The high-speed train that promises to transport passengers between Dallas and Houston in 90 minutes has been approved by the Federal Railroad Administration, according to Texas Central Railroad, the company in charge of the project.The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration issued the two key rulings, which provide the regulatory framework and the environmental review for the high-speed train, that Texas officials were waiting on to move forward with the project, according to the company. The announcement was first reported by the Houston Chronicle.Texas Central expects to start construction in the first half of 2021. The federal Surface Transportation Board still must approve the project before construction can begin. . . .The company estimates that the construction for the project will take up to six years, with a total cost of around $20 billion. The train will use the same technology as the Shinkansen bullet trains in Japan, which can reach speeds of more than 200 mph. . . .The project has seen resistance from property owners in rural areas of Central Texas, where the railroad would travel through. According to Texas Central Railroad, they already have control of over 600 parcels of land — approximately 40% of the parcels they need for the project as well as sites for stations in Dallas, Houston and the Brazos Valley.
XpressWest, a passenger rail project between Las Vegas and greater Los Angeles, a distance of about 170 miles, received the rights two weeks ago to build on the Interstate 15 median. Brightline, the Miami company that runs the project, plans to break ground later this year, with $5 billion of private funding, $4.2 billion of which will come in the form of tax-exempt bonds. Trains will reach speeds of 200 mph. It's expected to be completed in late 2023.A Texas project that will offer 90-minute-or-less trips between Houston and Dallas received an important environmental review in May after a six-year wait. It also won a state court case this spring that gives it eminent domain rights, which will simplify the process of acquiring land between the two cities, which lie 240 miles apart. . .Efforts began to speed up Northeast corridor train service in the 1990s, and the Acela launched in 2000. But the service isn't considered true high-speed rail without investment in the tracks and infrastructure, and Amtrak has struggled to find funding. High-speed rail interest re-emerged in 2008 when former President Obama pledged billions.High-speed rail advocates say that 2020 may be a turning point for US high-speed rail development, which has long lagged other developed nations. Japan began building high-speed rail in the 1960s. Europe followed in the 1980s and 1990s. Africa's first high-speed rail train came in 2018. China surpassed everyone in the last 12 years, building the world's largest high-speed rail network, stretching thousands of miles, and moving passengers at speeds of up to 217 mph.
Acela In The Northeast Corridor.
The Acela (/əˈsɛlə/ ə-SEL-ə; until September 2019 Acela Express) is Amtrak's flagship high speed service along the Northeast Corridor (NEC) in the Northeastern United States between Washington, D.C. and Boston via 16 intermediate stops, including Providence, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City. The route contains segments of high-speed rail, and Acela trains are the fastest trainsets in the Americas; they attain 150 mph (240 km/h) on 33.9 mi (54.6 km) of the route.Acela carried more than 3.4 million passengers in fiscal year 2016; second only to the slower and less expensive Northeast Regional, which had over 8 million passengers in FY 2016. Its 2016 revenue of US $585 million was 25% of Amtrak's total.Acela operates along routes that are used by freight and slower regional passenger traffic, and reaches the maximum allowed speed of the tracks only along some sections, with the fastest peak speed along segments between Mansfield, Massachusetts and Richmond, Rhode Island. Acela trains use active tilting technology, which helps control lateral centrifugal force, allowing the train to travel at higher speeds on the sharply curved NEC without disturbing passengers. The high-speed operation occurs mostly along the 226 mi (364 km) route from Pennsylvania Station in New York City to Union Station in Washington, D.C., with a fastest scheduled time of 2 hours and 45 minutes and an average speed of 82.2 mph (132.3 km/h), including time spent at intermediate stops. Over this route, Acela and the Northeast Regional service captured a 75% share of air/train commuters between New York and Washington in 2011, up from 37% in 2000.The Acela's speed is limited by traffic and infrastructure on the route's northern half. On the 231 mi (372 km) section from Boston's South Station to New York's Penn Station, the fastest scheduled time is 3 hours and 30 minutes, or an average speed of 66 mph (106 km/h). Along this section, Acela has still captured a 54% share of the combined train and air market. The entire 457 mi (735 km) route from Boston to Washington takes between 6 hours, 38 minutes and 6 hours, 50 minutes, at an average of around 70.3 mph (113.1 km/h).The present Acela Express equipment will be replaced by new Avelia Liberty trainsets, beginning in 2021. The new trains will have greater passenger capacity and an enhanced active tilt system that will allow faster speed on the many curved sections of the route. Amtrak plans to retire all current Acela trains by the end of 2022. . . .On August 26, 2016, Vice President Joe Biden announced a $2.45 billion federal loan package to pay for new equipment for the Acela Express service, as well as upgrades to the NEC. The loans will finance 28 trainsets, named the Avelia Liberty, that will be built by Alstom in Hornell and Rochester, New York and will replace the existing fleet of twenty trainsets.The fleet expansion will allow for hourly New York-Boston service all day and half-hourly New York-Washington service at peak hours. The new trainsets will be longer, offering 30% greater seating capacity and will feature active tilt technology that would allow service to operate at 186 miles per hour (299 km/h) if infrastructure improvements were completed to allow the higher speeds.The new trains will be phased in between 2021 and 2022, after which the current fleet is to be retired. Amtrak will pay off the loans from increased NEC passenger revenue.
From Wikipedia (references omitted).
Applying those criteria (and other criteria too) the study linked above proposed the following routes:
In reality, the orange lines have ended up getting built or upgraded, before the higher priority red lines, in part, because the cost is more manageable than building high speed rail lines through high density urban areas ($154 billion for the red Northeast Corridor upgrades in 2012 dollars v. $20 billion current dollars for the orange Texas line and $4.2 billion current dollars for a Palmdale to Las Vegas line).
Lines that involve only one or two states appear to be easier to coordinate than more involved multi-state lines.
Yellow and gray priority lines on the map above are too low down the priority list to be considered.
Proposals Stuck In The Planning Stage
A number of high and medium speed rail proposals are in the planning stage. They are imminent, but are further along that other lines that are merely a twinkle in the eye of some very long range planner, so they might happen someday.
The planned upgrade of the Acela line in the Northeast Corridor, because it is such as high priority, because there is already a foundation and ridership in place, and because this corridor is stable than declining economically, might get upgraded to true high speed rail status at some point. But, while new trains are planning, infrastructure improvements are basically just conceptual at this point.
The lines connecting Los Angeles to San Diego and Phoenix, are in the conceptual planning stages. So is the orange line in the Pacific Northwest where only studies are underway at this time. But these have some plausible chance of being built at some point.
The red and orange priority lines in the Midwest, and the orange priority lines from New York City to Albany, New York and from Atlanta to the District of Columbia, seem much less likely to be built with no real recent progress to date, and the unambitious plans made to date mostly involving modest increases in the speed of existing Amtrak service to "medium speed" rail.
Colorado High Speed Rail Proposals
For example, while Front Range high speed rail in Colorado and New Mexico might have a manageable price of about $11 billion (in 2020 dollars) for 90 to 180 mile per hour lines from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins, the Interstate Highway system there is quite adequate and fast considering the volume of traffic in this corridor.
This is particularly true if you are considering only half measures, like an 80 miles per hour line from Pueblo to Fort Collins along an Interstate highway where speed limits on the adjacent highways are already 75 miles per hour in many places.
But a cost of $18 billion or so (in 2020 dollars) from a high speed rail line from DIA to Eagle, Colorado (along I-70, more or less) while it would alleviate congestion, would have only about a quarter of the estimated traffic of the proposed Colorado Springs to Fort Collins line along the I-25 corridor, despite costing much more to build and really makes sense financially only to the extent it can alleviate the need to spend as much on expanding and/or maintaining I-70 in the mountains. According to a study from 2014:
Two studies from the Colorado Department of Transportation have estimated the cost of building high speed rail in Colorado.
With travel speeds of 90 to 180 mph, the system could save considerable time, said CDOT. A trip from C-470 and Interstate 70 in Golden to Breckenridge would take just more than a half hour; travel to Vail would take 50 minutes. Meanwhile, a trip from Fort Collins to DIA would take less than 40 minutes, and Colorado Springs to DIA would take less than an hour.CDOT also forecasts such a rapid system could serve 18 million to 19 million passengers a year in 2035.But preliminary capital costs are insurmountable, said Mark Imhoff, director of CDOT's division of transit and rail. A transit system linking DIA to Eagle would cost $16.5 billion, while Fort Collins to Pueblo comes in at $13.6 billion. A maximum of $1 billion to $3 billion could be obtained in private financing, leaving a considerable shortfall, Imhoff said.This is consistent with a previous report from November of last year, which also noted that the Fort Collins to Colorado Springs portion would cost about $9.8 billion and carry 13 million passengers a year. Extending light rail from Colorado Springs to Pueblo would add $2.8 billion to construction costs and only modestly improve ridership.The DIA to Eagle route would add about 4-5.5 million passengers (after considering an estimated allowance for Colorado Springs to Pueblo traffic out of the total), with an additional cost of $16.5 billion of infrastructure costs. Thus, the cost per rider in the mountains would be about four to five times as expensive per passenger as the Fort Collins to Colorado Springs route to build.
UPDATE October 6, 2020.
This plan below isn't realistically going to happen any time in the next couple of decades, but is a dream plan that might have happened in the absence of an Interstate Highway system.