USHSR Publishes 5-Point High Speed Rail Plan

USHSR has released its 5-Point High Speed Rail Plan, which puts forward starting principles and a list of 15 projects it believes the United States should get going on.

The 5-Point Plan

  • A new High Speed Rail Development Authority should be established within USDOT, which would oversee the national programme in collaboration with individual states. It would initiate new high-speed rail projects, conduct route studies, file for permits, assemble land, hire contractors and consultants, and hire concessionaires who would then operate the trains. The point includes streamlining the approvals process by permitting simultaneous approvals, shortening timelines, and allowing single-agency approvals.
  • The top five high-speed rail priority projects should be chosen and designated as ‘special projects of national significance’. They should all be fast-tracked with full federal government support:
    • California High Speed Rail – 60 billion USD investment
    • Texas High Speed Rail – 20 billion USD investment
    • Northeast Corridor (NEC) upgrade, New York City tunnels – 50 billion USD investment
    • Cascadia Ultra High Speed Rail (Pacific NW) – 40 billion USD investment
    • Florida High Speed Rail (Tampa-Orlando) – 2.5 billion USD investment
  • Next, second-tier projects should be chosen. These should be funded immediately and should receive assistance so early works (planning, route studies, permits, land acquisition, pre-construction) could take place:
    • Chicago-Milwaukee high-speed rail – 8 billion USD investment
    • Atlanta-Charlotte high-speed rail – 18 billion USD investment
    • Louisville-Nashville high-speed rail – 15 billion USD investment
    • Denver-Albuquerque high-speed rail – 40 billion USD investment
    • Chicago-St. Louis high-speed rail – 18 billion USD investment
    • Tulsa-Oklahoma City high-speed rail – 8 billion USD investment
    • Chicago-Detroit high-speed rail – 30 billion USD investment
    • Nashville-Memphis high-speed rail – 15 billion USD investment
    • Kansas City-St. Louis high-speed rail – 19 billion USD investment
    • Chicago-Indianapolis high-speed rail – 17 billion USD investment
  • The authority should co-ordinate closely on transit-oriented development (TOD) planning with local cities and jurisdictions to maximise community building and economic development opportunities arising from new high-speed rail stations. TOD aims to maximise the amount of residential, business and leisure space within walking distance of public transit. Co-ordinating land development around high-speed railway stations will deliver maximum community and real-estate benefits.
  • Finally, the plan says the new authority should work with airlines and airports to allow high-speed rail connections to replace short-haul flights; high-speed rail connections should be extended to serve major airports. Options here would also include combined tickets allowing passengers to use both the train and the plane for their journey. USHSR says this will benefit airlines and airports too, who could then use their equipment and spaces better for longer-distance flights.

The United States, unlike places such as Europe and Asia, does not have any real intercity high-speed rail connections, bar the Northeast Corridor. Around half of Amtrak’s intercity services operate at speeds of under 100 miles per hour and the majority of the faster ones are on the aforementioned NEC.

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