Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

John Kerry says: Fix Acela speeds

It’s something of an open secret that Amtrak’s Acela high-speed service, though faster than a regular NEC train, can’t hold a candle to a true high-speed line. The reason? It runs on the same tracks that have always been there, which are old, curvy, and riddled with bridges and tunnels that were never designed to withstand Acela’s theoretical 150 mph top speed.

John Kerry has told the Boston Globe that he wants to fix all that:

“Are you kidding? That train can go 150 miles an hour, (but) it goes that for, what, a couple of miles?” Kerry scoffed. “I want America to have a first-rate high-speed rail system. A high-speed rail that really lives up to the name and gets people there in the time that we ought to be aiming for.”

Kerry plans to file in two weeks a $1 billion bill that will target out-of-date bridges, tunnels and tracks that prevent the train from hitting its 150-mile-per-hour maximum and getting commuters to their destinations faster.

A billion dollars is nothing to sneeze at, but we have to consider that Kerry is going up for reelection soon. Is that enough money to make a difference? Or is he just trying to wow rail-riding constituents with his outrage over America’s one so-called high-speed train?

While Amtrak took in more than $1.4 billion in federal funds last year [TFA note: is this really necessary?], the curvature of the railroad tracks continues to be the main reason for the Acela’s low speed in the northeast, said Amtrak spokeswoman Karina Romero.

Straightening the tracks along the heavily developed eastern rail would trigger many eminent domain takings, however.

“The price would probably be exorbitant,” Romero said about the number of land takings.

Modernizing bridges and other infrastructure may increase the speed by 10 to 15 miles an hour, said Romero, but probably still would not bring the line to top speed, despite Kerry’s remarks.

A 10-15 mph increase isn’t great, but it’s certainly an improvement. What do you NEC people think? Is it worth it? Is Kerry just being a politician? I glanced at the Boston Globe comments, which is basically a large pool of vitriol against Kerry peppered with an occasional “but the Acela does need to go faster…” here and there. If even making the route workable for Acela is such a challenge, will true HSR ever be acheivable along the corridor? HR 6003 will open up the door to private offers for a high-speed line along the route… that’s not looking very feasible at the moment.


Filed under: Amtrak, United States High Speed Rail, , , , , ,

News from Virginia

Danny Plaugher

    Virginians for High Speed Rail    

Dear VHSR supporter:     

The draft of the Virginia Statewide Rail Plan was released online 


yesterday afternoon. We are in the process of reviewing the plan.

For your convenience here are some links that might be helpful.

Click here for access to the entire plan

Click here for an overview powerpoint of the plan.

I encourage you to attend one of the public comment meeting located around

the state.

Statewide Rail Plan Public Meeting Dates:

Richmond Region, July 16, 5:30 p.m.

Virginia Department of Transportation Auditorium

1221 East Broad Street., Richmond, VA 23219


Staunton Region, July 23, 6:00 p.m.

Blue Ridge Community College Plecker Workforce Center Auditorium

One College Lane, Weyers Cave, VA 24486


Roanoke Region, July 24, 6:00 p.m.

Salem Civic Center

1001 Boulevard, Salem VA 24153


Northern Virginia Region, July 29, 7:00 p.m.

Fairfax County Government Center Board Auditorium

12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax VA 22035


Hampton Roads Region, July 30, 6:00 p.m.

Hampton Roads Planning District Commission

723 Woodlake Drive, Chesapeake, VA 23320


During the public meetings, individuals may comment verbally or in writing.


Individuals may speak for up to three minutes. Groups and organizations should

designate one member to speak on their behalf. 


Those who cannot attend may send comments on the draft Statewide Rail

Plan to:


Public Information Office

Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation

1313 E. Main St., Suite 300

Richmond, VA 23219


Online comment sheet


Comments will be accepted until August 25, 2008.


Thank you,



Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

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July 2008