Today’s Commercial Appeal runs a story about the local Transit Authority’s interest in extending the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor from Little Rock to Memphis. This makes a lot of sense for several reasons.
- Memphis is a larger population base than Little Rock, the current north terminal.
- Service fo Searcy and Wynne could provide several additional pairs of towns, including the possibility of fast commuter trips to Little Rock from Searcy.
- This could potentially ease highway congestion on 67/167 and I40.
- One of the railroad bridges into Memphis is immediately adjacent to the Memphis airport, which is indirectly referenced in the “comments” for this article. I think the old MP line uses that bridge.
There is some congressional muscle here too. Please note, Mr George Will, they will do a study and it might turn out to be a good idea (see post below).
Working with U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, they’re seeking to have the “South Central” high-speed corridor, which currently ends at Little Rock, extended about 150 miles eastward to Memphis.
The Memphis-Little Rock connection likely would be made along existing rails.
In addition to offering travelers additional options, the connection would boost economic development and tourism and offer a more environmentally friendly form of transportation, proponents say.
“It would certainly bring us another connection with the national transportation network,” Fox said.
Cohen, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, had a provision inserted in the Railroad Safety Enhancement Act last fall calling for a study of the feasibility of extending the corridor to Memphis. He’s also working to secure funding.
One item that needs some correction is the price tag. Please help me out on this, and I am writing on the run, but $150 million a mile sounds like European-style HSR built from the ground up. I thought we were looking at something more like $4 million a mile for the complete conventional upgrade between Little Rock and Fort Worth.
One must add, in considering this extension, most passengers do not ride end-to-end, but would board or de-train at intermediate stops. This particular concept, I think, makes this corridor look a lot more attractive.
It also allows for extension to Nashville or Birmingham. Just a thought.