sets on the main Amtrak tracks, and the platforms are ultra narrow, especially near the columns.

I’m well aware of it after using Penn Station for decades. Know which place to stand in Newark and a few suburban stations so that I end up at the door at the bottom of the stairs. The stairs are two abreast and three abreast if you want to get cozy.

You didn’t answer how long it takes to turn a train around. If it’s less than the dwell of the through running train it doesn’t really matter all that much if the train runs through or it turns around.

The people who tell you they can run a gazillion trains an hour through Penn Station ignore ugly little things like narrow platforms, narrow stairs, huge columns that hold up Madison Square Garden and the time to transit complex interlocking.. Just make it work like a subway station!

I timed the LIRR single-level EMUs at rush hour, on track 14 and (I think) 13, and the doors were open for about 1.5-2 minutes. Nearly all passengers had cleared the platform by the time the doors had closed.

But sure, 5-minute dwells are unrealistic, because, um, they aren’t the way we did it in the 1930s, and what worked for my grandfather works for me.

and long did it sit there waiting for the interlocking to clear so it could leave the platform

I wouldn’t rule it out that Interlocking could knock five to ten minutes off of the trip in that when riding it a lot of trouble starts at the interlockings. Also the 24 mile section they are talking about up grading that same section has been making the news lately with a lot of downed catenary wires do to age which stop the trains. The 24 mile section is also one of the oldest on the NEC catenary system. So having some major up grades would be to bad of a thing over there. I’m at least glad Cailforinia didn’t take away all of the money.

For the benefit of readers not as well versed on all the direct passenger benefits to upgrading the the NEC, shouldn’t we characterize the $920M as a healthy first step towards higher top & average speeds, greater train frequencies and higher on-time performance. We also don’t know how much of Amtrak, Northeast state budgets and private investment will add to the $920M. Based on historical precedence, its reasonable to assume at least $225M will be added to the pot.

Phase I has been loosely characterized as “Bringing the NEC to a state of Good Repair”. No official end date has been identified to Phase I, but a presumptive “Rule of Thumb is 15 years from 2010” – the date when key Amtrak project plans received 1st funding from the USDOT. As expected when one upgrades a working train line to a State of Good Repair, projects will incrementally yield 1-6 minutes shorter trip times in the Boston-Washington corridor. Based on current Acela trains limited to 162 mph and Federal Railroad Administration regulations, Phase I projects completed by 2025 should result in 60-90 minutes of trip time savings in the Boston-Washington Corridor compared to 2010.

Based on a presumptive end to Phase I and new funding sources identified by 2025, Phase II, the Amtrak NEC NextGen HSR should commence. Amtrak NextGen HSR plans for speeds up to 220 mph that build upon Phase I to produce trip time savings of 3 to 3.5 hours and triple passenger capacity compared to 2010. Although NEC NextGen HSR is currently limited to Boston-Washington Corridor, project boundaries may also incorporate New Haven, Albany, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Richmond and Norfolk.

greater train frequencies

Until you build a new tunnel under the Hudson you can’t increase frequencies at peak. You can make the trains longer. The platforms at major stations are 16 cars long.

ThomasD, Not sure where we’re in disagreement, maybe tone and subtle emphasis. Maybe I’m just more afraid of ‘over-promising’ at this point.

We all need to be honest about what this will take. We keep seeing enthusiastic posts here that, “If they will just spend a couple of billion to do this … and it will be easy.” No, you spend those billions and get that done, and that gets you to the next problem and the next billions … and then many billions more before we get anywhere near European-style HSR on the NEC. Of course it will still be worth it all.

But state of good repair already has a multiBillion price. If then the NEC speed goes up, incrementally (and population goes up for sure, and incomes up — we pray, and gas prices most likely) demand will go up. Add cars and make longer trains, like Amtrak is trying to do with the Acelas, adds capacity at the high-priced end. Add more cars to Regionals (and I guess Keystones too) as Adirondacker suggests and get capacity at the lower end.

But more frequencies to Harrisburg, Richmond, or Charlotte, or new extensions to Albany and beyond, to Springfield and Vermont, to Norfolk and Lynchburg, etc, or new or added l.d. trains to Florida, Atlanta, or Birmingham, we’ll need more Hudson tunnels. Roughly $12 to $15 billion more.

Until then, I doubt you could even tinker with the scheduled l.d. train departures, if, for example, you decided that a daily Cardinal should leave one hour later out of Penn.

I know you follow the CAHSR project. Being realistic about the price of serious upgrades to the NEC could make the system in Cali look like the bargain it is!

Don’t fret aboutthe current momentum. It changes fast. And don’t underestimate the ability of American politicians to throw money at a problem when they make up their minds to do it! (Let’s have lots of good “shovel-ready” plans ready next time Congress gets in that mood!)

more frequencies to Harrisburg, Richmond, or Charlotte, or new extensions to Albany and beyond, to Springfield and Vermont, to Norfolk and Lynchburg, etc, or new or added l.d. trains to Florida, Atlanta, or Birmingham, we’ll need more Hudson tunnels.


There are currently 15 Regionals terminate at Washington. Any or all of them could be extended to Richmond, Charlotte, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Raleigh, Florida, Atlanta or Birmingham (if there were capacity south of Washington) without sending any additional traffic through the Hudson tunnels.

There are eleven Regionals currently terminating in New York which could be extended to Albany and beyond, to Springfield and Vermont without sending any additional traffic through the Hudson tunnels.

There’s also a good deal of flexibility through the Hudson tunnels most of the day. It’s the two peak morning hours that the tunnels are at capacity. Outside those, there are still plenty of slots available.

If you want to run clockface Acela (or son of Acela) schedules, especially at the peak morning hours, then you need more Hudson tunnel capacity. But for added 110-125 mph service from upgraded NEC feeders into the NEC, the existing Hudson tunnels are fine.

There is an afternoon peak too.
Washington to Albany you either need to use an ALP45DP which I’m sure NJTransit would just love to lease to Amtrak or change engines in New York.

The morning peak is more acute than the afternoon peak. Think why.

Washington to Albany could be done using an engine change, in the short term. In the longer term, there’s no excuse for not electrifying, short of “We’re going to build HSR on the same route very soon.” It’s not too different from the Lynchburg and Newport News situation.

No, the daily Cardinal should not be leaving NYC at all, it should be replaced by a much longer NYC corridor service to Lynchburg and the Cardinal should leave from Charlottesville with through ticket integration to the Lynchburg service.

Albany to Manhattan gets almost as many riders as Boston to Manhattan, Seems like a great place for electrification to me. Since it’s so short, electrification to Schenectady and maybe even Saratoga Springs. Have to see what ridership becomes once the second track is built, and the padding in the schedules gets taken out.

OK, Bruce, Forget the daily Cardinal departure. My bad example. What if upgrades NYC to Charlotte allow small adjustments to the Carolinian?

Currently the Carolinian leaves Penn Station at 7:05 a.m., right after the Acela. (“Leave at 7? Oh, please, you’re killing me. I’m not a morning person.”)

Could we make the Carolinian departure a more customer-friendly 8:05 a.m.? I doubt it.

Acelas leaving on the hour, the Carolinian 7ish, a Regional, then at 8 another Acela, a southbound Vermonter at 8:10 a.m., a Regional, a Keystone. And all the commuter trains Jersey can manage to get in the tunnel. Sure is a lot of furniture in that space to be moving around. Even if we can squeeze in one or two more l.d. trains during the day — a second Pennsylvanian seems likely, tho more Keystones could come sooner — we might not get them at the times we’d want.

So I still think scheduling already can be cramped by capacity problems in the tunnels and Penn Station, and that can only get worse as Amtrak grows.


I do take Jim’s point about a dozen Regionals currently terminating in D.C. or NYC that could be extended south, or north. Of course, Virginia is facing some capacity issues itself, but I think we’ll see more trains to Richmond and one to Norfolk fairly soon. But I wonder how far a Regional can be extended or how late into the day, before it is needed back on the main D.C.-NYC segment.


Pushing some Regionals north to Albany should be a priority.

When they ran the numbers for that study “HSR in America 2050” that Empire Corridor got a top score: NYC-D.C. got 20.15, NYC-BOS next with 19.87, and NYC-Albany claimed 19.29, the highest non-NEC score.

Problem with NYC-Albany is that it needs RE-electrification. It’s currently LIRR third rail in the Penn Station area, and incompatible Metro-North third rail from the Harlem River to, what, Hudson?. The entire thing needs to be overhead catenary. Lot of work.

Further, extending Regionals north of NYC to Albany requires “changing ends” and running the train the other way ’round. This is not really a problem if the re-electrification is done, but it will add dwell time in NYP.

In order to make room for that dwell time, something has to give, and the obvious way to make room is through-running through NY Penn. Which requires re-electrifying parts of the LIRR or buying new dual-mode AC/DC electrics, but more importantly requires NJT and LIRR to cooperate, which seems to be very difficult…

extending Regionals north of NYC to Albany requires “changing ends” and running the train the other way ’round. … but it will add dwell time in NYP.

Stash a locomotive in the E yard; the train comes in to, say, track 5; the stashed locomotive joins onto its west end; the locomotive that pulled it into the station is disconnected and runs on through to Sunnyside; the new locomotive does a brake test and moves the train out. Shouldn’t be much more dwell than getting passengers on and off at Penn usually is.

I do take Jim’s point about a dozen Regionals currently terminating in D.C. or NYC that could be extended south, or north. Of course, Virginia is facing some capacity issues itself, but I think we’ll see more trains to Richmond and one to Norfolk fairly soon. But I wonder how far a Regional can be extended or how late into the day, before it is needed back on the main D.C.-NYC segment.

… the simple answer to that is buy another train … if the Regional has gone so far south or north that it “can’t get back” in time, the new train is already running up from the extended end of the line.

So long as the state concerned is ready, willing and able to pay for that new train, bob’s your uncle.

More generally, if the trainset per day capacity of the Connecticut portion is constraining the system south of NYC, having somewhere else for the trains to run through to northbound from NYC is a GoodThing{TM}.

The lack of trains south of Washington is overdetermined.

There is no rolling stock. The last two Regional extensions (to Lynchburg and to Richmond) started later than planned because Amtrak had a hard time scaring up enough rolling stock. The trainset that overnights in Lynchburg instead of overnighting at Washington doesn’t get back to Washington in time to become the train it used to be. So Amtrak had to find cars that could make up the train it used to be.

There is no capacity. CSX takes the position that the existing VRE and Amtrak traffic maxes out the capacity between Washington and Alexandria. At least the segment between the Long Bridge and the CSX/NS junction would have to have quad-tracking restored for CSX to permit additional passenger trains south of Washington and probably the segment in DC between the First Street tunnel and the Long Bridge would need quad-tracking restored, too. Restoring quad tracking is fairly cheap (low tens of millions), but the L’Enfant Plaza VRE station would need reconstructing (totally, since its single platform was built where the fourth track used to be) and the Alexandria station would need some degree of rebuilding. While the new Republican Governor of Virginia hasn’t spoken out against HSR, his administration hasn’t applied for any HSIPR funds, either.

& @Woody, yes, if it allowed more valuable departures and arrivals for the Carolinian (… almost typed Carolignian, been reading too much history …), that would be loverly.

The work involved is replacing the catenary, resignaling, upgrading track where necessary, replacing switches where necessary and grade separating track crossovers if necessary (in this section, there’s the crossover of the SEPTA leads to their yard). Doing that work for this segment is around half a billion. Doing the same work for Morrisville to North Philadelphia will run around half a billion; for Philadelphia to Wilmington a bit under half a billion; for Wilmington to Perryville around half a billion and for West Baltimore to New Carrollton a bit over half a billion. A minute and a half to two minutes saved per segment gives you close to ten minutes for two and a half billion (2:45 down to 2:35? NYP-PHL-WAS only at 2:25?). Staggered starts on each segment and overlapping Gantt charts optimizes resource use (which keeps the cost down). Look for the next segment to be funded in FY12, the one after that in FY13 and so on.

The hard segments — Washington Terminal, Perryville to West Baltimore, New Brunswick to Newark NJ and Gateway — will have to be dealt with separately.

Avi, well if they could get rid of the ridiculous FRA regulations, they would use the money to buy some new rolling stock that could save 30 minutes between each end of the NEC and New York, last i heard.

The constant tension catenary idea is not bad – remember, the better the rolling stock is, the more of an effect this has.

My complaint is that after saying it would cost $1 billion to upgrade the catenary from NY to DC, Amtrak is proposing to spend $450 million on a relatively small segment of it.

The biggest bang for the buck under present conditions is new rolling stock. However, this requires getting rid of FRA regulations. This may be easier than it looks – the FRA is more or less friendly to UIC regulations on CAHSR, and although the best trains (N700-I, E6) are not UIC-compliant, there are very good trains that are (AGV, Talgo 350). Once the rolling stock is good, the best bang for the buck is constant tension catenary, since then the speed upgrade would be 135 to 220 and not 135 to 160. The main barrier here is institutional inertia, as always.

No matter what you put under the catenary it can’t go faster than 135. Go faster than 135 and the catenary rips itself apart.

I’m well-aware, thanks. What I’m saying is that with current rolling stock, the catenary upgrade is 135 -> 160 and that saves trivial time, but with better rolling stock it becomes 135 -> 220 and that saves nontrivial time.

If the railroad’s speed limit is 135 why should the FRA worry it’s pretty little head about trains that can do 220? Or even trains that can do 150? Why should Amtrak? Why should the vendors?

To be honest, I don’t understand your question. If you’re asking what the point of better rolling stock is if the catenary is not fixed, then the answer is that it can accelerate much better, run faster on old bridges because of the lower axle load, have a higher cant deficiency without tilting (important on NY-New Haven), and incur much lower maintenance costs.

If Amtrak uses the northern tunnel pair from Penn Station to Long Island,

Except for the fiddly little bits west of Penn Station where they have to cross over the traffic leaving the station for New Jersey and the traffic to and from the West Side Yards.
Port Washington Branch has a lot of traffic but I have a feeling that the passengers who want to pass through Jamaica will get a bit annoyed when their train leaves Woodside bound for Flushing.

First, I even wrote a post about it. And bear in mind I hadn’t written a proper blog post in over 4 years.

Second, look at a track map again. Amtrak can use platforms bound for New Jersey, and the LIRR using the northern tunnels would reverse or feed into West Side Yard. No conflict there. And Port Washington trains would not be changed from today east of the interlocking.

This section of catenary has been a bit of a trouble maker and if they do get to add constant tension to this old section it would really improve things.


Alon Levy is right about new rolling stock and Woody is correct in noting it will not be cheap. Even before purchasing 220 mph rolling stock, we know that Amtrak requests $13.5B for the Gateway Project and another $10B is needed for bridge, tunnel, interlocking, catenary, signaling work from Boston to Richmond.

Since Mica is so in love with the NEC, we’ll see how much influence he welds among fellow Repubs to reframe Obama’s $53B/6 year HSR proposal in Republican friendly terms.

Step 1 should not be to negotiate with rather than fight against California’s U.S. Reps & Senators in a Tax-Donor state that wants 220 mph HSR so much it passed a $9.9B bond. Instead, Mica’s supporters should take page from the Virginia and Michigan Repub governors who negotiated to upgrade Amtrak service AND creates thousands on their governors resumes. By supporting the Gateway project, the New Jersey governor is trying to do the same.

Hence, Mica should be able to win over enough Repubs by pushing for a package akin to $18B to Northeast, $6B to Piedmont, $9B to Midwest, $10B California and $2B to Pacific Northwest ($45B total). Funds should only go to states who submitted apps for 110-220 mph and 10+ daily RT trains.

Repubs could then claim they cut $8B of deficit spending from Obama’s plan, still created thousands jobs by Nov 2012. And excluding California, Repubs can claim they focused funds to upgrade existing Amtrak lines to eliminate taxpayer subsidy.

This approach is sellable because more jobs is the #1 voter poll issue and every new governor must show jobs created on their watch or face the boot. No wonder Wisconsin Gov. Walker now supports upgrading existing Milwaukee-Chicago service to 110 mph top speed and 10 daily trains, see

If Walker has changed his tune, it should be possible for SC, GA, AL, IN govs to get onboard.

Correction, third paragraph should read,

“Step 1 should be to negotiate with, rather than fight against California’s U.S. Reps & Senators in a Tax-Donor state that wants 220 mph HSR so much it passed a $9.9B bond …”

Is the Iowa City extension of the Quad Cities line actually a go? I thought I’d heard somewhere that it was nixed…

Yeah, the Iowa part was nixed by Gov Crazy (I mean, by IOWA’s Gov Crazy, not the other ones, you need a scorecard these days.) But the Illinois section Chicago-Moline (Quad Cities) is still a go.

Leaving Iowa on the list that way makes a nice point, doesn’t it? Since the current crop of Repubs taught me how to think like a partisan, I’m tickled to see that Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida got their well-deserved share in this round of grants.

But unCrazy Repubs, like Chris who posts here, can point to the relatively moderate Repub Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, who is supporting these grants.

The sort of closetCrazy Repub Gov Snyder of Michigan was cornered. Ridership on Amtrak’s 3 trains a day Chicago-Detroit has soared by 16% in the October-March period, as coaches have been rescued from the junk yards, repaired with Stimulus funds, and added to this route. In March, the 3 Wolverine trains carried 41,000 passengers, comparing very favorably with the 4 Lincoln trains with 57,000 passengers St Louis-Chicago, with no state subsidy. (Two other MI routes do get a small subsidy, but they also got added capacity and now more revenue.)

So 500,000 passengers a year on this route ain’t bad. Now if the numbers from the MI DOT hold up, and with this $200 million grant they can upgrade the old NS tracks to chop 50 minutes out of the schedule and make Detroit-Chicago a 4-hour trip, this route will be a blow-out success. Then the state’s Repub Gov can only be seen smiling, whether he really likes Amtrak’s success or not.

Yes, its easy to see the Michigan money as a wedge politics grant ~ since the Michigan governor seems to be heavily into using state government to reap development profits, Detroit/Chicago in 4hrs is inside 3hrs for some developments in the western part of the state.

When the first grants were handed out, Michigan and Amtrak just weren’t ready, and this route got overlooked. They’re ready now. And I’m really hyped about it.

It’s already under 3 hrs from Niles on the Michigan/Indiana border, which is also Niles/South Bend city limits, to Detroit. Taking 50 minutes out brings a string of small southern Michigan cities Niles (South Bend)-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek-Jackson-Ann Arbor-Dearborn close to Detroit.

The current schedule shows 30+ minutes to get from Dearborn to Detroit’s New City station! OMG! That’s eight (8) f-ing miles at 4 mph!

And 4 mph is the way many people think of Amtrak. But now that’s going to change. Michigan DOT is saying that one new fly-over alone, to replace a backing-up maneuver, will cut 10 minutes right there.

Ann Arbor (the busiest stop after Chicago and Detroit) is now a little over an hour to Detroit, but take out that just that 10 minutes and it will be less than an hour. It’s a powerful psychological tipping point when you can say, “In LESS THAN an hour you can be in …”

A look at the map shows the line remarkably straight from Ann Arbor to Dearborn (tho it’s a bit curvy from Kalamazoo thru Jackson). Get rid of the grade crossings, install better signaling … I don’t this will be too costly.

The grant is a great boon to Michigan. (And to the city of Detroit, which needs all the help it can get!) The route could have over a million passengers long before they finish getting the 50 minutes out.

Now that Michigan owns the segment Kalamazoo-Detroit (along with Amtrak owning mid-Indiana to Kalamazoo), Amtrak will have control of the scheduling, not the freight road. Add one or two more locomotives and a handful of repaired coaches and they should add two or three more frequencies asap. It could easily be two million passengers after Detroit-Chicago gets down to 4 hours, and show a nice operating surplus.

Getting that schedule down to 3 hours will cost billions more. Most of that job will be expensive work thru ChicagoLand — if Union Station can even handle another 6 or 8 Detroit trains daily. (Of course, those costs and benefits may be shared with Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited, the Capital Limited, and any new l.d. train, like an extended Pennsylvanian or Empire Corridor train, and Metra.)

But with success here, soon the argument will be whether to extend the faster trains beyond to Pontiac, where the Wolverines run now, and on to Flint-Saginaw-Bay City-Midland as seen on some wisher’s maps. Or next to overlay commuter or regional rail serving Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti (Eastern Mich U)-DTW airport (32 million passengers and thousands of workers)-Dearborn (Ford headquarters and The Henry Ford museum, a huge tourist attraction)-Detroit-Royal Oak-Birmingham-Pontiac. Or instead to first build down to Toledo to connect with Cleveland and points east. Or to electrify and get top speeds up to 125 an hour. Or whether to jump directly to a true HSR route at 220 mph.

How nice it will be to face such sweet choices. Surely much of the political opposition will melt away when this route goes from the current 500,000 passengers a year to two, three, or four times that in a fairly short time.

OOPS. My bad. My math. Send me back to the 8th grade.

Dearborn-Detroit, covering 8 miles in half an hour, is not 4 mph. It’s 16 mph. But 16 mph is still too darned slow, and raising the average speed to 24 mph (still too slow but . . . ) on that little stretch will be one sweet project.

They could extend some of the Metra eletric into this rail line. The land is very flat in this area and they could raise it to 150 with very little proberms after they build the highway overpasses and underpasses for this rail line. This rail line could very well go to a million riders a year if it is doing 16% ridership growth. It could very well get up there in about eight to ten years.

Amtrak though should try add on the section owned by the state of MI so that the whole rail line is under one goverment such as Amtrak to make things easer for it.

The South Shore line already goes to South Bend – that would be more of a realistic type of service. There’s been talk of another line, perhaps electric, to serve more of NW Indiana and Valpo (Valparaiso), but that seems to be dead. When Amtrak increased speeds, added runs and a new station, there was talk about SW Michigan becoming even more a part of the Chicago commuter belt.

The Toledo line opens up possibilities in multiple directions, if we can give Kasich the boot ~ eg, a range of possible alignments Detroit / Pittsburgh, which connects through to either DC or Phillie.

That’s one of the reasons they are trying to collected enough signatures on the SB5 ballot initiative to qualify for a constitutional intiative, which in Ohio is twice the threshold required to place a law passed by the legislature directly to the voters.

That is, this legislature will never pass a recall bill, so it would have to be via the initiative route. Since SB5 has the strongest opposition, its a good barometer of the opportunity to push further.

SB5 campaign first: getting a sufficiently large number of Buckeyes to sign a constitutional initiative and then a majority to vote for it is not easy, and only becomes possible because of how radical Kasich is in his Fox-News-bubble outlook, so some momentum building is required.

Kasich is pushing the legislature to frustrate that effort by adding SB5 language to multiple new bills, and if he keeps pressing that direction, especially once SB5 itself is being put up for a vote, its going to outrage a lot of “conservative in the old-fashioned sense of the word” ideas of the right way to behave.

We may be one or two more Kasich over-reaches before recall is on the cards, but tackling the SB5 initiative is laying the platform.

“Michigan DOT is saying that one new fly-over alone, to replace a backing-up maneuver, will cut 10 minutes right there.”

It isn’t even a flyover! There’s a plain route available at grade with no conflicts, it just needs track added back. (I think some of the existing asphalt road/ railroad grade separation bridges may need to be replaced, though.) Trace the route on Google Maps from Dearborn to Detroit Woodward Avenue and you’ll see the spot where the track got ripped out.

It got ripped out because the freight trains weren’t using it. So it’s going to be exclusive passenger trackage, which is kind of nice….

I’ve been following this one in painful detail.

“Now that Michigan owns the segment Kalamazoo-Detroit…”
Do they? They were given federal funding for the purchase in an earlier round but were not coming up with the required state match (!!!) to purchase it. This added funding is for the upgrades, but until Michigan digs up that 20 million (IIRC) the entire project is in limbo. Seems a small amount for a giant project to be waiting for, but I’ve seen $10 million projects scotched for want of $100,000. :-P

“(along with Amtrak owning mid-Indiana to Kalamazoo), Amtrak will have control of the scheduling, not the freight road.”
NS will continue to control from Union Station Chicago to Michigan City (which is OK, they are trying to get the passenger trains out of the way as fast as possible on that very crowded section). More problematically, CN will control two sections, one in Battle Creek where their line crosses the Amtrak line, and the terminal section in Detroit.

“Add one or two more locomotives and a handful of repaired coaches and they should add two or three more frequencies asap. It could easily be two million passengers after Detroit-Chicago gets down to 4 hours, and show a nice operating surplus.”
Yep. Due to Michigan’s poverty, I expect they’ll get the cascaded coaches from other regions which get new coaches.

“Getting that schedule down to 3 hours will cost billions more.”
Maybe, maybe not.

“Most of that job will be expensive work thru ChicagoLand — if Union Station can even handle another 6 or 8 Detroit trains daily. (Of course, those costs and benefits may be shared with Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited, the Capital Limited, and any new l.d. train, like an extended Pennsylvanian or Empire Corridor train, and Metra.)”

The most important piece of work is already funded — Englewood Flyover, part of CREATE.

The next most important piece of work involves moving Metra’s Southwest Service from Union to LaSalle to make more slots for Amtrak, which is very expensive but will almost certainly come from other pots of money (it’s going to be part of the “75th St. Improvement Project” which is part of CREATE).

Next most important is a dedicated pair of passenger tracks from Union Station to the Indiana border, which isn’t that expensive because it’s mostly reinstating old New York Central tracks — the new bridge across the Dan Ryan will probably be the most expensive part.

Finally there’s a matter of threading new tracks through Indiana to the junction with Michigan City, which again isn’t really that bad because it’s mostly reinstating old tracks (though it will require a couple of new river bridges, which will be expensive).

Nice detailed info, thanks. I think we share the optimism for this line’s potential.

I’m hoping that LaHood got ironclad assurances from Repub Gov Snyder not to pull the rug out from under him in exchange for the promise of $400 mil or so. If not …

Anyway, the Mich Gov can’t whine about possibly subsidizing operating losses. The Detroit-Chicago Wolverines are Amtrak’s own, and they aren’t losers. Michigan’s subsidies go to the daily trains to Grand Rapids and Lansing-Flint-Port Huron.

Don’t I have a notion that under a law passed a few years back, Amtrak is supposed to shed responsibility for shorter trains (here, Empire Corridor, a couple more?) and force the states to pay any operating losses? Upgrading the main Wolverine line will probably rescue the Blue Water that branches off to Lansing from future losses, too, taking the state off the hook.

Not worried about hand-me-downs here. The Wolverines reportedly about breaking even. With traffic up 16% in March, Amtrak can make hay and soon boast about a route showing an operating surplus. Politically, it’s in Amtrak’s interest to keep pressure on Gov Snyder and the other Crazies by keeping ridership growing, by adding seats and more frequencies.

Anyway, Michigan is part of that consortium (Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin) that got a grant for an early order of Next Gen coaches and locomotives. As the new stuff rolls off the assembly lines, no worries.

Meanwhile, I think the first place we’ll see another frequency could be with a train that sleeps in Niles or Kalamazoo and runs east. Currently, a train leaves Chicago at 7:30 a.m. CST, arrives Niles (South bend) at 10:14 EST, Kalamazoo at 11 a.m., into Detroit at 2:08 p.m and Pontiac at 3:07 p.m.

This is the first MORNING train into Ann Arbor, Detroit, and its suburbs. OMG! But add a new train, leave Kalamazoo at 7:45 a.m., arrive Detroit at 10:45 a.m., Pontiac before noon, you’re in time for a business lunch or a day’s worth of meetings. Westbound there’s plenty room in the schedule for an early afternoon return.

This imagined train wouldn’t have to fight its way into the crowded rails and station in Chicago, but I think it would easily fill up with business and personal travellers from all those mid-sized cities along the way. And that’s before whittling those minutes off the trip time.

If there is any room for a train into Chicago, hey. Now the first morning train leaves Battle Creek (coming from Detroit) around 9:19 EST, leaves Kalamazoo at 9:50 a.m., runs non-stop to arrive in Chicago before noon CST.

Couldn’t Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, or maybe add in the smaller, closer-to-Chicago stops as well, support an earlier departure, like 6:19 a.m. out of Battle Creek, arrive Chicago by 9 a.m.? (Well, I know, that’s rush hour in Union Station, but I’m dreaming anyway … )

To add frequencies like this, all Amtrak needs is more locomotives, more coaches, and a couple of slots on the freight lines thru ChicagoLand and into Union Station.

Then get those 50 minutes out of Chicago-Detroit (or out of Kalamazoo-Dearborn, the quote wasn’t exactly clear) and ridership will be huge.

Oh, and I’m not sure it’s right to say that Michigan is poor. Detroit is so poor it brings down the average, but Birmingham and Royal Oak are not poor. Ann Arbor is not poor. Battle Creek and Kalamazoo are not poor. Build this line and they will come.

“Don’t I have a notion that under a law passed a few years back, Amtrak is supposed to shed responsibility for shorter trains (here, Empire Corridor, a couple more?) and force the states to pay any operating losses?”

Yep, it’s basically an attack on NY and MI. The only trains which are short enough to fall under the provision and are not state supported already are the Empire Corridor, the two Wolverines, Regionals to Newport News, and the Hoosier State. The Virginia Regionals cost less than the amount allocated by the VA legislature for the Lynchburg service, which turned out to be profitable and not need it; the Hoosier State will probably be replaced with a daily Cardinal.

Unfortunately the Wolverines are in a better position than the Empire Corridor, there are fewer non-state-supported trains and they have better profit/loss numbers, plus which they’ll improve even more with these projects. The Empire Corridor has more trains, needs a lot more improvements to get to the same position and it didn’t get them in this round of funding. :-(

They better hurry up and at least buy up the right of way before it gets built on – a lot of ROW’s in Porter County have been vacated and built over.

The Iowa City service extension is in limbo. not dead. Governor Branstad wants local cities or someone else to pick up the tab of operating subsidies. There is back and forth politicking going on about the whole plan.

On the Iowa City service, it is my understanding that Gov. Branstad has kicked this back to the legislature to pass the $3 mil annual operating fund. Sort of building political cover with the right wing while not actually killing the project. The $230 mil grant is still on the table and the project to extend to Iowa City is still alive. A portion of the Iowa funds are for improvements in Illinois such as an Eola Yards bypass track in Aurora and a Galesburg yards bypass track. I think the Wyanet connection of the BNSF and Iowa Interstate RR is being funded by the State of Ill as part of the initial Chi-Moline service.

Wow – thats $4.5 million for each second of improvement on the Acela line. Surely there is somewhere else along the line that they could have used almost half a billion to gain 100 seconds.

I understand that this will be a peicemeal thing, but at this point speeding up the already fast part of the line seems like kind of a bad idea.

The $450 million for the Amtrak NJ improvements are for more than putting up constant tension catenary for the 24 mile straightaway. The press releases and news articles tend to focus on the most obvious part. The work apparently covers various parts of the segment from Penn Station to Trenton. Quoting from the Amtrak press release when the applications were submitted:

“In addition, Amtrak is asking for $450 million for a project to support capacity increases and improve trip-times between Philadelphia and New York— one of the busiest segments on the NEC. The project is designed to upgrade electrical power, signal systems and overhead catenary wires in New Jersey and Pennsylvania to improve reliability, increase speeds up to 160 mph (257 kph), and support more frequent high-speed service. It also will reconfigure track switches at the western entrance to New York Penn Station to mitigate congestion issues.” So the trip time improvements should be more than 2 minutes.

Unfortunately the Portal Bridge north replacement was not selected, so don’t know where the funding comes from for that.

Portal Bridge is not designed yet. No point funding construction of something that will not be ready to be built for two years.

You gotta start from the basics, which means first use the improvements to aim for a 1-hour trip between Philadelphia and NYC. If you do that, it’ll gain ridership quickly, and the immediate success will generate momentum for improvements south to Washington, and ultimately north to Boston.

the biggest thing about Philly-NYP is it benefits the two largest city pairs for NY (Philly and DC). I also think that some portion of this cost was necessary anyway as replacement of catenary to the cost of raising speeds to 160 mph may be small when you substract the cost of replacing catenary in kind. Obviously to take advantage of this, portal also needs to move forward. Glad to see PA got something even if it’s a lot less than it needed (the $112 million zoo to win was an important project). the midwest projects will form the core of good service into chicago, perhaps balancing amtrak’s ridership a bit more. I’m curious to learn more about the harold bypass

In regards to WI being shut out ( KARMA! Scott Walker based his gubernatorial campaign around killing an extension of an existing route and succeeded. Walker must remember that he spun the Milwaukee-Madison segment as a brand new route on the flimsy grounds of cost, and as a result, Wisconsinites have to deal with the fallout from not only having the Hiawathas become stagnant from a growth/extension perspective in a few years but also deal with the fact that they’ll be stuck with the ugly Horizon Cars after Talgo builds only a few new trainsets and skips town and neighboring states order and get new equipment.

Agreed. Walker & the rest of the Rs did a masterful P. R. job on characterizing the Hiawatha Dane County extension as a single, individual train service. The State DOT gave the opponents a big piece of ammunition simply by naming the extension after the endpoints. As one who supported — and continues to support — the re-introduction of passenger rail service to Madison, I have been very disappointed in the degree of opposition to this addition to choice in the regional transportation marketplace. Let him suffer his just desserts for this wrongheaded opposition.

For the future, rail advocates really should consider mounting a public relations campaign to counter the venomous falsehoods that opponents will state.

If California drops the ball on high speed rail after this and we end up with Republicans in power in the federal government, could California connect existing lines to the new Bakersfield-Merced line and realize significant time savings that way?

Alex, the biggest problem with that is that there is no conventional line from Bakersfield to Los Angeles or Bakersfield to Palmdale. This is essentially why there is currently no train service between San Francisco and LA. To build this section would require going over/through some pretty rugged mountains (the Tehachapis). However, once this gap is bridged I believe you could have some conventional train service between SF and LA. Even if it is 5 hours, it would be a popular line in the interim until HSR could be completed.

Five hours would be a dream.

The Bakersfield-L.A. bus isn’t too bad. Most times, it can make the trip along the Grapevine in 2’15”.

There will still be the issue of how to approach San Francisco. It could be done if the Pacheco Pass alignment is built, but there has to be a faster way than going around the delta, as San Joaquins do now.

Problem is, there are many people who don’t want to buy a train ticket so they can ride on a 2’15” bus ride.

There’s plenty of agreement with you there, Andrew.

I could recall several passengers remarking how wonderful the San Joaquin train service is, then bitterly complain about the bus to L.A.

The thing is, anything less than expensively engineered high-speed rail is going to be much slower than the bus. Connecting the missing rail link between Bakersfield and Palmdale would allow San Joaquins to reach Los Angeles.

But … existing Metrolink service between L.A. and Lancaster takes more than 2 hours, so you’d be giving passengers slower service at higher cost than the existing bus link.

The 13-hour Coast Starlight between San Jose and L.A. shows that low speed doesn’t make up for a saved transfer.

Don’t worry about California dropping the ball. It now has $6.33 billion total ($4.23 USDOT) to invest in a 220 mph segment (near Merced to Bakersfield) that will break ground in Q1 CY2012.

The next challenge is what portion of Obama’s proposed $53B/6 year HSR budget gets passed in 2012 or if Congress will simply push HSR funding to post-2012 election.

I’m O.K. with the worst-case scenario now. We can count on it that there’ll be an up-and-operable segment of HSR, from Bakersfield to Merced. Not exactly a train to nowhere, but a far cry from L.A.-S.F. Still, there has to be a demonstration of the capabilities of HSR, and this is it even if activity stops with a glorified, half-HSR San Juaquin for a few years.

So if the Crazies somehow block any further federal funding for a while, I guess we could see a shiny new station at Merced. A gleaming streamlined HSR train could pull up, all passengers would get out and cross the platform to board a conventional train. They’d continue riding regular, heavy, slow, and FRA-approved trains and track to San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, and Sacramento. Such a service would not make much money for CAHSR, but most of the funds invested has come from the feds so far.

Leaving the big city destinations off the HSR line would result in a situation so obviously absurd that eventually the public clamor to get the damn thing finished would push the Crazies out of the way.

I don’t see that we would lose much under this worst-case demonstration model. It could take a lot of time to work out the best routing from Bakersfield to L.A., and to deal with the NIMBYs on the Peninsula. If there’s a delay getting the larger, real HSR system built, who’d be surprised? But this part of it, the stem, will get built, for sure, and that’s worth doing.

Although Bakersfield to Palmdale to Sylmar will be the most technically challenging segement, it will be easier to get funded than the Palo Alto-Menlo Park-Atherton folks who want their segment gold-plated. Further, the Palmdale Station is key to the Las Vegas-Los Angeles Desert Express HSR folks attracting a lot of private investment.

I believe that Caltrain’s electrification will by 2014 and San Mateo County’s known desire to grade separate all tracks at 95% Federal and State expense, will push momentum to hash out California HSR details thru Palo Alto-Menlo Park-Atherton.

The interlocking fix in Long Island is not really necessary. If Amtrak uses the northern tunnel pair from Penn Station to Long Island, then there isn’t much conflict. In the westbound direction there is none; in the eastbound direction there is conflict only with LIRR trains from Hunterspoint, of which there are few and will be even fewer once East Side Access opens.

Rich E Green’s maps are as always the best source. His site is down, but I uploaded saved copies of some maps (thanks to Alan F for some help with maps I did not have). Here is a track map of the LIRR, including the junction. Ignoring Hunterspoint trains, there is no conflict if NEC and Port Washington trains use the northern tunnels and LIRR Main Line trains use either tunnel pair.

Please actually attach the links to the maps.

I suspect you’re wrong, but I couldn’t be sure without FULL track charts. Here’s some questions regarding your scheme:

* How does the LIRR get from the south side tracks at Penn to the West Side Yards without conflicts?

* How do trains on the north side tracks get to the Amtrak yards without conflicts?

* Is every track in Penn Station wired with BOTH LIRR third rail AND Amtrak/NJT overhead catenary? If not, you have some substantial additional restrictions on routing.

Sorry, just saw your comment now. The track map is here. In response to your questions, in order:

* It doesn’t – it runs through to Jersey (adding the required electrification at either end is much cheaper than $300 million and has independent benefit), turns back, or is stabled on tracks 6-13.

* They turn and use Sunnyside Yards. Tracks 14 and 19 are Amtrak’s through-tracks, and tracks 15-18 are terminating tracks. In addition, westbound peak trains can enter the West Side Yards without conflict from tracks 20-21; there are conflicts on the way back, but that’s in the smaller pm peak, and Amtrak only runs about 2 tph east of Penn Station so there’s enough capacity.

* Neither Amtrak nor the LIRR is being forced to use tracks it doesn’t already use.

Jersey is a small island off the coast of France. That’s one very long tunnel away from Montauk.
What does through buy you? It would be arranged differently that this but, it’s peak of the peak and a train is coming in every minute. Two trains arrive on either side of an island platform, one from Long Island and the other from New Jersey. Being New Yorkers the passengers grasp the concept of boarding or alighting from a train and the platform is clear in less time that it takes for the train to depart. Why does it matter if the train from Long Island clogs the interlocking on it’s way to New Jersey or the train from New Jersey clogs the interlocking clogs the interlocking on it’s way back to New Jersey? There’s a train crossing the interlocking to Long Island and there’s a train crossing the interlocking to New Jersey.
…well it does buy running empty trains to the suburban terminals instead to the nearby yards. And delays on Long Island or Westchester propagating to New Jersey or vice versa. And M8s for everybody instead of just New Haven Line riders.

My cmputer’s chocking on the memory consumption of that map. I wish he’d broken it into multiple segments.

Despite which, have you got his Metro-North map or his NJT map? I’d like the full set :-)

Your plan isn’t going to work because there isn’t enough stabling in New Jersey for LIRR, to put it bluntly. Relocating the West Side Yard to New Jersey is *wise*, but would probably end up having a bigger price tag. Doing through-running on a large scale (I’d probably pair up the NJT and LIRR lines, just for simplicity) is more than wise, and cheaper in the long run, but appears to be beyond the conception of LIRR/NJT. Amtrak appears to be trying to separate its operations from LIRR operations, and given the history of the LIRR (“No, we won’t merge our operations! Not even with the operations of our parent corporation!”) I can see why.

Amtrak didn’t propose the Harold bypass; New York did. So one assumes that it primarily benefits MTA and that Amtrak doesn’t mind (Amtrak put it into the track diagram in the Master Plan without comment).

I suspect that it’s really intended to make it possible for Metro-North to run New Haven line trains through the Hell Gate line into Penn Station. Alon, at 00:47, said that Amtrak only runs 2 tph east of Penn Station. True, but what if Amtrak and Metro-North combined run 12 or 15 tph down the Hell Gate line, particularly if at the same time NJT is trying to get 18 trainsets stored in Sunnyside? Separating the Hell Gate-Penn Station flow from the LIRR flow and the NJT-Sunnyside flow makes more sense then.

If so, FRA got played again. They funded a commuter rail need with Intercity funds. They don’t have a national plan, against which they can allocate funds; they do these ad hoc solicitations and make awards after minimal analysis. So they make mistakes.

“I suspect that it’s really intended to make it possible for Metro-North to run New Haven line trains through the Hell Gate line into Penn Station.”

Oooh. This is on Metro-North’s plan, and so is running Hudson line trains into Penn Station. Note that to do that in a sensible manner you *really* want the New Haven Line trains coming into the south tracks so they can move to the Empire Connection and head out on the Hudson Line.

Which would have to be re-electrified with overhead, mind you, and more overhead-ready commuter trains would be needed. Why do I like this scheme? It involves electrifying the Hudson Line with overhead. I suppose they could be really stupid and put Metro-North third rail on the Empire Connection, but that would be extra dopey given that Amtrak would want overhead anyway; they can’t possibly try to have the tunnel electrified with both LIRR overrunning third rail *and* Metro-North underruning third rail, can they? I guess I shouldn’t put it past them, actually.


Now if we can get the Canadian Gov’t on track (you can’t waste pun opportunities like that one!) and get the Canadian HST system running Quebec City-Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Windsor and Toronto-Niagara Falls, we can connect to the American system at Detroit, Buffalo and Montreal. And extend the Pacific NW system up to Vancouver

I thought the Cascades already went to Vancouver? It’d be nice to have through rail from Chicago to Canada again, I remember seeing Via Rail trains coming into Chicago, but that was discontinued a few years ago. With improved time to Detroit, it might be a good option over driving and a heckuva lot cheaper than flying.

Yes, there are 2 daily Cascades trains to Vancouver BC. One of them remains contingent on finding funding to pay Canadian customs. The trip times are pretty slow, but the service is reportedly getting solid ridership numbers. The priority on the US side is improvements to the Seattle to Portland OR section of the corridor. Besides some modest improvements to the north of Seattle, any real progress with faster and more frequent service between Seattle and Vancouver is dependent on the Canadian and BC governments getting serious about HSR. That could be a while.

The other problem with the Cascades from Seattle north to Vancouver is slides. It was horrible this winter. We either need to spend a bunch of money on slope stabilization (which WSDOT doesn’t have) or convince folks that the 48-hour-delay for passenger trains after slide clearance is no longer necessary and should be shortened.

Killed by US customs. We’re never gonna get decent cross-border train service unless the customs agencies stop being lazy asses and learn to inspect trains en route like they do in civilized countries.

Jim’s talking about Amtrak train #64, the Niagara Rainbow, an Amtrak train that was retired back in 1979. But border delays did bring an end to all Toronto-Chicago train service a few years ago.

Via Rail will have to bite the bullet, and arrange for pre-boarding customs facilities, like at Canadian Airports. Anyone going from Toronto (for Example) would go through customs at Union Station, wait in a secure area, and then board the train into sealed cars. Then at the border US customs would only concern themselves with people who got on after Toronto.

So I can board at Toronto after going through US Custom and Immigration, somebody who gets on in Aldershot passes me the bag containg contraband and we both get to Buffalo easy-peasy?
Nobody gets on after the train leaves Toronto. Instead they take VIA to Niagara Falls ON, cross the border and get on the train in Niagara Falls NY. Or the the VIA train travels to Buffalo and customs and immigration is done on the train once it crosses the border. Or you can only get on in Toronto, with a cursory glance at your documents and they do customs and immigration on the train.

Nope, I said sealed cars. That means no access to the rest of the train between Toronto and the border. Anyone getting on at Toronto and getting off in Aldershot, or getting on at Aldershot headed for the USA would be seated in the unchecked cars. Anyone trying to access the sealed cars would face at least a locked door, if not an armed guard.

At the border, customs then only has to deal with the passengers in the unchecked cars. Or, like you said, they can at least get started on processing en route.

Or, you could do it in a SANE way like Russia and Finland do, and do the customs checks while the train is in motion.

This requires some distance between the last US stop and the first Canadian stop (so, no more “Niagara Falls, NY…. Niagara Falls, Ontario”)…. but it would be perfectly feasible to do it between Buffalo-Exchange Street and Niagara Falls, Ontario or between St. Catharines, Ontario and Niagara Falls, NY. At each of the stations on either side, there would be a secure holding area for holding people who will be returned across the border by the next train. That is, of course, how they do it in Russia-Finland service.

It doesn’t seem to me that the international trains need to stop on both sides of the border; there will still be non-international trains. If absolutely necessary to serve both sides of the border, the international trains could have sealed “local only” carriages which are emptied either side of the border.

(Of course, there SHOULD be a walkable crossing of the border at the Niagara Falls train station, but there isn’t. ‘Cause our border policy is asinine.)

FWIW, in the era before Schengen, the Swiss and German border control and customs agents handled a 13-car IC (or ICE) train between Freiburg and Basel; that’s 25 minutes time. And that was considered to be sufficient.

Or the locals between Schaffhausen and Singen were checked in 2 minutes… Sometimes the agents just walked along the trains checking whether there were any “suspicious” passengers, and if they were satisfied, they did not even board the train. And that was an Schengen external border (until Switzerland joined).

The reason I keep using Russia as an example is that some people might have considered the Swiss customs agents of being insufficiently thorough or secure, checking in 2 minutes and all.

As far as I know nobody has ever accused Russian border police of being insufficiently thorough or secure. And yet they have no problem checking trains en route. 25 minutes gives you enough time to check *every* passenger, easy.

I think he means that there would be no stops to the border. This is something like what happens in Vancouver, you clear customs into a secure area and board the train which then goes non-stop to the US border. I think there could be sovereignty issues with having foreign customs on one’s own soil, even though it’s currently done in Canadian Airports.

That scenario is probably unrealistic for Toronto anyway, which is not particularly close to the border and passes through big enough population centers to warrant stops before arriving there.

Just because a train is passing through the station doesn’t mean it has to stop. They get on the frequent VIA train to Niagara Falls ON and go through border controls there. They get on the train to Cleveland, New York or Boston in Niagara Falls NY. With cooperation it could all happen in one building that also handles pedestrians ( they do exist between Niagara Falls NY and Niagara Falls ON) and buses.

Because Customs and Immigration officers aren’t volunteers. They are well paid and I’m sure get great benefits. Or for the same reason there aren’t any 737s departing St. Catherines for …anywhere… The 800 pound gorilla is US-Toronto. You do what you can to make that fast and easy.

The accurate answer is that you force the transfer because Customs and Immigration officers are overpaid and lazy. Not all of them, just the bosses who simply refuse to consider doing inspections on a moving train.

It’s good enough for Russia, it was even good enough for them when the Iron Curtain was in place, it provides plenty of security for anyone who isn’t LAZY.

No, we need to kill the entire border control process, as has been done in the Schengen area of Europe.

Why do we need border controls with Canada? Its just a waste of tax dollars.

The Schengen area are bringing border controls back. Denmark’s reinstated controls at the German and Swedish borders. France has reinstated controls at the Italian border.

It’s better to appeal to the old way of dealing with Canada, rather than to European experiments.

Denmark’s reinstated controls at the German and Swedish borders.

I’m not sure exactly WHAT they are doing (other than appeasing their own tea baggers) since they aren’t introducing passport control (I don’t remember having passports checked on the ferry to Helsingborg back in the 80s – in fact, they haven’t been checked since the 50’s within the Nordic countries). Maybe they are trying to stop Danes from moving to Malmö which is far far cheaper than Copenhagen.

You got the answer… appeasing their tea baggers. However, Customs checks are not against EU regulations, and have been made all the time.

Sarcastic answer: the US needs border controls with Canada for the same reason East Germany needed border controls with West Germany: to prevent Americans from escaping.

Too bad Vermont didn’t get more money – The Albany-Burlington connection (Ethan Alan) could’ve been really interesting for an eventual New York-Albany-Burlington-Montreal train. This train could easily (without too much investment) do the journey in less than 8 hours compared to the more than 11 hours today.
A Montreal-Boston connection would also go through Vermont.

We need some commitment from Quebec/Canada to invest in a good Montreal-Burlington connection, with border clearance done in Montreal. Unfortunately they don’t seem to understand the value a good connection to Boston and New York would bring to Montreal.

Vermont is seriously looking at extending the Vermonter to Montreal. The projects that have been funded will reduce the trip time from Springfield MA to Burlington VT by close to an hour with additional trip time improvements on the New Haven-Springfield line. The plans are to add additional daily frequency service from New Haven to at least White River Junction.

Vermont will eventually get the funding to restore the tracks and re-route the Ethan Allen on the western Vermont corridor. But since Vermont and the Vermonter route got a fair sized chunk of funding in the initial round, there was likely reluctance to give VT more for now. There is pretty solid support in New England and NY for improving passenger rail with the notable exception of New Hampshire, so everyone will just have to work around or through the edges of NH. If a Boston to Montreal train eventually happens, it will likely have to go through Springfield MA and not the more direct route through New Hampshire.

Why extend the Vermonter, which takes a circuitous route through Connecticut, and not the more direct Ethan Allen Express? Is the connection to Hartford and New Haven that important?

Because the track is already there? There’s a reason why the Ethan Allen terminates in the thriving metropolis of Rutland.

The Vermont Railroad route Burlingon-Rutland is in horrendous condition with very low speed limits and would basically have to be rebuilt from scratch.

Meanwhile, the Vermonter is going to stay because it serves Montpelier, and it’s currently in much better condition (which isn’t to say it’s GOOD condition, but 40 mph speed limits are better than 5 mph speed limits).

People keep talking about rebuilding the Vermont Railroad route but there seems to be some sort of sticker shock problem.

so it would’ve cost, what, like 50 million to get OK speeds between Burlington and Rutland. Doesn’t sound like a bad deal to me. Surely that would be a better long term solution. The Vermonter route is still useful, because it is the path to Boston.

Except that the New Hampshire route is not that likely to happen any time soon. So Montreal/Burlington to Boston will probably go through Springfield, MA, as previously mentioned. Springfield also is on the Boston-Albany corridor, which will probably be developed earlier than anything in New Hampshire.

Check the Amtrak schedules for Springfield to Boston, That isn’t going to be cheap to improve either.

ant6n, I absolutely agree that Vermont should get rebuilding between Rutland and Burlington (for one thing, Syracuse, NY to Burlington is a trip I’d actually make repeatedly, which you can’t practically do right now). Let’s hope that $50 million comes through.

Springfield-Boston needs to be upgraded anyway for Boston-Chicago service. It won’t be cheap, but if it has to be done anyway, it makes sense to use it for the route from Boston to Montreal. At least the MBTA owns from Boston to Worcester now. Worcester-Springfield would be a good candidate for a new dedicated line if NIMBYs could be overcome, because the existing route is ridiculously twisty. (Maybe something could be done near the Massachusetts Turnpike.)

Alon, your information is out of date.

“In September 2009, CsX Transportation and the commonwealth finalized a $100 million agreement to purchase CSX’s Framingham to Worcester tracks, as well as some other track, to improve service on the Framingham/ Worcester Line.[11] A liability issue that had held up the agreement was resolved.[12][13]”

It took a long time to close the deal, but the MBTA owns all the way to Worcester now. (I’m not sure exactly where the ownership boundary in Worcester is, but the deal is fairly new, you can probably find the details online if you dig.)

Because the Vermonter goes to where millions of people live – Springfield, Hartford, New Haven, Greenwich County, and the Vermonter goes to Albany, which already has service to Montreal?

5 billion dollars and an amendment to the state constitution allowing them to build it through the Adirondack State park. (NYSDOT study of the 1-87 corridor north of Albany.) Unless they go through Vermont in which case it would probably be 6 billion but without the messy amendment.
The existing ROWs go through the mountains. If you want 110 you are going to be build lots and lots of bypasses. For a few extra dollars they could build 220 MPH track.

Vermont route is better anyway because it has intermediate population centers, which the Adirondack route doesn’t.

So between Albany and Montreal there’s nothing on the New York side, but there’s Burlington on the VT side. Glens Falls is actually a station of the Ethan Allan Express, so your point actually supports a VT route.

Plus Vermont has more interest to develop its rails, whereas New York doesn’t seem very interested in developing anything North of Albany.

Plus, Vermont owns much of the Burlington-Albany ROW, whereas the ROW on the New York side is owned by CP.

It boils down to Plattsburgh versus Burlington. Burlington is bigger, but both are small towns that wouldn’t justify much rail investment on their own.

Exactly. And Nobody is going to invest into two HSR lines into Montreal. That’s why a possible Montreal-Boston and Montreal-NYC connection should run on the same track for as much as possible. And should use as much track that gets upgraded via other projects.

Burlington is what I was thinking of, yes. Burlington’s the largest city in Vermont and Rutland is the second-largest. The Burlington metro area has a third of the state’s population (208,000 or so), the Plattsburgh metro area has… about 82,000.

Given that the topography is also simpler in Vermont, it’s obviously the superior route.

Sure, but remember that you can’t serve Rutland and Burlington on the same line from New York. Rutland is located on a branch, so the only way you could serve it is with a beet field station.

The Vermont Westside proposal is to run Albany to Hoosick Junction (on PanAm) to North Bennington to Manchester to Rutland to Middlebury to Burlington (on VTR). Since the existing RoW is in very bad shape between North Bennington and Rutland, and New York likes the Ethan Allen running through Saratoga, the interim is to extend the Ethan Allen. But eventually, Vermont wants to run multiple daily frequencies along the full westside.

Not only is Jim correct, but for crass political reasons Vermont is likely to reroute the Ethan Allen through North Bennington before the extension to Burlington. The crass political argument is “We’re funding this train, it should stop more in Vermont and less in New York, which isn’t funding it”

Plattsburgh has 30K people in its metro area; has almost no public transit; is completely car oriented. I’ve actually lived there, and it’s not worth a train.

Burlington is much bigger, has transit, some pedestrian friendly areas, lots of students, and much more environmentally friendly/alternative attitudes.

Rutland main station is on a Branch, but all 2.5Km of it – a station there wouldn’t be that bad. Backing up for 2.5km ain’t so bad, either – as long as you can do turn-around quickly.

30k in it’s urban area which is different than it’s MSA which is roughly half the size of Burlington’s

Neither of them make sense as a HSR terminal. Either of them make sense as a site for an HSR station.

So what’s the cutoff for a station? 138,362? Build a high speed line through New York and Schenectady makes sense because the train will be going slowly through Schenectady. Someplace in the northern suburbs of Albany makes sense, my preference would be for a new station where the current line goes under the Norhhway/I-87, gives you good access to Saratoga Springs, Glens Falls and Lake George. Plattsburgh is the biggest thing between there and the border.

Plattsburgh is the biggest thing between the Glenns Falls area and the border, unless you go to the Vermont side. Generally I’d say 100K people could be a decent cutoff for a HSR station – but it depends on a lot of other factors as well. Like how much population is there in the whole area. Or just trying to reach a decent stop spacing. For example, it might make sense to have a HSR stop every 100km+, preferably for a population center of 100K people, hopefully with some other positive factors (i.e. dense core, transit friendly, train friendly). This might not work well for other areas, but should be ok for the North East – for example in California, the whole structure and also speed of HSR is going to be way different.

With those numbers in mind, Montreal-New York could be

– Montreal
– Burlington
– Rutland
– Glenns Falls area
– Albany
– Poughkeepsie
– New York

6 stops for about 600km. Note that Rutland (with 60k people in the county) is below the 100k population mark, but it fits within the 100km station distance.

Note that any improvement on the above route, with fast train from Montreal to the border and pre-clearance in Montreal would cut down the travel time of the Adirondack by 2 hours as well.

Ant6n, HSR spacing can be tighter, if trains can skip stations. So it makes sense to have a Shin-Rutland station and even a Shin-Middlebury station, as long as they don’t delay nonstop trains too much. Reverse moves are okay if you use existing tracks, but for a greenfield HSR they’re a serious time waster.

Well, when I think HSR, I always think of it in terms of a duality of higher speed and regional trains – like acela and north east regional (there are also a lot of European examples like this).

One could have many more regional stops. On this route, investing into more than 160mph probably doesn’t make sense.

And then one could have a situation where there exists a greenfield Rutland (2.3km from downtown) station, but the regional serves both that and downtown … or something like that.

I’m thinking of it in a more Japanese way – you need full speed to connect the endpoints, so you might as well run the local trains at full speed in between stops. Rutland is already somewhat out of the way for a line from Albany to Burlington, so having the main line swerve a bit to get closer to it is already a compromise.

Well, I don’t care about Rutland either; I’m just thinking about how it could be politically feasible to git’er done – that Vermont owns the track helps, too.

Japan can (politically) afford spending 80B$ on a direct route greenfield line through the mountains, in North America we’re happy to have 8$B spread across 20 projects.

Regarding the detour that it’d take – Albany-Burlington as the bird flies is ~208km, Albany-Glens Falls-White Hall-Rutland-Burlington as the bird flies is ~236km. Not so bad (5% of the total route). So weighing distance vs political feasibility, I’d go with trying to straighten ROW that Vermont already owns.

Also, the Distance as the bird flies Burlington-Boston is ~293km. The distance as the bird flies of Burlington-Rutland-WhiteRiverJct-Concord-Manchester-Boston is ~334km, a waste of 40km. But it would mean that ~230km of Montreal-New York, and Montreal-Boston would be on the same track.

Note that there doesn’t seem to be a ROW between Lebanon and Rutland – those 50km or so would have to be greenfield.

The distance as the bird flies of Burlington-Rutland-WhiteRiverJct-Concord-Manchester-Boston is ~334km, a waste of 40km.

Except for the pesky problem of the trackless ROW in New Hampshire. New Hampshire is populated by Real Americans who didn’t see any problem when the railroad abandoned the ROW and pulled up the track.

Yarp – that’s the reason why in the next 10-15 years, Boston-Montreal trains will go around New Hampshire, probably using the Boston-Springfield + Vermonter route.

Maybe one day that state will warm up to rail again…

Nevertheless, infrastructure like hsr should be planned long-term.

Tom, Don’t forget Winnipeg! (Once they solve that Homeland Security thing.)

I don’t know if it ever had Amtrak service, but if/when we get fast and frequent trains Chicago-Twins Cities, it’s easy to imagine extending one or two beyond to St Cloud-Fargo-Grand Forks, which get “service” from the Empire Builder in the dead of night.

Then think, extend one train thru to Winnipeg to link up with the transcontinental VIA trains. It would allow a thru train, or a connecting service, Chicago-Twin Cities-Winnipeg-Canadian Rockies-Vancouver, serving tourists and many other passengers.

On such a route, older, richer, less physically-abled passengers can fill many, many sleepers — we don’t know how many, because due to the never-ending shortage they are so often sold out — but the market can fill sleeper cars even at high fares.

Tickets might be sold outbound-VIA, return-Empire Builder, or vice versa. The high-end passengers would be paying for the views, and be getting their money’s worth, no problem.

Still, not sure I see Chicago-Twin Cities-Winnipeg as a stand-alone route. Winnipeg is a lovely city, I’m sure; the 700,000 metro is just not that big. But if the Winnipeg segment is part of a “profitable” high-frequency corridor service Chicago-Twin Cities, then some of the total costs to Grand Forks would be shared, and it could probably break even or better. Then the operations Grand Forks-Winnipeg would not be a big deal. The high passenger volumes and resulting surpluses earned on the high-volume main stem should cover modest costs on extensions and feeders.

But this is a nice idea for far, far down the line. The priority has to be the high volume opportunities in the U.S.

We don’t even have regular Winnipeg-Chicago train service at the moment, let alone HST. I think it’s a good idea, but its way down the list.

One corridor that hasn’t been mentioned is Calgary-Edmonton in Alberta, another one that doesn’t currently have rail service

from Railway Age
Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Tuesday outlined planned improvements to joint U.S.-Canada operations, including … customs clearance for Amtrak’s Adirondack in Montreal’s Central Station.

Commissioner Alan Bersin referred to the potential changes at a … subcommittee hearing chaired by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Schumer has voiced frustration with current customs procedures for the Adirondack, which has the train stop at the border for up to two hours….

Bersin said his agency is exploring the possibility of opening an inspection facility in Montreal that would serve passengers traveling to New York State locations, including NYC. Customs … operates in such a matter in Vancouver, British Columbia, served by the Cascades trains.

During the hearing, Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) urged … officials to work with Vermont state officials to help restore New York-Montreal service routed through Vermont….

Bersin replied, “The difficulty in the … [Vermont] … corridor is that, unlike Vancouver-Seattle, there are many stops along the way, which complicates the notion of pre-clearance….”

Schumer is a hypocrite. You can’t on the one hand advocate running Amtrak with airline-grade harassment and internal passports, and on the other hand complain when it inconveniences the passenger.

Chuckie likes to run his mouth. Discount about 80% of what he says because he saying things to hear himself talk.

The only intermediate stop is in St Lambert, like 4 km from Montreal Gare Centrale, in the suburb, with pretty good connections to downtown – and it’s not heavily used. There’s a very easy solutions for this ‘problem’.

Will we ever see Amtrak gain access to the railroad between St. Louis and Tulsa? I would really like to take the train to Springfield, Missouri or the Lake of the Ozarks sometime. I know for certain the railroad between these two cities is still active but is only used for frieght. It doesn’t need to be HSR specifically but it would create many new opporitunities in the state of Missouri. The same would be said if we St. Louis could take the train to Carbondale instead of Greyhound to access the train that goes to Memphis. Also, if governors aren’t willing to let the train go through their state (Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa specifically), reroute the plans! It would be great to see HSR between Kansas City and Omaha or Quincy to St. Joseph.

One of my quibbles with the Midwest Rail plan is lack of connections directly east from St. Louis – I think there should be service directly to Indy, Louisville and the Ohio Cities and points in between rather than having to go through Chicago.

Amtrak did look at reterminating the Cardinal in St. Louis vice Chicago (both directly from Cincinnati and via Indianapolis) but decided that the loss of ridership made it infeasible.

Yes, without a multi-per-day Cinci/Chicago or Indianapolis/Chicago to connect into, the Cardinal has to play that role for itself. As much of a mish mash of a route as it is, the mish mash is to a substantial degree due to the lack of opportunities to knit it into a route matrix.

The Midwest Rail program is driven by Illinois, and let’s face it, Illinois has been better about supporting rail than any other Midwestern state. Illinois is going to run everything through Chicago, and quite reasonably too. If it were being pushed by Indiana or Missouri you might see what you wish for.

As it is, the only way you’ll see direct St. Louis – Indianapolis service is if the demand from Effingham, Vandalia, and Smithboro to those cities explodes, thus causing *Illinois* to want it. :-P

Have to agree, It would really take a big push on St Louis and Indy as well as some help from Ohio to get service returned as Illinois is literall driving the train and getting rewarded handsomely for it. Neither is making that push even though some political thinktanks, DOT guys dream of a separate truck only freeway through the I-70 corridor of significant cost.

However, you have to give credit for supporters in a very conservative Missouri to get the River Runner back to reliable service and provide an alternative to I-70. Which is probably the best argument and most cost effective way of giving more space to truckers on I-70 is by promoting a reliable, frequent and car competitive alternative.

On a different note but related to Midwest, How it has played out between Wisconsin at first given a huge infrascture pot and then turning it down only to have Michigan’s new Republican come out with funds is a story in itself. However, like someone posted. Michigan still has to pony up some funds, not much, but something. What makes the story even better, I believe Wisconsin actually bought the rail line intended for new service to Madison and leased it back to maintain limited freight service.

A truck only freeway in this day and age is daft ~ its an idea for the late 20th century, not for an era when $4/gallon diesel will be looked back on with fond nostalgia. What we need, rather, are Steel Interstates to take freight off of the road.

Yeah, I get the same feelings for north-south connectivity from Minneapolis. It’d be nice to extend something north from St. Louis or Kansas city through Iowa and on to the Twin Cities.

If Wisconsin remains a roadblock, then the Twin Cities goes from IL through Iowa visa Dubuque. If the square route is as fast as the water route, there could be a junction in Iowa somewhere from further south.

I don’t know the full story, but I did read that before Missouri put state funds into the River Runner St-Louis-Jefferson City-Kansas City, it also had studies done on St Louis-Springfield, for obvious reasons of political balance. The study must have been convincingly no-go, because that was the end of that. The usual stopper is when the freights say it will cost zillions to upgrade the track so that those operations are not inconvenienced by a passenger train.

Meanwhile Kansas and Oklahoma have been dreaming of Kansas City-Wichita-Oklahoma City (with eventually a branch from Tulsa)-Fort Worth. You can find the study for that one online. The freight operator wants hundreds of millions to make space for a new passenger train. It could be a very long time coming.

I think if the Illinois services become really successful these will follow due to demand. Fingers crossed…

I beleive MoDOT didn’t pursue St Louis to Springfield any further when a study pretty much confirmed what is already known in that the BN single rail between the two cities is slow, curvey and has limited sidings. Not too mention that ridership would be minimal. Thus cost prohibitive to improve relative to ridership levels.

In that context, I believe MoDOT’s committment to River Runner has been a much better investment overall and where the resources should be going towards. It would have been nice to see Missouri secure some of the latest funds for a third lead track in Jeff City and additional siding extensions/grade separations (the realistic portion of the grant app, not the $600 million pipe dream to secure ROW along I-70 that brought the application to $1 billion)

Another way to look at it, UP sends a lot of freight to St. Louis via Jeff City and BN sends a lot of freight to Memphis via Springfield because their respective rail lines along those routes are very favorable.

That being said, I think the old Cardinal route as discussed from cincy to St. Louis via Indy would be a great addition to the Midwest route network before pursuing a STL to Tulsa route

Illinois is definitely driving HSR in the Midwest. Why else would there be a line to Carbondale? Thankfully this line is not funded, but only planned.

Speaking of which, I think there a lot more links on the future system map that could be eliminated or consolidated:
1. Serve Urbana-Champaign on the line between Chicago and St. Louis, instead of a separate line to Carbondale.
2. Plan only one line between Birmingham and New Orleans, either going through Mobile or not
3. Instead of two lines to Florida from Atlanta and Raleigh, consolidate into one line from Charlotte to Jacksonville via Columbia (SC) and Savannah

The connection from Chicago to Nashville and Atlanta should be via Indianapolis and Louisville. There is even an existing mostly straight rail ROW, though I don’t know how good the track quality is or how nice the owner is.

Chicago-Memphis goes through Carbondale, sure, but Carbondale is a horrible place to terminate trains. And the tracks are faster in Illinois than further south, so it’s the lower-priority segment.

The tracks are faster in Illinois than further south, so if they ever build that notional TN/AR/TX corridor, there’s only a short leg to run to get from Carbondale to junction with the line from Nashville to Memphis.

At Carbondale, you have SIU, and from Carbondale, you run two coaches on IL13 to I57 and you have one coach run down to Nashville and the other coach run down to Memphis, and the route frequency to Carbondale supplemented by the CoNO ~ it would seem to be the obvious place to terminate a regional rail service to downstate Illinois.

Coaches as in MegaBus wi-fi enabled buses or coaches as in one car DMUs? Bus sounds easier to do, probably cheaper and faster at least intially.

Coaches as in Megabus wi-fi enabled buses, geared for highway running rather than every third of a mile stops.

One car DMU’s are rarely a minimum consist ~ though two car consists are fairly common, eg, the Endeavour and Hunter sets in the Sydney Cityrail system: since diesel is often used for outlying lines which do not have the patronage to support the trip frequency to justify electrification, its also not uncommon for a two car off-peak and four-car peak hour commuter to suffice.

@BruceMcF- ^If you look at the map at the beginning of this blog post, the line to Carbondale doesn’t reach any of those places. And there is another one ending in Quincy. Unless towns in Illinois are on interstate lines to more major cities, such branch lines do little for building a national network.

But this is not a network map, its a qualification for funding map. There are substantial numbers of corridors that have received some degree of planning and even preliminary environmental impact analysis that are not on the map, because they are follow-ups to platform corridors that are on the map, and it does not make any sense to add the follow-up to the map until the platform corridor is funded.

And the map also makes no distinction between bullet train corridors and Express Intercity corridors. While many of them are not high return targets for bullet trains corridors, some are, and some of the lines on the map that would be redundant as multiple bullet train corridors make lots of sense with one as a complementary Express Intercity corridor, which can far easily justify connecting cities of 50,000 to 250,000 into a 1m+ urban area where a bullet train system more often needs to be knitting urban areas of 1m+ together to be justified.

At the same time, the map ignores the existing skeleton network of Amtrak regional and long haul corridors ~ for instance, improving the Carbondale route improves reliability of the City of New Orleans, because it is the Illinois section of the City of New Orleans corridor, and so there actually is a continuous existing passenger rail link from Carbondale through to the line on the map for Tennesee through Arkansas to Dallas corridor ~ so the idea of continuing going from Carbondale on south is building on an existing service.

However, there’s no pointing working to get that existing connection recognized as an eligible target for HSR funding unless and until the Nashville / Memphis / Little Rock / Dallas corridor or else the Nashville / Chattanooga / Atlanta corridor is slated to actually support a service.

NB. This is a threaded comment section, not a flat bulletin board ~ that “reply” link threads the comments together as replies.

@BruceMcF – To be fair to PC, the mobile version of this site is a flat bulletin board. Posts are all chronological – makes it a bit confusing to read the comments that way…

Bruce, ProgCap, everybody chill! The map is Yannick’s own, and I think he got a little lazy and took a shortcut here. On an earlier thread he explained that this is NOT any official map, but takes off from the “official” map to incorporate a few of his ideas or of projects getting a lot of discussion. Then he grabbed that map and overlaid the latest round of grants, making it seem much more “official” then intended.

Short answer.

Yes, the map’s grey routes are more conceptual than anything else. Corridors which have received construction funding any time in the Obama Administration HSR funding period are shown in red, blue, and green.

The Carbondale Route is one of the officialish ones, being in the MRRS system, though by agreement of the MRRS signatory states not first in line so not designated on the official HSR map yet ~ when it gets designated, it will be added to the Chicago Hub cluster.

The TN corridor is not part of the funding map at the moment, but it obviously what TN would first study doing if a governor of TN got a rail burr in his saddle, and of course since everything in the SE-HSR corridor south of North Carolina is a fiction at present, it would have as good a shot as the Birmingham corridor.

The Southeast Triangle he was talking about collapsing actually is on the HSR corridor map.

The Carbondale and Quincy lines are currently part of the Illinois Service state supported Amtrak system

The state of Illinois supports 2 daily trains each way between Chicago & Carbondale, The Daily Illini and The Daily Saluki. In all there are 3 of Illinois’ major universities on this line. U of I in Champaign, SIU in Carbondale and EIU in Charleston/Mattoon stop. In addition the City of New Orleans operates a daily long distance round trip service on these tracks.

The Quincy route is also a fully state supported service with The Carl Sandburg and Illinois Zephyr making 2 round trips to Chicago with a station stop in Macomb, home of another state school, WIU. The service does share track at Galesburg thru Chicago with the California Zephyr and the Southwest Chief.

The state of Illinois has a long history and strategy of supporting a statewide network to connect the states major urban areas and universities with Chicago.

The inclusion of Quincy/Carbondale reflect current regional train service where incremental upgrades will enhance the regional service and long distance routes and Metra commuter lines. By far a majority of the immediate upgrade plans for the 2 aforementioned routes would occur within the Chicago Terminal district and include rail/rail flyovers and rail/road grade separations and other upgrades.

All current upgrades on the Chicago/Quincy route actually occur at or between Chicago & Galesburg and would benefit 2 Amtrak LD routes and facilitate the initiation of the Chi-Moline/Iowa City route.

Any current plans for the Carbondale route are focused on the Grand Crossing connector project which is outlined in Project P4 of the C.R.E.A.T.E initiative.

JonL, good info and good links. I do love two-fers and I just LOVE these four-fers!

Thinking of the upgrades to add new regional service Chicago-Moline (Quad Cities) and perhaps -Iowa City (ultimately -Des Moines-Omaha) as ALSO improving the current routes of the regional trains to Quincy AND the lines of Amtrak’s California Zephyr and Southwest Chief long distance trains AND as helping a bunch of Metra commuter trains, too — well, it does help to see that grant as more worthwhile than at first glance. (And nevermind the Gov of Iowa, who needs to wipe the tea-stained spittle off his chin.)

Probably these are actually five-fers, because all the C.R.E.A.T.E projects help untangle the huge mess and speed up the freights too.

Six-fers, if you count the benefits to truckers and drivers when grade crossings are eliminated. Not that anyone dares suggest using ‘highways-pay-for-themselves’ taxes to help pay for eliminating traffic delays at grade crossings. No, that always comes totally out of rail transportation funds.

Again my props to Obama, Biden, LaHood and team for making solid rail infrastructure investments for our future.

I do hope the Grand Crossing connection gets funded sometime soon. At least its biggest prerequisite is funded and supposedly being built (Englewood Flyover). That’s taking a while, unfortunately (I guess the design work may be rather complicated).

Is this map only talking about funding for this round?

I believe the section of track from Richmond, VA to Washington, DC is erroneously labeled as ‘partial funding.’ It received no funding this round.

Longer answer.

There is no “official” map worth a damn. LaHood is often photographed with a big map labeled HSR Routes or similar.

Well, that’s not to be taken too seriously. That map is a work of Congress, so what do you expect? And Bill Clinton was President when the first version was put to paper. That’s why you see Little Rock, on a route that also passes thru Clinton’s birthplace of Hope, Arkansas, on it. Little Rock is not a priority in this century. The “official” map still shows an HSR route up the California Coast. Not this century, we’re building in the Central Valley. A few other errors and omissions remain on the “official” map.

Then Yannick grabbed that map to use with a few additions and subtractions as a sort of generic, illustrative map of what HSR could be.

His map is not meant to be his agenda or anything,. It’s just a map he uses to illustrate articles like this one.

But this time he got carried away when he put in details of the latest round of grants. It’s no big thing. But you’re right about D.C.-Richmond, not happening this time.

Would the general public take HSR more seriously if there was an up-to date “official” map?

There is an up to date “official” map, but because of the way the legislation is written, its still not a network map: its still a map of corridors that have jumped through the hoops to be eligible for funding. To make it look like a connected national system they often lay it over the Amtrak long haul routes in gray.

It would probably help if there were an official plan, instead of these ad hoc reactions to funding availability. FRA was supposed to have published a plan last year, but hasn’t yet got round to it.

It’s probably an awkwardness to construct a “new and revised” official map. Want to tell the Arkansas delegation that ‘Little Rock-anywhere’ does not make the cut of prime HSR city-pair candidates? Easy to add HSR routes, very very difficult to back up and admit mistakes, er, over-enthusiasm.

Another political aspect is the federal-state partnerships that are so common to transportation funding, including now HSR. As a result, what looks like a sure part of the “official” routes maybe isn’t so sure, for example, extending Chicago-Milwaukee via Madison to Twin Cities. Consider how Wisconsin’s Repub Gov Tommy Thompson (later Chairman of Amtrak) pushed the Milwaukee-Madison segment as the next step. Democratic successors kept it going. The State bought disused freight rail line for proposed passenger route. Feds granted huge funds. Then crazy politicos grandstand to crazy voters by refusing the rail funds, asking to use the money for more roads, roads, roads. The proposed route screeches to a stop. De-list that segment from the “official map”? Or leave it on the map and wait for a return of sanity?

Conclusion: Your own map is as good as mine!

As a funding eligibility map, which is all the official maps have ever been, you leave it in, since its a useful regional HSR corridor whether or not it extends on to the Twin Cities, so there is no reason to close out its eligibility to apply for funds.

If this is the time and place to quibble about that ought to be mapped for us dreamers, let’s erase that HSR line up Cali’s Pacific Coast.

Maybe add a tiny link from Detroit to Toledo.

Something better, please, than four (4) possible routes to Montreal, which should get one route before 2030, but not even two, much less four.

And sadly, I’ve lost hope for the Front Range route. I never saw it as more than 110-mph top speed line, but the New Mexico Congressman who was pushing for it lost his re-elect. Governor Richardson who liked it, and who brought the Rail Runner to Santa Fe, was term-limited out. Denver is rebuilding Union Station to preclude using more of the old R-O-Ws to bring in any north-south trains. The new Repub Gov of NM is ripping up the plans to buy the segment of the Southwest Chief’s route from the NM/Colo border to Albuquerque, which would have doubled as the Front Range route. And that even as BSNF plans to abandon the entire line from Wichita, Kansas, to Colorado to Albuquerque. Soon there won’t be a ready route for a Front Range train of any speed.

Oh, no, I want that corridor to be upgrades for the Surfliner from SLO south and to start the Cap Corridor in Salinas … and two through services per day, the Starlight to Washington and Daylight to San Francisco … so don’t erase it! Now, if we ever start coloring different colors for Regional HSR and Express HSR, we’d color it Regional HSR … but its a foin complementary corridor.

While you’re right about NM-Colorado service looking pretty doomed in the 20-year timeframe, Colorado Springs-Denver-Cheyenne service still looks like a live possibility, though it won’t be eligible for HSR funding unless they increase the number of designated corridors.

If you like to study maps, be sure to look at these.

The National Association of Railroad Passengers dream map, very nicely done too, is at

It’s NARP’s vision for an expanded, regular Amtrak system (not excluding HSR). But it has a lot of info, including all the metro areas. I also infer that it is based on existing freight routes for the large part, and not looking to build many greenfield routes.

More current, and focused on HSR, the maps included in a huge study by America 2050 are awesome:

The planning outfit gathered a ton of numbers and massaged to reflect various assumptions about demographics, air traffic, etc. They gave a score to all of the city pairs, with the best ones ranked in the regional chapters.

The maps reveal little gems like a thick line (indicating potentially high ridership) for feeders off the NEC — to Cape Cod; to Dover, Del and Salisbury, Maryland; and another to Atlantic City. Who knew?

But I don’t know of any map better than Yannick’s for showing the currently funded projects across the country.

They left out the UP of Micigan such as Houghton and Ironwood MI which are good sized towns that depend heavly on Tourism. What they should do to make this system bigger and to acess rural areas such as this is they should consder something like a rail bus or a small light weight train that would not be a full sized bulky Amtrak train that could operate at a far lower cost then the full sized ones so that they could go into rural areas.

Or something similar that runs on the existing already heavily subsided paved transport corridors, a “coach” or “intercity bus”, which unlike a rail vehicle on the FRA network only requires one operator.

A problem with taxis in lower density areas is getting enough business in the rest of the day to have an adequate number available. Multiple per day trains does of course help ameliorate the problem.

Maryland and Delaware are talking to Amtrak to start running a Salisbury-Dover-Newark, DE- Philadelphia-New York two tpd service. Almost all the freight traffic on NS Delmarva secondary gets there via the NEC, so is scheduled at night. So there’s little freight/passenger conflict. There’d be a locomotive change at Newark, DE. My understanding is that all that’s needed to make it happen is rolling stock and a formal agreement.

Overdue and an obvious NEC extension! I’d expect given NS’s general attitude that they’d ask Delaware to buy the track.

I’m OK with buying whatever R-O-W is for sale. The hassles of trying to share tracks between passenger trains and freights is gonna be the death of the H(er)SR.

Those Midwest Rail style, 110-mph, some-speed-on-the-cheap plans look to me to be in trouble almost everywhere.

On the showcase St Louis-Chicago route, they’re spending a Billion as a first step. And the number of additional trains to be moving at the higher speed will be what? Answer, so far as I now: Not a done deal, but not many. Maybe three (3), or is it four (4)?

How many services do you want to connect the cities and small towns between Chicago and St. Louis to the metro areas on both sides?

And its not as if the MRRS corridors share track with freight the whole way through each corridor ~ its new track in the existing corridor in heavily used freight corridors and 10 miles passing track for 50 miles bi-directional track on lightly used freight corridors.

Its not as if these are substitutes or rivals to Express HSR corridors ~ they are complementary. They are, in essence, the Express Intercity rail networks which Japan and Europe have and which is part of the system of patronage recruiters that provide the network economies for their HSR corridors.

Your mission is to go to Hyperdia and find me the fastest train in Honshu which is not Shinkansen. I believe I’ve found a limited express run averaging 90 km/h, but I’m not sure. The only lines I’ll definitively be able to track down for you are south of 80. At any rate, the Super Hokuto is about 100. That the fastest non-Shinkansen train in Japan is in the region that does not have Shinkansen should tell you something about complements vs. substitutes.

Also tells me something about geography and population density and several other dimensions of transport in Japan.

Fast enough is fast enough to get an appropriate total station cachtment population per hour transit for the types of trips offered by that service.

People, however do not live uniformly distributed across a landscape. Sapporo is the largest city, at 1.8m, Asahikawa the second at 356,000, Hakodate the third at 287,000.

Hakodate/Sapporo is 3:20
Asahikawa/Sapporo is 2:40

So conventional rail speeds provide perfectly workable trip times to connect the second and third largest cities to the largest city.

You’re missing the point. It’s not that conventional rail is or is not capable of delivering good service; it’s that it’s at its best in regions that do not have HSR and vice versa.

That’s a claim at too abstract a level to be credible. Some regions won’t have HSR because they don’t have the population to support any rail ~ “not having” HSR does not automatically make them among the best for conventional rail. Some regions that have HSR will have substantial populations and travel piars that cannot be directly served by the HSR, and if they are suitable for either conventional rail or Rapid Rail, then they are suitable.

Still missing the point – sorry. Obviously, some regions can’t support any rail. But in the rest, there’s a tradeoff between HSR and a good version of the rapid rail you’re advocating.

Its not a simple inverse relationship ~ there are rival transport tasks, and complementary transport tasks, and ignoring the latter to just airily declare an abstract “trade off” independent of the actual routes being proposed and actual transport markets being served by each is spouting nonsense.

The 110 mph, some-speed-on-the-cheap plans seem to work where the passenger agency owns the ROW: North Carolina, Pennsylvania from Philly to Harrisburg, Michigan on the portion owned by Amtrak, the Surfliner in California…. but they don’t seem to work so well when the passenger agency doesn’t own the ROW, except for Cascades (apparently BNSF is particularly helpful, I guess).

BNSF is helpful, up to a point. The Cascade Talgos are limited to a cant deficiency of 6″, because of the heavy, high-center-of-mass locomotives. But BNSF further restricts cant deficiency to 5″.

BNSF have recently said they weren’t in favor of raising the Cascades speed limit above 90, even after the ARRA funded improvements. Perhaps that was one of the sticking points in negotiations between Washington state, the FRA and BNSF over getting the funds obligated.

It’s difficult to think of it as 110mph on the cheap. It’s still a lot of money, and the freight RRs seem to benefit at least as much as the passenger operations from the improvements.

Its relatively cheap when the comparison is to building new 70mph Interstate lane miles or dedicated 125mph Regional HSR. Its not cheap compared to doing nothing.

Guess I wasn’t at all clear, but Nathaniel got it.

I’m saying, a Billion in public funds is going to St Louis-Chicago.

Currently five (5) trains a day each way, four (4) Lincoln service runs between the big cities, making useful stops at Springfield, Bloomington-Normal, Joliet, etc., plus the Texas Eagle l.d. train.

Last I heard, there will be FOUR (4) MORE Lincoln trains added/allowed by U.P. Four (4) more trains, or about $250 million per. Gets us eight or nine trains a day on a route only 264 miles long, for more than a Billion dollars. Really?

What kind of return on public investment is that gonna get us?

If there’s any R-O-W for sale anywhere around there, we need to buy it. Now.

And the Cascades route, half a Billion and more donated to BSNF for upgrades to reduce the shameful not-on-time record, and to add one (1) more daily frequency?

How many more such ‘deals’ can we afford?

So to me, it looks like either go for what the fools call Socialism, or fuhgetaboutit. If the gummint doesn’t own the R-O-W for HSR or H(er)SR, we’re probably gonna get screwed by the capitalists.

This is why investing in CAHSR and the NEC make sense for sure; the people will own the tracks. The Midwest system of shared rights, uh, that’s to be determined.

How many more such ‘deals’ can we afford?

If it is a permanent capital investment that has positive total economic return ~ total economic benefit greater than total economic cost ~ and can operate without an operating subsidy, at a capital subsidy of $4m/route mile, we can readily afford four to eight such deals per year.

Under current funding institutions where the opportunity to build local oil-independent transport we urgently need is crippled by a lack of access to operating funding, I’d not favor building any intercity corridors along those lines if they are going to compete for operating subsidies with local transport.

There’s a fair amount of RoW in the east that is either owned or could be bought by public entities. SEHSR’s S-line, for example. The CSX Piedmont and Washington divisions are currently leased to BBRR for peanuts; the lease is breakable come 2014. NS would sell Manassas-Alexandria. Washington-Boston, Harrisburg-Philadelphia and New Haven-Springfield are owned as is the Lackawanna Cutoff and New York-Poughkeepsie. CSX is, apparently, willing to sell Poughkeepsie-Albany. Albany-Schenectady is publicly owned. Vermont owns Hoosick Junction-Burlington. It wouldn’t be too hard to put together a network stretching from Montreal and Boston in the north, to Scranton and Harrisburg in the west, to Raleigh and Charlottesville in the south, with some short sections of new RoW, or a short section of passenger primary additional track along existing RoW (as SEHSR is planning for the 17 miles between Centralia and Collier), tying these stretches together.

I don’t have the local knowledge for the midwest, but I’d bet there’s equivalent publicly purchasable RoW there, in addition to the Michigan RoW that’s currently either owned or in the process of being purchased.

The south and west, though, probably don’t present such opportunities.

AFAIR, Fort Wayne and west is either idle or largely so. And the reason that Indiana was pressing the ORDC not to plan on a directly link Columbus / Indianapolis was because it would entail resuming part of what I think was the old PennCentral route from Pittsburgh to St. Louis via Indianapolis.

And of course while the economics of the Class I’s are one thing, the economics of short lines are quite another ~ there might be a number of short lines that would bite on a ROW sale and leasback of single track trackage rights. Most Great Lakes and Midwestern ROW is four track wide, and after the single track revolution there is quite a bit of Great Lakes and Midwestern right of way that could easily maintain a single freight and sometime passing track alongside an express passenger track with ample room for future expansion.

It’s worth noting where the big money went on the Cascades route. (1) Track alterations at King Street — owned by City of Seattle and Amtrak. (2) Point Defiance Bypass — owned by Tacoma and Sound Transit. (3) “Get them freight trains out of our way” construction at Vancouver, WA. Yeah, BNSF still owns it, but where else are you gonna go? It’s an urban area. (4) Various cheap crossovers.

The money spent on the north side line is more questionable. But the south side spending is all on the urban track, where the alternatives to BNSF are probably more expensive.

Washington State is in a peculiar position for the US. Most of the rest of the country has excess ROWs which were abandoned in the past — lots of good alternatives to freight-owned trackage. But there only ever was the one route from Seattle to Portland, and BNSF is sitting on the best route. (That said, they oughtta rebuild the East Side Line around Seattle and move the majority of freight to it so the passenger trains have the tunnel under Seattle to themselves.

Alot of the abandoned ROW in the East was abandoned for a reason. It was never meant to be useful railroad, it was a way to swindle people out of money during railroad investment bubbles.

And a lot of it was abandoned because it was primarily useful as passenger rail, and since it had been subsidized to help sell real estate, once the real estate was all sold off the incentive to keep subsidizing the service dropped away.

And a lot of it was abandoned because we put property tax on private rail infrastructure, giving them an incentive to pare infrastructure down whenever practicable ~ just as with Interstate Highways, in public hands it would not have the same tax exposure.

Re: cross border train service from Toronto: most likely it would make sense to have several stops with US preclearance facilities sort of like the Eurostar in the UK. Most likely Toronto and Hamilton will have preclearance facilities and connections to other cities along the route would be provided by GO Transit. (GO Transit is planning both commuter trains to Niagara Falls, ON and to reopen a station in Hamilton along the CN tracks). Port Credit, Oakville, Burlington, St Catharines and Niagara Falls ON could all have such facilities installed if there is demand. Note: Aldershot would probably be eliminated as a VIA station once Hamilton opens because it is inconveniently located.

But first crack is a single facility at Toronto in addition to the border crossings, and express trains that only stops at the US-cleared platform at Toronto and the US-cleared platform at the border crossing.

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