High Speed Rail to connect Charlotte, Raleigh, RTP and Washington DC

High Speed Rail to connect Charlotte, Raleigh, RTP and Washington DC

January, 28, 2010 , by David

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This afternoon President Obama will make the announcement that North Carolina will be recipient of $520 Million in federal funds to pay for improvements of our rail infrastructure between Raleigh and Charlotte. 

North Carolina is one of several states including Florida and Virginia that will be receiving funds. The funds will go to upgrading existing rail lines to handle the high speed trains that travel an average of 85 miles an hour and as much as 110 miles an hour.  A presidential administration official will accompany other stake holders in an announcement this afternoon in Durham.  The Regional Transit Alliance was instrumental in securing this funding and is excited about the dramatic way it will enhance interstate transit as well as lay the ground work for stronger regional transit. 

Image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/loudtiger/








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  • balalacava
    01/28 01:21 PM

    so will the white house official be accompanying porterhouse holders, or maybe the Durham announcement is limited to holders of prime rib?

  • DPK
    01/28 01:42 PM

    We should have been pushing for rail in the 60’s instead of building roads everywhere.

  • Jonathan
    01/28 02:08 PM

    These speeds are hardly what I would qualify as high speed rail, but none the less it’s still a massive step forward for the United States, and I hope this is only the beginning.

  • ct
    01/28 02:44 PM

    It is an important step forward. Way back in 1996, Gov. Jim Hunt set a 2-hour objective for Raleigh-Charlotte passenger trains… faster than anyone could possibly drive. This new funding should get us to 2 hours 30 minutes, at least… as fast as anyone can drive (legally).

    Among other things, the station in Cary will be staffed. The dangerous grade crossing at Hopson Road in RTP will be replaced by a bridge. You may also see the Blue Ridge Road grade crossing completely redesigned.

    The money will also continue the planning for Raleigh-Richmond… which will require over $2 billion to construct. Whether that project will ever get funded, we’ll have to wait and see.

    The other question left hanging is a new train station for Raleigh. Charlotte will get theirs.

  • Jonathan
    01/28 02:46 PM

    Supposedly in the next week or two the city will be releasing the new plans for the multi-modal transit center for public review.

  • ct
    01/28 02:54 PM

    I’m anxious to see those plans. I’ll also be interested to hear where the money will come from. Meeker still hasn’t obtained the $150M+ for a public safety building. I assume a transporation center large enough to meet Raleigh’s needs for the next 30 years will be an eight-figure project of its own.

  • elizabeth
    01/28 04:11 PM

    you scooped everybody on this one

  • Bryce
    01/28 05:10 PM

    Sounds like there may be some crossover, but I think every dollar would be better spent first on a local, light rail system within the Triangle.

  • ct
    01/28 05:18 PM

    But it’s a different bucket of money. Obama made a policy decision to spend $8 billion on inter-city rail. Local rail doesn’t qualify. There is speculation that the Federal Transit Administration (a different agency) is revising its rules and may reconsider its 2006 decision not to fund Triangle Transit, but that’s way down the road.

    In the meantime.. some of the projects for the Raleigh-Charlotte service will benefit local rail—in the context of commuter trains that run on existing tracks.

  • Arthur
    01/28 06:34 PM

    They need to build the combined transit station along Harget Street so that all the buses and trains all in one location. It would help with switching services and then they could provide parking by building a deck where all those wharehouses are—and maybe some condos.

  • Tony Spencer
    01/28 06:39 PM

    Buy it now and make someone else pay for it later! Change we can believe in.

    Thanks China

  • TSnow27604
    01/28 07:11 PM

    Tony is banned from the train.

  • Tony Spencer
    01/28 07:23 PM

    @TSnow :) I like a train just as much as the next guy.

    Running up debt aside, I do wonder if there will really be many riders. I’d definitely choose it over the car for a trip to Charlotte or DC but I make a maximum of 2 of those trips a year. Are there enough people out there doing business on a regular basis to fill the train? I doubt it.

    Raleigh-RTP brings back memories of commuting from SF to Silicon Valley on Caltrain. Sounds great but its the last mile that was a pain the ass.

  • Whodat
    01/28 08:40 PM

    I wish this endeavor much success, but is everyone blind to the fact that this is Amtrak? They can’t get low-speed rail right and Acela, the high-speed link between DC and Boston, is fraught with problems. Not to mention they can’t turn a profit…glad it’s gov’t subsidized so they have an endless supply of taxpayer dollars…

  • Jonathan
    01/28 10:07 PM

    I don’t think there is a rail system in the world that turns a profit.  Do our roads turn a profit?

  • ct
    01/28 10:58 PM

    Reality is, almost no company turns a legitimate profit in the people transportation business. Southwest does manage a low level of profitability—not surprising, given that government money builds all their airports and ATC system for them—but otherwise, all the airlines are in the can. And even Southwest doesn’t earn its cost of capital.

    I guess all the Ayn Rand devotees should ride their bikes on cross-country trails.

    Amtrak does a decent job given its constraints, I think. The air lobby and the highway lobby have sought to starve Amtrak of funding ever since 1971.

  • Tony Spencer
    01/28 11:11 PM

    “I don’t think there is a rail system in the world that turns a profit.  Do our roads turn a profit?”

    I took a Virgin train from London to Manchester last year. Very nice ride.  Googled it on a hunch:

    Profits after tax   £76.42m
    35% increase over previous year

  • Jonathan
    01/28 11:23 PM

    Wow that is quite a return.  That is definitely the exception to the rule though.  The point is that while we should try to be as financially efficient as possible, rail should be viewed more like highways are as infrastructure investments.  And while they are unlikely to turn profits, the economic effects in areas near stations are enormous.

  • ct
    01/29 12:16 AM

    Virgin Trains don’t own the tracks or most of the stations. They just operate the trains. Actually, that was the original model for Amtrak—but when Penn Central and the other Northeast railroads collapsed, politicians found it expedient to transfer many of PC’s assets onto Amtrak, which became one of two conduits (Conrail was the other) to clean up the mess.

  • Tony Spencer
    01/29 09:02 AM

    Does anyone know if there were studies done to estimate the number of people that would ride these trains daily?  Or did the politicians simply point at the map and say “Big city here, big city there, lets connect them!”

  • smitty
    01/29 09:39 AM

    Who is going to pay for the train after the recovery money goes away?

  • ct
    01/29 10:39 AM

    NCDOT and SEHSR have commissioned a series of consultant studies on ridership and financial projections. Funding to operate these trains is a fraction of the annual cost of maintaining 78,000 miles of roads (the amount that NCDOT is responsible for—exclusive of city streets). NCDOT’s overall budget is $4 billion annually. The rail program will be roundoff error.

  • Arthur
    01/29 10:50 AM

    CT is right. We need gas to go back up to $5 a gallon then people will get more serious about taking public transit and making time to allow for the commute!

  • truth
    01/29 05:12 PM

    By car the trip from Raleigh to Charlotte takes 3 hours.  This train will make the trip in 2 hours and 15 minutes.  $520 million to save a few people 45 minutes?  Factor in the drive time to the terminal, and it’s not saving you any time at all.  What a great idea.

  • ct
    01/29 05:23 PM

    The money isn’t just going to improve trip times; it’s also to increase track capacity for more trips between endpoints. Not everybody rides the trains from one endpoint to the other. If someone takes the train from Durham to High Point for a meeting, they won’t want to wait for six hours on a return train. Frequency drives ridership, but frequency also requires track capacity—what a lot of the $500 million is for.

    If you believe you can always drive from Raleigh to Charlotte in 3 hours, try it tomorrow. Or try it anytime Thanksgiving weekend. Or when there’s a race in Concord. Etc.

    The $500 million also has to be taken in context of the ultimate Charlotte-Washington plan. A good chunk of the $500 million will be spent to put an adequate train station back into downtown Charlotte, where it was until the late 1960s.

    I agree with you, though, about driving to/from where you’re actually going to in Charlotte or Raleigh. Charlotte is a lot better off than Raleigh in the sense that Charlotte has many offices downtown and a light rail system that works. Raleigh… we’re not there yet, but we could be.

  • Harry Seaward
    01/30 05:40 PM

    what is and what will be the price for a roundtrip ticket from raleigh to charlotte? anything more than $50 and this doesn’t seem too enticing.

  • ct
    01/30 06:06 PM

    Current RT price Raleigh-Charlotte is $50, and I don’t believe there are any plans to change it.

  • bluestater
    02/01 11:24 AM

    what can i walk to when i get to rdu? from clt. do i have to rent a car there? amtrak goes by my office everyday in clt. after it leaves the station and it is empty.  a waste of money.

  • Jonathan Parker
    02/01 02:00 PM

    To be clear, there are no plans for HSR to stop in RTP, or even in Cary for that matter (though that might be more of an open question).  The current HSR plans call for stops within the region in Durham and Raleigh only.  Of course, some track improvements are needed in the region to facilitate increased passenger train frequencies, and those improvements (when they come) would likely enhance the opportunities for a regional commuter rail connection between Raleigh and Durham.  In any case, without any investment in regional rail, service between the Triangle’s two largest cities (including a few stops in Cary) could number 9 per direction day later in the decade.

    On the economic viability of high speed rail, USDOT has said that the SEHSR corridor would provide the greatest benefit of any US HSR project for the cost (2.54 multiplier), and would be the only such project to recover it’s operating costs once in service. 
    ...
    Citation: http://www.sehsr.org/faq.html

  • ct
    02/01 02:16 PM

    Jonathan Parker is correct. Trains that run only Raleigh-Charlotte will stop at many stations; NCDOT has apparently agreed to add stations at Hillsborough and Lexington, even though doing so makes overall Raleigh-Charlotte times somewhat slower.

    SEHSR trains that continue north from Raleigh will stop at fewer stations on the Raleigh-Charlotte segment—probably only Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, and perhaps one station between Greensboro and Charlotte.

  • Cackalacka
    02/02 05:01 PM

    I love how folks point to rail traffic’s modest subsidies and think to themselves that the marketplace has rejected this particular concept.

    Never mind the cost of road or highway maintenance, or the maintenance of airports.

    HAVE Y’ALL HEARD ABOUT A LITTLE CAR COMPANY CALLED GM? How’s that whole ‘free market’ thing working out for YOUR preferred conveyence of choice?

    Oh, and sure, it ‘only’ shaves off 45 minutes of net travel; that’s assuming that everyone is a healthy adult who can drive.

    Some day, I hope to be old and impared, and when I am, I’d rather have a choice of transit options, rather than live in a world completely populated by sociopathic Ayn Rand diciples.

    Oh, and last time I went to Charlotte was for a Panthers game. If you can make it to and from EricksonnationsbankWhateverthehelltheycall it in under 4 1/2 hours each way on game day, well, kudos, you have discovered time travel.

  • Jen
    02/02 06:39 PM

    I like the idea of a high speed rail connecting Raleigh and other cities but I hope they work with the City of Raleigh on the project. It will quickly turn into a mess if we have a local light rail system that’s completely separate from a regional one.

  • smitty
    02/02 07:05 PM

    So, other than people going to see Nascar or the Panthers, who will use this train?

  • ErnstStarvoBlofeld
    02/03 12:26 PM

    Tony I have taken that Caltrain from San Jose to SF and back many many many times.  It is a lifesaver and although some may think it is a PITA, I also see many people take it.  I have co workers who take it every day so I am not so sure I agree with you on this.  Give be Caltrain any day over driving in the bay area up to SF.

  • Titus Pullo
    02/05 03:28 PM

    I don’t believe a word of it.

  • lcostello
    06/10 12:20 AM

    Regional Transportation Alliance, not regional transit alliance.

    Although still, http://www.letsgetmoving.org

  • Eugene Reese
    08/30 08:32 PM

    Elevated transit systems using the recently developed magnet (not maglev)levitation system which allows vehicles to travel up to 300 MPH providing the design has a safe ingress and egress switching system.

    The full disclosure is described in reeserail.com.
    Recent developments by Lawrence Livermore and General Atomics, San Diego, CA have resulted in patents for a heavy lift car levitation system tested so far to 16,000 pounds per car using only free magnetic repulsion to lift their test vehicle. Propulsion and braking is by a centrally located linear-synchronous motor.
     If there was a safe way to exit one or more cars from a string of hundreds of cars while traveling at high speeds the system could move more passengers and light freight than the railroads at about the same cost per mile, thus the patented Reese switching design.
    Switching description:  The linear synchronous motor is contained in a long keel that rides in a groove in the center of the elevated rail. Switching is accomplished by lowering the keel and motor assembly to a deeper groove that guides the vehicle slowly to another elevated rail while slicing diagonally through one set of specially designed magnets that are embedded on both sides of the rail. Once the vehicle(s) is clear of the main rail it can proceed to another destination or brake and lower to grade level, lower tires and travel on conventional roadways. While a vehicle is on the elevated rail no part of the vehicle is in contact with any hard surface thus there is no friction or wear. Ingress requires the computer to produce a gap in traffic to safely apply power to the entering vehicles and denying power to the main traffic.
    Cost: Conventional high speed rail requires surface hardening, fencing, and automobile overpasses. These items are cost eliminated for the elevated transit system and the difference applied to the magnet array costs. Electrical costs are low compared to high speed rail and the vehicles will probably be purchased by the users.
    Green: Further, elevated rails do not dam up wetlands, cut off farmer’s fields, disturb wild life, hamper surface traffic, and will run much quieter than surface rail.
                                                                                                

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