Category Archives: high speed rail

California: Connecting With High Speed Rail

This map from ACE shows the future connections with ACE to future High Speed Rail, San Joaquin, Capitol Corridor, Caltrain and BART. The future ACE route will be on the UP right of way with a separate track for ACE passenger trains. The UP will be able to use this track when there are no passenger trains using it to relieve UP freight congestion in the San Joaquin Valley.

You’ll soon be able to get to Chicago an hour faster

From the Belleville News-Democrat via California Rail News

“We’re getting close to finishing the project,” said Scott Speegle, the Passenger Rail communications manager for IDOT.
Work this year includes upgrades at 21 rail crossings between Granite City and Shipman, Speegle said.
Upgrades include putting in four quad gates to prevent cars from weaving through crossings when a train is approaching. Signaling upgrades, increased fencing and pedestrian gates, if necessary, also are planned. Most of the work is expected to be completed by the end of the summer, Speegle said.
The crossings will be temporarily closed while upgrades are taking place.
What has not received much press are efforts to throw a money wrench to raise passenger speeds in the Midwest by the UP. Where it controls the rails that used government funding for track improvements to reduce running times for passenger trains, the UP is trying to block the use of new High Speed “Charger” locomotives. Among the issues UP is claiming is the the Chargers don’t meet current FRA regulations. One thing the UP is claiming is that since the Charger uses LED lights, it can’t be used on American railroads since FRA regulations says nothing about LED lights.

After 1OO+ Years, Private Industry Will Build Rail Infrastructure

The last time a private American company built rail infrastructure was more than 100 years ago. But this summer’s launch of Brightline service, connecting downtown Miami with Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, could propel private passenger rail forward.

The trio of southeast coastal-Florida cities, which comprise the destinations in the first phase of the $3 billion, 235-mile project, are well suited to testing a privately funded rail revival. “We have to challenge the monopoly of the car and adapt to changing trends of millennials,” says Brightline president Mike Reininger, referring to the dual desires of young adults to settle in cities and do without cars. Between 2000 and 2012, this demographic increased in population 24.7 percent around Brightline’s service corridor, 118 percent around Miami alone, while auto congestion in the area consistently ranked among the world’s worst traffic. Brightline uses the century-old Florida East Coast Railway corridor, on which its parent organization ships freight, although the right-of-way access still had to undergo extensive community review.

The company’s new investments should yield benefits for passengers and the wider public. Perhaps most significant, its Miami terminal links three different commuter lines while its groundfloor retail space stitches together four downtown neighborhoods, says Roger Duffy, design partner of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in New York. The firm designed all three stations in association with Miami-based Zyscovich Architects.

The terminal is noteworthy visually as well. “The architectural expression is in the base structure,” says Duffy, who adds that visible V-bracing and multimodal connections at the smaller Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach stations unify the three. Rockwell Group was responsible for Brightline’s colorful branding, including exterior train graphics and car interiors.

The project’s second phase, which is slated to open with the completion of the Intermodal Terminal Facility at Orlando International Airport in 2018, will connect coastal South Florida to that city.

The Sorry State Of The AMTRAK Hoosier State

Working on the HYPERLOOP from Louisville, Kentucky to Gary, Indiana, we cannot help but notice Indianapolis. We go right thru it on Interstata 65. But we have “ignored” it because: (1) Indianapolis HAS AMTRAK and (2) Indianapolis to Gary is “too short” to be an efficient HYPERLOOP.

We forget how the “Hoosier State” was nothing more than a “hospital train” to Amtrak’s Beach Grove shops near Indy. It received a name and Horizon cars only so CSX would move it in some semblance of a designated schedule between Chicago-Indy. Hard to believe this once was a vibrant corridor into the early 1960s for NYC, PRR, and Monon. The NYC’s “James Whitcomb Riley” was featured in a 3 hour timecard on its way serving Cincinatti, including change of power between IC/NYC in Kankakee, operating over jointed rail with multiple grade crossings, and making several stops en route.

Given the starvation diet assessed to Amtrak by Congress, the lack of any economic incentives for CSX, and Indiana’s deferred approach to rail infrastructure investment, frankly we can expect nothing will change without federal involvement, as well a spirited encouragement of major P3. To compete with the bus and auto relying on the toll-free I-65 to achieve 3 hour runs, significant funds will be required for rail to achieve:

1) Re-building the antiquated signal system and right-of-way of the CSX between Dyer-Indy. Approximately a minimum of $1 Million per mile just for track infrastructure over that 150 route.

2) $500,000 for 2 power switches at Dyer, IN to divert the train off of the current slow 29 mile route thru 5 dispatchers into Chicago Union Station (CUS) and instead, onto the CN to the St. Charles Air Line access into CUS.

3) How long before the South Shore Line extends to Munster to allow running the “Hoosier State” on its ROW from the St. Charles Air Line to connect there to Dyer?

4) How long for the CREATE program to be funded to eliminate Chicago region rail gridlock by re-building Grand Crossing/75th Street to facilitate passenger rail?

Current Indianapolis Union Station is a decrepit, dark, dank hole in the wall, in an unsafe neighborhood, frequented by the homeless and panhandlers; shared as a bus depot. Rehabilitation drastically required.

By now, we should have learned that an acceptable schedule and timecard are paramount to a train’s potential to attract traffic; with the reality that convenience is key as interpreted by every market metric as provided by more than one frequency each way.

a) The “Hoosier State” must immediately change it current departure and arrival at Indy to be more convenient. Schedule should be changed to leave Indy between 0730-800 and leave Chicago between 1545-1615. HYPERLOOP WILL SOLVE!

b) The train is currently non-competitive on a 5.05 schedule vs. bus or auto at 3-3.30, despite the I-65 truck conga lines, Chicago parking rates, and weather. HYPERLOOP WILL SOLVE!

c) Ideally, there should be 3 daily frequencies (morning, noon, afternoon) HYPERLOOP WILL SOLVE!.

d) If Amtrak ever takes “The Cardinal” daily, it could potentially operate the “Hoosier State” daily on an alternative schedule.HYPERLOOP WILL SOLVE!

1) Indiana got used to the service enhancements provided by Iowa Pacific, but was willing to accept only when the bid was under the full cost to provide.

2) Iowa Pacific under-bid its services apparently with the intent to get one state corridor on the board, so it would have that story to offer to other potential current, or, new state corridor interests, seeking to have an option to Amtrak.

3) Passenger railroading is not cheap, with no flexibility for neophytes and wannabes; little room to negotiate costs, e.g., Class 1 track access and dispatching; cost of slot to achieve optimal timing and scheduling.

4) Without a 180 change in Congress, the “Hoosier State” will best exemplify our failed national transportation policy, bouncing along on freight trackage at almost twice the travel time required by interstate.

Thanks to Mark E. Singer for his AMTRAK comments.

Many Opponents to AMTRAK Scheme To Bypass Southeastern Connecticut Towns

Opposition to the proposed Amtrak bypass through southeastern Connecticut is more than bipartisan: It has become multi-partisan.

A recent statement warning that bullet-train tracks would erode New London’s tax base and damage historic sites was co-signed by the leaders of New London’s Republican, Democratic and Green parties.

“It is rare that political parties reach consensus on an issue, but on this we are united,” says their letter to federal railroad regulators.

For the past year and a half, the Amtrak bypass idea has been creating uncommon alliances throughout the region. Business leaders stand alongside environmentalists in fighting it, and politically conservative and liberal homeowners alike are pressing regulators to scuttle the plan.

It is a really “knock down and drag them out” battle. AMTRAK and the Federal Rail Admintration have spent all kinds of money. They keep talking about not “destroying historic towns”. Everybody wants to go to court.

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder sent the FRA more than 65 pages of reasons to kill the idea, all heavily laden with foot notes on relevant federal regulations. The CT Trust for Historic Preservation’s own letter cited an extensive number of legal cases.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Wednesday that he urged new Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to start a fresh review of the proposal. He has called it a “half-baked” waste of planning money that should have been used elsewhere.

I can stand back and be neutral. My feeling is the whole stupid battle is about BRIDGES.

There are eight very huge, moveable (can go up and down) bridges on the shoreline in Connecticut. AMTRAK uses all while the four bridges at the Western end are also used by commuters to New York City. The West End carries more passengers to NY City than AMTRAK ever dreamed of.

Connecticut Department of Transportation has “stepped up to the bar” on these. The other four at the East End are clearly in the hands of AMTRAK. These bridges were all built by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company in the late 19th Century to early 20th Century

Here’s why the future of the Caltrain Corridor is so important

Information from Curbed SF Mar 2, 2017 and Streetsblog Los Angeles (blog)-Feb 27, 2017

The electrification of commuter rail service between San Jose and San Francisco was all but ready to begin construction when Donald Trump’s transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, pulled the rug out from under the project earlier this month..

When California Republicans convinced the Department of Transportation to hold off on a $647 million federal grant for the transit corridor’s electrification plan, they did more than stall transportation progress for the region. The delay would put thousands of new jobs and much-needed housing projects on hold indefinitely. It’s not hyperbolic to say that the future economic growth of California stands in peril.

This is worrisome, to say the least. So much so that Caltrain created a petition on the White House site, urging the current administration to reverse course. But it’s about more than simply moving forward with electrification. Caltrain’s success is inextricably tied to multiple transportation and housing issues throughout the state.

President Trump is “barking up the wrong tree” about High Speed Rail

Just read a great story by MARK WHITTINGTON about Donald Trump’s interest in high speed rail may be made obsolete by the Hyperloop. Passengers and cargo could be moved at supersonic speeds at a fraction of the cost.

President Donald Trump is interested in building high-speed rail lines across the United States. The idea is that 200 miles per hour trains would whisk passengers and cargo between destinations, substantially cutting down travel times. However, an emerging technology called the #hyperloop may already be about to make the high-speed train obsolete.

The Hyperloop would propel people and cargo in pods down a sealed tube using magnetic accelerators at speeds more than 700 miles an hour. The technology was invented by SpaceX’s Elon Musk and is now being refined by a number of private companies. Musk claims that a Hyperloop line between Los Angeles and San Francisco would cost about $6 billion to build as opposed to the nearly $70 billion (and growing) that the proposed high-speed rail line is estimated to cost. The line would be solar powered and, since it is built on elevated pylons, would have less of a “footprint” than a rail line. Hyperloop lines could be built along Interstate highways.

The Trump administration should approach the siren call of building railroads with caution. To be sure existing rail lines and tunnels, some of them approaching a century old, need upgrading. But if a way can be found to move people and cargo between cities at greater speeds, as less cost, powered by renewable energy, using less land, then that way should be seriously considered. Great care, at any rate, should be taken when spending hundreds of billions of dollars. Perhaps a prototype project, connecting two cities somewhere in the United States, should be undertaken to test the usefulness of the Hyperloop before committing to high-speed rail.

Perhaps President Trump should start with a “smallish” project: connect Louisville and Chicago. AMTRAK has fallen on it’s face over the years on this one. Well, they have an airport and an Interstate Highway.

Our company has already proposed this project to HYPERLOOP ONE, the leading company in the Hyperloop field. We have already published details of this project.

We have tried to make it as simple as possible and bring costs down. We follow Interstate Highway 65 from Louisville to Gary, Indiana. Then, knowing the extreme difficulty of entering Chicago from the East, we took a novel change. Passengers and freight stop at the Gary International Airport and change to the South Shore Railroad (already rebuilt with government funds). Passengers get off at Millennium Station in downtown Chicago.

First finished Brightline train, now steaming to South Florida

Siemens workers gather as the first completed Brightline train gets set to roll from the manufacturing facility in Sacramento, Calif., bound for South Florida.

The train, consisting of two diesel-electric locomotives and four coaches, all decked out in Brightline Blue, arrived in West Palm Beach on Wednesday after a 3,000-mile journey from the Siemens manufacturing hub in Sacramento to South Florida. By rail, of course.

The train will now begin undergoing testing along the Florida East Coast Railway line between West Palm Beach and Miami, the company said.

Brightline’s parent company, Florida East Coast Industries subsidiary All Aboard Florida, is scheduled to start regular express passenger service between West Palm and Miami, with a stop in Fort Lauderdale, next summer. The company intends to add service to Orlando in 2018.

Connecticut’s WALK BRIDGE: Save It, Replace It or Reuse Parts?

A lot of more than just local interest in the “WALK BRIDGE” in Norwalk, Connecticut. The Metro-North Railroad Walk Bridge in Norwalk, Conn. Some Norwalk officials are calling for the Connecticut Department of Transportation to replace the Walk Bridge with an ‘iconic’ structure and some residents will likely miss the existing 120-year-old bridge. The Norwalk Preservation Trust states that the bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places and if the state must replace the bridge it should fully fund a Norwalk Historical Society Museum exhibit on the bridge and railroad.

This bridge carries not only dozens of Metro-North commuter trains, but also vital to AMTRAKs NorthEast Corridor between Boston and Washington, DC.

As the state gears up to replace the Walk Bridge, sentimentality is growing among local people over the iconic structure that has marked Norwalk’s skyline for 120 years.
“The loss of the existing bridge, its catenaries and high towers, as well as its brownstone structural elements would forever change the character of the area,” wrote the Norwalk Preservation Trust in its response to the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s report on the project. “We respectfully request that the repair and retention of the existing bridge be given further study in the hopes that demolition can be avoided.”

If the railroad bridge and its “associated elements must be demolished,” the NPT wants the DOT take a number of mitigation measures such as leaving the historic granite or brownstone abutments in place, or reusing them as part of the new bridge.

When built in 1896, the bridge was both state-of-the-art and also the last of its breed.
“In its wide proportions and heavy steel construction, the Norwalk bridge exemplifies the railroad swing bridge at its height of development: after the mid- 1890s, nearly all movable bridges were bascules of one type or another,” reads a portion of the nomination report that landed the bridge on the register.

Dick Carpenter of East Norwalk, author of “A Railroad Atlas of the United States in 1946,” said the Walk Bridge is the only four-track swing bridge that he knows of on a major rail line in the nation. That and its age are its distinguishing characteristics, he said

DOT, after considering more than 70 design concepts, ruled out repairing the existing bridge or replacing it with a fixed-bridge. The state’s preferred replacement is a 240-foot vertical lift bridge that would cost $425 million to $460 million to build. Work is slated to start in mid-2018.

“We are aware of numerous other century old bridges across the country that have been repaired and maintained and are expected to last for another century and beyond, such as the Williamsburg Bridge in New York,”

High Speed Rail Addressed By International Forum

News from the International High Speed Rail Association Forum, which brought together 286 participants from more than 20 countries in Kyoto on November 17.

Describing high speed rail as ‘a game changer’, IHRA Chairman Masafumi Shukuri said that it had the potential to transform society. He pointed to the Tokaido Shinkansen, now in operation for 52 years, suggesting that there was still a need to leverage the transformational impacts. Chairman Emeritus of JR Central Yoshiyuki Kasai noted that the line had created a single belt of cities that was the foundation of economic success for Japan.

In a video message Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said construction of the Chuo Shinkansen with superconducting maglev technology would revolutionise high speed rail in the 21st century and create ‘a corridor of regional revitalisation’. Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport & Tourism Keiichi Ishii believed the maglev project would change the national economic and social landscape, creating a ‘super mega-region’ and connecting 70 million people.

IHRA Vice-Chairman Torkel Patterson reported that high speed rail had advanced considerably in the last two years with commitments to develop lines in India and between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. ‘We are not sure how they will be done, but they will be built’, he said.

There is a need for co-operation, but this was no longer a certainty in a world coming to terms with drastic and unexpected changes exemplified by the Brexit vote and the arrival on the scene of President-Elect Donald Trump.