Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Alabama blocks southeast high speed rail

This dispute apparently involves the kingly sum of $120,000 (but, of course it IS the principle of the thing that counts!). The Alabama Highway Department refuses to pay the dues. The Birmingham Business Journal has most of the story for subscribers, but you can read what is public.

Alabama’s Southern neighbors are pointing accusatory fingers at the state, claiming its foot-dragging may derail an Atlanta-to-New Orleans high-speed rail line.

Members of the Southern High-Speed Rail Commission from Louisiana and Mississippi are eager to bid for a piece of the $9.3 billion earmarked in the federal stimulus package for inter-city, high-speed rail projects. But they say they are being held up because Alabama has not completed the necessary studies to request federal funds.

Birmingham is a logical hub for fast conventional trains to Atlanta, Nashville, Mobile, Memphis Jackson, and New Orleans, so this is really important. A story in explains that a conventional train operating from Birmingham to Atlanta at 110 mph. makes the trip in 90 minutes. So that would explain the stiff resistance from highway and trucking special interests.

he study would determine which tracks the train would use, ridership and costs, among other things. It is needed before the commission can tap into about $8 billion in federal stimulus money that has been set aside at the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop high-speed rail through 11 rail commissions nationwide.

“Because the state refuses to put up a couple of hundred thousand dollars, we could lose a couple of hundred million dollars,” Finley said. He faulted the Alabama Department of Transportation.

Shift in priorities:

ALDOT Director Joe McInnes said his department stopped paying the dues when he became director in 2003. “This department, by law, builds roads and bridges,” McInnes said. “We do not build railroads, airports or waterways.”

He said he also was concerned because neither Georgia nor Texas joined the Southern High-Speed Rail Commission.

The story notes that there is an involvement from the Mayor of Atlanta.

Let’s be clear, this is not some kind of wild-eyed 200 mph European style HSR that would require an entire new right-of-way and $10 billion. This is a project that could happen in a matter of years and bring instant economic benefits to everybody concerned (except airlines and truckers, and I don’t know what the Atlanta-Birmingham air travel market is like).

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

Solar powered high-speed rail plan

It would connect Detroit and Lansing. This is innovative stuff. We should probably let the Chinese do it. Read the story from London’s RailNews here.

A completely new and revolutionary type of high-speed rail transportation system — hydrogen-powered and magnetically-driven — is being proposed in the US state of Michigan. It would run from Detroit to the state capital, Lansing.

There is a video also, but I am unable to post it.


Filed under: International High Speed Rail, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, United States High Speed Rail

Backing faster trains in Illinois

We at TFA have a strict policy against nostalgia, but we are not forgetful of history. Railroading is bound up with American history and we must not forget the past. There is an important editorial in today’s State Journal-Register about the St. Louis-Chicago corridor. Many people may not realize that this line is the same railroad that carried the Abraham Lincoln funeral train.

My point is that the rail service has been in this location for a long time. When the GM&O railroad acquired this line (the Chicago and Alton) in the 1940’s it was double-track all the way and routinely operating close to the 100 mph mark, if not higher. The right-of-way has since been degraded. What is being proposed is the restoration of a previously existing passenger service. It is much needed.

THE RAIL SYSTEM would allow trains to travel 110 mph. Amtrak had record ridership last year, in part because of gasoline price spikes.

We are already agonizingly close to having 110 mph trains along the Springfield to Chicago corridor.

With $75 million in improvements to tracks, the signal system (air traffic control for trains) and platforms, passengers could get from Springfield to Chicago in 2 1/2 hours. Even just spending $15 million to allow in-cab signals and automated stop features would cut the current 3 1/2-hour trip to three hours, according to the Midwest High Speed Rail Association.

GETTING TO 110 MPH is a vital next step in the development of high-speed rail, but it still pales compared to the 200 mph-plus trains in Europe and Asia.

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

Britain plans high speed rail expansion

The London Times Online has discussion about some outstanding improvements in ground transport. WARNING: Dangerous concepts enclosed. May contain talk of “planning for the future.” Could cause harful side effects to some American readers.

Double-deck trains travelling at 225mph (360km/h) and carrying up to 800 passengers would depart every four minutes, cutting the journey time from London to Birmingham to 30 minutes and from London to Manchester to just over an hour. Passengers may, however, have to travel to the suburbs of London to catch the trains because the terminus could be built up to five miles from the centre to reduce the cost of the line.

Sir David Rowlands, the chairman of High Speed Two, which is preparing detailed plans for a new North-South line, said that the preferred option was for four tracks to double the capacity of the route.

No high-speed line anywhere in the world has more than two tracks but Sir David said that Britain needed to plan ahead for continuing rail growth over several decades.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail

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March 2009