High-speed rail in the United States
This article needs to be updated.March 2019)(
Plans for high-speed rail in the United States date back to the High-Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965. Various state and federal proposals have followed. Despite being one of the world's first countries to get high-speed trains (the Metroliner service in 1969), it failed to spread. Definitions of what constitutes high-speed rail vary, including a range of speeds over 110 mph (180 km/h) and dedicated rail lines. Inter-city rail with top speeds between 90 and 125 mph (140 and 200 km/h) is sometimes referred to in the United States as higher-speed rail.
Amtrak's Acela Express (reaching 150 mph, 240 km/h) is the US’s only high-speed rail service. Acela trains will reach top speeds of 165 mph (265 km/h) when new trains enter service, and 186 mph (300 km/h) in the coming years. Other services reaching 125 mph (201 km/h) are prevalent in the US, yet these lines are officially classified as higher-speed rail.
As of 2020[update], the California High-Speed Rail Authority is working on the California High-Speed Rail project and construction is under way on sections traversing the Central Valley. The Central Valley section is planned to open in 2029 and Phase I is planned for completion in 2033.
Definitions in American context
Authorities in the United States maintain various definitions of high-speed rail. The definitions range from rail services with top speeds of 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) to 150 miles per hour (240 km/h) or higher by the United States Department of Transportation which is an entity in the executive branch, while the United States Code, which is the official codification of Federal statutes, defines them as the rail services with "reasonably expected to reach sustained speeds of more than 125 miles per hour". A legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, the Congressional Research Service, used different terms to clarify the confusion by defining the rail services with top speeds less than 150 mph (240 km/h) to be higher-speed rail. There is no current train service in the United States which meets all of the domestic criteria for high-speed rail. Amtrak's Acela Express is classified as "higher-speed rail" in the Congressional Research Service report by virtue of being on shared tracks, whereas page 5 of that report also requires dedicated tracks to be classified as "very high-speed rail".
In China, high-speed rail is officially defined as "newly-built passenger-dedicated rail lines designed for electrical multiple unit (EMU) train sets traveling at not less than 250 km/h (155 mph) (including lines with reserved capacity for upgrade to the 250 km/h standard), on which initial service operate at not less than 200 km/h (124 mph)."
In Europe the definition of a minimum speed for newly built high-speed railways is 250 km/h (155 mph); for upgraded high-speed railways it is 200 km/h (124 mph). In places where high-speed rail programs are in earlier developmental stages or where substantial speed increases are achieved by upgrading current infrastructure and/or introducing more advanced trains, lower minimum speed definitions of high-speed rail are used. Directive 2008/57/EC defines high-speed rail in terms of speeds of the order of 200 km/h (124 mph) for existing, upgraded lines, and 250 km/h (155 mph) for lines specially built for high-speed travel. This is the case in the United States. For transportation planning purposes focussing on the development of high-speed rail, the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) distinguishes four types of intercity passenger rail corridors:
- High-Speed Rail – Express: Frequent, express service between major population centers 200–600 miles (320–965 km) apart, with few intermediate stops. Top speeds of at least 150 mph (240 km/h) on completely grade-separated, dedicated rights-of-way (with the possible exception of some shared track in terminal areas). Intended to relieve air and highway capacity constraints.
- High-Speed Rail – Regional: Relatively frequent service between major and moderate population centers 100–500 miles (160–800 km) apart, with some intermediate stops. Top speeds of 125–150 mph (201–240 km/h), grade-separated, with some dedicated and some shared track (using positive train control technology). Intended to relieve highway and, to some extent, air capacity constraints.
- Emerging High-Speed Rail: Developing corridors of 100–500 miles (160–800 km), with strong potential for future HSR Regional and/or Express service. Top speeds of up to 90–110 mph (145–177 km/h) on primarily shared track (eventually using positive train control technology), with advanced grade crossing protection or separation. Intended to develop the passenger rail market, and provide some relief to other modes.
- Conventional Rail: Traditional intercity passenger rail services of more than 100 miles with as little as one to as many as 7–12 daily frequencies; may or may not have strong potential for future high-speed rail service. Top speeds of up to 79 mph (127 km/h) to as high as 90 mph (140 km/h) generally on shared track. Intended to provide travel options and to develop the passenger rail market for further development in the future.
However, state-level departments of transportation and council of governments may also use different definitions for high-speed rail. For examples, the North Central Texas Council of Governments uses the definition of the speeds over 150 mph (240 km/h), and the Texas Department of Transportation and Oklahoma Department of Transportation use the speeds of 165 mph (266 km/h) or more. These agencies have a separate category for higher-speed rail which can be a wide range of speeds between 80 mph (130 km/h) and 150 mph (240 km/h).
The development of the American rail network during the 19th century created structural impediments to the adoption of high-speed rail in the later half of the 20th that were not present in Europe and Asia. Freight on American railroads had to travel vastly longer distances, so railroads developed longer cars that could be joined into longer trains. In contrast to Europe, these freights traveled past very few older buildings that were at risk of structural damage from vibrations created by heavy passing trains. Even today, American freight cars and their contents may be as heavy as 286,000 lb (130,000 kg), while their European counterparts are limited to 190,000 lb (86,000 kg).
With such long and heavy freights often sharing the same tracks as passenger trains, it was necessary to require that passenger cars be able to withstand the higher impact forces of a collision. Axial strength standards, first required for the mail cars where clerks worked sorting mail en route and later applied to passenger cars, require that an American passenger car be able to withstand 800,000 pounds-force (3,600 kN) applied to either end, as opposed to the 450,000 lbf (2,000 kN) European regulations mandate. This necessarily results in American passenger cars being heavier.
Faster inter-city trains: 1920–1941
From 1900 to 1941, most long-distance travel was by rail in the United States. Rail transportation was not high-speed by modern standards but inter-city travel often averaged speeds between 40 and 65 miles per hour (64 and 105 km/h). Most of the major railroads had faster than normal trains called "express" or "limited" on their mainline routes (e.g. the Empire State Express and the 20th Century Limited) between major towns and cities.
The development of faster trains, however, faced indirect regulatory hurdles. After a 1921 crash at Porter, Indiana, in which a derail failed to stop one passenger train that had already passed through two red lights from crashing into another at a level junction, killing 37, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) ordered almost a hundred railroads to install automatic train stops by the end of 1925. The railroads opposed the ICC vigorously, noting that stopping longer freights that way might lead to derailments. As a result, the requirement was revised to allow waivers for certain lines, and rarely enforced as the debate continued without any real resolution over the next two decades; in the meantime passenger fatalities began declining as the automobile emerged as a transportation option.
During the 1930s railroads began to develop lightweight, diesel-powered streamlined trains which provided even faster running times than the previous express trains. Two early streamliners were the Union Pacific M-10000 (nicknamed Little Zip and The City of Salina) in revenue service between 1934 and 1941/42 and the Burlington Railroad's Zephyr. The design of the Zephyr incorporated a diesel-electric power system; the M-10000 used a spark-ignition engine running on "petroleum distillate", a fuel similar to kerosene. These trains were much lighter than the common engines and passenger cars of the day, as the "Zephyr" was constructed using stainless steel and the M-10000 chiefly of the aircraft alloy Duralumin.
On May 26, 1934, the Zephyr made a record-breaking "Dawn to Dusk" run from Denver to Chicago. The train covered the distance in 13 hours, reaching a top speed of 112.5 mph (181.1 km/h) and running at an average speed of 77.6 mph (124.9 km/h). However the railroad was unable to capitalize on this since the Depression had cut into the demand for intercity rail travel.
Many steam locomotives were streamlined during this time to attract passengers, and the first steam streamlined locomotive was the New York Central's Commodore Vanderbilt. Nonetheless, some of these steam locomotives became very fast: some were said to exceed 120 mph (190 km/h) on a regular basis. Examples include the New York Central's "Super Hudsons" as used on the 20th Century Limited; the Milwaukee Road's purpose-built Atlantics and Hudsons used in Hiawatha service; the Pennsylvania Railroad's duplex-drive 4-4-4-4 type T1 locomotives, and two Union Pacific engines, a 4-6-2 and a 4-8-2, used on the "Forty Niner" and other trains.
Post-war period: 1945–1960
The debate over signaling and train control between the railroads and the ICC had never really been settled, just deferred as passenger deaths declined, in part due to more travelers using their automobiles for shorter commutes and an expanding and improving highway network. It ended in 1946, when one express passenger train crashed into another one that had stopped, both operated by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, in Naperville, Illinois. The conductor of the first train had had it stopped in the town outside Chicago because he thought something was dragging; within two minutes it was struck from behind by another traveling at 86 mph (138 km/h), killing 45.
The engineer of the second train survived the crash, and claimed he had not seen the signal in sufficient time to stop his train. Investigation showed that even if he had missed the yellow light going on, warning him to slow down in anticipation of a red, he still had space to stop the train had he applied his full brakes at the red. As a result, the ICC decided the time had come to force the issue of train control.
For the first time it set national rail speed limits. In 1947 it ordered that automatic block signaling be used where freight traveled at more than 49 mph (79 km/h) and on passenger lines where trains went faster than 59 mph (95 km/h). This rule remains in force today.
While the railroads generally complied with this rule, affecting 18,000 miles (29,000 km) of track, they were not as tolerant of the ICC"s additional requirement for ATS or cab signalling on passenger trains that exceeded 79 mph (127 km/h). Some railroads complied with the equipment requirement in part, and installed it on about 5,000 miles (8,000 km) of track. This was what the ICC had hoped for. But on the other 22,000 miles (35,000 km) where the rule applied, railroads simply ran their trains under the limit. This made intercity passenger rail an even less competitive option, accelerating its decline as not only automobile use was increasing but airlines were beginning to compete on longer routes. By the late 1950s many passenger routes that had existed at the time of the Naperville crash had been discontinued.
The results of World War II shifted further high-speed rail technological development overseas. While the U.S. had not suffered the infrastructure damage it had inflicted on Europe and Japan, it had also developed its road network, leading to the creation of the Interstate Highway System after the war, giving prosperous citizens an efficient way to use the cars they were buying. Europe and Japan, by contrast, had largely not begun to build highway networks and had seen heavy damage to their rail systems. With their citizens impoverished as they rebuilt their economies, and unable to afford automobiles to the extent Americans could, those countries invested in rail as the primary means of intercity travel.
First attempts: 1960–1992
Following the creation of Japan's first high-speed Shinkansen, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson asked the U.S. Congress to devise a way to increase speeds on American railroads. The request was part of his Great Society infrastructure building initiatives. Congress delivered the High-Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965 which passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support. It helped to create regular Metroliner service between New York City and Washington, D.C. inaugurated in 1969. Trains on the line reached speeds of 125 mph (201 km/h) and averaged 90 mph (140 km/h) along the route, faster than even Acela Express trains operated between the cities of New York and Washington in 2012. The Metroliner was able to travel from New York to Washington in just 2.5 hours because it did not make any intermediate stops.
U.S. federal and state governments continued to revisit the idea of fast trains. The Passenger Railroad Rebuilding Act of 1980 led to funding of high-speed corridor studies in 1984. Private-sector consortia intending to build high-speed lines were created in Florida, Ohio, Texas, California, and Nevada. Maglev trains became a new field of interest. They were officially added to the definition of "railroad" in 1988, and were studied repeatedly. Five high-speed corridors were officially endorsed in October 1992 following passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. TEA-21 and other legislation continued to be passed with mentions of high-speed rail, but lacking funding or real direction. Nevertheless, no new high-speed service was added to the U.S. passenger rail system following the Metroliners.
Renewed interest: 1993–2008
In 1993, the U.S. attempted to improve service between Boston and New York by electrifying the Northeast Corridor north of New Haven, Connecticut and purchasing new train sets to replace the by then 30-year-old Metroliners and run on the newly electrified route. Some existing trains (Swedish X 2000 and German ICE 1) were tested, but finally, the "Acela", a new tilting train manufactured by Alstom and Bombardier, was ordered.
The new service was named Acela Express and ran on the Northeast Corridor, linking Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. The service was inaugurated in December 2000, and was an immediate success, operated at a profit and as of 2012[update], it produced about 25% of Amtrak's total service revenue. The Acela lacks a dedicated high-speed rail line which limits its average speed, although it reaches a maximum speed of 150 mph (240 km/h) on small sections of its route through Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
The travel time between Washington and New York is 2 hours and 53 minutes (compared to 2 hours and 30 minutes for PRR's nonstop Metroliner in 1969), or an average speed of 79 mph (127 km/h). In September 2019, Amtrak launched a nonstop New York to Washington which completes the trip in 2 hours and 35 minutes for an average speed of 87 mph (140 km/h). Schedule between New York and Boston is 3 hours 34 minutes, an average speed of only 63 mph (101 km/h). With a 15-minute layover in New York, the entire end-to-end trip averages 68 mph (109 km/h).
Plans for 2008–2013
The largest project for American high-speed rail is the California High-Speed Rail network, which was authorized by voters with Proposition 1A in 2008. In August 2013, Tutor Perini signed a $1-billion contract to begin construction of the first phase in 2014. Construction began in early 2015. In May 2019, President Donald Trump canceled major federal grants which funded the project, worth approximately $929 million US dollars.
High-speed rail development was a goal of the Obama administration which came into office in January 2009. Higher jet fuel prices, congested airports and highways, and increasing airport security rules have combined to make high-speed rail a more attractive option for passengers. A study conducted by the International Union of Railways indicated that high-speed trains produced one fifth as much CO2 as automobiles and jet aircraft.
In 2012, then-Amtrak president Joseph Boardman proposed a plan to build a dedicated high-speed rail line between Washington, D.C. and Boston. He estimated it would cost $151 billion and take more than 25 years to design and build the line. The proposed rail line would allow for top speeds of 220 mph (354 km/h).
Current state and regional efforts
Northeast Corridor: Next Generation High-Speed Rail
Amtrak officials released a concept report for next-generation high-speed rail within the Northeast Corridor (NEC) on October 1, 2010. Amtrak projected planning and construction of the next-generation high-speed Northeast Corridor line will cost approximately $117 billion (2010 dollars) and reduce the travel time from New York to Washington, including a stop in Philadelphia, to 96 minutes, and the travel time from Boston to New York to 84 minutes by 2040. In 2012, Amtrak released the details of the proposal.
The first of two phases envisions the NEC to be upgraded allowing Acela Express speed improvements. By 2022, Acela trainsets will be replaced with new trainsets, named Avelia Liberty. The new trainsets will be limited to the maximum speed supported by the NEC. The second phase will begin and new track, stations and systems will be constructed separately from the NEC network. The construction will start on the New York to Washington, D.C. segment first which will be completed in 2030. By 2040, the construction of the dedicated network for the New York to Boston segment will be completed. At that time, the oldest 12 trains will be retired and 14 new ones will be deployed increasing the total capacity to 46. This is projected to cut the travel time from Boston to Washington, D.C. to 3 hours and 8 minutes. The entire initiative is expected to cost $151 billion (2012 dollars).
The concept proposes 220 mph (350 km/h) trains running on dedicated tracks between Washington, D.C. and Boston, Massachusetts which will closely follow the existing Northeast Corridor south of New York City.
A number of different routes will be studied north of New York City, including one through interior Connecticut paralleling Interstates 684, 84, and 90, one following the existing shoreline route paralleling Interstate 95 and one via Long Island (requiring a bridge or tunnel across Long Island Sound to Connecticut). Another possible route could follow the existing NEC and I-95 from New York to New Haven, Connecticut, then turn north and follow I-91 to either Hartford or Springfield, Massachusetts before turning east or northeast toward Boston. 
The current NEC network would be used for non-high-speed passenger rail and freight services.
Northeast Maglev proposal
In 2012, the Northeast Maglev, a small firm in Washington, D.C. with backing from the Central Japan Railway Company, proposed a new high-speed rail service along or near the current Northeast Corridor, with initial service between Washington, DC and New York City and they have spent $1.4 million lobbying Congress. The proposal calls for the use of maglev technology which will require infrastructure separate from the Amtrak's NEC networks. The company proposes to deploy the JR-Maglev trains on a service from Washington, D.C. to New York City with a travel time of 60 minutes. Previous proposals of deploying maglev in the area have stalled due to lack of funding and legislative support. In November 2015, the Federal Railroad Administration approved a grant of $27.8 million to Maryland Department of Transportation and Maryland Economic Development Corporation to conduct studies on building a high-speed Maglev line that would carry passengers between Washington and Baltimore. Studies are underway for the DC to Baltimore segment, with the DEIS study scheduled for completion in Q1 2021, with the FEIS scheduled for Q1 2022.
New Jersey–New York City upgrades
In February 2011, Amtrak announced plans for the Gateway Project, an 11-mile (18 km) high-speed right of way across the Meadowlands, the Hudson Palisades, and the Hudson River, between Newark Penn Station and New York Penn Station. In November 2011, US Congress allocated $15 million for engineering work on the project. It remains unclear how much preliminary work done for the somewhat similar cancelled ARC project will be utilized. As of 2020, the project seems indefinitely on hold, as the former Transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, part of the Trump administration, rendered it ineligible for federal funding by withholding the environmental impact study and lowering the priority for the project. The governors of New York and New Jersey, alongside some senators representing these states, accuse the presidential administration of partisanship and sabotaging the project in an act of political retribution. The Gateway Project is expected to receive large funding under the Biden administration.
On August 24, 2011, the United States Department of Transportation obligated $450 million to a six-year project to support capacity increases on one of the busiest segments on the NEC, a 24-mile (39 km) section in New Jersey between New Brunswick and Trenton. The project is designed to upgrade electrical power, signal systems, and overhead catenary wires to improve reliability and increase speeds up to 160 mph (260 km/h), and after the purchase of new equipment, up to 186 mph (299 km/h). Work is being done in coordination with New Jersey Transit Rail Operations, which is redeveloping Amtrak's County Yard and building the Mid Line Loop. The improvements were originally scheduled to be completed in 2016, then were delayed until 2019. This section of track holds the record for the highest speed by a train in the US, which is 170.8 mph (274.9 km/h), achieved in a test run by the U.S./Canada-built UAC TurboTrain on December 20, 1967. Update: As of October 2020, the project is deemed completed by Amtrak.
New York has been actively discussing high-speed rail service since the 1990s, but thus far little progress has been made. Amtrak Acela service between Washington, D.C. and Boston is available to New York City, but cities in Upstate New York and Western New York remain isolated from high-speed rail service. Further, destinations outside the New York metropolitan area have been plagued by delayed service for decades. Nonetheless, New York has been quietly endorsing and even implementing rail improvements for years.
Closer and faster railroad transportation links between New York City and the rest of the state are frequently cited as a partial solution to Upstate's stagnant economic growth.
Beginning in 2010, a study conducted by the New York State Department of Transportation identified 10 alternatives for improving the Empire Corridor. In early 2014, a Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released for public review and comments. The draft eliminated 5 of the alternatives, including those with top speeds of 160 mph (260 km/h) and 220 mph (350 km/h). The remaining 5 build alternatives under consideration have top speeds of 79 mph (127 km/h) (the base alternative), 90 mph (140 km/h) (options A and B), 110 mph (180 km/h), and 125 mph (201 km/h).
The Keystone Corridor is a 349 mi (562 km) rail corridor between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, composed of two different rail lines, the Amtrak Philadelphia to Harrisburg Main Line and the Norfolk Southern Pittsburgh Line. Between Philadelphia and Harrisburg the Amtrak line is electrified and grade separation was completed in 2014. Between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh the Norfolk Southern owned line is used for freight transportation. In 1999, the Keystone Corridor was formally recognized as a "designated high-speed corridor" by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The line, over which Amtrak's Pennsylvanian and Keystone Service routes operate, was upgraded in 2006 with two segments of 110 mph (180 km/h) track. These trains are higher-speed rail services between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, with express service taking 95–100 minutes over 103.6 mi (166.7 km).
California Proposition 1A, passed in November 2008, authorized the state to issue $9.95 billion in bonds to fund the first phase of a planned multi-phase high-speed rail network. Conventional steel-wheel on rail technology is the adopted mode with trains traveling at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour (350 km/h). Los Angeles to San Francisco via the Central Valley was expected to be the first phase of the network, though the initial operating segments have since become unclear. The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CSHRA) is the lead agency charged with planning and implementing the system. The state was awarded $2.55 billion in funding from the federal government in 2010.
Since the passage of Proposition 1A, cost estimates for the project have risen due to increased planning and disputes over routes. Ridership projections have faced scrutiny by a number of groups including the Reason Foundation. In May 2013, with cost estimates double the original figures approved by the voters in 2008, opponents[which?] filed lawsuits intended to invalidate the $10 billion bond measures which were part of the financing of the rail line.
By December 2018, the Authority had 119 miles (192 km) of right-of-way from Madera to near Bakersfield under contract and in construction. However, the estimated cost of a now scaled down system had increased from $33.6 billion to $77.3 billion and, including federal funding, the California High-Speed Rail Authority had only about $12.7 billion - approximately one-eighth of the funding required. Governor-elect Gavin Newsom has still expressed support for the project despite the funding shortfall, reduced scope, and swelling costs.
XpressWest, a private undertaking begun in 2005 to build a high-speed service to Las Vegas, Nevada, was acquired by Brightline in 2018 and it name changed to Brightline West. In April 2020, The California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank approved $3.25 billion in tax-exempt private activity bonds for the project and acquired a 50-year lease from Caltrans for use of the Interstate 15 corridor. The line is expected to open from the Victor Valley to a station near the Las Vegas Strip in 2023.
The Pacific Northwest Corridor or the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor is one of eleven federally designated high-speed rail corridors in the United States. It was designated a high-speed rail by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA). Improvements proposed in Washington State's long range plan would have had passenger trains operating at a maximum speed of 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) on line.
As of 2012, neither the Washington State Department of Transportation  nor Oregon plan to implement speeds higher than 79 mph (127 km/h) due to safety and other freight service concerns voiced by the track owner, Union Pacific Railroad. The plan to provide high-speed and higher-speed rail services on this corridor was thus halted.
In early 2018, Washington State pledged money to studying ultra-high-speed rail between Vancouver BC, Seattle, and Portland With 250 mph (400 km/h) speed operation. After a preliminary study, the state pledged $300,000 in funding and was shortly backed by British Columbia. The study is estimated to be completed by early 2019. Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has expressed his desire to see a Cascadia innovation corridor, linking together the main economic centers of the Pacific Northwest.
A line from Phoenix to Tucson has been proposed.
Mid-Atlantic and the South
Development of a high-speed rail system in Florida was mandated by a constitutional referendum in 2000 but taken off the books by another referendum in 2004. Florida resurrected its high-speed rail authority to capitalize on the nationwide effort to build a high-speed rail network. Florida legislature approved SunRail in a special session in late 2009, which along with work already completed on the originally proposed line between Tampa and Orlando, was instrumental in the state winning a significant amount of the total amount allotted to high-speed rail. Only California received more high-speed rail funding than Florida. In February 2011, Florida's newly elected governor Rick Scott cancelled the project. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood then announced he would be redirecting the funds intended for Florida to other states.
In 2012, a plan for a 240 mi (390 km) high-speed rail from Miami to Orlando to be operated by a privately owned developer was announced. The plan, called All Aboard Florida, included a 40 mi (64 km) segment between Cocoa and Orlando with a top speed of 125 mph (201 km/h). The plan was later renamed Brightline, and began service between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach on January 13, 2018, although at speeds up to 79 mph (127 km/h). By 2022, it plans to begin service to Orlando at 125 mph (201 km/h), legally classifying it as a high-speed rail service.
The Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor is a passenger rail transportation project to extend high-speed passenger rail services from Washington, D.C. south through Richmond and Petersburg in Virginia through Raleigh and Charlotte in North Carolina and connect with the existing high-speed rail corridor from DC to Boston, Massachusetts known as the Northeast Corridor. Since first established in 1992, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has since extended the corridor to Atlanta and Macon, Georgia; Greenville, South Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; and Birmingham, Alabama.
Incremental rail improvements to existing rail lines have been taking place while the environmental impact study required under the National Environmental Policy Act is being completed. The two-tiered EIS began in 1999, and completion is expected in 2011, with passenger service expected by 2015 to 2020, depending upon funding availability.
Another project has been proposed between Atlanta and Charlotte in 2019. It is planned to be finished by 2050, and the project is still in very early phases of planning.
In 1991, the Texas High-Speed Rail Authority awarded a 50-year high-speed rail franchise to the Texas TGV Corporation — a consortium of Morrison Knudsen (USA), Bombardier (Canada), Alstom (France/UK), Crédit Lyonnais (France), Banque IndoSuez (France), Merrill Lynch (USA), and others. Texas TGV won the franchise after more than two years of litigation instigated by a rival consortium backing German ICE technology.
The plan was to connect the "Texas Triangle" (Houston − Dallas/Fort Worth − San Antonio) with a privately financed high-speed train system which would quickly take passengers from one city to the next at prices designed to compete with or beat other transport options. This was the same model Southwest Airlines used 20 years earlier to break into the Texas market where it served the same three cities.
Funding for the project was to come entirely from private sources, since Texas did not allow the use of public money. The original estimated cost was $5.6 billion, but the task of securing the necessary private funds proved extremely difficult.
Southwest Airlines, with the help of lobbyists, created legal barriers to prohibit the consortium from moving forward and the entire project was eventually scuttled in 1994, when the State of Texas withdrew the franchise. Several hotel chains like Days Inn, Best Western, and La Quinta Inn, as well as fast food establishments like McDonald's and Burger King lobbied against the plan, primarily because many of their locations were along Interstates and in several highway-dependent rural towns.
Another proposal for high-speed rail in Texas was part of a larger proposed, statewide super-infrastructure, the Trans-Texas Corridor. In 2002, Governor Rick Perry proposed the project, but it was eventually canceled by the legislature in 2009.
In 2002, the Texas High-Speed Rail and Transportation Corporation (THSRTC), a grass roots organization dedicated to bringing high-speed rail to Texas was established. In 2006, American Airlines and Continental Airlines formally joined THSRTC, in an effort to bring high-speed rail to Texas as a passenger collector system for the airlines. The Texas High-Speed Rail and Transportation Corporation developed the Texas T-Bone and Brazos Express corridors to link Central Texas.
In 2010, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) received a federal grant to study a high-speed rail corridor linking Oklahoma City with Dallas–Fort Worth. The state also received another grant in 2011 to start engineering and environmental work on a high-speed link between Houston and Dallas. Another study was being conducted in 2012 by TxDOT on a possible link between Houston and Austin.
While the preliminary work was in progress by TxDOT for the Houston to Dallas line, an unrelated project to build a high-speed railway between the two cities was announced in 2011 by a private company, Lone Star High-Speed Rail. The company was founded in 2009 by U.S. Japan High-Speed Rail to market the use of N700-I bullet train in Texas. In 2012, the company with a new name, Texas Central Railway Company, announced that Central Japan Railway Company signed up to be the primary investor in the project with the total estimated cost of $10 billion to be privately funded. The preliminary engineering, market and financing studies have been started for the service with maximum speed of 205 miles per hour and travel time of 90 minutes. The plan was to seek additional investors in late 2012, start the construction in 2014, and begin the service in 2024.
On September 21, 2020, a high-speed train from Houston to Dallas received federal approval. The railroad aims to cut travel time between the two cities to 90 minutes. According to the company in charge of the project, Texas Central Railroad, the Federal Railroad Administration approved construction to begin in the early 2021. The company estimates that construction could take up to six years and cost roughly $20 billion.
Engineering and infrastructure development company, AECOM, has emerged as one of the top companies to steer-head the potential project. AECOM recently partnered with technology companies Virgin Hyperloop One and Arrivo  to begin consulting with local city and state governments about urban planning. Steven Duong, the head urban planner for AECOM, claimed that cross-state high-speed rail as a system of transportation with both passengers and freight is "reasonable.
Illinois and the Midwest
The Midwest Regional Rail Initiative or Midwest Regional Rail System (MRRI, MWRRI, or MWRRS) is a plan to implement a 220 mph (350 km/h) to 110 mph (180 km/h) passenger rail network in the Midwestern United States, using Chicago, Illinois as a hub. Primary routes would stretch across Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, possibly reaching Kentucky. Secondary routes would operate at a slower speed across Missouri and Iowa, just touching Nebraska and nearly reaching Kansas. With some upgrades already completed, trains regularly travel at 110 mph (180 km/h) for a significant distance in Michigan and for a short distance in Illinois.
Construction to provide higher-speed rail services between Chicago and St. Louis is taking place. Illinois has been one of the most aggressive at pursuing highspeed rail, getting $1.1 billion in 2010. Governor Quinn said that "we want to make this corridor the pre-eminent one in America". The Chicago–St. Louis rail line is being upgraded so passenger trains will be able to reach top speeds of 110 mph (180 km/h) between Carlinville, Illinois and Joliet, Illinois, with work originally scheduled to be completed in 2017. Construction is being carried out from the southern part of the state to the north. The first installment of funds provided for construction between Alton and Lincoln. In March 2011, the next installment of funds ($685 million) provided for another section to go from Lincoln to Dwight. In May 2011, additional funds were allocated for further construction between Dwight and Joliet.
In June 2011, Illinois commenced a study on implementing a 220 mph service between Chicago and Champaign-Urbana. Legislation passed in 2013 gives the Illinois Tollway the power to build high-speed rail lines. Plans called for eventually investing in true high-speed travel that would boost train speeds to 220 mph (350 km/h). Once the United States' entire high-speed rail projects are built and thus connected to one another, Chicago will be the hub of the country's high-speed rail network.
As a result of upgrades that begin in 2001, trains in Michigan now travel at 110 mph (180 km/h) for 98 mi (158 km) between Porter, Indiana and Kalamazoo, Michigan. On May 9, 2011, the state received $196.5 million to extend the higher speed rail upgrades from Kalamazoo an additional 135 mi (217 km) to Dearborn, Michigan. The improvements would reduce the travel time from Chicago to Detroit to roughly 5 hours. Michigan had received more than $161 million for high-speed rail and $40 million for Amtrak stations in Troy, Battle Creek and Dearborn.
About 30 mi (48 km) of the Michigan trains' route passes through a congested area of northwestern Indiana along Lake Michigan's south shore, where trains are regularly delayed by freight traffic. In early 2010 the federal government authorized some $71.4 million for this project.
In Minnesota, there is a proposed high-speed rail service from Rochester to the Twin Cities called Zip Rail. The trains would run on a dedicated track at speeds between 150 mph (240 km/h) and 220 mph (350 km/h). This is proposed to be a public–private partnership with public funding for capital costs and private investment for operations, maintenance and growing ridership.
In August 2019, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Amtrak trains will be able to move as fast as 90-mph sometime in 2020 after Positive Train Control is in place, with no target date for 110-mph trains yet.
The cities of Denver, Las Vegas, Reno, Phoenix and Salt Lake City have formed the Western High Speed Rail Alliance, which is slated to spend $11 million over three years to study the feasibility of building railway links between the major cities of the southwestern United States, as well as linking to the California high-speed corridor via Las Vegas.
In June 2012, the developer of XpressWest, formerly known as DesertXpress, announced that they expanded the planned high-speed rail network to include links to Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Denver. The XpressWest plan was supported by the Western High Speed Rail Alliance.
Federal high-speed rail initiatives
In February 2009, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Congress allocated $8 billion to be granted to states for intercity rail projects, with "priority to projects that support the development of intercity high-speed rail service."
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
In April 2009, as required by ARRA, the FRA released its strategic plan describing the agency's vision for developing high-speed rail in the United States. As potential funding targets, the plan formally identified ten corridors (all previously designated as high-speed rail corridors by several successive Secretaries of Transportation) as well as the Northeast Corridor. The ten designated high-speed corridors, together with the major cities served by each, are:
- Southeast Corridor—Washington, Richmond, Newport News, Norfolk, Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, Charlotte, Greenville, Atlanta, Columbia, Jacksonville
- California Corridor—Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas
- Pacific Northwest Corridor—Eugene, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver
- South Central Corridor—Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Texarkana, and Little Rock
- Gulf Coast Corridor—Houston, New Orleans, Mobile
- Chicago Hub Network—Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, Springfield, Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, Kansas City, St. Louis, Louisville, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul
- Florida Corridor—Tampa, Orlando, Miami
- Keystone Corridor—Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Harrisburg
- Empire Corridor—Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Schenectady and Albany
- Northern New England Corridor—Boston, Portland/Auburn, Montreal, Springfield, New Haven
In addition to the $8 billion provided by ARRA, the plan predicted an additional $5 billion over 5 years would be made annually available for projects to "jump-start a potential world-class passenger rail system." On June 17, 2009, the FRA advised grant applicants that evaluation for funding would be based on a proposal's potential to make trips quicker and more convenient, reduce congestion on highways and at airports, and meet other environmental, energy, and safety goals.
2009 federal grant funding
The FRA received grant applications from states for stimulus funds and FY 2009 intercity capital funds in August and October 2009 Over $57 billion in requests were filed from 34 states and on January 28, 2010 31 states and 13 rail corridors received funding. The five areas receiving the most funding had originally been designated as high-speed rail corridors in October 1992 following passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991.
|Corridor||Grant received (in millions $)|
|Northern New England||160|
|Corridor||Grant received (in millions $)|
Cancellation of funds for Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida
On December 10, 2010, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced $1.2 billion in grants for Wisconsin and Ohio would be removed, and redirected to other states. This was due to opposition from governors-elect in both states, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio. From the redirected funds, California received $624 million, Florida $342 million, Washington $161 million, and Illinois $42 million. 
On February 16, 2011, Former Florida Governor Rick Scott formally announced that he would be rejecting all federal funds to construct a high-speed railway project in the state, thereby killing the Florida High-Speed Rail project. Governor Scott's reasoning behind canceling the project was that it would be "too costly to taxpayers" and that "the risk far outweigh[ed] the benefits". Those funds were once again redistributed to other states.
2011 and 2012 proposals and rejections of funding
In February 2011, Vice President Biden proposed spending $53 billion on improved passenger rail service over six years. The plan drew fire from majority Republicans in the House of Representatives, who preferred private investment rather than government investment. No money was appropriated for passenger rail in either the FY 2011 or FY 2012 budgets.
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