Amtrak announces more high-speed rail plans


Following on the moves in California last week to add high-speed rail links on the west coast, Amtrak announced plans this week to up train speeds on the east coast to over 200 miles per hour. These speeds will cut travel times between New York City and Philadelphia to less than 40 minutes; travel to Washington, DC and Boston will be around 90 minutes with the new speeds. Great news, should it ever actually come to pass.

The plan calls for more than $150 billion in spending to achieve these goals and provides no indication of where the funding will come from. Amtrak’s spokesman offered up some interesting insight on this issue. In addition to hoping that the NE Corridor can get some of the $450 million Florida rejected – money that California is also after – the following theory was offered:

You have to have a plan and if you have a plan, the money will follow.

They also plan to add rail connectivity to several airports in the region (PHL and HPN currently are not linked and are highlighted in the report) and note that the Acela rolling stock will need to be upgraded starting in the next decade.

Oh, and their target timeframe for all these improvements is 2040. Takes the concept of long-term vision to a whole new level.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

10 Comments

  1. Great; so by the time we have trains going 200+ to nowhere, China and Japan will have maglevs and vactrains between all metropolitan areas pushing 400.

    1. Let’s be fair, Joshua. In the NE Corridor the trains will actually be going somewhere. Just 30+ years later than they should have been.

  2. We are talking 30+ years though; by then, all of the residents of the NE corridor will have either moved south or out of the country to avoid increasing taxes. Anyone left wouldn’t be able to afford a ticket.

  3. Letting political opposition to a region dictate long-term transportation planning has to be one worst ideas I have ever heard.

  4. I am no fan of the 30yr timeframe and plans with out proper funding sources. However lets look at the dynamic in place here. Population grows and there is need for more transportation and you can get that in the following ways. Specially in the NE corridor

    1) Make the airports bigger to handle more passengers. If I remember most airports in that corridor are already stretched and at some point will have diminishing returns. Ofcouse all this costs money and we dont want to deal with the TSA handling more passengers either.
    2) Widen the roads which I am not sure how much can be achieved. But it does nothing to reduce the environmental factors that are part of the equation for mass transit.
    3) HSR and if they can ensure the commute is palatable to a plane ride more or less.

    All the above options cost money and HSR is probably the only one which could offer lot more spare capacity at this point and it does not need more land (presumably they can replace existing rails with rails required for HSR). Hopefully it will be sooner than 30 yr timeframe :).

  5. I don’t expect a fair fight on a air travel blog. I really don’t. But seriously folks if you believe your comments you deserve what you get.

    Next, this project is just a wish list that they’d like to do. It was released in late 2010/early 2011. This week saw an update in the cost expectations.

    Next, the vast majority of the costs involved are due to the two very deep caverns and tunnels needed across the hudson river and in philadelphia. Many of the improvements can be done for a small fraction of the full price but you’ll still have the choke points that these two areas create.

    Now lets discuss the costs. This is still a small fraction of what gets spent on highways and aviation. Neither of which cover their costs. So if anyone can tell me honestly why another option of travel for goods and people should be required to when the others are not, i’d love to hear it.

    If anyone is actually interested in the topic instead of just making baseless comments that make anyone with a brain immediately discount your opinion, you can find a very good write up about it on this blog. http://pedestrianobservations.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/northeast-corridor-hsr-90-cheaper/

    Like I said. I know my audience on this site here. I’m not surprised by what it says in the post nor the comments. But as people continue to breed, we’re going to get more crowded and we need to find solutions to moving both ourselves and also goods.

    1. I’m a huge proponent of HSR, Tenmoc. Have been for many, many years.

      My problem here isn’t the costs at all (though I don’t recall the government spending anything close to this on capital improvements for aviation infrastructure recently). It is the ridiculous timeline. If they really want to have HSR be a competitive option the NE Corridor is a great place to make that happen. Needing to spend 20+ years to get there is where I have a problem. And also planning and hyping the effort whilst having absolutely no way to pay for it.

      But mostly the ridiculous timeline.

  6. Glad to hear Seth. Timeline comes down to environmental studies, stages, the fact you need 2 very large and deep tunnels, and of course the idea that Amtrak is constantly fighting with the government for survival instead of making real plans going forward.

    In 5 years, with funding, you could the majority of what Alon writes for what he claims 10% of the cost.

  7. Oh. One more thing adding to time line unnecessarily. The fact that the FRA requires crash standards in trains that are well beyond the rest of the world so you can’t buy off the shelf but have to redesign everything.

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