High-speed rail in the United States

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Acela Express train at Old Saybrook, Connecticut

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. Definitions of what constitutes high-speed rail vary, including a range of speeds over 110 miles per hour and dedicated rail lines. Inter-city rail in the United States with top speeds of 90 mph (145 km/h) or more but below 150 mph (241 km/h) is sometimes referred to as higher-speed rail. There is only one higher speed rail service in operation: the Acela Express, running in the Northeast Corridor. There are plans for higher-speed rail and high-speed rail in California, the Midwest, New England, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, the Pacific Northwest, Colorado/ New Mexico, and the Southwestern United States. As of 2015, the California High-Speed Rail Authority is beginning construction on the California High Speed Rail project, which is planned to link Anaheim, San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, Fresno, Los Angeles, and other major cities in the state. It will take at least until 2029 to complete, with its first stage targeted for completion in 2017.[1][2][3]

Map showing current rail speeds in the United States.

Definitions in American context[edit]

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,[4] 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".[5] 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 miles per hour (240 km/h) to be higher-speed rail.[6] 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".[6] Internationally, the Northeast Corridor where the Amtrak's Acela Express runs on is the only line in the United States that is recognized by the International Union of Railways to be a high-speed rail line in operation.[7]

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.[8] 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:[9]

  • 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 110–150 mph (177–240 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 to as high as 90 mph 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, North Central Texas Council of Governments uses the definition of the speeds over 150 mph (241 km/h), and 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 (129 km/h) and 150 mph (241 km/h).[10][11]


Streamlined 4-6-2 "President"-class steam locomotive on B&O's New YorkWashington, D.C. Royal Blue in 1937
Burlington Pioneer Zephyr passenger train approaching station and waiting passengers at East Dubuque, Illinois, in 1940

Faster inter-urbans (1920-1941) and Post-war period (1945-1960)[edit]

During the period 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).[12] 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.

During the 1930s railroads began to develop lightweight, diesel-powered streamlined trains which provided even faster running times than the previous express trains.[13] 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, Colorado 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).

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.[14] Nonetheless, some of these steam locomotives became very fast—some were said to exceed 120 mph (193 km/h) on a regular basis. Examples include the New York Central's "Super Hudsons" as used on the Twentieth 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.

U.S. passenger rail usage continued much the same as it had before World War II during the affluent post-war era. By the 1950s, however, the construction of the U.S. Interstate Highway System and the jet airliner attracted many travelers, and traffic on American passenger trains began to decline.

First attempts at high-speed rail 1960-1992[edit]

Metroliner trains were developed in the U.S. for rapid service between New York and Washington, DC.

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.[15] 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 200 km/h (125 mph) and averaged 145 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.[16]

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.[17] TEA-21 and other legislation continued to be passed with mentions of high-speed rail, but lacking funding or real direction.[18] Nevertheless, no new high-speed service was added to the U.S. passenger rail system following the Metroliners.

Acela Express and renewed interest in high-speed rail 1993-2008[edit]

Acela Express and Metro-North commuter trains share the same tracks through Connecticut.

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, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington DC. The service was inaugurated in December 2000, and was an immediate success, operated at a profit and as of 2012, it produced about 25% of Amtrak's total service revenue.[19] The Acela lacks a dedicated high-speed rail line which limit its average speed, although it reaches a maximum speed of 149 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). 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 (110 km/h).[20]

Recent plans: 2008–2013[edit]

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. The California High-Speed Rail Authority is currently in the design, engineering and environmental review process. In August 2013, Tutor Perini signed a $1-billion contract to begin construction of the first phase in 2014.[21]

High-speed rail development is 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 five times less CO2 than automobiles and jet aircraft.[22] Most high-speed rail systems use electricity for power, so they lessen dependence on petroleum and can be powered by renewable energy sources, or by nuclear power such as in Japan and France. There has been a resurgence of interest in recent decades, with many plans being examined for high-speed rail across the country, but current service remains relatively limited.

In 2012, Amtrak's president 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.[23] The proposed rail line would allow for top speeds of 220 mph (354 km/h).[24][25]

Current state and regional efforts[edit]

The Northeast[edit]

Northeast Corridor: Next Generation High-Speed Rail[edit]

Amtrak officials released a concept report for next-generation high-speed rail within the Northeast Corridor (NEC) on October 1, 2010.[26] 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.[27][28] In 2012, Amtrak released the details of the proposal.

During the first phase of the two phase project, the NEC's infrastructure will be improved and upgraded to allow Acela trains to operate at higher speeds. By 2025 44 new high-speed rail (HSR) trains will be deployed and Acela trains will be phased out. Although the HSR trains have a maximum speed of 220 miles per hour (350 km/h), they will be operated at lower speeds due to the conditions of the NEC network. 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, DC segment first which will be completed in 2030. By 2040, the construction of the dedicated HSR network for the New York to Boston segment will be completed. At that time, the oldest 12 HSR trains will be retired and 14 new HSR trains will be deployed increasing the total capacity to 46 HSR trains which will operate at the maximum speed, cutting down the travel time from Boston to Washington, DC to 3 hours and 8 minutes. The entire initiative is expected to cost $151 billion (2012 dollars).[29][30]

Proposed routes[edit]

The concept proposes 220 mph trains running on dedicated tracks between Washington, DC, 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. [31]

The current NEC network would be used for non-high-speed passenger rail and freight services.

Northeast Maglev proposal[edit]

In 2012, the Northeast Maglev, a small firm in Washington DC with backing from the Central Japan Railway Company, proposed a new High-Speed rail service along the Northeast Corridor with initial service between Washington, DC and New York City and they have spent $1.4 million lobbying Congress.[32] 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 DC to New York City with a travel time of 60 minutes.[33] Previous proposals of deploying maglev in the area have stalled due to lack of funding and legislative support.[33] In November 2015, the Federal Railroad Administration approved a grant of $27.8 million to Maryland Department of Transportation and Maryland Economic Development Corporation.[34] to conduct studies on building a high-speed Maglev line that would carry passengers between Washington and Baltimore.[35]

New Jersey-New York City upgrades[edit]

The NEC south of New Brunswick, NJ is being upgraded for high-speed rail

In February 2011 Amtrak announced plans for the Gateway Project, an 11-mile high-speed right of way across the Meadowlands, the Hudson Palisades, and the Hudson River, between Newark Penn Station and New York Penn Station.[36] In November 2011, US Congress allocated $15 million for engineering work on the project.[37][38][39] It remains unclear how much preliminary work done for the somewhat similar cancelled ARC project will be utilized. In August 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 miles (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). Testing in September 2012 achieved record-breaking speeds for existing rail in the USA.[40] However, the TurboTrain already set the record of 170.8 mph (274.9 km/h) at the same location in 1967.[41] 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.[42]

In 2011 Congress obligated $295 million to improvements at Harold Interlocking, the nation's busiest rail junction nearby Sunnyside Yards in Queens, New York so that Amtrak's New England service can avoid congestion and bypass New Jersey Transit and Long Island Railroad trains.[43]

New York State[edit]

Keystone Corridor (blue), as designated by the Federal Railroad Administration

New York State 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, Massachusetts, is available to New York City, but the 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 (257 km/h) and 220 mph (354 km/h). The remaining 5 build alternatives under consideration have top speeds of 79 mph (127 km/h) (the base alternative), 90 mph (145 km/h) (options A and B), 110 mph (177 km/h), and 125 mph (201 km/h).[44]


Main article: Keystone Corridor

The Keystone Corridor is a 349-mile (562 km) rail line between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, composed of two different segments. 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. The Keystone Corridor was upgraded in 2006 with two segments of 110 mph (176 km/h) which is a higher-speed rail service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, with express service taking 90 minutes over 103.6 miles (165.8 kilometres).

West Coast[edit]


Map of proposed route, also including the planned XpressWest (formerly DesertXpress) to Las Vegas

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. Steel-wheel on rail technology is the adopted mode. Los Angeles to San Francisco, via California's Central Valley, will be the first phase of the network. The California High-Speed Rail Authority is the lead agency charged with planning and implementing the system. The network is planned to allow trains at speeds of up to 220 mph (350 km/h) to potentially linki San Francisco and Los Angeles in as little as two hours and thirty-eight minutes. The state has been awarded $2.35 billion in funding from the federal government.

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 UC Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies.[45] In May 2013, with costs 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.[46]

As of January 2016, the Authority has awarded contracts for design and construction of 110 miles of roadbed from Madera to near Bakersfield. Major construction on the northernmost 29 miles of this segment, between Madera and Fresno, commenced in June 2015. These contracts do not include track laying, stations, or electrical infrastructure such as power grid ties and catenary.

A private consortium has proposed building a new high-speed line between Las Vegas, Nevada and Victorville, California. This proposal, named XpressWest (formerly known as DesertXpress) concerns improved transit between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, which has no passenger rail connection. The cost of the initial segment is estimated at between $4bn and $5bn,[47] with trains travelling up to 150 mph (240 km/h) making the 186 mi (299 km) journey in around 84 minutes.[47] The route is not planned to be extended directly to Los Angeles, although another proposal extends it to Palmdale to interchange with the CHSR network.[48]

Pacific Northwest[edit]

The Pacific Northwest Corridor or the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor is one of eleven federally designated High-speed rail corridors in the United States.[49] It was designated a high-speed rail by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA).[50] 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.[51]

The Cascadia high-speed rail was a proposed dedicated high-speed rail line that would have connected Salem/Portland, Vancouver WA/Olympia/Tacoma/Seattle/Everett, and Bellingham, Washington.[52][53]

As of 2012, neither Washington State Department of Transportation [54] 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.[55] The plan to provide high-speed and higher-speed rail services on this corridor was thus halted.

Colorado/New Mexico[edit]

On July 9, 2009 the governors of Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas announced plans to jointly seek federal designation of a high-speed rail corridor linking Denver, Albuquerque, and El Paso and request up to $5 million in federal funding for a feasibility study.[56]

In 2010 the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority did a high-speed rail feasibility study.[57] Primary corridors being studied are the Interstate 70 corridor from Denver International Airport (DEN) to Eagle Airport (EGE) in Eagle County near Vail, and the Interstate 25 corridor from the Wyoming border to the New Mexico border.[58] These corridors however, are not defined as high-speed rail corridors by the FRA.

Mid-Atlantic and the South[edit]


Federal Railroad Administration map of the Florida High Speed Corridor

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.[59] 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.[60] 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-mile (390 km) higher-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-mile (64 km) segment between Cocoa and Orlando with a top speed of 125 mph (201 km/h).[61]


Corridor as designated by the Federal Railroad Administration

The Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor is a passenger rail transportation project to extend high-speed passenger rail services from Washington, DC 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.


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" (HoustonDallas/Fort WorthSan 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.

The proposed south central Corridor does not include the Dallas-Houston segment.

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.[62] Several hotel chains like Days Inn, Best Western, and La Quinta Inn, as well as fast food establishments like McDonalds and Burger King lobbied against the plan.[62] Primarily because a lot of their locations were located along the Interstate 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.[63]

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.[62]

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.[64] The state also received another grant in 2011 to start engineering and environmental work on a high-speed link between Houston and Dallas.[65] Another study was being conducted in 2012 by TxDOT on a possible link between Houston and Austin.[66]

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.[67] 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.[68]


Illinois and the Midwest[edit]

Chicago Hub Network high-speed rail corridors, as designated by the Federal Railroad Administration

The Midwest Regional Rail Initiative or Midwest Regional Rail System (MRRI, MWRRI, or MWRRS) is a plan to implement a 220 mph (354 km/h) (on some key corridors) to 110 mph (177 km/h) passenger rail network in the Midwestern United States, using Chicago, Illinois as a hub and including 3,000 miles (4,800 km) of track. Primary routes would stretch across Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, possibly reaching Kentucky. Secondary routes would operate at a somewhat slower speed across Missouri and Iowa, just touching Nebraska and nearly reaching Kansas. Existing Amtrak routes would probably be upgraded as part of this plan, which has been in development since 1996. Michigan has begun upgrading track and signals, already resulting in increased service speeds for Amtrak's Wolverine service. However, similar efforts in Illinois have met with considerable technical difficulties.

Construction to provide higher-speed rail services between Chicago and St. Louis is taking place.[69] Illinois has been one of the most aggressive at pursuing highspeed rail, getting $1.1 billion in 2010.[70] 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 to include speeds of over 100 miles per hour (160 km/h). Plans have been such that they originated from the southern part of the state going up 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.[71] In May 2011, some $186 million additional got allocated, allowing for further construction between Dwight and Joliet.[72] Plans called for eventually investing in true high-speed travel that would boost train speeds to 220 mph (354 km/h).[73] 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.

In June 2011, Governor Quinn of Illinois approved a $1.25 million study on implementing 220 mph service between Chicago and Champaign-Urbana.[74] If implemented it would be the fastest train in the United States. The train may also go as far as Rockford, on tracks along Interstate 90.[75]

Michigan had received more than $161 million for high-speed rail and $40 million for Amtrak stations in Troy, Battle Creek and Dearborn.[76] On May 9, 2011, the state received $196.5 million to help retrofit a 135-mile (217 km) section of the Kalamazoo-to-Dearborn track for higher speed rail service. This included an acquisition of a rail line from the freight operator. The rail improvement work should increase the maximum speeds from 79 miles per hour (127 km/h) to 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) which would reduce the travel time from Chicago to Detroit to roughly 5 hours.[77]

About 30 miles (50 km) of the Chicago-Detroit route passes through northwestern Indiana along Lake Michigan's south shore.[78] In early 2010 the federal government authorized some $71.4 million for this project.[79]

In Minnesota, there is a proposed high-speed rail service from Rochester to the Twin Cities called Zip Rail. The trains will run on a dedicated track at speeds between 150 mph (240 km/h) and 220 mph (350 km/h).[80] This is proposed to be a public–private partnership with public funding for capital costs and private investment for operations, maintenance and growing ridership.[81]


Main article: Ohio Hub

The Ohio Hub is a project created by the Ohio Department of Transportation that is intended to connect Ohio with four other states, as well as Canada, by a passenger rail network. The main proposal is a four-corridor system based in Cleveland with branches terminating in Detroit, Toronto, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh. Both a 79 mph (126 km/h) and 110 mph (176 km/h) high-speed rail network have been proposed, costing a total $2.7 billion and $3.32 billion, respectively.

The project is currently in an unknown state after Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced after being elected in 2010 that he would scrap the plan. In response, federal transportation funds intended for the project were rescinded and redirected to other states.[82]

The Southwest[edit]

See also: XpressWest

The cities of Denver, Las Vegas, Reno, Phoenix and Salt Lake City have recently 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.[83][84] All four states represented are in the top ten fastest growing states, with Utah and Colorado topping the list. New Mexico is considering joining in order to include Albuquerque and Santa Fe in the network by upgrading and extending its recently completed Rail Runner Express. Major obstacles to high-speed rail in the region include highly competitive airline fares, rugged geography, and funding. Critics argue that high-speed rail works best in densely populated regions (such as the various large cities of the East Coast and the eastern Midwestern United States), and will not be feasible in the sparsely populated West[85]

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.[86]

Federal Proposals High-Speed Rail Initiatives[edit]

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."[87]

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009[edit]

Strategic plan[edit]

The ten rail corridors identified in 2009 for potential high-speed development, with Chicago being a major hub.

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.[9] As potential funding targets, the plan formally identified ten corridors[88] (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:

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."[4] 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.[90]

2009 Federal Grant Funding[edit]

The details of the grants awarded by the ARRA.

The FRA received grant applications from states for stimulus funds and FY 2009 intercity capital funds in August and October 2009[91] Over $57 Billion in requests were filed from 34 states and on January 28, 2010 31 states and 13 rail corridors received funding.[92][93] 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.[17]

Corridor Grant received (in millions $)
Chicago Hub/Ohio 2617
California 2343
Florida 1250
Southeast 620
Pacific Northwest 598
Northern New England 160
Empire 152
Northeast 112
Keystone 27

2010 Allocation[edit]

Congress allocated $2.5 billion in the FY 2010 budget[94] and these funds were allocated on October 28, 2010.[95] Major allocations are listed below.

Corridor Grant received (in millions $)
California 898
Florida 800
Chicago Hub 428
Connecticut 121
Southeast 45

Cancellation of funds for Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida[edit]

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. [96]

On February 16, 2011, 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 cancelling the project was that it would be "too costly to taxpayers" and that "the risk far outweigh[ed] the benefits".[97] Those funds were once again redistributed to other states.

2011 & 2012 Proposals and Rejections of Funding[edit]

In February 2011, Vice President Biden proposed spending $53 billion on improved passenger rail service over six years.[98] The plan drew fire from majority Republicans in the House of Representatives, who preferred private investment rather than government investment.[99] No money was appropriated for passenger rail in either the FY 2011[100] or FY 2012[101] budgets.

Public opinion of High Speed Rail proposals[edit]

In an Angus Reid poll released on April 6, 2010, 59% of Americans were in favor of the proposed plan laid out in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Grants, while 26% were opposed and the remaining 15% were unsure. When shown a map of the proposed high-speed lines, 32% of the participants said they would rather take a high-speed train than fly, drive, or take the bus (which would put high-speed rail a few percentage points behind driving but well ahead of flying and taking the bus). Republicans and Independents who took part in the poll were more likely to state that they would rather drive (40% of Republicans and 38% of Independents), while 44% of Democrats stated they would use the proposed high-speed rail system (making it the most popular choice among Democrats).[102] Among Republicans, high-speed rail was competitive with air travel (24% to 24%), while high-speed rail was preferred to air travel among both Independents and Democrats.

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]