Archive | Inter-City Rail

U.S. Maglev System One Step Closer

Ron Swaren is a regular commenter on Portland Transport.

Michael Barkoviak – June 9, 2008 5:50 AM

“President Bush signed a transportation bill that will help fund a high speed maglev train between Disneyland and Las Vegas. The initial $45M investment will be used for environmental studies to evaluate construction impact on one portion of the proposed maglev route.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., showed support of the project and said the maglev train “will safely and efficiently move people between southern California and Las Vegas.”

As more nations begin to roll out maglev train systems, critics in the U.S. grow increasingly frustrated over the lack of support of organized high speed trains in the United States.

With speeds up to 300 MPH, the maglev train will be able to transport passengers between the two locations, about 250 miles apart, in less than two hours. Most drivers who go from the Los Angeles or Anaheim area to Las Vegas are forced to take Interstate 15, but the highway routinely is clogged with gridlock during rush hour.

Congress must now choose the maglev system over other train projects under consideration by the government, including a diesel-electric train that was proposed after a 2005 funding mishap that delayed the Disneyland-Las Vegas line. Japan was the first nation to launch a diesel-hybrid train system, but the train was twice as expensive to build as a regular train.

The United States Maglev Coalition (USMC) is an organization wanting to develop maglev technology in the U.S. The group helped the federal government fix a September 2005 report that “unfairly and erroneously criticized maglev’s costs while ignoring its benefits.”

Maglev trains are extremely expensive to create, so $45M could easily lead to a multi-billion dollar investment. The Shanghai maglev train network cost almost $30M per mile to create, and a proposed route in Japan is estimated to cost up to $82B to complete.

Germany, Canada, England, China and Japan are included in the small selection of countries that either have working maglev systems or are testing maglev technology.”

Link to Daily Tech article:

Some YouTube videos:

Some people say that the US should just hang back and learn from the experimentation being conducted by other governments, as mentioned above. Critics of the LA-Las Vegas route question the propriety of investing public funds into what they consider an “entertainment express.” There are, however, some proposals in the Northeast US for Mag Lev service.
Some cost projections run up to $30 million per mile for the specialized track. Acquiring right of way could add significant expense. What flaws will actual usage of the technology reveal?

Or would an alternative like the proposed California high speed train make more sense?

Amtrak: Maybe Now?

In stark contrast to the Bush administration’s efforts to pull the plug on Amtrak funding, a post on Planetizen links to a Washington Post column encouraging investment in the nation’s rail systems.

“America’s train advocates are mildly optimistic. And for some good reasons. Amtrak is reporting impressive ridership gains. Oil is pushing $100 a barrel, throwing a long shadow over affordability of travel on already congested highways. Airport delays hit an all-time high last summer. Global climate concerns are mounting.”

“Rail freight demands, meanwhile, are rising fast, suggesting joint improvements with passenger rail. Worries are rising about mobility gaps hindering the ability of America’s ‘megaregions’ — the Northeast, Great Lakes, California and others – to match the performance of competitive regions worldwide.”

“Also positive for Amtrak: signs of a much friendlier reception in Congress. Add to that an array of states anxious to expand rail service, especially if they can get a federal “match” comparable to the 80 percent-20 percent federal-to-state match for highways.”

Long-distance passenger rail improvement has been a popular topic here in the Cascadia region, and there has been no shortage of ideas by those commenting to this very blog. It is very well known that the “Portland Triangle” is a substantial bottleneck for freight- and passenger-rail traffic on the west coast. A dual-pronged effort to improve both the freight- and passenger-rail networks within the region and state with the feds picking up 80% of the tab could very well provide the improvements that will be needed to eliminate the bottleneck and take intercity rail transportation to the next level.

Additionally there has been news recently of the Coos-Siskiyou Shippers Coalition that was formed in response to the closed freight rail line between Eugene and Coquille and the Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad has also suggested they may shut down the line between Medford and Weed, California. Given the importance of these lines to commerce in that region of our state and our own desire for improved freight and intercity (and high-speed) passenger rail here in Portland, what do you think are our greatest priorities for rail improvements? Is it possible to reduce the scope of the CRC – something many Portlanders aren’t very fond of anyway – and divert some of those funds as our local 20% match for rail improvements across the Columbia? Perhaps upgrade the rail crossing west of I-5 to allow for improved passenger rail service as well as dedicated truck lanes to move that traffic away from I-5, thus reducing the need for the CRC to be as substantial as WSDOT is pushing for?

Continue reading Amtrak: Maybe Now?