Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Someone likes the idea then

Posted in America, High Speed, Infrastructure, Politics by Chairman Pip on 7 April 2011

In the wake of Governor Rick Scott pulling the plug on the $2.5bn of federal money that had been offered to complete the high speed route between Tampa and Orlando (and with it the prospect of high speed rail in Florida any time soon), the Department of Transportation has now made this money available to anyone else that would like to use it. And so, the DOT has received a total of 90 applications for money, from 24 individual states, plus the District of Columbia and Amtrak, that would cost $10bn if they were all accepted. California has asked for an additional $1.4bn, to add to the money it has already received to allow it to extend the first phase of its own high speed rail route to 290km, that would allow the section between Merced and Bakersfield to be virtually completed, plus allowing the start of construction of the branch to San Francisco. Amtrak meanwhile is seeking $1.3bn for infrastructure improvements on the Northeast Corridor to allow speed increases that would allow the flagship Acela Express to achieve more of its potential (Amtrak has already announced it will order an additional 40 Acela Express vehicles that will extend the trainsets to 10 car in its FY2012 budget request). In addition, it is after money to make a start on the Gateway Project, the ultimate aim of which is to turn the NE Corridor into a high speed line. A number of states in the north-east have asked for money for various infrastructure improvements to their conventional routes, as have states elsewhere (including Wisconsin, who originally rejected $810m of federal money for a route between Milwaukee and Madison, but is now after $150m to upgrade its part of the Chicago-Milwaukee route). While people in the United States may be moaning about the idea of high speed rail, and the cost of it, it seems apparent that there is an appetite for passenger trains in many areas, given how many of the applications are for infrastructure upgrades to existing routes, either to improve speeds or to remove bottlenecks. What will be interesting to see is the reaction from Florida in the event that rail, not just in terms of brand new high speed construction, but also infrastructure improvement, creates a boom in jobs around the country, first from the work on the railway, then from everything that would potentially come from that, that the Sunshine State could well end up missing out on.

“Northeast Corridor tops bidding for US high speed funding”
“Amtrak to add 40 coach cars to Acela Express under FY 2012 budget plan”

California's high speed rail project is now the only genuine one that has survived in the United States. However, the number of applications for Florida's unused money shows an appetite for passenger rail is still alive. Will Florida end up regretting not using the federal money for its own project, if other states feel the economic benefit?

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