For a country so in love with speed, America is certainly lagging behind the rest of the world in bringing its trains into the new era.
Europe and Asia in particular have long had access to high-speed trains, which offer blisteringly fast rides that approach, or even surpass, the speed of domestic flight – often at a lower cost, and with less damage to the environment.
Thus far, the only high-speed rail line in America is the Acela Express along the northeast corridor, but many proposals are in various stages of planning. Compared to high-speed rail in other first world countries, the United States lags far behind.
The largest project for American high-speed rail is the California High-Speed Rail network, which was authorized by voters with Proposition 1A in 2008. The California High-Speed Rail Authority is currently in the design, engineering and environmental review process. In August 2013, Tutor Perini signed a 1 billion dollar contract to begin construction of the first phase in 2014.
There are many proven models of high-speed rail around the world. Japan and parts of Europe have set the stage and proven the concept for many high-speed rail projects. The major issue facing most high-speed rail corridors is funding and the time frame of the projects. The earliest estimated time for the completion for high-speed rail in California, for example, is 2028. These high-speed rail corridors are expected to start in the next five years.
Billions of dollars have already been set aside for developing high-speed rail corridors since the implementation of the stimulus package of 2009. The following is a list of federally and state-designated high-speed rail corridors around the country, set to be built in the next decade.
California High Speed Rail
The California High-Speed Rail project is planned to replace several Amtrak services, going from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and connecting to San Diego as well.
The project received early funding through a $9.95 billion bond issuance, though the final price tag is likely to be in the rage of 10 times that amount.
The Keystone Corridor is a high-speed rail corridor planned with a 349-mile railroad line between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
That range of track currently hosts Amtrak services from Harrisburg to New York City and Pittsburgh to New York City.
New York High Speed Rail
High-speed rail is a popular idea in the region, but little headway has been made in making it a reality.
A big reason for its popularity: high-speed trains could expand the influence of New York City, allowing further commutes in shorter amounts of time, and thus letting people enjoy big city salaries without the rent that goes along with them.
High-speed rail currently services New York City, but it is currently overused and faces many delays. Service would also be improved on that corridor.
Florida High Speed Rail
Florida High Speed Rail is a proposed high-speed rail project in the U.S. state of Florida. Initial service will run between the cities of Tampa and Orlando, with plans to then extend service to South Florida, terminating in Miami. Trains with a top speed of 186 mph would run on dedicated rail lines alongside the state’s existing highway network.
A private sector express passenger service running across much of the proposed route has been proposed by the Florida East Coast Railway. This project, All Aboard Florida, is due to begin operations in 2015 and is currently under construction.
South Central Corridor
There is a plan to connect San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas/Ft. by a rail system that, all going well, would be quick and cheaper than current transport options.
This was the same model Southwest Airlines used 20 years earlier to break into the Texas market where it served the same three cities. The plan is to also extend the network through Arkansas and Oklahoma, but it continues to face pressure from Southwest Airlines.
There are also plans that would connect Dallas and San Antonio and Houston and Dallas, completing two of the sides of the triangle.
Chicago Hub Network
The Chicago Hub Network is a collection of proposed fast conventional and high-speed rail lines in the Midwestern United States including 3,000 miles of track.
Since the 1990s, there have been multiple proposals to improve the links from Chicago, Illinois to major destinations including Indianapolis, Indiana, Detroit, Michigan, Cleveland, Ohio, Kansas City, Missouri, St. Louis, Missouri, Cincinnati, Ohio, Louisville, Kentucky, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota.
It would be the fastest trains to serve Chicago and the region since the 1950s. Chicago continues to be the nation’s largest rail hub, and remains unsurpassed in the nation in the total number of passenger and freight trains that converge on the city. Presently, Chicago is a major hub for Amtrak, with 15 different lines terminating at Union Station.
Ohio Hub Network
The Ohio Hub is a high-speed railway project proposed by the Ohio Department of Transportation aimed at revitalizing passenger rail service in the Ohio region. Upon completion, the transit system will be composed of 860 mi of track serving a couple dozen stations.
It will connect four states along with southern Ontario, consisting of 11 major metropolitan areas and 22 million people. The hub would be at the Cleveland Airport.
XpressWest, which was formerly known as DesertXpress, is a proposed line that would connect Palmdale and Victorville, California, to Las Vegas, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Denver.
The goal is to have this rail system become a viable alternative to long road trips by car, as well as to reopen rail lines to Vegas, which hasn’t had that kind of service for decades.
Currently, there is no passenger train service to Las Vegas. Amtrak last operated passenger train service to Las Vegas in 1997 on its Desert Wind route, which was cancelled due to budget cuts.
Pacific Northwest Corridor
The Pacific Northwest Corridor would connect Eugene, Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia, along with several cities along the way.
That section of track is used by local rail services, including Amtrak Cascades, the Coast Starlight, and the Empire Builder. The corridor is owned by the BNSF and the UPRR freight railroad lines.
The Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor is a passenger rail transportation project in the United States to extend high-speed passenger rail services from Washington, DC south through Richmond and Petersburg with a spur to Norfolk in Virginia. It will also go through Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro and south to Charlotte in North Carolina.
It connects with the existing high-speed rail corridor from DC to Boston, Massachusetts, known as the Northeast Corridor. It is one of the corridors that is federally designated as a future high-speed rail corridor by the government and is eligible for funding.
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