Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

North Carolina workin’ hard

You gotta’ love the North Carolina DOT. Fokks out there have a progressive and intelligent approach. The latest insight comes from the Technician Online blog from N. C. State and it deals with stimulus spending and plans along the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor.

James Harris, state rail coordination engineer for the N.C. DOT, said he expects the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor to be one of the first to collect funding. Both Virginia and North Carolina — states through which the SEHSR runs — have completed most of the paperwork, such as environmental surveys, that the government requires before it grants funding.

Harris said although the DOT has not yet applied for funding because it’s still trying to figure out how much is available and for what, he expects the DOT will file an application soon.

And any amount of funding, he said, will shorten the timeline for the project’s completion.

“We donít get funding like highway projects do. We go and try to find money because we donít have a dedicated pot of money that we grab from,” Harris said. “The stimulus money gets us a jump start.”

One of the project’s first priorities is to acquire a strip of abandoned railway that runs from the North Carolina/Virginia border to Petersburg, Va. To accommodate speeds of 110 miles per hour — the speed that SEHSR employees project the new trains will attain from Raleigh into Virginia — the states’ DOTs will have to tear up the existing rail and build a completely new track.

It’s this last step, along with other construction and engineering aspects of the project that is difficult to fund. Harris said the DOTs must construct new tracks and repair curves on tracks that cannot sustain high speeds.

“Just like on certain curves you canít drive your car 60 miles per hour, you can’t take faster trains on some parts of train tracks,” said Keith Lewis, who is working with the project to install trails adjacent to the Southeast Corridor. “They’ll make some realignments where the curves are too sharp for the speed.”

Harris said the rural areas of Virginia will allow room for additional tracks so that passenger trains will not have to stop for freight trains.

Track construction, Harris said, could rack up a bill as high as $2 billion.


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

Now Iowa is talking

The recent push to discuss sensible ground transportation is a healthy development, but we sense that  things get talked to death. Radio Iowa has the latest entry.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center is calling for an expansion of rail service in Iowa. Howard Learner, president of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, estimates a new rail line from Des Moines to Iowa City to the Quad Cities and on to Chicago would cost about $125 million.

TFA always approves passenger train improvements, but we see two questions here.

One is the idea of a single Quad Cities stop between Des Moines and Chicago. We have not seen a transportation study, so ELPC could be on to something, but we doubt it.

There is also the question of cost. For $125 million, a sensible appropriation for the entire project, we would expect a lot more than 79 mph. There should be some areas over 100 mph or the ticket price can not be sufficient.

The headline writer called this idea “high speed rail.” Can anybody be that sheltered?

This service only makes sense as part of a larger picture. The better concept is Omaha-Chicago  Technically, that might means an Omaha-Ames-Chicago corridor.

Anyway, more planning is needed.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

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March 2009