National Rail Plan Open for Comment

May 20, 2010 Updated: May 19, 2010

[xtypo_dropcap]T[/xtypo_dropcap]he National Rail Plan, America’s first nationwide high-speed intercity passenger rail service, is now being presented in various states across the country for discussion and revision. Changes to the plan will be made according to suggestions provided by state officials, communities, the public at large, and businesses.

The final plan will be presented on September 15, 2010.

As part of President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) will give $8 billion to 31 states across the country as part of the plan. This preliminary plan is a follow up from what was set forth as very elementary ground works in October 2008.

The National Rail Plan will establish 13 high-speed railway corridors across the nation. In addition to the $8 billion allocated from ARRA, the applicants of the program have supplemented $55 billion.

$1.25 billion of the funding is attributed to Florida to connect Tampa Bay, Orlando, Miami, and other communities in central and south Florida. Florida, a state which has experienced significant population growth in the recent decades, is almost entirely dependent on personal automobiles for its transportation.

With a cumulative population of 10 million people between its two large metro cities, Florida is currently experiencing some of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation.

California will get $2.34 billion, being the site of one of the most ambitious railroad systems in the country. The funding will go toward the construction of a new 800 mile, electrically powered, high-speed rail system, serving from San Francisco and Sacramento to Los Angeles and San Diego with over 300 trains per day.

$1.13 billion are going to be given to improve the railway systems going from Chicago to St. Louis and Kansas City. The improvements are planned to increase the speed of the railway system traveling between Chicago and St. Louis up to 110 mph, which would reduce travel time between the cities to 4 hours.

Travel between Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago will be awarded $823 million to enhance rail system speeds up to 110 mph, upgrading 144 miles of track and adding 32 miles. These railway improvements will also include enhancing in the travel times between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Chicago.

Travel between Charlotte, Raleigh, Richmond, and Washington D.C. will be upgraded using $620 million to upgrade 480 miles of track. Several of the cities in this area are some of the fastest growing cities in the nation and the transportation upgrades are planned to accommodate such population increases.

Travel between Eugene, Portland, and Seattle will also be upgraded with a $598 million award to travel up to 150mph with 13 daily trips.

$244 million will be awarded to two of the Midwest’s largest cities, Chicago and Detroit, to ultimately double the number of trips taken daily and to increase speeds up to 110 mph.

In Ohio, 250 miles of completely new railroad is planned to be added, connecting Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, and Cleveland. The USDOT is providing $400 million to the Ohio Department of Transportation for the undertaking.

The Northeast, home to the most advanced passenger rail system in the country, is also facing some major improvements. Using $1.91 billion to add 84 miles of new track and upgrade 1,542 miles of already existing track, the project is going to boost speeds and ultimately strengthen the subway system to act as a legitimate alternative to air and car travel.

In the process of establishing the railway system, the USDOT is looking for the input of states, communities, businesses, transportation experts and the public. Meetings discussing the new rail network plans will be discussed in Kansas City (May 19), Atlanta (May 20), New York (May 26), Salt Lake City (June 3), and Portland (June 4).

“By investing in high speed rail, we’re doing so many good things for our country at the same time,” said Vice President Biden in a statement. “We’re creating good construction and manufacturing jobs in the near-term; we’re spurring economic development in the future; we’re making our communities more livable—and we’re doing it all while decreasing America’s environmental impact and increasing America’s ability to compete in the world.”