Trains For America

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Memphis seeks inclusion on high speed rail

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.

Filed under: Amtrak, Regional USA Passenger Rail

21 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    THE best news I have heard in a long time! This would make my life so much easier.(searcy, ar. resident) (ps–I know you find Mr. Will’s attitude petty and far from logical, but mentioning his name over and over again perpetuates the same ill tempered atmosphere…just a thought)

  2. Paz says:

    What’s density on the South-Central corridor like? I’ve always felt like that would be the hardest sell for HSR out of the ten proposals except for maybe northern New England (those lobsters have to make it to market on time!). Maybe it’s my Mid-Atlantic/Rust Belt bias, but I guess I always felt like HSR politically was going to be a tough sell down there. It’s my understanding that Dallas/Ft. Worth is the only commuter rail system in the region (also, Nashville, but that wasn’t originally part of the HSR plan).

  3. political_incorrectness says:

    I would rather have that area use 110 mph service for now. If anyone needs Euro style HSR, its California, Florida, NEC, the Midwest, and Texas. Perhaps the want for true HSR might be a call to shift the transportation budget toward intercity rail by around twenty fold in the next few budget cycles. That would produce many 110 mph corridors. Perhaps then we can achieve the 150 mph corridors and 200 mph corridors from there.

  4. patlynch says:

    This corridor is a very poor candidate for European type HSR. I think the undeserved communities might well patronize reliable fast conventional trains. That would include Marshall, Longview, Texarkana, Arkadelphia, Searcy and Wynne. Each of these has a “reach” well beyond the local jurisdiction.

  5. Bill says:

    Follow the thinking of the FRA from the recent HSR workshops around the country. Most of the presently designated corridors will fall under the “emerging high speed rail” designation, which means trains running 90 mph, with appropriate infrastructure improvements (double track, grade crossing protection, automatic train control, etc.) A few corridors, and segments of the “emerging high speed” corridors, will be appropriate for the next level — “regional high speed” designation, with operation in the range of 110mph. Few areas are ready for the true European version of HSR at this time, but remember that all or virtually all of the European systems were built with the support of underlying high performance rail systems. This is the first step.

  6. Mr. Transit says:

    Click to access OK%20DOT%20HSR%20Workshop%20052909.pdf

    Arkansas passenger rail advocates may want to take a look at this South Centeral HSR presentation from the FRA workshops last month.

  7. Bill says:

    Regarding the cost estimates in the Memphis story, those are for true European style HSR, with new right of way and a build out from the ground up. Those cost estimates have no relation to the system being proposed between Memphis-Little Rock-Dallas-Fort Worth. Adding a second track to an existing line to increase capacity, eliminate low-speed bottlenecks and generally bring the line up to 90/110 mph operation is generally estimated by most industry sources as 1.5 million to 3 million per mile, depending on terrain. Compare that cost to a single “full” cloverleaf freeway interchange in open countryside (no elevated lanes) which can approach $250 million.

  8. […] news from around the network: Trains for America reports that Memphis wants in on the high-speed rail action; Baltimore Spokes has a post on an 11 […]

  9. […] in order to bring some coherence to metropolitan development. Other news from around the network: Trains for America reports that Memphis wants in on the high-speed rail action; Baltimore Spokes has a post on an 11 […]

  10. […] in order to bring some coherence to metropolitan development. Other news from around the network: Trains for America reports that Memphis wants in on the high-speed rail action; Baltimore Spokes has a post on an 11 […]

  11. Allan says:

    There is a need for a LR-Memphis passenger rail route. It doesn’t need to be HSR … “fast” (90-110-mph) would be great.

    While TDOT does have a study for a Memphis-Bristol route, don’t expect much to come of it. A lot of new rail would need to be laid … thus making it very expensive.

  12. NikolasM says:

    DFW-Texarkana-Little Rock-Memphis-Birmingham-Atlanta… need to look at the big picture. And this line is more promising than say the “Meridian Speedway” because the DFW-Little Rock part could split easily at that point north to St. Louis and Chicago, thereby sharing a lot of track for some major routes.

  13. Wil Skelton says:

    Any rail searvice between little Rock and Memphis via searcy and wynne would be great. Pat you are very correct about the cities having farther reach then their city limits. Both cities serve the counties as central hubs of business.In most cases there are more people living with in the county then the city limits. I know a lot of College students who would be willing to hop a train to end up in down town LR or MEM for the night or weekend. 110 mph service would be ideal for the area. That is nearly double the speed limit on the dreaded drive between searcy and Memphis. (the US-64 route not Interstate 40)

  14. Woody says:

    Mr Transit, thanks for the link. Always nice to see how much highways cost and how little rail lines cost. Amazing to see the Texas Dept of Highways (or whatever they call themselves now) claiming that they can help with passenger rail. Well, as they say, Follow the money.

  15. […] These days Memphis is expressing interest in being part of the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor. […]

  16. […] These days Memphis is expressing interest in being part of the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor. […]

  17. Charlie Vergos says:

    I was annoyed when I first saw the designated corridor map that each of the proposed lines came within a few hundred miles of each other between St. Louis, Meridian, Birmingham, and Little Rock. It seems like common sense to make Memphis the nexus between those three lines (and a Louisville connection as well, though that may be a stretch). Not to mention the fact that it is a quadramodal city with already existing track for passenger rails connecting Chicago and New Orleans with established right-of-way, a well developed and expanding international airport, several key interstates, and an large active port on the Mississippi. It also has no major geographical barriers preventing rail, as the land in West Tennessee is flat and at low-elevation and has an infrastructure designed around dealing with freight rail.

    It’s hard to believe the FTA ignored this when they designated the corridors.

  18. Allan says:

    Charlie – You’re correct. Memphis would be the natural nexus … but don’t hold your breath for them to see the obvious.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Why they dont want to add Shreveport,La because Shreveport is a larger city than Little Rock

  20. Woody says:

    Why don’t they want to add Shreveport, LA, because Shreveport is a larger city than Little Rock?

    Maybe because, when the map was drawn, Wm Jefferson Clinton, late of Little Rock, was the sitting President of the United States.

    Let’s give Memphis and Shreveport another look — after the Democrats get control of Congress and we can do something about passenger rail again.

  21. […] These days Memphis is expressing interest in being part of the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor. […]

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June 2009


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