Southeasterners! Coming to a neighborhood near you: Higher-speed rail

Mainline passenger rail service in the American Southeast is on the move. A plan/proposal to increase passenger train speeds in Virginia to 90 miles per hour is afoot.

A start, this most assuredly is. The plan involves upgrade of an existing 123 miles of active, double-track railroad line tying together the nation’s capital and Richmond, Virginia. Important to note is 90 miles per hour here represents top and not average speed.

Now, according to one report, in order for this to be facilitated, required would be placement of a third main track along a line that currently plays host to both freight and Amtrak as well as Virginia Railway Express passenger trains.

What’s the projected cost of the project? As reported, in the billions and it is to be built as much as possible on existing freight-rail corridor rights-of-way the entire 123-mile distance. As of March 1 this year the endeavor had yet to be approved. From what I gather, this would serve as an interim measure until a true high-speed rail service is launched. Call it an incremental approach to high-speed rail building in the Southeast. And, such a service wouldn’t be operational until year 2025 at the earliest, or so it would appear.

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An eventual extension as far south as Jacksonville, Florida and perhaps beyond, is the long-term plan, at least, with a northern connection to the current southern terminating point of Amtrak’s 456-mile Northeast Corridor (NEC) at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station. The NEC bridges together by rail the major metropolitan areas of D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark, New York, New Haven, Bridgeport, Providence and Boston among others. It is on this line that Acela Express trains travel as fast as 150 miles per hour, at least on the parts of the corridor located north of New York. Work is in progress to upgrade between 20 and 30 miles of track in the Garden State (New Jersey) to accommodate like Acela Express train speeds. Commuter and freight trains share this trackage.

Further, beginning soon on the Florida East Coast Railway, a private concern, between Miami and Orlando will be Brightline service. Brightline passenger train travelers can look forward to upper operating speeds ranging between 79 and 125 miles per hour.

High-speed eastern-seaboard-based service connecting the Sunshine, Peach, Palmetto, Tar Heel and Old Dominion states and the District of Columbia could be a big shot in the arm for tourism and if played out could prove to be a huge boon to the resort industry especially and for vacation travel in general, all provided in a most environmentally and air friendlier way.

Southeasterners prepare: Higher-speed rail’s a comin’ your way.

Image above: Federal Railroad Administration

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