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Published on January 29th, 2010 | by Christopher DeMorro

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Obama Announces $8 Billion For High Speed Trains

Trains are an integral part of American history, and, until the turn of the 20th century, they were the main mode of long distance transportation for most people… hence the reason why owning all four railroads in a Monopoly game is awesome. But trains aren’t what they used to be, at least in this country. We lack a real, innovative, high speed train system.

That might just change though as the Obama administration announced $8 billion in grants to over a dozen states to build, upgrade, and otherwise improve rail systems. But is it going to be enough?

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The biggest winner (surprise surprise) is California. The Golden State was awarded $2.3 billion, almost all of which will be devoted to a high speed rail system running from Los Angeles to San Francisco at speeds of up to 220 mph. This is about half of what California wanted; it could cost upwards of $45 billion to complete only the first two phases of the project according to the Rail Authority. California estimates that by 2030, a finished high speed train project will carry 65 to 96 million riders per year between cities, though other estimates say the number will more likely be 23 to 31 million users (as well as projecting a cost of up to $81 billion). So really this grant amounts to nothing more than a drop in the bucket in terms of required funding.

Moving on from California, the next biggest winners were the Midwest states with $2.6 billion. A proposed high-speed train corridor would allow trains to run at 110 mph between Chicago and St. Louis as well as improving various stations and rail services across the other states. Florida also managed to grab over $1.8 billion to build 84 miles of track between Tampa and Orlando as well as improve existing tracks in other parts of the state.

Money will also go to a railway between Charlotte, N.C. and Washington D.C. to allow existing trains to go at speeds around 90 mph. $520 million will be dedicated to 30 “interrelated projects” to improve this corridor.

My home region, the Northeast, got hosed. Bad. With under $500 million in grants spread out between seven states, from Maine to Washington D.C. What pisses me off is that we already have a high speed commuter train. Yeah, I didn’t know that until yesterday. The Acela Express runs between New York and Boston and is capable of speeds up to 150 mph and it is the only train line in the US that meets the definition of high speed rail. But, because of space limitations the train’s speed usually hovers around 90 mph. South of New York the speed is just 80 mph.  There are a lot of outdated rails and centenary systems and old bridges hindering speeds, but none of the appropriated funds seem directed at solving these problems.

Nuts.

For  complete breakdown of who got how much money, go here.

Source: White House Website | Image: Tim Gilliam




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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or esle, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.



  • John

    Great — so we’re going to spend the least money in the part of the country where strong demand for rail actually exists.

    I think they should have spent all of the money in the northeast to create a high-speed rail showcase that the rest of the nation could look to as an example of what high-speed rail can be. Instead, this money is going to be so diluted that nobody will be able to see any real accomplishment, and everyone will conclude that it was a waste of money.

  • John

    Great — so we’re going to spend the least money in the part of the country where strong demand for rail actually exists.

    I think they should have spent all of the money in the northeast to create a high-speed rail showcase that the rest of the nation could look to as an example of what high-speed rail can be. Instead, this money is going to be so diluted that nobody will be able to see any real accomplishment, and everyone will conclude that it was a waste of money.

  • John

    Great — so we’re going to spend the least money in the part of the country where strong demand for rail actually exists.

    I think they should have spent all of the money in the northeast to create a high-speed rail showcase that the rest of the nation could look to as an example of what high-speed rail can be. Instead, this money is going to be so diluted that nobody will be able to see any real accomplishment, and everyone will conclude that it was a waste of money.

  • John

    Great — so we’re going to spend the least money in the part of the country where strong demand for rail actually exists.

    I think they should have spent all of the money in the northeast to create a high-speed rail showcase that the rest of the nation could look to as an example of what high-speed rail can be. Instead, this money is going to be so diluted that nobody will be able to see any real accomplishment, and everyone will conclude that it was a waste of money.

  • Zach

    for more details on this (& maps!) on the GO network, check out High-Speed Rail for the US, Finally!: http://cleantechnica.com/2010/01/28/high-speed-rail-for-the-us-finally/

  • Zach

    for more details on this (& maps!) on the GO network, check out High-Speed Rail for the US, Finally!: http://cleantechnica.com/2010/01/28/high-speed-rail-for-the-us-finally/

  • Zach

    for more details on this (& maps!) on the GO network, check out High-Speed Rail for the US, Finally!: http://cleantechnica.com/2010/01/28/high-speed-rail-for-the-us-finally/

  • Zach

    nice coverage of the fact that most of these systems need a lot more money to get going (and nice follow-up commentary by John). that is the big question, will they ever get all the money they need to actually happen?

    my sources (also via The White House, but different & slightly more comprehensive reports) show the Northeast getting $1.191 billion.

    It is only getting $485 million from ARRA High-Speed Rail Grants, but getting $706 million from ARRA Amtrak Grants (the only area that seems to be getting that money).

  • Zach

    nice coverage of the fact that most of these systems need a lot more money to get going (and nice follow-up commentary by John). that is the big question, will they ever get all the money they need to actually happen?

    my sources (also via The White House, but different & slightly more comprehensive reports) show the Northeast getting $1.191 billion.

    It is only getting $485 million from ARRA High-Speed Rail Grants, but getting $706 million from ARRA Amtrak Grants (the only area that seems to be getting that money).

  • MD

    Zach, can you superimpose the existing electrical grid over the proposed national high speed train grid…

    What I’m getting at is this, if the trains right away has the room, the train routes could also be used for adding more transmission capacity/routing to the national grid.

  • MD

    Zach, can you superimpose the existing electrical grid over the proposed national high speed train grid…

    What I’m getting at is this, if the trains right away has the room, the train routes could also be used for adding more transmission capacity/routing to the national grid.

  • MD

    Zach, can you superimpose the existing electrical grid over the proposed national high speed train grid…

    What I’m getting at is this, if the trains right away has the room, the train routes could also be used for adding more transmission capacity/routing to the national grid.

  • ChuckL

    Zach, Great idea. It would also make it very easy to make these trains electric without the “diesel-” prefix.

    I believe that a better financing method would be to grant a tax benefit to the companies that make the improvements. That way, instead of politicians deciding where to make these improvements, we would have a profit incentive deciding on the location. Since profit would depend on ridership, the most needy locations would be built first.

  • ChuckL

    Zach, Great idea. It would also make it very easy to make these trains electric without the “diesel-” prefix.

    I believe that a better financing method would be to grant a tax benefit to the companies that make the improvements. That way, instead of politicians deciding where to make these improvements, we would have a profit incentive deciding on the location. Since profit would depend on ridership, the most needy locations would be built first.

  • JohnG

    8 billion is a lot more than nothing. It’s a start. I can’t get over how good it would be to have a good national high-speed rail system, to have an option besides slow, tiresome car travel or all the expense, indignities and discomfort inflicted by airline travel. Not to mention being better for the environment than both.

    I really want to have that option some day.

  • JohnG

    8 billion is a lot more than nothing. It’s a start. I can’t get over how good it would be to have a good national high-speed rail system, to have an option besides slow, tiresome car travel or all the expense, indignities and discomfort inflicted by airline travel. Not to mention being better for the environment than both.

    I really want to have that option some day.

  • JohnG

    8 billion is a lot more than nothing. It’s a start. I can’t get over how good it would be to have a good national high-speed rail system, to have an option besides slow, tiresome car travel or all the expense, indignities and discomfort inflicted by airline travel. Not to mention being better for the environment than both.

    I really want to have that option some day.

  • JohnG

    8 billion is a lot more than nothing. It’s a start. I can’t get over how good it would be to have a good national high-speed rail system, to have an option besides slow, tiresome car travel or all the expense, indignities and discomfort inflicted by airline travel. Not to mention being better for the environment than both.

    I really want to have that option some day.

  • http://extremegreenvillage.com Bob Henry

    These high speed trains are dinosaurs. Think about how many tons of train has to moved in order to move a human being.

    Think….

    Small car size electric vehicle on elevated rails. No large stations. pick up and drop off all over. No parking lot problems.

    Even on this website their are better alternatives than this.

  • http://extremegreenvillage.com Bob Henry

    These high speed trains are dinosaurs. Think about how many tons of train has to moved in order to move a human being.

    Think….

    Small car size electric vehicle on elevated rails. No large stations. pick up and drop off all over. No parking lot problems.

    Even on this website their are better alternatives than this.

  • Martin K.

    What are the chances everyone and their grandma will want to ride these trains? Seriously, I don’t know. Does anybody? If we sink $8 billion into all of the infrastructure, equipment, and labor but nobody wants to ride the trains we’ll be bailing them out in a few years time.

  • Martin K.

    What are the chances everyone and their grandma will want to ride these trains? Seriously, I don’t know. Does anybody? If we sink $8 billion into all of the infrastructure, equipment, and labor but nobody wants to ride the trains we’ll be bailing them out in a few years time.

  • Martin K.

    What are the chances everyone and their grandma will want to ride these trains? Seriously, I don’t know. Does anybody? If we sink $8 billion into all of the infrastructure, equipment, and labor but nobody wants to ride the trains we’ll be bailing them out in a few years time.

  • Martin K.

    What are the chances everyone and their grandma will want to ride these trains? Seriously, I don’t know. Does anybody? If we sink $8 billion into all of the infrastructure, equipment, and labor but nobody wants to ride the trains we’ll be bailing them out in a few years time.

  • mosesnbklyn

    One little problem: if we actually waste any more money of multiple HSR projects the airline industry will very simply say, “goodbye!” Now, I agree if your first response is good riddance, but seriously, the northeast ACELA should be a good example of what NOT to do. ridership is low, many complained, low-speed limitations. America happens to be much bigger than EU, Taiwan, and Japan – geographically this makes HSR too expensive. We need to focus on the most congested traffic corridors. If we build a line in the midwest it damn better go from Chicago to New Orleans (north to south) etc. It would be much easier to retrofit airplanes to run on hydrogen from Nukes than build HSR. I know – I like the concept of HSR too, but its only economically feasible in the most congested routes (present and possibly future).

  • mosesnbklyn

    One little problem: if we actually waste any more money of multiple HSR projects the airline industry will very simply say, “goodbye!” Now, I agree if your first response is good riddance, but seriously, the northeast ACELA should be a good example of what NOT to do. ridership is low, many complained, low-speed limitations. America happens to be much bigger than EU, Taiwan, and Japan – geographically this makes HSR too expensive. We need to focus on the most congested traffic corridors. If we build a line in the midwest it damn better go from Chicago to New Orleans (north to south) etc. It would be much easier to retrofit airplanes to run on hydrogen from Nukes than build HSR. I know – I like the concept of HSR too, but its only economically feasible in the most congested routes (present and possibly future).

  • mosesnbklyn

    One little problem: if we actually waste any more money of multiple HSR projects the airline industry will very simply say, “goodbye!” Now, I agree if your first response is good riddance, but seriously, the northeast ACELA should be a good example of what NOT to do. ridership is low, many complained, low-speed limitations. America happens to be much bigger than EU, Taiwan, and Japan – geographically this makes HSR too expensive. We need to focus on the most congested traffic corridors. If we build a line in the midwest it damn better go from Chicago to New Orleans (north to south) etc. It would be much easier to retrofit airplanes to run on hydrogen from Nukes than build HSR. I know – I like the concept of HSR too, but its only economically feasible in the most congested routes (present and possibly future).

  • mosesnbklyn

    One little problem: if we actually waste any more money of multiple HSR projects the airline industry will very simply say, “goodbye!” Now, I agree if your first response is good riddance, but seriously, the northeast ACELA should be a good example of what NOT to do. ridership is low, many complained, low-speed limitations. America happens to be much bigger than EU, Taiwan, and Japan – geographically this makes HSR too expensive. We need to focus on the most congested traffic corridors. If we build a line in the midwest it damn better go from Chicago to New Orleans (north to south) etc. It would be much easier to retrofit airplanes to run on hydrogen from Nukes than build HSR. I know – I like the concept of HSR too, but its only economically feasible in the most congested routes (present and possibly future).

  • Nick

    mosebklyn: Ridership on the NE corridor, and especially the Acela is the highest on any part of the Amtrak system. The limiting factor is the capacity of the tracks (especially through Manhattan, but NJT’s building a new tunnel for their trains, so a few slots should open up from the west, and the LIRR is building their tunnel to Grand Central, meaning a few slots should open up to the east as well.

    The biggest problem for high-speed rail in the US are insane buff strength requirements from the FRA, which means that trains have to be much, much heavier (more expensive to run, slower acceleration, etc) than in any of the European or Asian countries that have great HSR (who use advanced signalling to avoid crashes instead of requiring that a train be able to survive a crash intact). The Florida and California HSR’s get around this by completely separating their tracks from the rest of the railroad system.

    The US is bigger than Europe, but east of the Mississippi, the population densities aren’t all that dissimilar. Noone is talking about building a national HSR system, that would be insane in a country like the US, but rather regional systems, many of which, especially in the east, will be interconnected.

  • Nick

    mosebklyn: Ridership on the NE corridor, and especially the Acela is the highest on any part of the Amtrak system. The limiting factor is the capacity of the tracks (especially through Manhattan, but NJT’s building a new tunnel for their trains, so a few slots should open up from the west, and the LIRR is building their tunnel to Grand Central, meaning a few slots should open up to the east as well.

    The biggest problem for high-speed rail in the US are insane buff strength requirements from the FRA, which means that trains have to be much, much heavier (more expensive to run, slower acceleration, etc) than in any of the European or Asian countries that have great HSR (who use advanced signalling to avoid crashes instead of requiring that a train be able to survive a crash intact). The Florida and California HSR’s get around this by completely separating their tracks from the rest of the railroad system.

    The US is bigger than Europe, but east of the Mississippi, the population densities aren’t all that dissimilar. Noone is talking about building a national HSR system, that would be insane in a country like the US, but rather regional systems, many of which, especially in the east, will be interconnected.

  • Nick

    mosebklyn: Ridership on the NE corridor, and especially the Acela is the highest on any part of the Amtrak system. The limiting factor is the capacity of the tracks (especially through Manhattan, but NJT’s building a new tunnel for their trains, so a few slots should open up from the west, and the LIRR is building their tunnel to Grand Central, meaning a few slots should open up to the east as well.

    The biggest problem for high-speed rail in the US are insane buff strength requirements from the FRA, which means that trains have to be much, much heavier (more expensive to run, slower acceleration, etc) than in any of the European or Asian countries that have great HSR (who use advanced signalling to avoid crashes instead of requiring that a train be able to survive a crash intact). The Florida and California HSR’s get around this by completely separating their tracks from the rest of the railroad system.

    The US is bigger than Europe, but east of the Mississippi, the population densities aren’t all that dissimilar. Noone is talking about building a national HSR system, that would be insane in a country like the US, but rather regional systems, many of which, especially in the east, will be interconnected.

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