Posts Tagged ‘High-speed rail passenger service’

Virgin’s Las Vegas Station Plans Revealed

February 22, 2020

Virgin Trains USA has submitted plans for its Las Vegas station.

Documents submitted to the Clark County Commissioners office indicate the Las Vegas terminal will be built on 110 acres on South Las Vegas Boulevard across from the South Premium Outlets.

The 273,300 square-foot station would be a 15 minute drive from the Las Vegas strip. Plans also call for a parking garage adjacent to the station.

Virgin has proposed establishing a high-speed rail service between Las Vegas and Southern California that would eventually serve Los Angeles.

The documents submitted for Virgin indicated that construction of the route is expected to begin later this year with service getting underway in 2023.

The Las Vegas terminal will contain a departure lobby, space for retail businesses and a baggage claim area.

VIA Hires Firms for Engineering Work

February 3, 2020

VIA Rail Canada has hired a joint venture of AECOM and Arup as the engineer to analyze a proposed high-frequency rail service in the Quebec City-Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor.

The joint venture will provide technical and engineering matters during the pre-procurement phase of the project.

Engineering and technical analysis is required for the project to receive final recommendation. The project also involves conducting an environmental assessment and undertaking site investigation studies, including geotechnical studies.

The Canadian Infrastructure Bank has committed CA$55 million in funding for planning and pre-procurement work for the project while the Canadian government added CA$16.1 million in funding for Transport Canada and VIA Rail to support the project.

Public Hearings Held on Atlanta-Charlotte Corridor

January 25, 2020

Public hearings were recently held on a proposed high-speed rail route that would link Atlanta and Charlotte.

The transportation departments of Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina conducted the hearings on a Tier 1 draft environmental impact statement.

The draft compared three alternatives two of which the Federal Railroad Administration would consider to be high speed.

The FRA defines a high-speed rail route as one over which trains travel at between 90 mph and 150 mph or higher.

If built, the 280-mile Atlanta-Charlotte route would be part of a larger Southeast High Speed Rail network that has been proposed between Washington and Atlanta through Richmond, Virginia, and Raleigh, North Carolina.

The draft environmental statement reviewed the area connecting Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the proposed Charlotte Gateway Station.

The study noted that existing public transportation is provided by Amtrak’s Crescent; commercial airline service to airports in Atlanta, Charlotte and Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina; and intercity bus service.

Texas Central Seeking STB Hearing

March 30, 2019

Would-be high-speed operator Texas Central is asking the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to hold a public hearing on the question of whether the agency has jurisdiction over the proposed Dallas-Houston rail line.

Opponents of the project have sought to block it by arguing that the STB does not have jurisdiction.

In its brief presented to the STB, Texas Central has asked the agency to interpret its jurisdiction over high speed rail and whether that will  will establish a significant precedent as additional high-speed rail projects are developed in the United States.

Texas Central hopes that this will allow STB members to examine the arguments and claims in back-and-forth questioning.

The case hinges on how the STB views a through-ticketing arrangement that it reached with Amtrak.

The STB could view this as evidence that Texas Central’s service is part of an interstate rail system, thus giving the STB jurisdiction.

FRA Wants California to Return $9.2M

February 22, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration wants its money back.

In a letter to the California High Speed Rail Authority FRA Administrator Ron Batory asked the state to return $928.62 million that it received for a high-speed rail project that California Gov. Gavin Newsom said last week will be scaled back to a 160-mile line in the Central Valley.

Plans to create a high-speed rail link between Los Angeles and San Francisco were dropped.

Batory said absent a compelling counter by the state, the agency would terminate the grant.

The letter cited several concerns including the state’s failure to meet matching grant deadlines, missing the project’s 2022 “period of performance” benchmark, an inability to effectively manage delivery of the project, not taking “appropriate corrective actions to ensure delivery of the project,” and failure to produce realistic construction schedules

Batory also said the FRA “is exploring all available legal options” to recover the nearly $2.5 billion in federal funds that have already been spent.

The grant money was awarded to California under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The letter gave state officials until March 5 to show how they have complied with terms of the federal grant.

110 mph Running Delayed Until Next Year

November 25, 2017

Top speeds of 110 miles per hour are not expected to come to the Chicago-St. Louis corridor until 2018, the Illinois Department of Transportation has said.

IDOT said construction of the $2 billion high-speed rail project has taken longer than expected.

The original goal when the project began seven years ago was to have the higher speeds in place by late 2017.

Officials have not said when in 2018 the higher speeds will be allowed.

The latest delays have occurred in Springfield where five crossings have been closed while workers install safety fencing and make signal and gate upgrades.

The city of Springfield is seeking federal approval to establish a “quiet zone” of no train horns once the safety improvements are completed.

Trains began running at speeds up to 110 mph in 2012 between Pontiac and Dwight.

MHSRA Seeks Phased Network Approach

September 12, 2017

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association is calling for a “phased network approach” to implementing high-speed rail service in the United States, including the Midwest.

In a 50-page white paper, the group said a combination of high-speed trunk lines and upgraded feeder rail routes coupled with dedicated bus services can increase mobility.

Rather than focusing on a point-to-point fast train systems between major cities, the MHSRA plan would provide a blueprint for systems that serve multiple markets and as many constituencies as possible.

The report cited such existing networks in France, Germany and Japan that provide multiple connections from their main stems.

One example would be Chicago-Cincinnati corridor. The report said a combination of upgraded Metra Electric tracks from O’Hare International Airport through Chicago, a high-speed trunk connecting the Windy City with Indianapolis, and conventional feeders to other communities could reduce Chicago-Indianapolis rail travel times from five hours, ten minutes to 90 minutes.

Upgrading existing track to Cincinnati once used by New York Central’s James Whitcomb Riley could result in a three-hour Chicago-Cincinnati overall travel times.

The running time of the current Amtrak Cardinal is eight hours, thirty minutes.

“The core point is that rather than only trying to keep projects affordable, we should be figuring out how to put more people on trains,” said MHSRA Executive Director Rick Harnish. “We need a new ridership and revenue model that combines commuter, feeder, and intercity trips in a way suited to the geography and demographics to the Midwest.”

Anderson Talks Amtrak on NPR

September 7, 2017

Amtrak co-CEO Richard Anderson has been making the rounds of national broadcast outlets this week to talk about the rail passenger carrier that he joined earlier this year.

Richard Anderson

He appeared on a CBS news program and also on National Public Radio where he was interviewed by Robert Siegel, a co-host of the afternoon program All Things Considered.

As he did at CBS, Anderson told Siegel that updating aging infrastructure is a top priority at Amtrak.

At the same time, he contended that Amtrak is not broken. “It provides very reliable service to over 30 million people a year,”

Anderson said the United States has made a choice not to pursue high-speed rail except in a few areas. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t take the infrastructure that we have and improve our track speeds, where we offer a product that’s competitive with cars and buses because that’s really, in some sense, what we compete against.”

In response to a question by Siegel as to whether the “real, long-range intercity train travel is finished,” Anderson said that to Amtrak long-distance means more than 750 miles.

“And where we see the most growth over the last couple of decades has been in routes under 750 miles, like Milwaukee to Chicago, Detroit to Chicago, San Francisco to Los Angeles down the coast,” he said. “When you think about infrastructure in the U.S., we have become a very urbanized society – less reliance on automobiles, more reliance on public transportation. There’s an important role for Amtrak to play. And that’s actually been one of the fastest-growing parts of this business and represents over half of Amtrak’s passenger traffic annually.”

High-Speed Michigan Line Could be Profitable

February 25, 2016

Michigan map

A study by the Michigan Environmental Council concluded that a high-speed rail line between Detroit and Holland, Michigan, could generate an annual $12 million profit.

The study, Coast-to-Coast Passenger Rail Ridership and Cost Estimate Study, was based on the route having a top speed of 110 mph.

MichiganThree routes were examined, all of which are existing rail lines that would need extensive rebuilding to allow for higher-speed operations.

The study acknowledged that the cost of rebuilding the routes for high-speed rail would require a greater capital investment, but would result in higher ridership that would allow the service to recover its operating costs

The study favored a route that would pass through Ann Arbor and Howell.

If trains on that route had a top speed of 79 mph, the service would require annual funding of $3 million and a capital investment of $130 million, which MEC said is comparable to the cost of building 13 miles of interstate highway.

“Business leaders, economic developers, local governments and college students have all told us they support the idea of knitting together our cities, cultural centers and other institutions by rail,” said Liz Treutel Callin, transportation policy associate for the MEC. “Now we have an in-depth report showing that the coast-to-coast passenger rail project is one worth pursuing, with significant potential benefits for Michigan’s economy and quality of life.”

MEC said the next step in developing the rail route is to conduct a feasibility study that would include an environmental impact analyses, an implementation plan and a review of public-private partnership options.

IDOT Studying St. Louis-Alton Bottleneck

November 2, 2013

Despite all of the work that has been done to bring portions of Amtrak’s Chicago-St. Louis line up to 110 mph operation, true high-speed service won’t occur until slow speed running is addressed in the St. Louis region.

It can take an hour or more for the Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains to travel the 27 miles between St. Louis and Alton.

That’s because Amtrak must share tracks through this industrial corridor with freight trains and navigate a turning, twisting route.

This bottleneck is a major reason why what is scheduled to be a six hour ride between the Windy City and the Gateway City can take up to seven and even eight hours on some days.

Amtrak trains may never reach 100 mph speeds between the St. Louis and Alton, Ill., portion of the corridor, but transportation officials acknowledge that improvements need to be made to enable passenger trains to go faster if the Chicago-St. Louis route is to achieve true high-speed status.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is studying improvements to the St. Louis-Alton stretch, including building a new bridge across the Mississippi River.

 “The goal is to have 110 (mph) in all of the appropriate areas,” explained John Oimoen, IDOT’s deputy director of railroads

Oimoen described the St. Louis-Alton route as a “challenging geographic area” with a number of curves and other problem features.

An environmental study will examine which route options make the most sense as well as the conditions of the bridges on the route. The study is expected to take 18 to 24 months to complete.

 “Speed increases are very possible,” said Mike McCarthy, president of the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis. The TRRA controls the MacArthur and Merchants bridges, the St. Louis region’s two heavy rail crossings over the Mississippi River, and track on both sides.

Illinois and Amtrak are spending $1.4 billion to upgrade the 284-mile Chicago-St. Louis route. The project includes new track and structures, real estate acquisition, station improvements, new trains, signals upgrades, grade crossings work, and the installation of fencing.

A 2012 environmental study characterized Amtrak’s on-time performance between St. Louis and Chicago as “unreliable” with additional prospects for delay expected once Union Pacific completes the expansion of an intermodal facility in Joliet.

Oimoen said the period of 2014-16 is expected to see the heaviest construction along the high-speed rail corridor.

Despite this, Amtrak posted double-digit ridership gains in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor in fiscal year 2013. This increase was one of Amtrak’s most significant growth spurts nationwide.

Studies have shown that nine of every 10 people who travel between the two cities do so by automobile with trains, planes and buses carrying the rest.

IDOT and Amtrak hope that if train travel can be made faster and more reliable it might divert some of those drivers on Interstate 55 aboard the train.

In the meantime, Alton is slated to get a new station. It won’t help the trains go faster, but Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said demand for passenger service has outstripped the available parking outside the aging brick Alton station at 3400 College Avenue.