Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

UPDTE: Memphis-to-Little Rock high-speed rail to be studied » The Commercial Appeal

UPDATE: Be sure to read Dr. Bill Pollard’s remarks in the “comments.” Although he takes a somewhat, and much more positive approach, I have the highest possible respect for his opinions, especially concerning the so-called I-49 corridor.


This is a colossal rip-off, and I support high speed rail and am a resident of Arkansas. Again, the only people who benefit are the consultants and bureaucrats. First the news.

The State of Arkansas will study the possibility of high-speed trains traveling up to 200 mph between Memphis and Little Rock and Texarkana, reports the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

State transportation officials anticipate spending $1 million to $1.25 million in federal and state funds to conduct two long-range railroad transportation plans in the next 18 to 24 months, the newspaper reported Friday.

One study will look at issues surrounding freight rail transport and existing passenger rail service. The other will examine how Arkansas might participate in a national initiative on high-speed passenger rail.

Memphis-to-Little Rock high-speed rail to be studied » The Commercial Appeal.

Now a modest proposal. I have made this before, but here goes anyway.

There is not enough population to be served on a Little Rock to Memphis route, especially if we are talking true 200 mph European-style HSR. Multi-billions would be spent. My idea is as follows:

  • Conventional speed trains and right-of-way. (110-125 mph)
  • Build from Memphis International Airport to Little Rock National Airport.
  • Use existing UP right-of-way. Add dedicated fast track.
  • Add service to Searcy and Cabot (not every run).
  • Continue from Little Rock National Airport to DFW.
  • Use existing UP and add a dedicated fast track.
  • Serves Arkadelphia, Texarkana, Longview.

This more modestly priced plan connects 3 air hubs and numerous smaller communities. Price is relatively high but in the same “ball park” as highway construction. Airlines might want to participate as is done in Europe. lMuch less cost that European-style HSR. So there.


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

3 Responses

  1. Actually, the Memphis – Little Rock corridor is one of the more traveled routes in the United States. It may not have the population, but it seems to have the volume.

    Whether the DOT has the good sense and rail knowledge to design a reasonable service without wasting taxpayers money is another question. Also, while the route has volume, it doesn’t necessarily follow that there needs to be a new alignment, although if the freight line is full and you are building new, you might as well build high speed tracks.

    As a general principal using the airports for main stations is a bad idea. Put stations where people actually want to go, which is usually downtown. Some trips can stop at the airport, but it won’t be a major stop. Example: the TGV runs most of it’s trips from downtown Paris, not Charles De Gaul airport, even though it does serve it.


  2. patlynch says:

    Yes, but the “volume” between Little Rock and Memphis is truck traffic and directed to the intermodal yards at Marion, Ark. and also Memphis. I also dislike rail stations at airports, but there has long been a synergy between LIT and MEM. Lots of folks drive to Memphis from LR to save bucks. These trains can also have secondary downtown stations. This is a bit out-of-the-box, but I think it deserves serious consideration.

  3. Bill Pollard says:

    The media coverage of the Arkansas feasibility study, particularly the coverage in the Memphis paper, left a lot to be desired. The feasibility study reportedly has two components. (1) Identify infrastructure improvements needed for implementation of high performance passenger rail over the Arkansas portion of the South Central Corridor, Little Rock to Texarkana. The Arkansas study thus compliments a study already underway by TXDOT for a similar evaluation of Texarkana-Dallas as well as an extension to Shreveport (to allow a separate Dallas-Shreveport service.) (2) Evaluate the feasibility of extending the South Central Corridor to Memphis.

    This is NOT simply a Little Rock-Memphis or a Memphis-Texarkana proposal, but a part of a larger Memphis-Dallas corridor with supplemental service to Shreveport. Service on existing right of way would be the norm, with sufficient infrastructure improvements to allow 90mph running in most areas which can currently handle 75mph, and with a goal of achieving 110mph maximum in those areas where topography and other conditions allow (long tangents extending a number of miles, such as is found on the present Union Pacific alignment between Memphis and Bald Knob and between Bald Knob and Texarkana. Service most likely would include several frequencies operating on schedules that would be faster that comparable highway trips.

    The feasibility study, which has been under consideration for several years before actually being awarded, is an excellent start and AHTD is to be commended for beginning this process. Arkansas has a choice to either become involved in the development of high performance rail, thus enjoying the economic benefits which will accrue during construction and operation of the network, or else sit on the sidelines and watch as states around us gain a competitive advantage as a high performance passenger rail system is crafted which will eventually have the same impact as the Interstate Highway system. Can you imagine anyone seriously arguing in 1960 that the Interstate highway being planned across Arkansas (now known as I-40 and I-30) was a colossal rip off?

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December 2012


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