Monday, November 9, 2009

Western Rail Alliance Proposes HSR Routes, Including LA-Phoenix

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

Over the last year or so, since the passage of Prop 1A and the election of a high speed rail-friendly president, there has been a surge of interest in high speed rail across the country, and new organizations and consortiums have come together to propose new projects - as well as to revive ones that had been left for dead (looking at you, Florida).

One of these groups is the "Western Rail Alliance," a semi-official group that includes land-use planners from Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. Late last week this group unveiled their list of proposed routes, one of which includes California:

The idea, in a nutshell, is that planners in each state can best negotiate rail routes within their cities and have the expertise to find funding to develop high-speed rail between those cities. The current participants in the alliance are the local RTC [in Clark County, NV], the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County in Reno, the Maricopa Council of Governments in Phoenix, the Utah Transit Authority in Salt Lake City and the Denver Council of Governments. The organizations also have made overtures to the Mid-Region Council of Governments in Albuquerque, but it has not signed on to the alliance yet.

They also have made contact with planning organizations in Tucson and Boise as potential future members.

Right now, the alliance is working toward turning itself into a legal non-profit organization. It also will move toward expanding membership to include prospective suppliers and service providers that could be a part of the effort to build high-speed rail in the Southwest.

Recently, Skancke made the first public presentation about the alliance, speaking to a lunch meeting of the North Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce.

At that session, Skancke outlined the first five routes the alliance will focus on: between Los Angeles and Phoenix; between Las Vegas and Phoenix; between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City; between Salt Lake City and Denver; and between Salt Lake City and Reno.

Now, before you all run off to the comments to criticize this, let's be clear: these routes aren't going to be built anytime soon. They don't appear on the USDOT HSR map, nor are they likely to anytime soon. This certainly isn't going to get funded in any official way, aside from very preliminary studies, for many years.

And that's as it should be. Of these five routes, only LA-Phoenix made it onto The Transport Politic's Interstate Rail Network proposal (in the last of four phases). There are many higher priority corridors that should come before these five.

Yet that shouldn't cause us to dismiss the concept out of hand. My interest in high speed rail isn't specific to California, although this blog is. I quite strongly believe this country should invest in building a national HSR network, proceeding first along the highest priority corridors and over the next 2-3 decades, filling in the gaps so that by 2040 or so, there would be a much improved passenger rail network that could get one from coast to coast faster than you can today. Doesn't mean you'd have a 220mph bullet train going from SF to NY, but one could stitch together a network of long-distance trains that could have faster and more reliable travel times than Amtrak's current routes.

In any case, it can't hurt to take an evening and consider what the Western Rail Alliance is proposing. LA-Phoenix could be a very valuable route for California, depending on the alignment. Any LA-PHX train would include stops in San Bernardino and Palm Springs, reaching a part of the state with a growing population. The train could follow Interstate 10 east toward Phoenix over a relatively easy alignment, with only the climb out of the Coachella Valley posing engineering challenges. Or it could continue southeast to the Imperial Valley, which sports the highest unemployment rate of any California county at 30%, hit Yuma, and then find a path back into Phoenix. This route would be less direct and therefore more costly and with a higher travel time, but there's pretty much nothing between Indio and Buckeye along the I-10 route, so it's worth at least a study.

Las Vegas-Phoenix is already witnessing a major transportation project, the Hoover Dam Bypass, scheduled for completion next year. Aside from Kingman and Wickenburg, this route would also be running through mostly empty land.

Las Vegas-Salt Lake City has the benefit of serving more actual settlements between its two endpoints, including the rapidly growing Utah city of St. George, along with several towns scattered along Interstate 15 before the Wasatch Range metropolis at Provo (and giving a boost to cities just beyond the urban edge, like Nephi). Salt Lake City-Reno would also connect some smaller towns, such as Wendover, Elko, and Battle Mountain, but would otherwise be passing through completely empty land. Would be interesting to see how fast you could crank up the trainsets over the Bonneville Salt Flats.

The most intriguing, and almost certainly the most difficult, is a proposed Salt Lake City-Denver HSR route. Perhaps this one will appeal to the people who think the Grapevine should have been the alignment for the SF-LA route. If you think the Grapevine is easy for HSR, you're gonna love the Rocky Mountains!

An earlier Las Vegas Sun article examined one subset of the SLC-Denver route, the I-70 Coalition which has been proposing passenger rail as a solution to the traffic problems through the Rockies on Interstate 70, especially from Denver to the ski resorts in winter. There's been some discussion of maglev for this corridor, but no firm plans as of yet.

As a relatively young person, I might actually live to see some of these projects get built. As China pours hundreds of billions of dollars into their HSR system as an economic stimulus measure, it's not silly to start thinking on a nationwide scale for HSR. Perhaps none of these corridors are yet deserving of federal money, which for now needs to go to the higher priority corridors. But if the western states wanted to start planning these routes, and were willing to start funding it themselves, I wouldn't object. Better we start thinking about this now, instead of continuing to delude ourselves into thinking the status quo is tenable.

36 comments:

AndyDuncan said...

Salt lake to Denver by way of Cheyenne makes more sense than going over the Rockies. It's still well within the desired distance and it hits more towns. Not to mention a third state from which to pull funding. Plus it would integrate with the proposed north/south Colorado HSR link, further reducing costs compared to a tunnel-ridden or slow cross-mountain link.

Bianca said...

There is currently a ski train that runs between Denver and Winter Park. It's just a conventional train, though, and that's the only stop. I'm sure other resorts would love to have a chance to compete for rail passengers. I-70 can turn into a parking lot during big ski weekends. But the notion of running it all the way to SLC is kind of mind-boggling. That's a lot of tunnels!

Robert Cruickshank said...

Overall I like that there are folks thinking about linking the far-flung metropolises of the western US with HSR. Peak oil is going to cause big problems for all these states, so the sooner they start thinking through the details of improved passenger rail, the better.

Andy, your I-80 alignment between SLC and Denver makes sense, but as Bianca points out, there's already a market for rail along the I-70 corridor. Since nobody lives along the I-80 alignment in Wyoming (well, there is UW in Laramie) I can see the argument for exploring options along I-70.

Avery said...

I was almost going to say that Phoenix to anywhere would be a great idea, but then I remembered what a mess they made of it with the housing boom that its almost beyond hope. Of course CA fits into this as well, but they have a lot larger population to worry about. I think what would work better is a tourist/commuter type train from Phoenix to Grand Canyon and to Vegas. its not very far either way, and to Vegas mostly flat.

Living in the Rocky Mountains, I would love to see a train of some sort to Denver (other than Amtrak, or even Amtrak just a state run operation like IL), but I don't think HSR is anywhere near feasable. Amtrak right now takes 6-8 hours to make it through the mountains (with 1 trip a day both directions), but sometimes traffic on the interstate could be up to 14 hours (normally a 3-4 hour drive).

無名 - wu ming said...

how much could these routes (esp. the I-70 one) be sped up just with tilting rains, fixed-up tracks and double tracking? just being able to run regular trains at higher speeds in those giant swaths of nothing out there would take hours off the time, and make more routes viable in competition from driving.

the west is right to start thinking about this. they are very vulnerable to oil price spikes, being spread out like this. making sure there is a relatiuvely quick transportation network insulated from the price of oil is incredibly important for the medium and long run.

and then there's alan drake's idea of electrifying freight corridors combined with beefed-up transmission lines transporting wind and solar power. i heard someone suggest that buffet's most recent railway purchase had something to do with getting control of the ROW for such a transmission deal.

jim said...

Im for lax-psp-phx although, while I want access to psp, Im not sure i want everyone to have access to psp. I mean Im gonna retire there for some relaxation so Im not sure I want all of phx and lax to be able to move in on top of me just as Im getting ready to lay by the pool with my margarita.

jim said...

This should do it - a hub and spoke for AZ and corridors for ut and nv

jim said...

nothing to do in the midle of the night but draw lines on a map - so youve heard of the texas T bone and the Texas Triangle. Mine is the ever more comprehensive, Texas Star.

無名 - wu ming said...

winnemucca?! WTF?

Rafael said...

Now that is high speed rail fashionable, it was perhaps inevitable that just about every state in the union is clamoring for it - not necessarily because there's a real transportation need but simply to bring home the bacon from Washington, D.C. What's next, a TGV from Juneau to Wasilla?

Dedicated high speed rail lines are extremely expensive to construct but also offer extremely high capacity. They absolutely make sense where there is enough prospective ridership to utilize at least a large fraction for that capacity right away, with a reasonable expectation of further ridership growth as a result of population growth, rising oil prices and improvements in connecting transit.

Moreover, dedicated high speed rail lines are most valuable when they can link multiple smaller cities to the anchor destinations at or near the ends without excessive detours.

Even with the large populations at either end, LA-Phoenix would be a somewhat marginal express HSR route unless there's a strategic decision to turn the border town of Blythe (pop. 22,000) near the Colorado river into a well-planned high-density city of several hundreds of thousands at the expense of some acreage of productive farmland. I don't see that happening anytime soon.

A route via the also agricultural Imperial Valley and Yuma (pop. 77,500) would be about 85 miles longer. Serving El Centro (pop 38,000) would require an even longer detour. It doesn't make sense.

In general, if the MSAs of the anchor destinations aren't all that large to begin with, they're many hundreds of miles apart and there aren't any large towns (pop >> 100,000) in-between, the most appropriate mode of transportation remains flying.

Politically, it's important to keep senators from sparsely populated states on board for federal HSR funding. The best way to do that might be to subsidize regional aviation operations based on efficient turboprop (or diesel piston) engines and renewable aviation fuel, e.g. from algal oil. Plenty of R&D is already going on in these fields, so bump up that funding as a first step.

High speed rail is great technology, but it simply doesn't make sense everywhere. Not even at 110mph.

What about people who are afraid to fly? Well, do they absolutely, positively have to live in the desert? Plus, there's driving, Greyhound buses etc.

PeakVT said...

While it's okay to think about some of these western routes, at $40-60 million dollars per mile for HSR track you really have to think hard about them.

@Rafael - while the LA-Phoenix route is marginal on its own, LA is hardly a point. Trips from the Inland Empire to Phoenix would be competitive. Also, while going through Yuma (note: the Yuma MSA population is 190,000) does not seem to add many passengers, you are only looking at population north of the border. By the time the route is built, travel across the border will (probably) be much easier. A HSR line to Yuma would facilitate lower-speed branches through El Centro and San Luis Rió Colorado to Mexicali, and then on to Tijuana.

PeakVT said...

Pulled the trigger early.

@Robert - the Las Vegas-Phoenix route isn't all that great, but if the line is moved farther west it could go through or near Lake Havasu, Needles, and Bullhead/Laughlin. The population is somewhat higher, and tourism would boost the passenger potential.

I have a number of HSR maps and area analyses here for those who are obses... er, intrigued by such things.

TomW said...

One of the big advantages of idneitfying routes taht won't be built for a decade or two is that you can include the plans *now*. That means protecting the right-of-way from devlopment, ensuring that sub-divisions are planned with access to rail stations, and generally making sure everyoen in the goverment and the public knows what the plan is.

For a smaller-scale example, look at Calgary, Allberta. In the early 1980s, it identified where it intended all its LRT lines to go. All future development carefully left room for those lines, and so when they will be (or were) built, it was simple. They *planned*, and 25 years on, they are reaping the benefits.

AndyDuncan said...

A line from phoenix to la might not make sense at $40-60 million per mile, but would it cost that much? With no stations in between, and only flat, cheap, sparsely populated desert to cover, we might be able to approach Chinese levels of HSR construction costs at about $7m/mile. The expensive part is getting a train from palm springs to laus, and that will already be More than halfway built.

Since operational costs scale generally linearly, it's conceivable that the line could still cover it's operational costs even with only express service. A low up front investment from the public might be worth it.

Tornadoes28 said...

A Phoenix to LA route makes perfect sense. Anyway to reduce the use of aircraft for these medium distances is a good thing as airliners are extremely dirty.

無名 - wu ming said...

now that i think of it, the whole drive from flagstaff to LA i was thinking to myself "man, if only there was a way to go triple the speed across this desert." maglev would almost be worth it just to not have to look at the mojave's dull beige for as long.

Ari said...

@Andy,

Yes, terrain has a huge impact on the cost to build HSR lines. The only other variable which is close is built-up areas, especially if you need to condemn property (this is a bigger issue with legal fights). I believe the cost of HSR through the Central Valley in California is in th1 $15-$20m range per mile. So flat, straight portions through the desert might be significantly cheaper.

And this, of course, plays in to the Salt Lake City to Denver chatter. If that is built in my lifetime, I'll be surprised. The only feasible option for really high speed rail is through Wyoming. From Cheyenne to Salt Lake is pretty flat until you hit the Wasatch Range. From Denver to Salt Lake is is almost continually mountainous and would require numerous costly tunnels and other such structures. Electrification of the current lines makes some sense through the mountains (allowing more frequent operation in tunnels and faster climbing speeds, as well as regenerative braking downhill), as does some double tracking. Building a high-speed corridor would not be cost effective.

AndyDuncan said...

@Ari: agreed on all points. I think we need to be looking at cost of the lines themselves. At $15m/mile, a line from LAUS to Phoenix would be about $5B. That changes the calculations on what sort of "social benefit" you need to justify the initial public investment in the infrastructure, and as stated before, you don't need to have Paris-Lyon level traffic to make a profit on operations.

For example, if the LA-Vegas line is already built, then there's already a station in Vegas, which makes the SLC line cheaper. If you're going to build a HSR link from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs (as is planned), then dragging a line up to Cheyenne and over to SLC is going to be relatively inexpensive, as you'll only really need to build one station (cheyenne), and like you said it's pretty much flat except for the mountains near SLC.

The american west is really it's own sort of unique problem. Ridership on these lines would be far less than what we see other places, but the cost of building them would also be much smaller. Connecting Tucson to Phoenix to Vegas to SLC to Denver to Albuquerque and back to Tucson doesn't make any kind of sense at traditional HSR line prices, but it might at "drag the line through the desert" prices.

Electrification really becomes the main cost, and a coordinated project to build those new HVDC "smart grid" lines alongside the tracks could allow you to share the costs, making the project even more attractive.

AndyDuncan said...

@Ari: your article on the myth of the 400 mile HSR cap also supports connecting large sections of the west, even if they're beyond traditional HSR distances, and especially if the lines are cheap to build

Alon Levy said...

It's hard to double-track the existing California Zephyr line, since the Moffat Tunnel is single-track. Crossing the Continental Divide at grade in Colorado is a non-started - the mountains are too steep, and even with the curve radii that were acceptable a hundred years ago, they had to build a tunnel.

Those Western routes, with some flat exceptions like LA-Phoenix, involve major mountain crossings, requiring long tunnels. So overall construction costs should be at the same level as in California, i.e. $35 million per route-km, rather than at the same level as in France, i.e. $15 million. In either case, Chinese costs are unachievable without Chinese wages and Chinese safety standards.

jim said...

On my western map I connected large cities with cities that are know for being sort of "mini growth burst" cities. we'll call them MGBs. Yes I making stuff up... but places such as hnderson, lake havasu, st george, the coachella valley, and all the smaller towns in nevada, are all places that have experienced signifant bursts of housing contraction during boom times. These are the affordable places where new arrivals wil settle and or where former city folks will move to when the new arrivals fill up their cities ( so called white flight) so these are places that will abosrb a lot of gorwth in the next 20-50 years. thus my reason for including on my HSR west map, because if we plan to connect them together, with hsr , those cities can do a different kind of "ground up" planning. Just as happened in the ;ate 1800s wherever the railroad goes, the people will go. now look agagin at mey map and think about past growth patterns and imagine how cities will grow and you'll see that the routes go right to where future growth will happen as describe above. My whole life experience in cali has been shaped by watching my surroundings change in the "california way" for the past 45 years. I know just how things go and If I extrapalate out - for another 40 years. my map is the accurate one. trust me I know this.

jim said...

also think of this, if hsr becomes a normal part of the transport system and planning over the next 50 years it will get less expensive, ( yes more expensive per inflation but) less expensive in that we will have contractors./ comapnies who build high speed rail - that will be what they do "ACME RAILCO*" and "ABC RAil*" and "USRAILCORP*" who wil have the equipment labor and engineering to build hsr as their specialty. and yay! a whole new industry to employ folks! And these companies will locate in places such as nevada where its cheap to do business. and when its time to build, NevadaDOT will bid out the project to one of these companies. it will become as common and as affordable as building new highway by passes. especially when everything is pretty much standardized like the catenary poles which are manufactured at the CATCO plant in winnemucca.
( i have a vivid imagination)

AndyDuncan said...

@Alon, I think you could avoid major mountain ranges on most of the routes, really only SLC-Cheyenne and Pueblo-Santa Fe would require major mountain crossings. I'm not saying there's no tunneling, but I don't think we're in european price ranges. The chinese number is for urban/suburban/farmland combined. I think the $15m/mile for farmland HSR construction is probably a fair guess even with tunnels, considering there's very few stations, grade separations, and NIMBYs.

Here's a quick map of a potential western network including a sort of "Mojave Triangle", linking the DX line with a LA-Phoenix line hugging the 10 freeway. That would allow you to hook up Laughlin/Bullhead and Havasu, while cutting the line length in half.

A few of the lines are already proposed, such as the CAHSR system, the Colorado line, the Desert Xpress, and the Santa Fe-Juarez line. Once those are built, the connections would be even more attractive from a cost basis.

Alon Levy said...

Nowhere in the first world does HSR cost $15 million per mile nowadays. In France, when the lines follow existing highways and are tunnel-free, construction costs are €11 million per km, which works out to $25 million per mile. Elsewhere, construction costs are higher, because of tunnels or more expensive technology such as slab track.

For reference, SNCF predicts a $12.4 billion construction cost for a 300-mile Texas route, for an average of $41 million per mile, not including rolling stock.

The problem with some of the routes on your map is that they're low-performing. The route from Tucson to Juarez is more than 500 km long and connects a midsize city to a small one; on top of it, it involves a border crossing, which reduces traffic. The I-25 and I-15 suffer from the same problems. You really don't want to build 700 kilometers' worth of rail just for the LV-SLC and LA-SLC markets - it's just not worth it. Save the money for New York-Chicago service.

AndyDuncan said...

"Nowhere in the first world does HSR cost $15 million per mile nowadays."

Nowhere in the first world has anyone tried to drag HSR over something like the Mojave desert. You can't compare dragging lines through France, or even texas, to the vast expanse of nothingness that is the high desert of california, nevada and phoenix.

And the SNCF costs include multiple stations. Since there's nothing in between palm springs and phoenix, you're only talking about stations in palm springs, and phoenix.

The tucson-juarez (el paso) would be a "connector" in that there need be no stations built at all. Tucson-Phoenix would already be built, and Santa Fe-Juarez (el paso) would already be built, so you're just talking about track. No stations at all. Similar with the Santa Fe-Pueblo link. No need to build any stations along there whatsoever, and the Fort Collins-Pueblo line would already exist, complete with a station in Pueblo. No new stations.

So we're really only talking about track costs. Rolling Stock costs would be directly proportional to demand, so low ridership lines would have low rolling stock acquisition costs.

Sure the lines are "underperforming", but relative to what? The NEC needs HSR, but cost wise, what is that going to take? All I'm saying is that you can't just look at ridership as the biggest metric, you have to look at cost to build it, and these lines would be relatively cheap to build, so they would only need a relatively small number of passengers to have similar benefit.

AndyDuncan said...

@Alon and El Paso/Juarez is not a "mid size city" there's over 2 million people between the two. The line from Tucson isn't just about connecting Juarez to Tucson, it's about connecting Phoenix to Juarez.

And who cares about the border? Put the station on the El Paso side.

BruceMcF said...

Note that before Express HSR would reach a point of any of those routes except possible LA/PHX starting serious planning, we would if we were serious about national security be establishing transcontinental 100mph Rapid Electric Freight Rail paths ...

... and while they would not allow for supporting passenger services that would compete with air travel under anything like present jet kerosene costs ...

... they would be a substantial improvement over Amtrak-grade long distance service for connecting the smaller population centers along the corridors to the main metro areas.

Adirondacker12800 said...

It's lots of fun to fantasize about a four hour train ride between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. There's a lot of nothing between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas with lots of slightly denser nothing between Las Vegas and the exurbs of Los Angeles.

Las Vegas was growing at an astounding rate and will probably do so in the future. Plan corridors now so that they can be used sometime off in the far future. But before they start connecting Salt Lake City with anything other than track shared with freight lets think about connecting Binghampton NY ( quarter of the size of metro Salt Lake City ) with Scranton Wilkes Barre ( half the size of SLC ) with Easton/Allentown/Bethlehem ( three quarters of the size of SLC ) with Philadelphia ( 5 times the size of SLC ) Or with New York City ( 20 times the size of Salt Lake City ) or Baltimore ( twice the size of SLC ) or Washington DC ( 5 times the size of Salt Lake City ) Or maybe laying third and four tracks between Buffalo ( a bit bigger than SLC ) with Toronto ( 4 times bigger than SLC ) or Cleveland ( a bit bigger than SLC ) or with Rochester ( again about the same size as SLC ) with Syracuse ( half of SLC ) and Albany ( three quarters SLC ) Maybe connect Albany to Montreal and Boston. Throw in Harrford ( SLC sized ) and New Haven ( SLC sized ).....

I'm sure Bruce McF can do the same thing for the Midwest. Connect Chicago ( ten times SLC ) with lots of places that are SLC sized, that have ROW that's nice and flat and in use for trains....

AndyDuncan said...

@Adirondacker: I'm going to let this drop after this post, because apparently people still don't understand my whole point, but I'll try once again:

I'm not saying that there are other lines that aren't more important, or that these connections are going to be heavily trafficked. All I'm doing is postulating that maybe, perhaps, given the geography and the reduced expenses of running a line through nothing with no stations along it, that perhaps PERHAPS, there is a business case to be made for connecting the far flung parts of the american west.

If it covers it's operations and maintenance costs while getting 1/20th the ridership and yet costs 1/20th the price, aren't the projects basically equal?

Putting in anything to the towns you list, while certain to get higher ridership, are also certain to cost far more.

Not every route is the NEC, and not every route needs to be. That's all I'm saying.

Adirondacker12800 said...

1/20th the ridership and yet costs 1/20th the price, aren't the projects basically equal?

It's gonna be really cheap to build railroad across flat land that almost free when it's not actually free. ( Federal or state owned land which there is a lot of of in Utah and Nevada). But Salt Lake City is essentially 400 miles from anyplace not in metro Salt Lake City. 400 miles of really cheap track adds up. Nice round numbers at 10 million a mile for two electrified tracks it's 4 billion dollars to get from Las Vegas to SLC. . . the problem with connecting the far flung West is that it's far flung. Even cheap track cost alot when you have to build hundreds of miles of it.

Alon Levy said...

Andy, the French projects are built on top of highways - they don't encounter any population centers they need to do noise mitigation with. The entire point of TGV-style construction is to avoid urban areas entirely. Outside the urban areas, France isn't very dense.

The station costs are only a small fraction of overall costs. SNCF breaks down the projected cost of HSR on I-35 as follows:
   Land acquisition - 6%
   Infrastructure - 60%
   System - 20%
   Stations and buildings - 4%
   Rolling stock - 10%
Infrastructure includes tracks, grade separations, and electrification; system includes maintenance facilities and, I think, signals. Both scale linearly with length regardless of how many stations there are in the middle or how urbanized the area is. Even for tunnel-heavy construction, such as in Italy, costs are about six times as high per route-km - and LV-SLC isn't competing with tunnel-heavy construction, but with tunnel-free lines like Albany-Buffalo or Indianapolis-Louisville.

jim said...

my map is the right one.

Aaron said...

The LA-PHX route is almost too easy to not consider, particularly because getting into Phoenix via the freight rail corridor through Avondale and along Buckeye Rd. would involve only negligible interactions with residential neighborhoods. It would be HSR on the cheap, and would draw instant demand as well as allow Phoenix to hold off on resolving the thorny problems at Sky Harbor. Going east out of Downtown to get to Tucson or other cities would prove to be far more difficult, but coming in from LA would be, in terms of availability of appropriate ROW and lack of opposed adjacent properties and stakeholders, be remarkably easy. (Some of that track is in terrible condition, but they would need to put in new track regardless for high-speed service, so I suppose its current poor level of maintenance wouldn't be determinative).

Having said that, I would stop at least in either Yuma or Blythe, depending on where you crossed the California border. Still, only 1 intermediate station between PHX and Palm Springs isn't bad.

Of course, your bigger problem would be getting it through the perpetually dysfunctional teabagger AZ legislature.

無名 - wu ming said...

i vote for andy's map.

BruceMcF said...

Adirondacker12800 said "I'm sure Bruce McF can do the same thing for the Midwest. Connect Chicago (ten times SLC ) with lots of places that are SLC sized, that have ROW that's nice and flat and in use for trains...."

Don't have to, its already been designed - that's the Midwest Hub and Ohio Hub.

When not used as a front-runner for an Express High Speed Rail corridor, 110mph Emerging Higher Speed Rail corridors (for later upgrade to 125mph Regional Higher Speed Rail corridors) are an ideal way to connection 100k+ and 50K+ cities to 1m+ cities and 5m+ cities, and 1m+ cities to each other, when they lie within 300 miles of each other with intervening population centers in the 50mile ~ 150 mile range.

When electrified and upgraded to separate Rapid Rail track (and max speed raised to 125mph), a crossing Express High Speed Rail corridor can just junction with a Regional Higher Speed Rail corridor and the trains continue from one to the other to provide direct Express HSR services in far more cities than the Express High Speed Rail corridor itself goes.

So if, for instance, the only cost effective way to get a 220mph corridor from Denver to SLC is via Cheyenne (and looking at the terrain, that is quite plausible - just one bit of viaduct and/or tunnels immediately west of SLC) ... that does not mean no service on the I-70 corridor. What it means is a Regional HSR corridor that connects western CO to Denver, and can be later considered for extending NW to SLC.

The Front Range and I-70 corridors being studied by the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority seem to be 110mph or 125mph systems.

In the current $50/barrel ~ $200/barrel crude oil price range, LA/Phoenix is definitely a second or third tier 220mph corridor, but with the distance and the lack of much intervening population once you get past the inland CA sprawl, it seems like a 220mph corridor is more plausible than a 110mph corridor. And since extending the California HSR system to San Diego is a higher priority, the obvious approach is to look for a useful junction with the LA/SD corridor.

Alon Levy said...

A stop at Blythe might be useful for LA-Phoenix service, but most trains wouldn't stop there - the ridership is too low. The only way it could become a major stop is if developers forced the operator to overserve it to subsidize their speculation.