Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Arkansas paper asks the right question about high speed rail

The Times-Herald of Forrest City, Arkansas ran a story last Thursday, It raised some insights on a study of rail service from Memphis to Texarkana. This is the old Cotton Belt and is definitely fast track.

One issue we run into out here is the Union Pacific practice of directional running. The Eagle operates on such a route between Poplar Bluff and Fort Worth. My understanding is that this line runs in the opposite direction. To state the obvious, this means that a passenger train would run opposite the flow on one of its scheduled runs.

Here is what the paper said, in part.

While the state Legislature has authorized a feasibility study for a high-speed rail from Texarkana to Memphis, people probably shouldn’t start looking for such a train any time soon.

More to the point, if there was a high-speed rail line, and even if it was routed through this area, could people in the Delta expect it to so much as to slow down on its way through? No one really knows at this point, because the realization, if it happens at all, is years in the future.

The point is that conventional rail service would be a big improvement to the quality of life out in the Arkansas Delta. This particular line serves many towns that have no transportation connections at all, most notably Pine Bluff. Other towns include Brinkley, Fordyce and Stuttgart.

So community leaders are right to ask and the answer is that the trains would stop. One imagines that such a service would continue to Fort Worth. The connection with the Eagle could happen at Texarkana, but that is up to the professionals to figute out.

Steve Harrelson is an important Arkansas lawmaker, lives in Texarkana, and is on the side of intelligent transportation policy.

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

2 Responses

  1. Allan says:

    I would settle for just a route from Memphis to Texarkana!

    Just get the route going first. Make it “fast” (90-100) and forget the HSR. HSR would take too long and cost too much.

  2. Bill says:

    Most of the current planning for faster passenger trains in Arkansas envisions trains operating in the range of 90-110mph. These trains would operate on upgraded, existing tracks, on the present rail right of way. Implementation time is much shorter and cost is much less than the true “bullet train” version of high speed rail.

    For an example of the functional, highly successful, multi-frequency service that higher speed rail can provide, look at the operation of the California Corridor service between San Jose and Sacramento.

    As for Forrest City, its highly unlikely that passenger trains of any type will be traveling through that city anytime soon. The extension of higher-speed passenger service to Memphis would almost certainly travel over existing tracks, namely Little Rock-Bald Knob-Wynne-Memphis. Forrest City is located on the former Rock Island’s Memphis-Little Rock line, but over 60 miles of that route (Brinkley to North Little Rock) was ripped out in the 1980s, during a time when there was a vacuum of leadership in Little Rock on state transportation initiatives.

    This doesn’t mean that there will never be true high speed rail through Arkansas, only that the 90-110mph speed rail upgrades will come first. The ridership growth from these services will justify the cost involved in eventually building true high speed rail.

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April 2009


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