Is High Speed Rail Coming to a City Near You? A Guide to Obama's Plans : TreeHugger

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Is High Speed Rail Coming to a City Near You? A Guide to Obama's Plans

by Brian Merchant, Brooklyn, New York on 04.16.09

obama high speed rail plans photo
Photo via EBBC

It's one of Obama's greenest ideas--even though it may be underfunded--but news broke today that a massive high speed rail is officially on the way. The president's announcement included an outline of 10 corridors around the US that will each likely see rail begin construction. So buckle up. Obama's serious about getting our transportation system up to the cutting edge—here's a guide to his plan, and a breakdown of the cities slated for a high speed transit future.


Where the Rail Will Go

With only $8 billion specifically allotted to getting the project off the ground, and an additional $1 billion a year for five years, he's going to have to be cautious of where he builds rail. And he seems to have acknowledged this in his planning—instead of an ambitious plan to lay rail from coast to coast, Obama is suggesting 10 corridors of 100-600 miles each around the country. Check out Obama's vision for high speed rail in America (pdf) for yourself--the grey lines are where future lines will hopefully go. Blue is where high speed rail already exists (yup, it's that single, solitary line in the Northeast—we're way behind Japan and Europe here).

The Ten Rail Corridors

And here's a complete list of the proposed corridors and the cities that would get high speed rail access.

-California Corridor - (Bay Area, Sacramento, LA, San Diego)

- Pacific Northwest Corridor - (Eugene, Portland, Tacoma, Seattle, Vancouver BC)

- South Central Corridor - (Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Little Rock)

- Gulf Coast Corridor – (Houston, New Orleans, Mobile, Birmingham, Atlanta)

- Chicago Hub Network – (Chicago, Milwaukee, Twin Cities, St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Louisville)

- Florida Corridor - (Orlando, Tampa, Miami)

- Southeast Corridor – (Washington Richmond, Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta, Macon, Columbia, Savannah, Jacksonville)

- Keystone Corridor – (Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh)

- Empire Corridor – (New York, Albany, Buffalo)

- Northern New England Corridor – (Boston, Montreal, Portland, Springfield, New Haven, Albany)

How the High Speed Rail Will Be Built

Obama's goals will (hopefully) be realized through a combination of constructing brand new corridors that will be entirely dedicated to high speed rail and the incremental upgrading of existing rail. And in addition to the $8 billion in stimulus funds, money will be made available as grants for states with rail projects that are "ready to go." Rail projects like these are expected to create a slew of jobs as well.

Both Express and Regional High Speed Rail lines are planned. From the plans:

HSR – Express. Frequent, express service between major population centers 200–600 miles apart, with few intermediate stops. Top speeds of at least 150 mph on completely grade-separated, dedicated rights-of-way (with the possible exception of some shared track in terminal areas). Intended to relieve air and high-way capacity constraints.

HSR – Regional. Relatively frequent service between major and moderate population centers 100–500 miles apart, with some intermediate stops. Top speeds of 110–150 mph, grade-separated, with some dedicated and some shared track (using positive train control technology). Intended to relieve highway and, to some extent, air capacity constraints.

Green Benefits of High Speed Rail

Besides the obvious benefits of having a more effective mass transit system—less car travel, fewer flights, less congestion, less incentive for the creation of urban sprawl—Obama's plan notes a specific green figure:

"According to one recent study, implementation of pending plans for the federally designated HSR corridors could result in an annual reduction of 6 billion pounds of CO2

So all in all, the plan looks like a solid first step--and it could very well mean that we finally see a high speed rail system emerge in the US in coming years.